One thing CPG companies need to build a position of eminence – the consumer

9249388080_4f5e508b33_cLet’s start with some startling facts about the consumer products and goods (CPG) industry. Failure rates of new product innovations are estimated to be higher than 70 percent globally. Still, more than 80 percent of traditional marketers make decisions based on gut feel and past experiences, instead of using scientific approaches that unlock new insights (for example, advanced analytics).

Today, CPG companies are wrestling with a host of market challenges related to market, retailer and technology. Some of the significant challenges faced by the CPG companies include: 

  • Market – Volatile commodity prices and shifts in global supply and demand increasingly influence the gross profit margins of CPG companies. Large multi-national CPG companies have global supply chains and they sell globally, hence their profit margins are affected by the cyclical movements of currencies, economies and other macro-economic factors in a country.
  • Retailer – The increasing clout of retailers in the marketplace poses significant challenge to the CPG companies.  The big retailers are getting even bigger and more powerful. CPG companies face pressure from the retailers to reduce prices. There is a lack of collaboration/partnership with the retailers as retailers continue to limit access to consumer data and insights. CPG companies increasingly find it challenging to obtain approval from retailers for executing their plans and strategies. Maintaining retailer’s loyalty also becomes a big ongoing challenge for the CPG companies.
  • Technology – Keeping pace with exponential increase in data and associated analysis and technological developments has always been a challenge for the CPG companies. Companies are struggling with integrating data across channels and functions, cleaning and standardizing it and churning it with the help of advanced analytics to produce actionable insights.

These are all important challenges worthy of attention for the market participants, in order to survive and compete in the marketplace. Still, the manufacturers should start focusing on the one thing that can inform their product development, improve their operational effectiveness, increase their competitiveness and boost their profits – the consumer.

The presence of today’s technology-enabled empowered, omni-channel consumer affects how CPG companies control costs, grow sales, coordinate a wide variety of trade activities, manage time and manage the customer (retailer) relationship. These consumers are empowered by an abundance of information, technology and choices. Their expectations from the companies have increased in terms of ongoing engagement and constant experience across channels. And they can champion or sully the reputation of a brand at the click of a mouse. Their constant online and offline engagement with companies and their products generate a lot of data about their shopping behavior and preferences. That is why, manufacturers should start taking their end consumers more seriously as this knowledge can inform various functions like sales, supply chain, IT etc. across the companies (and not just marketing) and help companies transform their entire value chain. This would help them to anticipate consumer need s and proactively plan for them. This can also help them collaborate with retailers and gain a seat at the decision maker’s desk.

Many CPG companies, globally, have started to realize this need of strong consumer focus and are deploying dedicated resources and advanced analytics to develop consumer centric capabilities. For example, in its 2011 category leadership study by Kantar retail, when retailers were asked which manufacturers ranked among the top three in consumer/shopper insights and category management, Procter & Gamble (41.9%), Kraft Foods (37.1%) and PepsiCo (27.0%) came out on top, with General Mills a hair width behind (26.9%).


We, at the IBM Center for Applied Insights, have been working on a comprehensive global study of over 350 CPG senior executives to gain more quantitative and qualitative insights about the increasing consumer focus of these CPG companies. The focus of this study is to understand market trends, the need for consumer orientation, who are the leaders, how they are doing it and the results achieved.

Watch this space for more insights and information on the release of forthcoming executive presentation, info-graphic and white paper.

I look forward to your comments and observations.

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