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04/15/2022

Real Talk: True Digital Transformation Starts With an Omni-Commerce Revelation

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The CPG industry has deep roots, and those well-versed in this industry require a level of look-ahead visibility greater than that of a chess grandmaster. The industry has always been subject to the vulnerabilities and subtleties of the marketplace and to shifts in consumer behavior, but the upheaval of the last few years has made plain the need for a serious change in the very DNA of how our broader  industry operates. 

Rapidly shifting consumer behavior — the desire to not only have quality products at good prices, but to also buy from retailers and manufacturers in near real-time — is increasingly hard to predict. It is no longer simply a matter of determining “customers want this product,” and building a successful distribution plan peppered with brand- and shopper-based advertising. 

CPG requires an end-consumer-centric focus. Consumers are moving fast, and in order for CPG brands and manufacturers to keep pace, they need accurate and actionable insights… fast.  

Modern Business and Legacy Tech Don’t Mix

Fast response, responding to customer demands that are sometimes unpredictable, and rapidly analyzing increasingly large volumes of data is impossible for companies working on legacy technology platforms. Large ERP systems track and manage goods, and the rise of e-commerce added on a layer of tools and agencies designed to  offload some of the ERP system’s functionality. 

While these additional tools may have addressed the new e-commerce challenges, the two still operated separately, and as a result most CPG companies remain in legacy mode and have been missing out on the full benefit of digital transformation

Digital transformation has become even more essential, not just to mitigate the overwhelming disruption of events that have taken place over the past two years, but also to address the huge volume of data that has existed, presently exists, and will continue to exist within the CPG environment.

Every item in a store possesses a data mark. Between credit card transactions, EDI shipment logs, and simple on-hand inventory movement, there is a ton of “hidden in plain sight” data pieces we haven’t necessarily missed, we just haven’t been able to compile… until now.  

Untapped Sources, New Opportunities

The incredible volume of untapped disparate purchase history and associated peripheral data is ripe for upcycling.  Over the years, this data has accumulated, with only a fraction of it used, and can be used to derive normalized pattern recognition from which to jumpstart supervised machine learning models. 

Experts within the CPG industry have never had more power at their fingertips. By upcycling the troves of stored data while pulling in public and private data signals in real-time, a CPG company can go from zero market visibility to maximum market optimization in less than one month.   

CPG Steps for Survival

The CPG ecosystem is fragmented, traditionally divided into  brick-and-mortar vs.  e-commerce.  It is further segmented by region,  product category, payment method, and thousands of additional purchase variables. How can a CPG organization achieve successful synergy and unified vision between all the  dividing factors? 

Let’s keep it simple: Three steps can enable an overwhelmingly positive digital transformation, propelling  companies of all shapes and sizes into the modern era. These companies are well positioned to take full advantage of the data that has always been theirs. 

  1. Bridge the gap between ERP and added tools and agencies. Traditional legacy systems will provide neither the full view necessary for transformation, nor the granular look into the past and future that is needed.  Easier said than done, but this is a true opportunity for business leaders and IT professionals to play together like never before.
  2. Get a handle on the full range of purchase history and a 360-degree view of customer behavior. Cross-pollinate all data sources to get a better historical look. This takes time and commitment, but provides a base in which simple mathematical models thrive in their go-forward predictions.
  3. Understand the customer journey. This requires a unified understanding that collecting data for its own sake does not yield results — instead, planning the purpose for which collected data can be used to alert, predict, and even take autonomous action unlocks a culture of “hands-on keyboard.”  

The consumer journey is undeniably unpredictable, and as a result, CPG companies amass millions of data points daily. By analyzing those data points, establishing real-time alerts and cross-pollinating data between sources, it becomes possible to better understand that journey, and in so doing, achieve digital transformation commensurate with other industries.  

—Meagan Bowman is founder and CEO at Stonehenge Technology Labs. Serving as a disruptive B2B SaaS platform, Stonehenge’s STOPWATCH platform is a subscription-based configuration serving agency partners and manufacturers of all shapes and sizes within the retail and CPG space. Stonehenge’s platform-agnostic decision science directs online assisted, augmented, and autonomous actions to be executed by CPG companies in order to profitably grow their online sales distribution through all click-based retail transactions.  

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