Last time we talked, we looked at a few different ways retailers are adjusting in this world of 24/7 consumer access. But they’re not the only party that has to shift their operating playbook as consumer behaviors alter. Suppliers, too, have to change up the way they do business, to better meet what consumers want, and what retailers need.

Trends seem to change at lightning speed, and supplying a world where 24/7 access is steadily encroaching on life is a challenge for suppliers of all shapes and sizes. We’ve gone from in-store only selling to selling whichever and whenever ways we can—in store, via computer, through mobile. The digital transformation that the consumer packaged goods arena has undergone in the last 10 years is nothing short of amazing, and those brands that continually embrace it are reaping the rewards. They’re increasing sales, better engaging with consumers, and going about business in a whole new way.

And that transformation is beyond “just creating product pages on brand websites,” writes Sven Dummer on the akami blog. Online portals, mobile applications, social media, and more are a new world of possibilities for brands to target consumers. Dummer notes that a 2016 Forrester report shows that 75 percent of online adults in the United States engage with brands on Twitter or Facebook, and 43 percent of consumers use social media when researching products. 

“The message is clear,” Dummer writes. “If CPGs want to follow customers wherever they go, they need to go digital.”

Where you go, they will follow

Digital transformation might seem intimidating for businesses that don’t feel ready to take on the 24/7 world. But it’s necessary if your brand is going to survive in today’s CPG environment. Does it mean you have to be answering your phone or your email at all hours of the day to respond to customers? No, you’re allowed at least 30 minutes of sleep a night. (I joke.) But for real, no—you can certainly set parameters and expectations for your consumers, as well as your employees. Perhaps you institute a 24-hour rule, where all consumer inquiries must be responded to within 1 day. Or you shift your staffing so that yes, there is someone at your business at all hours to talk with consumers.

Rob Gonda writes in Forbes that there are three survival strategies for CPG brands in this new world of digital disruption. (He’s talking about legacy brands, but I think his advice applies to all brands, personally.) One is to “emulate digital natives.” Meaning: Agility, creativity, and know-how will get you everywhere. Second is to “personalize the customer experience” as he notes that one in four consumers, according to a Deloitte study, would pay more for a personalized service or product, and often in return they will share data. That data can be used by CPG brands to enhance purchasing experiences as well as products. And finally, take a “back to basics” approach using an omnichannel strategy. “If legacy brands are not employing an omnichannel strategy in the face of digital disruption,” he writes, “the chances of success are slim.”

Like I said, it can be daunting, embracing the digital transformation. But coupled with the advice from Gonda and drummer, I think remembering a single word can also help suppliers navigate this new territory:

Creativity.

Yup. Just one word. Think about it.

Creativity.

There are a lot of different ways suppliers can go with that word, right? Maybe it’s getting creative with flavors, and discovering the newest flavor trend before consumers even know they want it.

Perhaps creativity means changing the intended purpose of a product or product line.

Or perhaps, it’s getting creative with presentation—a new packaging, or size, or display that both attracts a consumer’s eye and fits perfectly with a retailer’s planogram.

Maybe creativity for a supplier means changing up how a product is marketed, or to whom a product is marketed.

Creativity could also mean experimenting with new formulas or recipes that make a product better.

Creativity might be putting in the time and investment needed to break into different channels, and thus getting a product line in front of a whole new cache of consumers.

These are just a few ways, but really the possibilities for how suppliers can incorporate more creativity into one or more points of their product offering are only as limited as a supplier’s creative brain. How suppliers do that is up to them to determine, but the important part here is that creativity never flags.

Thinking creatively isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. Retailers expect it. Consumers demand it. Creativity is what gets everyone excited about products, and is what makes them come back to a product time and time again.

And when consumers can come back at any time of the day or night to get that product, creativity is more important than ever.

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