#TDCPG: The ‘Connected Consumer’ Connection

Connected Consumerconnected past participle, past tense of con·nect (Verb)

  • Bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.
  • Join together so as to provide access and communication.

The new hot CPG marketing priority is not "Big Data" (sigh). In fact in three different marketing leadership meetings I facilitated in the last few weeks, I was asked to not even say the words "big data." The "new" hot priority is in addressing these questions: "How do I get closer to my consumer and how do I make sense of the structured and unstructured data my agency(s) and I are collecting?"

There exists a fast-developing relationship between the connected consumer and the CG manufacturer.  What is enabling this relationship? It is enabled by mobile and fueled by social connections in addition to CG loyalty programs. CG manufacturers are increasingly threatened by competitive, and often lower-priced private label brands and counter this surge by marketing brand quality and investing in brand experience with the consumer. Increasingly the multi-channel brand experience is requiring data-driven analytics to enable marketing decisions:

1)     Dynamic Investment Decisions: Data-driven analytics are needed to enable on-the-fly marketing investment decisions vs. "stock" marketing program calendars that are often inflexible or centered on rigid, as-is marketing process over data-enabled insights (dynamic decision processes based on changing consumer insights).

2)     Cross-Channel Spend Expansion: No longer are the traditional advertising mediums the recipients of marketing spend; social platforms and mobile technology partnerships are receiving additional investment again driven largely by analytics on consumer interaction data. Traditional marketing mix models apply yet must expand to accommodate the additional channels and inputs on brand performance.

3)     Direct-to-Consumer: While still rare and in most cases, a stretch for CG manufacturers, there are now CG suppliers (e.g. Nike, Levi) with retail online storefronts who are now able to develop a 1-to-1 relationship with consumers; then brand-build, market-to, and evolve-relationships-with consumers across channels yet provide a consistent brand experience. Unlike retail whose direct-to-consumer relationship rests on product purchases, CG manufacturers are engaging with consumers to promote the brand while gaining insights that may be pressed back into the innovation cycle, the forecasting process, or even used to forecast out-of-stocks.

The "big data" challenge in the Connected Consumer space is that there is both structured and unstructured data flowing into the marketing department (or their respected agencies) and is often not integrated with sales, trade promotion, syndicated, and/or POS data. Agency-managed data is limited (and siloed) and typically not all-inclusive of metrics that cross brands, channels, and consumer touchpoints. From an analytics perspective, with more data and improved tools for analytics comes the need for additional business analyst (or even data scientist) employee ability.  It requires someone who knows how to ask questions of data while not looking for one defined, expected answer.

Several keys to making the successful transition to a Connected Consumer Connection marketing environment:

1)     Data-Driven: Marketing must press to integrate consumer data in a platform that enables fast-access to insights. In a recent Consumer Goods Technology survey of CG manufacturers, only 4 percent of respondents reported having a reporting and analytical environment that allows them to access relevant information in a user-friendly and timely manner. "Some" consumer data is stored with an agency (or with multiple agencies none of which are connected) while loyalty data is stored with another agency. Best practice organizations are consolidating consumer insights in the cloud (or SaaS) and evaluating methods to bring together consumer data with loyalty data to provide a closer-to-1to1 platform for analysis and action. In addition, staffing plans are evolving to move from business analysis (dropping data into Excel and creating pivot tables) to a data science / marketing science model that drives and enables marketing business processes.

2)     CMO vs. CIO Competing Priorities: The marketing department has typically managed its investments in brand / consumer / shopper / category separately from IT. The reasons are obvious - control, faster time to market (avoiding typical IT gating processes), preference for OPEX-enabled cloud / SaaS options vs. CAPEX-enabled IT spend models, etc. The Big Data concept is forcing more collaboration across lines of business and the dynamic tension between marketing and IT will increasingly grow as consumer technologies and associated data / insight capabilities grow. The hot topic of 2013 at the National Retail Federation (NRF) annual conference was the increasingly powerful role of the CMO driving technology business needs for the CIO. CG manufacturers are not there (yet) but early signs of this trend exist as marketing departments pursue the Connected Consumer Connection.

3)     Integrated Marketing Communication Innovation: Targeted communications mean delivering the right brand message content (customized), to the right consumer (targeted), at the right time (localized), in the format / technology (mobility) that is most appropriate to that consumer. Consumer data is at the foundation of this communication objective as are integrated shopper insights (e.g. Nielsen, IRI) and loyalty insights. Integrated data at the detail level enables roll-ups and planning at strategic levels.

4)     Linkage to Search Investment: Consumer insights plug directly into strategies and plans for investments in Owned (CG equipment, POS), Earned (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), Paid (sponsorships, co-branded investments), and Shared (customer partnerships, joint investments) platforms. When integrated into the planning and execution process, CG suppliers drive trial or recruitment and fuel retention.

5)     Investment In New Ways of Working with Retailers: Retailers, with an omnichannel (the hot retail buzzword of 2012) orientation are increasingly investing in methods to meet the consumer's buying needs regardless of when, where and how they want to buy. Retailers are leaning into CG manufacturers to step up, invest, and take responsibility for their in-store presence, service levels, and to maximize their success in the store by supporting / enabling flexible shop and purchase capabilities. CG manufacturers are largely behind in supply chain / ecommerce / consumer insight capability investments (that enable VMI, consumer insight-driven forecast and replenishment). Retailers will press CG partners to invest or be left out of the store.

CG manufacturers that embrace the opportunity to connect with their consumers will make significant strides over those that decide that the "status quo" works just fine.