Three Technologies to Digitally Transform Your Business

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Three Technologies to Digitally Transform Your Business

By Mark Osborn, SAP - 11/08/2016

It’s easy to take for granted the rate at which digital connections have infiltrated and transformed our daily lives.

Today, we can ask Alexa to order cleaning supplies, summon Siri to send us an Uber, or tap an app to map our runs or replace our running shoes. We also can connect our ever-growing number of smart devices – including smartphones, smart homes and smart cars – to automate almost everything, from keeping our homes secure to reordering laundry detergent.

This is the beauty of the new digital economy: Consumers can get what they want, in the exact moment they want it. But it also presents a major challenge for consumer goods companies: being ready for consumers in those moments, wherever and whenever they may occur.

This naturally leads to the question: How are companies using digital technologies to better engage with consumers in their moments of need to deliver the outcomes and experiences they want?

The fact is, the potential for what a CG company can accomplish with digital technologies is largely only bound to the limits of its imagination. This can be simultaneously exciting and intimidating. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some key ways that CG companies are already putting digital technologies to use.

Creating with Less Cost
Supercomputing can manage massive amounts of data and conduct complex problem solving. It’s a technology that may have seemed an unlikely fit for a CG company just 10 to 15 years ago – but that’s all changing today.

Consider the case of Ping, a popular golf brand that wanted to test new club designs.  By using supercomputing to model and test, the company was able to determine how potential materials affect swing, speed, weight, and flex and consequently how it optimizes ball impact and distance.

By using supercomputing, Ping was able to create millions and millions of virtual simulations and run them in a fraction of the time of potentially thousands of physical trials they would have been able to run previously. In doing so, they were able to accelerate the company’s development cycles and lower its innovation costs while simultaneously giving them substantially more insight and visibility into materials performance, design optimization and potential risks for failure. This is just one example of how digital is transforming the physical world around us.

Ready to Act at the Point of Sale
Embedded sensors are another example of technology helping to transform the way CP companies creatively connect with consumers in their everyday lives. This highly versatile Internet of Things (IoT) technology also can be deployed at the point of sale. Smart-shelf technology, in particular, can monitor on-shelf product levels and communicate with a store’s back room to prompt restocking if those levels drop below a threshold.

One major beverage producer is taking this a step further by installing sensors in the refrigerated cases where its products are sold. In addition to tracking product availability, the sensors can track variables like the average ambient temperature in the case and how many times its door is opened and closed. This information can help the company track product freshness or even help predict maintenance for the cases, rather than waiting for a store to call and report a unit is broken.

Food giant Mondelez International provides another example. The company has developed smart-shelf technology that can identify basic demographic information about consumers at checkout lanes where its snacks are displayed. That information can then be used to display targeted video promotions to the consumer to help spur a purchase in that moment.

As Mondelez’s CIO Mark Dajani told The Wall Street Journal, “Knowing that a consumer is showing interest in the product gives us the opportunity to engage with them in real-time.”

Solving Problems in Hyper-Speed
A final example of how businesses are being optimized through technology is the confections industry. Beyond being beloved for its great-tasting chocolates, The Hershey Company, is recognized for its knowledge-based strategy and innovative use of real-time insights and predictive analytics to drive enterprise connectivity and   continued growth in the marketplace.

The brand worked collaboratively with their retail partners, sharing data to revolutionize the way consumers purchased their goods. At NRF’s Big Show this year, Michele Buck, CIO at The Hershey Company, highlighted how live business insights were critical to the company’s strategy. Buck discussed how through knowledge sharing, the company was able to embrace the digital transformation.

By improving the flow of the information, supporting smart decision making and fostering cross-functional collaboration, the brand was able to vastly simplify their global processes and drive efficiency at scale, enabling them to work more effectively with their retail partners and achieve more double digit sales growth.

A Future That’s Wide Open
These examples are only a small glimpse into the potential that digital technologies hold. In some cases, the technology is completely transforming how CG companies see their business, such as with products being reimagined as digital subscriptions. The question many CG companies are asking today is less about if they’re going to embrace digital technologies, and more about how they’re going to embrace them to better connect with consumers and reach them in their moments of need.

Mark Osborn, is vice president, digital strategy and business planning at SAP.