The industry continues to experience major shifts and companies are at a crucial point in their competitive and consumer journeys. Traditional market-leading positions are under threat. A combination of rapidly changing consumer needs and expectations and a levelling competitive playing field is creating a highly uncertain, disruptive environment — one full of challenges, but ripe with new possibility too.
What’s the right play for consumer brands? The answer: relevance at scale. Today mobile-enabled consumers expect brands to know them inside out — and use that knowledge to deliver authentic products, services and experiences that are entirely relevant when it really matters.
But doing this at scale takes an incredible amount of organizational agility — something that many consumer brands just don’t have yet. It also calls for a rethink of the entire value chain, all the way from developing new concepts, through manufacturing, to the store shelf and beyond.
New Game, New Rules
Today’s consumers aren’t like those of old. Often searching for more than just a “product,” they want services that bring convenience to their lives and experiences that embody the brand purpose they’ve bought into. That changes the value proposition consumer goods brands should be offering. It’s about being able to deliver something that’s “just right” for each individual customer in each moment. But just think about doing that across a customer base of millions — even billions — and you get a sense of the scale of the challenge ahead.
The way consumers and brands interact has changed dramatically too. Digital technologies have fueled an explosion in consumer touch points and engagement possibilities. From the smart home to the connected car to the wearable device, brands now have opportunities to engage with their customers that go far beyond the retail store or the billboard ad. That has radical implications for traditionally linear value chains. Everything from product conception and design, through manufacturing and sales, to after-sales services is impacted.
The sheer pace of technological change creates other challenges and opportunities. Today’s companies need to look beyond just having an efficient ERP to achieving greater architectural adaptability. Data is now the core of any modern architecture, around which companies build platforms, cloud solutions and advanced analytics. These are crucial components in developing and deploying new products, services and brand experiences.
On top of all this, the competitive landscape keeps getting tougher. For every traditional brand that struggles to adapt, there are plenty of well-funded startups that will deliver relevance at scale. The number of billion-dollar “unicorn” valuations has exploded over the last five years, bringing powerful new digital-first brands into the equation. Increased competition has made growth all the more challenging to find, with many small or medium-sized players capturing outsized bites of the market.
Time To Make The Pivot To The New
So adapting the business to deliver relevance at scale isn’t just a good idea — it’s essential for future competitive advantage. How should brands be approaching the question? There are four key strategies they can adopt. Together, these offer a crucial “North Star,” guiding the path to new growth.
- Growth pivots to relevance. Growth in this new era will come from realigning the business model to focus on consumer needs. Leveraging a broad ecosystem of partner organizations, brands should be continuously balancing an evolving portfolio of products, services and experiences that target both incremental and breakthrough innovation to deliver consumer relevance above all.
- Living in the integrated marketplace. Successful consumer goods companies get stuck into the heart of the integrated digital marketplace. They use sophisticated customer analytics to meet consumer needs for relevance across a multitude of touch points, with the agility to market, sell and distribute in continually shifting patterns.
- Resilient operations. Powered by digital technology, market leaders ensure data and insights flow through their organizations as smoothly as their products. This means leveraging digital manufacturing and new digital architectures to enable rapid responses to consumer needs. And using smart engineering and intelligent supply chains to design, develop and deliver hyper-relevant products and services.
- Smart businesses. Today’s brands can use advancing technology innovations to radically change their ways of working. This means creating an intelligent adaptive organization that can sense and respond to change, developing an ability to continuously optimize itself.
Imagine a consumer brand with the data capabilities to understand an individual customer’s unique needs at every moment. Imagine having the agility to use that data to recommend a tailored solution that fits those needs perfectly. And imagine the brand possibilities that come from offering that personalized solution for billions of individuals, all at the same time.
That’s the promise of relevance at scale. But it won’t happen by itself. To make it a reality, brands need to assess their footprint carefully and comprehensively, remembering the “secret sauce” that made them great in the first place, but adapting and industrializing it for a new era, making a wise and considered pivot to new growth.
Laura Gurski is senior managing director of Accenture’s consumer goods and services practice where she oversees the development and delivery of marketing, customer service, commerce and sales transformation services.