Alibaba Used Customer Data to Create a Spicy Snickers

January 04, 2019

alibaba spicy snickers

Brands are always looking for that ‘secret sauce’ to figure out what consumers want, and what the next big trend or flavor will be.  

Ecommerce giant Alibaba compiles real-time data about their customers that help companies with their product development – especially, brands who live in hopes of releasing their next hot product. One case in point: Alibaba helped Mars create a new flavor of Snickers bar for the Chinese market – all based on collected consumer data.

Alibaba’s insight into Mars’ target demographic gave them the info they needed to come up with the new flavor profile. The data allowed Mars to see that consumers buying chocolate also enjoyed spicy snacks.

Thus, the creation of the Spicy Snickers bar. The Spicy Snickers candy bar is your standard Snickers that also incorporates Sichuan peppercorn, the source of China’s famous “mala” (numb and spicy) taste.

The product came together in less than a year; a typical product cycle is around three years. It’s clear that Mars was able to use this data to streamline its product development process to create a commodity that was near enough a guaranteed ‘sure thing.’ This meant they didn’t have to risk precious time and resources crafting something that customers weren’t interested in.  The Spicy Snickers project also helped Mars China meet its goal for 10% of revenue derived from new products.

“Nobody else has this ecosystem where one player has all the pieces together and can put together a single profile of you,” says e-commerce industry expert Ken Leaver. “Alibaba has the ability to use this to get their seller base to create their product, which is a holy grail in e-commerce.”

Alibaba is able to gather so much data on its customers for a few reasons: One is its reach. Alibaba is not only the world’s biggest ecommerce platform, with over 600 million active users – it also operates China’s largest online ad business and controls a vast segment of financial transactions via Alipay. It also controls China’s versions of YouTube and Netflix, owns the Hema Supermarket chain, as well as a department store franchise.
The second reason is privacy in China is less of an issue and data collection is much easier.

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