How CPG Brands Can Bridge the Digital Gap with Consumers

CPG consumer digital gap

The era of disruption has been accelerated by COVID-19, with uncertainty becoming the new normal for major brands and CPG companies. In these uncertain times, harnessing new technologies, adapting to changes to consumer behaviour, and identifying and acting on emerging trends is vital for both success and survival in the CPG industry.

It’s the job of CMOs to manage these challenges and position their company to succeed. But many fail to grasp how big the digital gap has become. Research from PwC shows that only 10% of companies believe that creating a better customer experience is a digital priority, despite 54% of U.S. consumers stating that customer experience at most companies needs to improve.

What is Digital Gap?

“At Least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years if they don’t figure out how to adapt to new technologies” – John Chambers, Former CEO Cisco.

Today’s consumer is faster and more demanding than ever before. Technology and an increasing number of digital channels have empowered people with more choice and more access to information. As a result, consumers are more impatient, show less brand loyalty, and are more demanding of brands to engage on their terms. According to a study by Neilsen, just 8% of consumers consider themselves to be loyal to their favorite brands, while research from Google reveals that 73% of CPG shoppers considered at least two product brands during their last shopping experience.

While the consumer has rapidly embraced new technologies and devices into their everyday lives, the CPG industry has been slow to react. A digital gap has emerged between brand and consumer.

How Can Brands Reduce The Gap between Business and Consumer?

The challenge for company leadership is to manage and reduce the digital gap, bring the brand closer to the consumer, and mitigate the risk of disruption. CPG companies that have already embraced digital channels and solutions into their marketing strategy are already reaping the rewards. Almost 70% of overall growth in the CPG industry over the last decade was driven by online channels. CPG companies can get a competitive advantage in the new consumer landscape by going through the eight steps of digital gap management.

Establish Business Objectives

Any digital transformation initiative needs to be linked to tangible business objectives. These objectives are unique to your business, your customers, and your industry. How do your customers engage with your business, which channels are they using, and which objectives will deliver the most business value?

Every business objective must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely).

Learn with the Consumer

Data has transformed how companies engage and deliver value to consumers. The growth of digital channels facilitates new ways for people to interact and reach out to companies. Analyzing the tremendous amounts of data these digital channels and connections create can reveal new business opportunities and ways to improve the customer experience.

Delving into previous interactions with sales and customer service departments can reveal what drives positive outcomes and what needs to be improved. By quantifying this information, it can be replicated on a large scale to improve customer experience and drive business performance.

Work on a Digital Ecosystem of the Future

Learning from past customer interactions is important, but to future-proof your company, you need to look beyond current requirements. A digital ecosystem is an integration of your digital channels and a framework to harness your data and put it to use across your company. By embracing new technologies like machine learning and Big Data, you can reduce the digital gap and position your company to capitalize on opportunities when they arise.

It’s vital to look at how your customers are embracing new technologies and channels and take steps to meet them on their terms. That means looking ahead and taking pre-emptive action, rather than be reactive and continually playing catch up.


Identify the Right Technologies to Support the Digital Ecosystem

For your digital ecosystem to empower your employees and drive your business forward, you need to identify the technologies and tools that will support success. The Martech industry has seen massive growth over the last decade. There are a huge amount of opportunities to improve business processes. The right tools and technologies for your company depend on your unique needs and the expectations of your customers.

Data-driven marketing is a powerful asset, but gathering, storing, and analyzing vast amounts of data is a challenge that every organization faces. AI and machine learning are vital for analytics and processing vast amounts of data to deliver smaller actionable insights that can be utilized to improve performance. Without these technologies, capturing data offers minimal business value. Research shows that 53% of marketers consider more relevant communication and becoming more customer-centric is the number one reason to invest in data-driven marketing.


Data-driven subscription services have been a massive disruptor to the CPG industry over the last decade, reaching an estimated $15 billion in market size. These subscription model disruptors have leveraged data to take advantage of the digital gap that has emerged between CPG industry incumbents and the consumer.

