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Sponsoring the upcoming Consumer Goods Sales and Marketing Summit (#CGSM13) got me thinking about life in the consumer good space.  Being a consumer product company was never easy, I suppose. But it certainly WAS easier.  There was a time when a CPG company controlled the messaging, the pricing, and what customers knew about the product. 

It’s no secret that social media has forever changed the nature of CPG and retail operations. Customers bypass your official sales and support channels in favor of product review sites, Twitter and Facebook. Increasingly pricing (and certainly margin) is often outside of our control as the internet and global commerce has fueled a race to the bottom for all but the most premium brands.  And your customers’ expectations about products, service, and support are no longer yours to set. 

Life in the CPG channel has gotten a lot more complicated in the last few years.  Sure – it’s easier for consumers to talk about your products (Amazon Reviews, Yelp!, Facebook, etc.)  But increasingly consumers want to talk use these channels to talk to EACH OTHER, and not necessarily to you.    When they do reach out (asking for help… offering a suggestion…or making a complaint) you need to respond – quickly – and confidently.

Another challenge facing the modern CPG marketer is the need to need to leverage the vast majority of insights being made (freely) available to them over social media channels. Surely of the 50,000 conversations that mention your products and brands every month there are a few important nuggets of information in there, right?

As I see it there are two separate, but equally important tasks that need to be integrated into the modern Consumer Good marketers’ diary every day. 

  1. Listen to your customers on Social Media
  2. Engage with your customers on Social Media.

Listen to your consumers

Chances are it won’t always be good – but listen anyway.  The conversations about your soup – or your batteries – or your light bulbs – or your cell phones will give you insights into what customers DON’T tell you in your focus group.

I see Social Media Listening as providing the path to a few critical workflows in the Consumer Goods space-

  • Tracking historical and real time Brand Analysis
  • Measuring the effectiveness of Marketing Campaigns and Product launches by segment
  • Determining the market influencers who matter most in each of your market spaces
  • Track and leverage consumer purchase intent before the consumer reaches the point of purchase or selects a competitor product.
  • Monitor competitive Intelligence real-time
  • Accelerate Product Innovation

Engage with your customers

Sometimes consumers have questions about product support.  Or about the nutritional information of your products.  Sometimes they are more nuanced questions best routed to your investor relations people.  Or sometimes we’ve just messed up consumers are looking to us to make it right.

Some people hold to the belief that there is too low a ‘signal to noise’ ratio on Social Media to warrant engaging with customers when they reach out on Twitter (as an example). But I disagree.  If a customer (or a potential customer) cares enough to reach out (even in frustration) – we have an obligation to engage with them. Perhaps we can solve their problem with a link to a YouTube video – and prevent a product being returned to a retailer. Or perhaps we can save an unhappy long term customer who just had an unfortunate experience with one of our products.

Either way – Social Media as a customer engagement strategy helps companies-

  • Preserve customer loyalty
  • Reduce the number of calls coming in through more expensive channels such as telephone or retail
  • Drive down product returns related to technical or misapplication
  • Foster the reputation of a company who cares about their consumers experience with our products.

So there is no doubt that being a consumer good company has changed.  Maybe it hasn’t gotten harder… just different.   Or maybe you’re one of the best… and you’ve already turned your social media strategy into a competitive advance. 

If you want to understand how T-Mobile – one of America’s leading wireless carriers is leveraging Social Media to delight their customers in the highly competitive cell phone market – listen to this rebroadcast of a recent webinar.  Their Digital shares some great insights into the role that Social Media is playing in helping them re-imagine the wireless market. 

If these conversations about CG products has you nodding your head and saying “Yep… so now what?” I want to share with you that SAP will be featuring a number of solutions at the upcoming CGT Sales & Marketing Summit that address the opportunities associated with Big Data for Sales & Marketing. Please follow @SAP_CP to stay up on the CGT Sales & Marketing social media conversation as we approach the CGT Summit in New York. We’ll be Tweeting using the hashtag combination #SAP and #CGT2013.

Please visit with us to see how our new solutions for Demand Signal Management, Retail Execution, Trade Promotion Management and Optimization, and Social Media Analytics can address your big data opportunities.  For more CGT Sales & Marketing Summit information, check out the full conference agenda online.

Craig R. Downing
SAP Global Cloud Marketing