The CORVID-19 pandemic has made an enormous impact on business and the daily lives of consumers. The CPG industry has seen more change than most, with existing trends in consumer behavior accelerating at a rapid pace.
The shift to digital and online shopping is nothing new, but social distancing and lockdowns around the world have been a catalyst in this change in consumer shopping habits. According to data from Nielsen, online sales of consumer packaged goods in the US have increased by 42% compared to 2019.
Even as economies around the world prepare to open up and lift lockdown restrictions, social distancing will be the new normal for some time, and consumers that have turned to online shopping are likely to continue to do so. We are already seeing how the CPG companies that have invested in digital transformation and providing exceptional online experiences are being rewarded with increased customer loyalty and market share.
According to a recent survey by Burtch Works and the International Institute for Analytics, 43% of organizations are placing analytics at the forefront of their decision making in response to the CORVID-19 pandemic.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics empower companies to leverage data insights to increase the speed and effectiveness of decision making. These tools enable companies to harness data from multiple sources to predict future results and improve business performance. There are numerous use cases for AI CPG companies but also challenges that frustrate successful implementation.
From my experience working with CPG AI initiatives, there are four barriers to successful implementation.
Four Barriers to AI Implementation That I Have Seen in Big Companies
1. Lack of Vision
From my experience leading digital transformation and AI initiatives, the number one reason that companies struggle with AI implementation is a lack of vision. Leadership knows that AI can bring significant benefits to the business, but only conduct a limited evaluation of the potential impact.
This lack of vision means leadership is less likely to invest and scale up the use of new technologies. It’s important to educate stakeholders about how AI can benefit the business and to identify the problems where technology can provide a solution, rather than taking a general and broad view of technology adoption. With a clear vision of how AI can bring business value, it’s much easier to get buy-in throughout the organization.
2. Lack of Urgency
AI is not tomorrow, it is today, and it’s already impacting how companies are responding to CORVID-19. The CPG companies that have seen success have recognized the need to move fast, while the companies that struggle fail to move beyond small scale testing. Companies need to expand their efforts and scale up the use of AI once testing has proven the value of the technology.
3. Skills & Capabilities Gap
The lack of AI and analytics skills and capabilities is a challenge for every industry. I’ve seen how CPG companies have struggled with the recruitment of data analysts and AI engineers, but in a global shortage of talent, retaining employees is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge. For any AI initiative to deliver business value, companies need to have the skills and capabilities to fully utilize the technology.
4. Not Understanding the Impact
While CPG leadership understand that AI will and is making an impact on their industry, they often fail to grasp just how significant the impact will be. There is a disconnect between how AI and advanced analytics will change business processes and the level of investment required to leverage AI and drive the business forward.
Three Ways CPG companies can Implement AI For Immediate Business Results
Today we are building an AI-driven agency, The Keenfolks, to help corporations to outpace consumer evolution. We help CPG companies to leverage new technologies, and that process starts with three key areas.
1. Prepare for Impact
Established CPG industry incumbents have been slow to react to the increasing speed of the consumer. Disruptive startups have been able to utilize an agile approach to better meet the needs of the consumer. As we enter the new normal, its more important than ever to prepare for the impact of AI. How will it affect your products, pricing, digital channels, and your ability to match the increasing speed of the consumer?
From my experience working with CPG companies, predictive analytics is a vital tool for equipping organizations to be more agile and keep pace with the consumer. Predictive analytics utilizes historical data, machine learning, and statistical modeling to make accurate predictions on future outcomes. Analysis of this data can reveal trends and insights into consumer behavior and how it will change as a result of social distancing and easing of lockdowns post COVID-19.
The competitive advantage these technologies provide is phenomenal. Before AI-powered analytics, it was impossible to process the huge range of data sources to reveal accurate predictions that could be utilized for informed decision making.
By leveraging a range of data sources, CPG companies can predict future events and plot the best course of action to capitalize on trends and mitigate potential risks.
2. CRM & Personalization
CPG companies face a greater challenge than most when it comes to harnessing their data.
Because of the use of third party retailers, CPG companies often find it harder to determine who exactly is purchasing their products and get a deep understanding of their customers. This issue is exacerbated by siloed data within the company, with different departments often using disparate data. To utilize the data at your company to deliver the personalized experiences modern consumers demand, it’s vital to organize and centralize this data so it can be accessed and utilized through every department.
A recent study by Nielsen revealed that 72% of promotions fail to generate a positive ROI. With increasing consumer demand for personalization and hyper-relevant marketing, traditional promotional tactics offer little value.
This is an area where we help clients generate immediate returns with the use of AI and machine learning. These technologies make it possible to collect and analyze data sources near instantaneously. AI delivers the best-recommended course of action after analyzing thousands of different scenarios. Customers can be segmented and provided with personalized messaging that is optimized to make the most impact.
Utilizing AI for segmentation and personalization can deliver immediate results, but these technologies provide an even greater opportunity for CPG companies. AI and advanced analytics can help you to bring your brand closer to the consumer, placing your customers at the center of your business model.
AI-powered analytics reveal valuable insights into consumer trends, habits, and preferences. This information can be used to inform everything from supply chain management and product development to marketing and customer service.
3. Automatization of Processes
Automation is the only way to communicate with your customers at scale effectively. When I work with CPG clients on their AI initiatives, content marketing, social media, and paid media are often the first processes that we streamline with automation. These processes are vital components in the digital ecosystem, but they can be a significant drain on time resources. By utilizing automation to reduce the resources spent on time-consuming tasks, marketing teams can be empowered to focus on strategy and innovation.
For paid media, previous browsing history and engagement can be utilized to optimize campaign performance. Advertising spots can be reserved in real-time, displaying customized content that is personalized to the consumer’s predicted preferences and needs. Automated paid media campaigns enable CPG companies to target precise customer segments with personalized content that is delivered at optimal micro-moments.
Social media automation can be utilized to optimize your interactions with consumers and enable you to scale processes and expand reach. Automating the publication, promotion, and account management enables marketing teams to focus on strategy.
From my experience working with global brands on digital transformation and AI initiatives, company leadership is aware of the benefits of new technologies, and that change is a necessity. However, simply investing in these technologies is not enough. AI and advanced analytics are tools that can empower your business, but it requires buy-in throughout the entire company.
COVID-19 has accelerated changes to consumer behavior. The CPG companies that have already made progress scaling their implementation of AI and advanced analytics are already yielding results. The challenge for the CPG industry is huge, but the opportunity is greater than ever before. Businesses will need to adapt fast and move with the change if they are going to survive in the new normal.