While technology has been the great enabler for consumers, consumer packaged-goods brands have the most to gain from technology and the empowered consumer.
To be clear, there is plenty of scope for basics. The supermarket, convenience store, and other retail formats still play a huge role in our lives, and while online shopping is making inroads in some markets, the packages on the shelves remain a huge part of our lives. Recent insights from cognitive science reinforce just how important these basics are.
But the daily shopping habits of billions of consumers creates a mass of data and insights. So far, the retailer, armed with these insights, has been optimizing the in-store experience. But how are CPG brands using technology to engage consumers?
The answer outside the store is obvious, as the opportunity for digital engagement has been wholeheartedly adopted. Examples are everywhere-from Lay's asking consumers to create their own chip flavors, to, Band-Aid using augmented reality to encourage kids to use their adhesive strips and bring the Muppets to life on their wounds, to Aquafresh in the U.K. using a game-based app to encourage children to brush their teeth for two minutes. This year's World Cup was the biggest social event in history, stimulated in no small part by the brands involved. Beyond mass participation, we've moved into mass personalization-which explains why the "Share a Coke" name-on-a-bottle campaign was such a success.
But technology's boundlessness can create tensions. When Pampers partnered with Amazon on diapers.com, Walmart et al were not happy. And as with any revolution, there are now signs of a countermovement among consumers, who ask: Is all this personalization backed by an authentic intent-or is this some faux maneuver just to trick me into buying more of the mass-produced product? The current artisanal trend is perhaps a rejection of mass personalization in favor of true authenticity which historically connects to a more innocent era of craft individualism and human skill.
It's inaccurate to view the customers of the new local coffee bar as radicals, raising a fist salute against the tech-enabled "man"-after all, they probably found out about that coffee bar on Facebook. The vendors at the farmer's market are on Twitter, and old-school craft skills now get millions of views on YouTube. With all this participation and personalization available, the question remains: where's the value for me?
There is an opportunity for mainstream brands to play a role among these tensions. Gillette has ventured into male grooming salons, capitalizing on the Movember movement and the more long-term return of the 'stache and beard. While currently just a pop-up promotion, this could be a way to showcase their role in the art and practice of shaving.
Since we are seeing that immersive, well-designed experiences drive choice and engender loyalty, all brands should be as experiential as possible. Technology is a huge boon to brands that have struggled to have their own platform. Now any brand can be experiential via the medium of the smartphone.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity lies in-store. Mobile technology helps shoppers find what they need, makes suggestions, and offers ideas for usage. As consumers begin to understand the power of their own data and see how innovative brands are using it to make their individual lives easier, there will be a shift, as in: Don't ask me what new flavor you should manufacture, Mr. Brand, I've got data! Offer me something I'd like. Here's my data, now impress me, fast-or I'm out of here.
In the Age of You, the consumer will soon get smarter about how to wield the power that his or her data provides. Consumer goods brands that know how to respond will be the winners.