Improved technologies create the ability to “socialize” in more channels to understand consumer preferences.
A few trends that are gaining traction as a result of technology enhancements and social networks are:
Crowdsourcing – Companies are opening up tasks that have historically been done in-house — such as product development and advertising — to the public so that they can solicit new ideas at a lower cost. Rewards are often given for products and ideas that hit the market. These ideas can include patents and license for purchase. Crowdsourcing opportunities usually begin as a solicitation from a company’s website and social media platforms or sites deliberately set up to source innovation.
Cloud Technology - Cloud technology is being used to create virtual storefronts that sell directly to consumers. This creates the ability to offer more SKUs, as well as test and sell to emerging markets or specialized markets where there is an identified demand. Creating storefronts in the cloud is generally much quicker and cheaper than if developed in-house, plus there are generally no direct investments in hardware, software, servers, etc. These storefronts can be “socialized” to become interactive and real-time so that they include industry updates, consumer comments, recipes, video, twitter feeds, and so on.
Expanded Wireless Capabilities - More companies are moving to wireless networks in stores and equipping employees with smartphones and tablets. These devices are used for scanning, customer purchases, finding and tracking merchandise, as well as store promotions, reward programs, text and e-blasts and customer analytics. While many companies do not yet have a clearly defined mobile strategy, they will need to create one as smartphone usage continues to increase.
Innovations in Packaging – As consumers are demanding more user-friendly and environmentally friendly packaging, consumer packaged goods companies are responding with research, innovation and investment in “bio-based” packaging.
Innovation Labs - More and more consumer packaged goods companies are opening innovation labs close to geographic technology “hubs” and hiring technology leaders for key positions.
Without a doubt, today’s consumer demands to be heard. Consumer product companies as well as others are quickly figuring out that the path to increased sales is to go where their customers are. They are learning to listen to and engage with them, and deliver when, where and how the customer chooses.