The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is in the middle of a digital transformation, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers are asked to stay at home and shelter-in-place, buying habits are changing, and in turn, retailers’ and suppliers’ ways of doing business are changing as well. Online discovery has become critical to meeting consumers’ needs and keeping stores well-stocked for the less-frequent, bigger-buy trips that many consumers are undertaking.

From virtual events showcasing new and innovative products to brands upping their social media game to meet the consumer where they are (it’s estimated that consumers in countries hit hard by the virus are spending 50 percent more time on Facebook messaging, and 70 percent more time on their apps), suppliers and buyers engaging with each other online to keep products fresh and keep solutions flowing.

This digital transformation isn’t limited to CPG buyers and suppliers. Brokers, too, can leverage digital practices and build out a digital strategy to better showcase their clients and support their brands during this pandemic. Let’s take a deeper look at how brokers can use digital strategies to engage and inform.

Keep moving in the face of challenges

Brokers provide essential and unique value to the CPG industry. Not only are they the connectors within a vast network, brokers also give suppliers the much-needed space to focus on innovation and product development, rather than get bogged down in getting their products in stores and in front of buyers. The streamlined solutions brokers provide to customers can’t be underscored enough, and it’s because of this that brokers need to ensure they are part of the digital transformation happening in CPG, just as suppliers and buyers are, in order to leverage and expand their network during challenging environments such as the current pandemic.

But how can brokers embrace the digital transformation during COVID-19 and beyond? Here are three tips.

1. Online meetings are key

It’s been well-publicized that trade shows are being canceled left and right. And where suppliers, brokers, and buyers used to meet in person on the show floor to talk business, now they’re moving those conversations to online platforms. As mentioned in a previous post, retailers and brands are leveraging virtual conferences to connect, which can help with that critical first introduction, particularly when it can’t be done on a show floor.

Online platforms like RangeMe are also critical to meeting new clients and customers. RangeMe works with 70% of the top 100 retailers in the U.S., as well as thousands of independent and regional retailers, and provides a one-stop-shop for brokers to showcase their clients’ products for eager buyers, and for buyers to easily contact brokers about product information.

2. Gear up your social media presence

A recent report noted that e-commerce has played a large part in the growth of CPG. Consumer shopping habits have long been trending to more online shopping than before, and during this COVID-19 pandemic, that trend probably won’t be slowing down any time soon. Advertising budgets are shifting to online rather than traditional outlets over the years, and while “online” advertising is often seen as “Facebook” that is shifting as well—Facebook advertising accounted for about 52% in early 2019, down from 74% in 2017. Some of that share went to other social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. It’s worth noting that the report also shows that the bulk of advertising on these social media platforms focused on awareness campaigns, though that could change as consumer behaviors change.

So why is this important for brokers? Because you need to go where your audience is. As the world continues to socially distance themselves, there are still opportunities to connect, and that’s online. As we noted above, people are spending more time online, and that’s where they’re living, liking, and discovering. If you’re not showcasing your products online, where are you going to showcase them?  

3. Always be ready to pivot

Industries across the board currently have to be prepared to pivot in strategies when necessary, and CPG is no exception. Even when the world goes back to normal—or perhaps, a new normal is a better way of putting it—the landscape of CPG is going to look very different than it did in early March, and things could very well continue to change rapidly. Understanding strategies and options will be critical for CPG brokers going forward, which can include analyzing consumer behavior, evaluating channels, or understanding how the economic climate is impacting at both the consumer and retail level. By having this information ready, brokers can better showcase their clients’ products, and enhance connection opportunities for success. As CPG strengthens in its digital revolution, brokers are an essential part of that move. Advisors, sales staff, protectors of product—brokers do it all, and keeping up that momentum is crucial to success for all.

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