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Three Thoughts on Real-Time Consumer Product Interactions


I recently participated in an SAP-sponsored panel discussion on Game-Changers Radio about how consumer product companies are using real-time consumer insights and engagement. Buoyed by constant customer connectivity, consumer product firms are gaining a much clearer and timelier picture of their end customers, and also directly engaging them near or in real time.

Based on the conversation, here are three thoughts on how real-time consumer insights are impacting the consumer product industry (and by extension, retailers of consumer product goods).

Social Engagement Bypasses Retailers

Social media is increasingly allowing consumer product companies to directly reach out to consumers. This can include promotions and contests performed without any participation by a retail partner.

I recently attended a large folk music festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. Locally-based dairy product provider Hood distributed free samples of its ice cream to attendees from a truck, and posted real-time updates of the truck’s location on Twitter. Based on reaction of my two kids and the long line we waited in, the promotion was a big success.

Direct social engagement by consumer product brands can also include promotions and contests. For example, consumers could post photos of themselves enjoying a particular product on Instagram, with followers invited to vote and the top vote-getter winning a prize.

Customers Want the World – Now

The quote I selected to open my commentary was from the classic Doors song “When the Music’s Over” – “We want the world and we want it now.” While Doors vocalist Jim Morrison was singing about the social upheaval of the 1960s rather than the consumer upheaval of the 2010s, the basic sentiment is the same.

As a result of constant connectivity, consumers now live in a world where they have instant access to just about everything they want. Whether connected consumers want to communicate with a friend on a different continent, watch a favorite TV show after (or even before) its scheduled airing, or immediately answer a piece of obscure trivia, personal Internet devices let them do so.

Consumers have come expect this level of instant access with everything in their lives, including consumer products such as packaged foods and beverages and health and beauty items. The companies supplying consumer products need to realize this expectation and do their best to meet it with reactive supply chains, real-time inventory awareness, deep collaborations with retail partners, and comprehensive social outreach.

Everyone’s a Retailer (or Will Be)

When asked to predict how the consumer product landscape will change by 2020, I responded that the continuing growth of cloud technology and digital commerce will let more and more companies act as retailers. The whole definition of “retailer” will change, as almost any company that provides a consumer product will be able to easily launch hosted digital commerce channels and fulfillment capabilities.

Retailers will still play a vital role in this new landscape, as visiting the store or site of a retailer who carries numerous consumer products is more efficient and convenient than individually buying products from different brands. But as the success of branded M&M stores shows, there is a market for single-brand consumer product retail experiences, especially if they are pleasant and entertaining.

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