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11/11/2021

Why CGs Should Ditch the Quick Fixes and Create a Digital Roadmap Instead

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As the days get colder and the holiday shopping season closes in on us, consumer goods companies are reminded of the challenges this time of year brings – supply chain shocks, product shortages, even as customer demands continue to grow. The days of panic buying toilet paper might already seem like a long time ago, but businesses are now feeling the effects of the quick technical fixes they made during the pandemic.

Blurred Lines

Even before COVID-19, the rise of Amazon was forcing CG companies to reimagine how they define themselves. Stigmas around using only trusted, longstanding supply channels are disappearing as direct-to-consumer takes over, accelerated by the events of the past 18 months. CGs are now manufactures, distributers and retailers all in one, creating marketplaces for customers and unlocking new digital channels and revenue streams.

Meeting Consumer Demand                                   

Buyers today increasingly expect their products to arrive within tight windows of time, putting mounting pressure on retailers and manufacturers. Because there is so little room for error, any unforeseen circumstances – such as severe weather or, of course, a global pandemic – supply chains are left vulnerable, and shortages happen in warehouses and on store shelves.

Take a beverage company that rushed to meet retailers’ needs by implementing a couple of lightweight data syndication tools last year. While that might have looked like a success at the peak of the pandemic, that company now finds itself with too much product data in too many different places. There’s no central truth that everyone can turn to when trying to make smart business decisions. Lack of a long-term data strategy makes it difficult to maintain continuity and – most importantly – people’s trust.

One-Off Fixes Waste Potential

Let’s say a CG distributor added a portal during pandemic-induced shortages to let manufacturers bring in new items. The portal solved the problem of the hour, getting items onto shelves. But what about onboarding for that distributor’s suppliers, too? A one-off fix is a missed opportunity to work toward a larger digital transformation strategy. And a fix that doesn’t fit into a bigger picture often generates unforeseen complications. If that company had planned to tackle multiple issues in tandem, the result could have been much more powerful.

[See also: AB InBev’s BEES Retail Partner Platform Fueling Digital Transformation]

The latest numbers don’t lie – middle-market companies with a clear, comprehensive digital visions grow 75% faster than less digitally sophisticated businesses. Yet despite the clear need, under half of middle management companies have a digital roadmap in place. Instead, they dabble, creating solutions here and there instead of strategically building on the momentum of a successful implementation. Decision makers are seeing the problems in this way of thinking, and many are going back to the drawing board on digital transformation.

It All Starts With Data

Trustworthy and transparent data is the core of creating a digital vision instead of one-off technical solutions. CGs today are faced with a ton of information, from location to suppliers to knowing their customers, and it’s in combining all that data that a clear picture begins to emerge. Are there suppliers out there that can get our products to people faster? Do we have visibility into our most rapidly growing customer demographics and what actually matters to them? How do we keep our existing customers happy while appealing to new ones? From supply chain shocks to rising sustainability concerns, the issues all businesses grapple with can be tackled more effectively as part of a broader plan.

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Brian Cluster is industry strategy director for Stibo Systems.

Looking Forward

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always know what the next year – even the next week – will bring. We hear a lot of talk about life getting “back to normal” when it comes to commerce. But the truth is, buying behaviors have changed for good. With a digital roadmap as a guide, businesses can move quickly and intelligently meet head on the opportunities that rise out of disruption.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Cluster brings 20+ years of experience in data and consumer insights to his role as Industry Strategy Director at Stibo Systems, a 227-year-old Danish company leading the master data management industry, focused on data transparency. Brian’s background in CPG and retail has provided him the first-hand experience and background to share stories about how important clean and enriched data is for companies and the importance of establishing a digital business that is agile to effectively compete in this increasingly digital world.