The big consumer brands that have long defined the industry are no longer untouchable. A combination of rapidly changing consumer needs and expectations and a leveling competitive playing field is creating a highly uncertain, disruptive environment — one full of challenges, but ripe with new possibility too.
Today’s consumers expect brands to know them inside out — and use that knowledge to deliver authentic products, services, and experiences that are entirely relevant when it really matters. It means that creating relevance at scale is the essential play for companies looking for untapped growth opportunities. But it takes an incredible amount of organizational agility to achieve something that many consumer goods companies just don’t have yet.
What’s clear is that there’s never been a more apparent need for a new approach to reaching consumers wherever they may be.
New Game, New Rules
Today’s consumers are different from previous generations. Often searching for more than just a “product”, they want services that bring convenience to their lives and experiences that embody the brand purpose they’ve bought into. That changes the value proposition consumer goods brands should be offering. It’s about being able to deliver something that’s “just right” for each individual customer in each moment.
It’s already happening. Just look at how L’Oréal is using a hi-tech mix of algorithms and machines to make foundation tailored for each of their individual customers’ skin shades. Or how Drinkworks Home Bar, a first-of-its-kind cocktail pod appliance created Keurig Dr Pepper and AB InBev, offers consumers a choice of 30 bar-quality cocktails in 60 seconds in the comfort of their home.
But just think about doing that across a customer base of millions — even billions — and you get a sense of the scale of the challenge for consumer goods companies.
The way consumers and brands interact has changed dramatically too. Gone are the days of straightforward marketing segmentation. In its place is a focus on creating relevant, engaging interactions and becoming part of a customer’s everyday life in a more meaningful way.
Organic beverage company Suja Juice did this as part of its #ItsTheJuice marketing campaign, conducting social listening to identify people who were having a bad day, feeling sick or tired, and offering to brighten their day with a delivery of juice. Using data from hashtags — like #mondayblues and #lackofsleep — the team reached out to almost 400 people and successfully shipped nearly 6,000 bottles of product.
The way consumers and brands interact has changed dramatically too. Digital technologies have fueled an explosion in consumer touchpoints and engagement possibilities. Brands now have opportunities to engage with their customers that go far beyond the retail store or the billboard ad. That has radical implications for traditionally linear value chains. Everything from product conception and design, through manufacturing and sales, to after-sales services is impacted.
Look at how Amazon Go is shrinking the thinking and redefining convenience for the digital age. Cutting-edge technology and data science aren’t just making the in-store shopping experience seamless, it’s also helping the company finetune the assortments they know will most appeal to consumers in each locality.
On top of all this, the competitive landscape keeps getting tougher. For every traditional brand that struggles to adapt, there are plenty of well-funded start-ups who’ll deliver relevance at scale. The number of billion-dollar “unicorn” valuations has exploded over the last five years, bringing powerful new digital-first brands into the equation. Increased competition has made growth all the more challenging to find, with many small or medium-sized players capturing outsized bites of the market.
Read More: How to Harness Consumer-Driven Marketing
Time For a New Approach
Delivering relevance at scale isn’t just a good idea — it’s essential for future competitive advantage.
Imagine a consumer brand with the data capabilities to understand an individual customer’s unique needs at every moment. Imagine having the agility to use that data to recommend a tailored solution that fits those needs perfectly. And imagine the brand possibilities that come from offering that personalized solution for billions of individuals, all at the same time.
That’s the promise of relevance at scale. But it won’t happen by itself. To make it a reality, brands need to assess their footprint carefully and comprehensively, remembering the “secret sauce” that made them great in the first place, but adapting and industrializing it for a new era, making a wise and considered pivot to new growth.