Practical Steps Brands Can Take To Navigate Disruption

For years we have seen new smaller and digitally native competitors grab market share from larger consumer goods companies. For many, the current turmoil is providing them with opportunities to solidify their positions thanks in large part to their agile, digital-first operating models, which are enabling them to create a higher level of consumer intimacy and to more rapidly respond to continually evolving needs -- something larger CPGs are just not set up to do.

The huge acceleration in digital engagement has already been much discussed, with online sales booming and set to remain above pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future. Among new or low-frequency ecommerce shoppers, for instance, purchases for products grew by 340+% over the course of the pandemic.

It’s important to recognize how this step change in digital shopping goes hand in hand with a series of other behavioral shifts.

People now expect to buy anytime, anywhere, so traditional methods of capturing attention and building loyalty are increasingly irrelevant. These changes are dramatically challenging traditional CPG customer engagement models and investment strategies. If they fail to establish and scale new approach for growth, larger companies may fall behind and never catch up.



As paths to consumption become more complex and more fluid, brands need to work harder to stay relevant. Being able to listen to and understand consumers—and respond quickly—is the key to this.

This is an area where smaller, digital-native companies typically have the edge over incumbents. Take British beer company Brewdog, which uses advanced analytical capabilities to spot, respond and target changing consumption trends. It responded with agility and creativity throughout the pandemic, shifting to produce hand sanitizer, creating virtual bars, setting up the BrewDog Drive-Thru, and repurposing physical locations to create co-working space with Desk Dog.

Change on this scale is never easy — especially given the organizational size and global footprint of big consumer goods players. However, there are some practical steps leaders of consumer brands should consider as they work through their own growth plans.

Start having a two-way dialogue with consumers. Look for ways to create digitally enabled experiences that bring brand purpose to life in a way that’s both locally relevant and globally scalable.

Be systematic about growing digital consumer market share. Owning the digital shelf is about having a rigorous approach to ROI, upgrading data and analytical capabilities, and creating a scalable digital architecture that can support all sales channels.

Start rethinking routes to market and consumer engagement. Reassess your brands’ channel strategies, focusing on both updating end-customer engagement and adapting to retailers’ own reinvention plans.

Define the holistic operating model your business will need in the future. Integrate functions across the organization with standardized digital tools and platforms, and look to bring greater flexibility to workforce and supply chain models.

It’s important to remember that periods of disruption, while challenging, are also periods of great promise and possibility. Those who can survive the storm—by transforming operations and rethinking relationships with customers and retailers—will find there are blue skies and times of higher growth ahead.

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