Deliver Experiences (not technology)
You would assume that a representative of one of the world’s leading technology firms specializing in Consumer Packaged Goods would tout the benefits of his company’s technology. No doubt about it: Technology has changed the way major CPG firms and retailers do business. But I recommend you to not focus on technology but on designing and delivering enhanced experiences. It’s only when you positively impact a customer and her/his experience that any technology becomes relevant. There is a lot of technology out there today and you know even more new technology will be there tomorrow. But will your existing and new customers be there with you? That’s the million-dollar question. In order to make sure your business continues to improve and be successful decades from now, I encourage you to focus on delivering new, enhanced experiences for people within and beyond your ecosystem. I urge you to stop fretting over the minutia of social, mobile, Big Data, the Cloud, geo-fencing, drone delivery, iBeacon, augmented & virtual reality, and Apple Pay; take a step back and focus on what matters most–people.
Look at the big picture and the human beings in that picture. Identify opportunities to add new experiences and to renew existing experiences. Doing so will enable you to see the end points of your ecosystem and unleash the creativity of the entire enterprise. It’s the human being that drives the technology, not the other way around. So when you focus on people–customers, consumers, shoppers, employees, etc.–you can enhance their experiences and know how best to leverage the technology that’s available to your organization. So where should you begin? Here are five areas that have the potential to unleash the creativity of your most valuable asset–people.
Everyone is engaging with brands, with friends, with family, with retailers, and, yes, even with strangers through their mobile devices. And almost all of them seem to be adopting mobile technology faster than any enterprise can. Turn that paradigm on its head and embrace a “mobile first” way of thinking. For example, take a week in the life of your consumer and try to understand what moves her. Determine how your brands and services can enhance a slice of her life and create an enhanced mobile experience for that consumer. CPG firms that determine and enhance meaningful overlaps between their brands and their consumers’ lives will take more money to the bank. But they’ll also build longer lasting relationships with their consumers.
It’s easy to see why and how marketing, sales, research and development, product development, and category management should be customer-centric. Yet it is critical to understand that customer-centricity impacts all functions of the organization. If you want to be the most customer-centric CPG firm in the world, think about being customer-centric not only in front-office functions (sales & marketing) but across the enterprise (the supply chain, logistics, and corporate functions). Here is one example why: the supply chain teams are equal partners when it comes to delivering superior customer service. Partner with your customers to enable them to deliver a superior omni-channel experience to consumers. It is therefore critical for your supply chain teams to understand not only the customers but also the consumers. That’s why it is critical for your supply chain teams to embrace customer-centricity. Plus, the teams need to be laser focused on sensing demand–not only those of the customers but also the shoppers and potential consumers. Partner with your customers to understand the demand signals that are being shared by them on a daily basis. For instance, when a customer downloads a coupon or abandons a cart with your items, you need to know why. And you need to be able to follow that shopper’s trail or learn why that cart was abandoned. And I hate to even say it, but if you are only now thinking about sales force automation, it’s an under statement to say that you have some catching up to do.
Yes, stores. That’s where you come into contact with your customers. And bricks-and-mortar stores are back with a bang. Stores will become an integral part of consumers’ omni-channel experiences and will see renewed activities to enhance those experiences. A CPG organization has significant opportunities to leverage its brands presence in stores. In order to enhance the shopping experience, your enterprise must, in a meaningful way, increase the interaction among its brands and the shoppers walking the aisles. CPG firms that partner with their customers in this journey will benefit from gaining deeper insights on shopping behavior. They will also build deeper relationships with consumers. Brand loyalty is priceless.
I’ll bet that you didn’t consider that your employees are consumers, too. Employees are now accustomed to a different way of engaging with their surroundings: by using mobile, social, Cloud, connected devices, mobile payments … you name it. All of these experiences, however, are mostly engaged in outside of “office work”. Employees expect the same experiences in their professional live, too. It is important to begin thinking about your employees as consumers. Consider providing your employees with tailored experiences from ambience to processes to tools– that treat them like consumers. Doing so will be one big catalyst for unleashing their creativity.
Ok. I admit it: I made this one up just now. It’s easy to get carried away by cool, new buzzwords and technology, but the fact is that jargon doesn’t matter. There’s a million other new technology bits and bytes that will soon become valuable and you will learn to leverage them as well. For example, it’s not only about building Big Data tools. It’s about institutionalizing a culture of data-driven decision-making. It’s about becoming an insights-driven organization. Then there’s the almighty wearable. True, devices that talk to each other without human intervention are fascinating, especially if you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. CPG firms should be concentrating on delivering stellar service to the consumer. Start by capturing and utilizing the real-time streams of data from those wearable platforms and other devices and using insights from there to design and deliver engaging experiences. Go ahead, start your own Space Odysseys, but remember.
Focus on the customer experience. Don’t focus on the technology.