Faced with fierce competition from consumer goods giants, how can smaller suppliers level the playing field?

Easy: by strategically embracing technology.

Technology helps suppliers stand out and counter such retail pressures as changing consumer demographics, reduced brand loyalty, increased digital commerce and more demanding customers. It also helps suppliers engage consumers and retailers, and boost profitability.

The following four technology trends can help suppliers get their terrific products onto retailers’ radars, shelves and e-commerce sites, and into consumers’ hands.

  1. Digital Content for Search
    Including digital content in your marketing strategy will help ensure your products show up on shoppers’ digital and mobile search results.To help consumers find your products through online search, use digital and social media marketing. Share product-specific content such as images, descriptions, specifications, reviews, testimonials, case studies, how-to-use videos and local search marketing to show the closest retailers that carry your product.

    Why does digital content matter so much? Consider the facts:
    92% of customers read online reviews (vs. 29% in 2010).1 Larosa, Susanna. The Importance of Getting Reviews for Your Business. 4theWeb.com. October 22, 2015.
    55% of shoppers say online reviews influence their buying decision.2Lunka, Ryan. Retail Data: 100 Stats About Retail, eCommerce & Digital Marketing. N Channel. July 9, 2015.
    62% of Millennials believe online content drives brand loyalty, and this lucrative cohort will spend $65 billion on consumer packaged goods (CPG) over the next decade.3 Fromm, Jeff. Six Trends CPG Brands Must Embrace To Win With Millennials. Forbes. February 18, 2015. 4Lunka, Ryan. Retail Data: 100 Stats About Retail, eCommerce & Digital Marketing. N Channel. July 9, 2015.

    Including digital content in your marketing strategy will help ensure your products show up on shoppers’ digital and mobile search results, boosting your brand awareness, engagement and likelihood of sales in stores and online.

  2. Image Recognition
    Consumer goods suppliers are taking advantage of the ubiquity of the mobile phone – specifically the images consumers take and share on their smartphones. Through image recognition technology, a specialized form of artificial intelligence, new retail apps allow users to upload a picture—such as an attractive shirt they saw someone wearing on the subway. The app then matches the image with the nearest similar product.5Donovan, John. The New Kid on the Marketing Block. CMO. June 6, 2016. This emerging trend matters, as the total market for computer vision technology is expected to reach over $33 billion by the end of the decade, so suppliers need to understand its impact on the retail sector.6Pritchard, Greg. Image Science: The Next Big Bang in Digital Marketing. Advertising Week. May 4, 2016.
  3. Crowdsourcing
    Mobile in-storeTo rapidly drive product innovation and boost engagement, suppliers are using digital and social technology to request and receive input directly from consumers, a practice called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing allows suppliers to harness “the power of the crowd” to generate new product ideas.7UBC Sauder. What’s Next: Katherine White on branding in an increasingly social world. June 13, 2016. For instance, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch surveyed 25,000 consumers for feedback on 12 possible flavors, which resulted in a new beer, Black Crown.8Morton, Michael. Driving Innovation With Crowdsourcing. Entrepreneur. August 12, 2014. Crowdsourcing encourages dialogue, deepens engagement and provides powerful market intelligence.
  4. Supply Chain Data Sharing
    To improve forecasting, minimize inventory levels and reduce stock-outs, suppliers are embracing demand-driven supply-chain systems. These systems allow suppliers to integrate near-real-time demand data with traditional forecasts, and share product data with retailers.9Chandrasekaran, Sirish, Robert Levin, Harry Patel, and Roger Roberts. Winning with IT in consumer packaged goods: Seven trends transforming the role of the CIO. McKinsey & Company. March 2013 Proactive product information sharing matters, as consumers now demand transparency and want to know exactly where their products come from. Also, as consulting firm EY states, “… data sharing is critical” among suppliers and retailers, as it supports agile supply chain management.10Re-engineering the supply chain for the omni-channel of tomorrow: Global consumer goods and retail omni-channel supply chain survey EY. February 2015. Such open communication can help your company elevate its relationship status with retailers from a vendor to a long-term, strategic partner.

To build relationships with consumers and retailers, consumer goods suppliers need to invest in technology. Such innovation is expected by today’s increasingly tech-savvy shoppers, so keep pace with these trends to drive brand awareness, engagement and sales.

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