When thinking of retail industries, what comes to mind? If it's meeting consumer demands and expectations, you’d be half-right.
If you said that with the caveat that meeting those demands and expectations depends on finding the right products and getting them to your store or to the consumer in a timely fashion, now you’re on the track toward being fully right.
In the consumer goods industry, it can be nearly impossible to get your foot in the door of big retailers if you don’t have the right connections or money to back up your bid. But with the onset of new technologies, things have changed drastically, and that change is coming even faster.
It’s not that retail has done a 180 in how it currently sources and fulfills products, bringing to market new and innovative items that consumers want. Rather, retail has thrown out the playbook of how it’s done and is writing a new one, a living document that flows and changes with each new technological output.
It’s unsurprising, to say the least, that this "evolution revolution" is taking hold of retail and consumer goods. After all, consumers have drastically changed the way they shop. E-commerce is seemingly unstoppable, with so many consumers eagerly adapting to online shopping for everything from clothing to groceries to cars. Consumers are more educated than ever about what they want, and when and how they want it. Nowadays, the norm is that it needs to be delivered not within days, but within hours. Setting a bar that high a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Today, it’s practically standard.
The industry is starting to see the impact of augmented and virtual reality on consumer shopping behavior. These technologies that once seemed so otherworldly are now becoming the norm, providing consumers an avenue of insight into how a product can impact their lives before they even buy it.
So, if consumers are changing the way they shop, shouldn’t retailers change the way they enable that process?
Not Your Grandmother’s SOP
Retailers, suppliers, and those who work alongside these two entities have to rethink not only how they offer products to their consumers, but also how they source the products their consumers want to keep up with their ever-changing demands.
To not put thought behind this process inevitably does consumers a disservice. Change is inevitable, and the technology revolution that is taking hold is disrupting our industry in major ways; for retailers to ignore this puts them on a path to their own demise.
There are a handful of new technologies disrupting the industry, and a big part of this stems from the fact that the consumer-retailer relationship isn’t just about transactions, it’s about relationships and trust.
Retailers need to develop the relationships they have — and the ones they want to have — if they want to maintain a loyal shopper base. But what they further need to realize is that those relationships start well before the shopper ever enters the store or logs onto the website. The relationship starts with the products they can offer, and them delivering those products at the right place, the right time, and the right cost.
As a retailer, what better way to show consumers that you’re thinking of them, that you care, than by doing your homework and seeking out products you know they will like and will want. Or even better, that you know they will want before they even know they want them.
That’s what this technology revolution can do for retailers. It can improve existing relationships and build new ones that will sustain business well into the future as consumers become faster and more proactive (rather than reactive).
Technology that Satisfies
Without embracing the idea that technology can disrupt consumer goods and can be used to strengthen relationships between suppliers and retailers, the industry would miss out on a key point in this paradigm shift.
Bringing retailers and suppliers together is a must if the industry is going to thrive. In today’s environment, the old way of sourcing new products just doesn’t cut it anymore. You can't simply consider the product itself; how it affects the end point — the consumer — must factor into the sourcing equation as well. Consumers are demanding more — and retailers are, too. And the technology evolution is meeting those demands in a fast and furious way.
There’s a comfort, however, in knowing that what now may seem drastically different to some retailers will eventually become commonplace — and they’ll be better off for it. It’s an exhilarating time to be in the industry, and new opportunities are coming at consumer goods companies and retailers faster than they can blink.
Retailers and CGs alike must be proactive and think not only about what they need right now, but also what they’ll need three steps from now. Not every piece of technology that comes to the forefront is going to be right for the business. It’s essential for retailers to be particular about what is incorporated into the overall strategy, and understand how it will affect the relationship with both CGs and consumers.
The technology evolution is revolutionizing the industry. Retailers that embrace change and create mainstream acceptance of these new technologies will prove to be leaders of the pack.
About the Author
Nicky Jackson is founder and chief executive officer of RangeMe, as well as a leading voice for women in business and technology and a pioneer in the CPG technology space. Prior to launching RangeMe, she worked as a marketing executive at Kellogg, Uncle Toby’s, Goodman Fielder, PepsiCo and Jim Beam.