Graze, the healthy snack brand has placed personalization at the center of its subscription model business. To deliver the personalized experiences customers demand, Graze needs to process vast quantities of data. Customers provide information on their product preferences and allergy requirements, and Graze delivers a regular subscription box containing personalized healthy snacks. With over 500 available products, there is a massive number of possible combinations for each subscription box. Graze utilizes AI and machine learning to delight customers by placing data at the heart of their products and the relationship with each individual customer. This has a data-driven approach that has driven powerful results for Graze and other subscription business model disruptors. According to research from Clutch, 54% of online shoppers are signed up to a subscription box service.

Define the Implementation Priorities

Once you’ve defined your strategic business objectives and identified the technologies that can empower your organization, the next step is to set out a roadmap for digital transformation with defined implementation priorities. The roadmap provides a structure and route to follow while remaining flexible and agile to change as situations evolve.


Defining implementation priorities ensures that business value and ROI is delivered as soon as possible, with short-term and long-term goals for improving processes and replacing outdated systems with new solutions. An agile business strategy ensures that tasks can be effectively prioritized. Changes can be implemented strategically to deliver maximum business value.

Test Test Test & Pilot

Testing is pivotal to the success of every digital transformation and digital strategy. The ability to learn, adapt, and improve is vital. By defining a statement hypothesis and putting it to the test, ideas can be proven or disproved, with results that are scalable and replicable across the organization.

AI and machine learning enable testing to be conducted at a scale that is far beyond what was once possible. In a short period, data can be analyzed to reveal the success or failure of hypothesis and pilot schemes rolled out to audience segments. For marketers, this means that decision making can be based on facts and evidence, rather than hunches and intuition. This data-driven approach ensures that risk is minimized, innovation is accelerated, and return on investment is maximized.

Facebook puts testing at the center of its innovation. Back in May 2019, Facebook announced the testing of a new streamlined interface for its desktop users and a dark mode to reduce screen glare. While the vast majority of Facebook users access the platform from mobile devices, Facebook utilized user data to reveal that desktop users create most of the content posted on the social network and drive the majority of their ad revenue. After testing variations of the new desktop layout and dark mode for all desktop users in march 2020.

Act upon the Consumer Data

As the number of touchpoints in the buyer’s journey increases and digital channels continue to merge with brick and mortar shopping experiences, CPG companies need to utilize consumer data to inform their business models and strategies. Consumer data is a goldmine for marketing, sales, and product development initiatives.

Putting your customers at the heart of everything you do is the only way to survive and thrive in the era of digital disruption. If you don’t meet the needs of your customers, somebody else will. Consumer data is the most treasured asset at your disposal, enabling you to connect the dots and reveal what consumers want. These insights provide the foundation for business strategies and innovation, help you to close the digital gap, and bring your company closer to the consumer.

After analyzing consumer data for insights, you need to determine actionable strategies that can be implemented. For example, if you identify that a particular customer segment has a higher customer lifetime value (CLV), you can prioritize that buyer persona and construct strategies to attract and retain that segment. As a result, growth strategies are data-driven.


Automation plays a crucial role in delivering data insights in a timescale where they can be utilized to drive business performance. Research from HubSpot reveals that 68% of marketers are now using marketing automation. By automating data processing, you can segment customer segments in real-time to deliver personalized messaging that is targeted to make the maximum impact on the consumer in the all-important micro-moments. Successful digital marketing strategies are built on engaging the right audience, at the right time, and with the right message.

New tools and technologies enable marketers to personalize the customer experience for individual consumers in real-time, bridging the digital gap, and offering value to consumers at each stage of the buyer’s journey.


With the fallout of COVID-19, changes to consumer behaviour, emerging technologies, and an increasing number of disruptors, CPG companies face a multitude of challenges.

The speed of consumer evolution has rapidly outpaced the speed of business. As new technologies, new digital channels, and new devices have been embraced into the mainstream, a digital gap has opened up between the brand and consumer. The danger for slow industry incumbents is a loss of market share and disruption in the short-term and irreverence and extinction in the long-term.

To survive in the fast-paced, connected world we now live in, brands need to get closer to their consumers. By taking steps to close the digital gap, companies can take advantage of new opportunities and gain an edge over their competitors.

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