How to Enhance the CPG Customer Journey

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From growing competition from established brands and new market entrants alike to rising inflation causing end consumers to tighten up their budgets, consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands face their fair share of challenges. In order to increase their odds of securing consumers’ business — let alone their long-term loyalty — brands with direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels must focus on optimizing the consumer purchasing journey and delivering exceptional experiences.

Thankfully, digital transformation has equipped brands with vital tools and technology they can use to access troves of end consumer data and discover what makes shoppers tick. Here are some general facts about CPG shoppers, their needs, and how to enhance the CPG consumer journey to achieve business goals.

3 Ways CPG Retailers Fall Short of Consumer Expectations

CPG end consumers expect superior customer service from the brands they patronize. And while digitally transformative technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) have made meeting those expectations easier, many brands still miss the mark. Here are three of the biggest mistakes brands make with CPG consumers:

  1. They Fail to Balance the Needs of Consumers with the Needs of Customers
    Brands’ primary customers are the retailers that purchase their products in bulk and carry them in store. But as time has gone on and DTC channels have become more robust, brands’ customer bases have expanded to include not only retailers, but also the end consumers those retailers traditionally serve. CPG firms that prioritize the needs of their retail customers at the expense of end consumers, rather than striking an appropriate balance between the two, risk missing out on lucrative opportunities and growing their business in new and innovative ways.
  2. They Don’t Show the Appropriate Level of Care
    To be very clear, this is not intentional or due to lack of trying — instead, it’s that end consumer expectations are at an all-time high. These consumers interact with brands and shop across multiple touchpoints — through apps, online marketplaces, and in stores — and expect a flawless experience across all channels. Brands need to adapt in order to provide a seamless consumer experience no matter how or where those consumers shop.
  3. They Demonstrate a Lack of Responsiveness
    This challenge could point to process inefficiencies within the company, outdated or ineffective systems, or even poor customer service policies. But when brands aren’t actively engaged with consumers across all channels, it can demonstrate to end consumers a lack of responsiveness. As we know, consumers expect instant communication — see the rise of chatbot popularity — and when this need isn’t met, they are quick to move onto another option.

The Evolution of the CPG Consumer Path to Purchase

The CPG consumer path to purchase has changed — it’s no longer linear but has taken more of a “figure 8” shape. Because consumers spend more time researching than ever before, they may start and restart the traditional consumer purchasing journey multiple times and utilize non-traditional research methods (think social media influencers) before making their final purchase.

While a prolonged consumer journey might frustrate brands, it actually presents an opportunity to improve the consumer experience and customer service on a whole. With that in mind, the modern consumer path to purchase typically looks like this:

  • Initial Consideration: The consumer considers an initial set of brands, based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touchpoints. This step is triggered by something such as a need, a suggestion from a friend, a promotion or another stimulus.
  • Active Evaluation: This is the information gathering and shopping stage, where consumers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want. Today’s consumers conduct research online and through social media, often weighing the benefits of buying directly from the brand vs. buying from a retailer. Brands need to be aware of this digital journey and how it impacts the end consumers and retailers they serve.
  • Closure: Ultimately, after researching and weighing options, the consumer selects a brand at the moment of purchase.
  • Post-Purchase: After the consumer has made a purchase, they form an opinion about the product they’ve purchased, and the brand they purchased it from. This step of the consumer journey is of critical importance, as it’s a key determining factor in whether a consumer will be a one-time or repeat buyer.

    If the consumer has had a positive experience with the brand, they’re more likely to buy from that brand again in the future, at which point they’ll return to the first step of this process and enter into what is known as a “loyalty loop.”

