You don’t need to look beyond the headlines to see that retail is undergoing a massive transformation. Powered by changing consumer tastes, cost pressures, and the growth of online channels, there’s certainly a lot of change underway.
Yet, while online innovation tends to get a lot of the press, top CPG brands are standing out from the crowd by thinking more broadly about how to build strategic relationships with consumers and retailers across all channels.
Many of these strategies are being driven by data. And of course a key disruptive force (and inspiration to many) continues to be Amazon, as they move into retail big-time with Whole Foods and look to continue to remake the retail experience with big and small data.
Meanwhile the use of data and analytics is also informing product design and packaging and even the way brands think about merchandising, as I began to study back in 2013 with this post.
Data at the Point of Sale (and Promotion)
As I talk to a ton of food and beverage and other consumer brands and market watchers in my current role at Repsly, it’s become clear that the key to getting attention and market share, and moving from being an emerging brand to breaking out and owning your category, is using small data to win in the field.
Brands can do this if they embrace 3 principles:
- Simplify how teams capture data in the field by making it part of their everyday activities and embracing intuitive, consumer-style apps for reps that feel more like Instagram than Salesforce.
- Standardize how managers and field staff apply this data to better target markets or specific accounts, schedule visits, optimize routes, run promotions, etc (this is where data-driven field execution comes into play).
- Socialize learnings so everyone is on the same page (and understands the purpose of the brand), and the business can embrace an agile marketing approach as part of its overall go to market and product strategy.
Consumer brands that have both this type of testing culture and use data to get closer to their customers span multiple CPG segments. They include lifestyle fitness brands such as Altra Running and Nike (who I’ve written about quite a bit in the early days of this blog), craft beer and wine producers like Heretic Brewing and my friends at Down the Road Beer Company in Boston, and emerging food and beverage brands who are looking to “change the rules” like Health-Ade Kombucha, KIND Snacks and even Red Bull.
Of course whatever product you produce, getting feedback is essential, especially in frothy, highly competitive market segments.
The brands that “do it for the data” almost always create an unfair advantage in these segments, especially when they apply insights daily to improve their products, adjust paths to market – and ultimately build a data-driven culture that revolves around getting close to customers and being on trend.
Read more of my thoughts on this topic in a recent piece I wrote for MyCustomer. And check out the Repsly blog for regular expert perspectives on best practices in field team management and how leading consumer brands are using data to grow their business.
Reaching and engaging today’s social, mobile consumer creates unique challenges for retailers. With more than one billion Facebook users, and nearly everyone on the planet with a mobile phone, there’s never been more potential to reach new audiences, deliver compelling omni-channel experiences, and gather new insights on consumer likes and dislikes. Yet these same trends have also created new distractions, potential threats (and opportunities) from the phenomenon of “showrooming,” and a shortage of expertise for sifting through and make sense of a growing mountain of customer data.
Against this backdrop, the importance of connecting with buyers via tailored offers, recommendations, and experiences has never been more important. Even in B2B, among best-in-class content marketers, 71% tailor content to a profile of the decision maker, according to a recent CMI/MarketingProfs study. But at the same time, delivering convenience and bringing your brand and data to where your customers are, and factoring in the role of influencers, product reviews, and word of mouth needs to be in the mix as well. Clearly, in this environment, merchandising is both an art and a science!
This is why I’ve been seeing a tremendous opportunity for retailers who embrace their customer data as a both an asset and a product, and also invest in the notion of small data by tapping digital breadcrumbs, social signals, and profile information (as sources) and committing to making insights actionable and available to (the broadest set of) staff and customers alike. In fact it’s a theme that I’ve validated in several discussions with retail consultants, planners, and merchandising professionals over the past several months.
The end goal is greater understanding, better performing campaigns, and a more rewarding experience for your customers.
More specifically, as I recently discussed in a Digital Clarity Group Brief sponsored by my friends at SDL (you can download the paper as well as some excellent presentations here), it’s clear that:
- Retailers can boost their understanding of customers and better serve them (on their own terms) across all channels by looking to blend transactional processes and insights with social interactions and data.
- Innovators are focusing on making insights actionable via recommendations and predictive targeting, smart apps/kiosks for associates, and location-based offers.
- There are clear benefits to thinking small – targeting local campaigns and data, starting with high potential segments, and streamlining key stages of the path to purchase.
Most importantly, we can’t forget to ask customers what they think. Encourage social feedback and make it easy to share offers with friends. If you can’t measure it (conversions, sharing, etc.), don’t do it!
The bottom line as retailers look to position their products, create timely and compelling offers, and deliver on the promise of true omni-channel commerce, is to leverage all insights to streamline back-end processes and simplify front-end interactions. This means chunking down the path to purchase, and looking for ways to present the right product at the right time, offer help (if needed), and make it easy for consumers to finish their journey.
What do you think? Do you buy it?