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CPG Disruption Unlocked by Major Shifts in Technology

By Seth Moser, director, consumer goods and services, Accenture Customer Innovation Network

In a digital world, the choice for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies is no longer about whether they want to play, but rather how big they want to win. The latest technologies push the boundaries of what’s possible, creating opportunity for CPG companies to become truly digital enterprises ready to give consumers highly personalized, real-time experiences, and to massively accelerate every decision-making process underpinning the business.

In particular, Accenture’s 2014 Technology Vision for Consumer Goods identifies three key trends that are changing the game for CPG companies determined to drive more profitable growth.

The data supply chain: unleash the power of data

Big data and analytics technologies become disruptive when CPG companies recognize that information should not reside in silos. Rather, automated data supply chains designed to solve specific business problems will depend on companies’ ability to pull data from across the value chain, generating insights and alerts packaged for consumption at the point of need.

CPG companies are just beginning to recognize the potential. For example, location and purchase history data make it possible to give individuals personalized offers at the point of sale; predictive forecasting based on consumer demand variants can eliminate stock shortages; and machine learning algorithms can schedule maintenance before plant outages occur.

These are just the start.  Data supply chains will ensure suppliers, retailers and every part of the business is ready to deliver on individual consumer expectations.

The digital/physical blur: connect across the value chain

The imperative is for digital and physical, not one or the other. By combining digital and physical, CPG companies will transform the brand experience for the consumer while generating ever-more data for their business processes.

Mobile devices and in-store sensors can enable your sales force with rich, context-specific information during store visits.  Soon, wearable devices including smart glasses will provide consumers with in-store mapping based on their shopping lists and offer visual product information and deals tailored specifically to the goals of the shopping trip. Such systems will feed back information to improve supply chain management and sales efficiency. Digital/physical systems will also augment production processes, increasing both safety and efficiency.

From workforce to crowdsource: a huge new idea pool

Cloud, social and collaboration technologies are already enabling CPG companies to connect with consumers at scale, enlisting their help with product innovation and marketing; the next step is to use these technologies in order to build temporary workforces with relevant expertise as and when they are needed.

Networks such as Kaggle enable CPG companies to connect with pools of specialists for a specific task, benefiting from competition and deliverable-based compensation. The crowd-sourced workforce brings top-flight skills in a flexible model, enabling speed, scale and agility while managing labor overhead.

How to get there: the key enablers

Each of these trends is disruptive in its own right, and each will be made possible by key technological enablers.

CPG companies will need to consider the “business of applications,” with systems and data sources that can be easily integrated with one another whenever needed, speeding up and streamlining the development process. They’ll need to “harness hyperscale” – to cost-effectively obtain the processing power and infrastructure required to capitalize on increasing data and uses for it. And they will need to “architect resilience” to build digital enterprises that protect data and ensure the business’s digital channels are always accessible to their always-on consumers.

Those that make the leap will prosper. Digital companies will offer relevant, real-time and one-on-one interactions with their brands, enable anytime and anywhere shopping, and add speed and agility to all their business processes. 

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