10 Best Practices to Enhance the CPG Consumer Journey

With the tools and technologies available today, CPG firms can meet and even exceed today’s consumer expectations and recapture any market share they had lost in recent years. While not all solutions are one-size-fits-all, here are 10 general best practices to follow to enhance the consumer journey:

  1. Provide critical support for agents working from home. It’s crucial that support teams be able to do their jobs remotely. Videoconferencing platforms and live chat technology empower customer service representatives to do their job from any location and meet consumers where they are.
  2. Surface relevant information about consumers using technology. From customer data platforms with advanced features such as real-time segmentation and predictive analytics to natural language processing, which enables brands to extract insights from consumer reviews, there are a wide variety of tools and technologies brands can use to better understand end consumers. Brands can then use this information to enhance the consumer experience — as we’ll cover in the next item — as well as optimize product development based on consumer preferences.
  3. Personalize the consumer experience. Using the insights generated through consumer data collection and analysis, brands can build entire consumer purchasing journeys around how their end consumers prefer to shop. This personalization also extends to customer service: When armed with relevant details about end consumers, service reps can tailor their interactions to the individual; make personalized recommendations; and effectively communicate with end consumers in a way that makes them feel seen, heard, and valued.
  4. Create seamless consumer journeys. As noted earlier, end consumers expect to have a consistent experience regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in-person — and regardless of whether they’re shopping in an online marketplace, through a mobile app, or via subscription service. By leveraging data-driven insights, brands can reduce friction when shoppers move from one channel to the next, thereby streamlining the consumer path to purchase and allowing for a fast and efficient consumer experience.
  5. Automate workflows to allow services reps more one-on-one time. Using machine learning, AI, and business process automation, brands can automate administrative tasks, low-level requests, and other tedious or time-consuming workflows. This frees up live agents to personally handle incoming inquiries and requests and provide the level of care and responsiveness end consumers have come to expect.
  6. Offering something unique for different channels. Providing a consistent omnichannel consumer experience is a must, but that doesn’t preclude brands from creating special offers for certain platforms — for example, offering a special discount on their social channels or creating a unique experience for users on their app. Crafting unique experiences is a great way for CPG firms to entice end consumers to interact with their brand and improve consumer engagement.
  7. Build an online community. Social media has become a powerful channel for CPG sales, helping brands build loyal consuming followings. Given the potency of word-of-mouth marketing, it comes as little surprise that savvy brands have found ways to leverage influencers’ social media followings to boost sales and have even built their own online communities to increase engagement. In doing so, brands can create an entire audience of advocates willing to encourage other prospective shoppers throughout their consumer purchase journeys.
  8. Be where your consumers are and eliminate barriers. A defining trait of the modern consumer buying journey is that it spans many channels, both digital and physical. In order to keep up with changing consumer expectations and demands, brands must use digital solutions to create omnichannel experiences and provide consumers with multiple paths to purchase. No matter which path an end consumer chooses to follow, it should be thoughtfully designed and optimized for easy conversion.
  9. Making sure not to waste consumers’ time. Time is a precious resource, which is why few consumers are willing to waste their valuable time on a poorly designed and disjointed consumer buying journey. In order to create a truly frictionless experience — which translates to accurate and up-to-date online inventory, fast and easy checkout, rapid delivery times, and highly responsive service — brands must invest in solutions such as operations management platforms and digital customer service tools. The easier it is to shop with a particular brand, the more likely consumers are to return.
  10. Understand that consumer experience is about people. End consumers want to feel valued and appreciated by the brands they patronize; that should be the defining principle of any optimized consumer journey. By leveraging consumer data and advanced analytics, brands can better understand their audience and tailor their offerings and experience to show consumers they care.

How Hitachi Solutions Is Reshaping the Consumer Journey

Harnessing consumer data and utilizing it to improve the consumer journey starts with comprehensive, intelligent digital retail solutions.

At Hitachi Solutions, we’re experts in these technologies and have helped brands achieve great success using the Microsoft platform, including Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Customer Data Platform, Power Virtual Agents, and more. We also offer workshops and complimentary assessments for each of these tools, so you can design seamless consumer journeys and experiences that span all channels.

Are you ready to change the way consumers interact with your brand? Contact us today to get started.