Consumer Products Unbound: 2019 and Beyond

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Consumer Products Unbound: 2019 and Beyond

By Mark Osborn, SAP - 01/15/2019

It was a year of incredible change in 2018. A year that saw established incumbents challenged in many ways as never before, a surge of venture investment and disruption from an increasing number of “born digital” competitors redefining consumer engagement and competition, and perhaps most importantly, a marked change in consumers themselves. 

Consumers today face a paradox of choice. The proliferation of physical and virtual channels has created unlimited options, which has the effect of making it harder for them to choose. In response, consumers increasingly expect companies to answer the question, “What’s the best choice for me?” To that end, consumer products companies are increasingly investing in various innovative approaches to create personalized experiences and deliver increasingly valuable outcomes. For consumers in 2019 and beyond, these personalized experiences will become increasingly assisted, interactive, immersive, and immediate.

Give Them Some Assistance
Consumers today don’t want to be influenced and sold to. They want to be assisted and guided. Companies are investing in a variety of technologies and solutions designed to asses and predict what consumers might want, offer smart recommendations and help them make the best choice.

For example, SAP and partners are innovating with leading fashion brands like Burberry to transform the shopping experience. Burberry has deployed an app built called “R World” to its 6,000 in-store associates worldwide. Using the app, associates can check item availability, locate and reserve stock globally in an instant. Scanning bar codes on item tags builds a “virtual rail” consisting of other, complementary clothing items from the store and back of house. 

R World is fully integrated with Burberry.com, so requests for custom services can be arranged online along with next-day shipping and delivery. The app also builds shopper profiles, providing associates purchase suggestions to drive future visits plus opportunities to promote upcoming collections that may be of interest based on past purchases. Combined, these capabilities enable Burberry to deliver an experience the retailer calls, “luxury, informed and highly personalized.”

Immerse Them in Interactive Experiences
Interactive experiences that leverage social and other virtual channels foster stronger consumer engagement, encourage learning, competition and collaboration, and develop brand advocacy. Two prominent approaches to engaging increasingly distracted consumers with interactive experiences are gamification and education. 

Eight O’Clock Coffee, for instance, recently launched an online and app-based game that equates a coffee break with a highly interactive and engaging experience that challenges consumers to solve coffee-related challenges and, in the process, gives players the opportunity to win free groceries for a year and other prizes. The brand is capitalizing on a growing trend to engage consumers with games in an interactive environment while leveraging that engagement to build brand advocacy.

Companies are also using interactive experiences to educate and guide consumers. Georgia-Pacific recently launched a line of Dixie Cups that, when scanned through a free app, launch an interactive exploration designed to encourage kids to brush their teeth properly, turning what’s often a chore into a fun activity that builds positive habits for oral hygiene. 

Companies like Lego are also extending interactivity to create increasingly immersive experiences. The toy brand continues to expand its investments in augmented reality, potentially revolutionizing how children play with the building bricks. A child builds with traditional Lego bricks, then holds up a mobile device to their creation. The AR transforms the environment, adding digitally rendered streets and cars, trees and wildlife. 

Deliver on the Demand for Immediacy
Immediacy is another major theme, as today’s “right here, right now, just for me” consumers increasingly demand a personal experience that’s orchestrated and delivered in the moment. This immediacy extends beyond omnichannel commerce and same-day fulfilment to a much more holistic view of product development and delivery in the context of delivering a personalized consumer experience. 

One prominent example is the Adidas SpeedFactory. Adidas has re-imagined how it designs, manufactures and delivers shoes, all while delivering an inherently personal experience. The consumer visits the SpeedFactory, downloads exercise data from a wearable device, then works through a process that includes scanning feet to create custom footbeds, selecting styles and colors, and manufacturing a custom pair of shoes. 

The process collapses what had been a 120-day process to source, manufacture and deliver stock product to the shelf, to a process that delivers a customized pair of shoes to the consumer in less than 24 hours.

These are just a few of the many, many ways in which the consumer products industry is transforming. As we look to 2019 and beyond, the operational boundaries will rapidly expand and even dissolve, challenging the very definition of the industry. 

In these examples, we see consumer products companies transforming into technology companies, reimagining and redefining processes that have been static for decades, developing partnerships in adjacent industries to compete as ecosystems, and more. 

All of these have one goal in mind: to develop and deliver personalized experiences in service of helping consumers achieve high value outcomes. 

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