The new year brings a big, new project for many CPG marketers: the annual task of strategic planning. And in today’s retail marketplace, where shopping behavior is changing at blazing speed, it can take a lot of crystal ball gazing to imagine what the right approaches will be three to five years from now.
Rather than try to predict the future, I often suggest that marketers use their strategic plans to help read the fast-changing environment. Investing in activities that let you monitor well-documented trends will make you more ready to respond (with people, money, and infrastructure) when the market does move. And it’s a lot less risky than investing in speculative efforts that may or may not come to bear.
Experts are predicting a number of big changes on the horizon, but here are four market-watching investments that I think should be in every CPG marketer’s plan this year.
1. An E-Commerce Czar: With Walmart now testing grocery pickup and delivery, it seems inevitable that online shopping for CPG products will move from the fringe to massively mainstream. So make someone in your organization accountable for working with retailers, evolving your store-based strategies and managing internal transitions. E-commerce represents real step change – the kind that big organizations often need years to manage. Funding proactive thinking now will pay huge dividends later.
2. Omnichannel Shopping Insights: Beyond knowing who is using digital (early vs. late adopters), brands need to know the when, where and how of the omnichannel path to the purchase. The same shopper buying shampoo on her mobile phone may also be using the newspaper circular to plan her list. That’s why it’s essential to understand the dynamics of trip types, occasions, deal hunting and purchase. Few brands today have that intel, but those that do are able to make ROI-boosting decisions on everything from promotion strategies to media choices.
3. Initiatives To Manage Diverging Demographics: The demographic middle is disappearing, so the future will require something more than a one-size-fits-all approach. High and low incomes, large ethnic families, childless households, Millennials and Boomers are all valuable audiences with unique shopper needs. Make sure you’re continually evaluating products, packaging sizes, price points and promotion strategies to help you cast the widest net and capture diverse shoppers.
4. Test-And-Learn Funds For Emerging Retailers: You probably have dedicated teams focused on the biggest retailers, but what about the fastest-growing ones? The mix is shifting to retailers like Amazon, Costco, WinCo, dollar stores and natural foods markets. They often have a very different marketing formula from traditional grocery or mass. Find out early what works in these channels and be ready to grow along with them when shoppers shift their spend.
In a corporate world that values quick wins, these future-focused investments may feel ambitious. But in many cases, they’re more about the size of yourwill than the size of yourwallet. An e-commerce czar may simply require shifting duties within your existing team. Test-and-learns provide some sales return to offset the out-of-pocket spend. And for all of these items, simply sharpening your priorities to reflect these trends can position you for a more strategically on-target future.
As you forge forward into this year’s plan, remember the wisdom of the great scientist Isaac Asimov who said, “No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” In other words, invest in your future by watching strategic trends – and enjoy many profitable returns.