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Just like the retail industry as a whole, consumer packaged goods (CPG) businesses are facing their fair share of challenges: The increased competition from direct-to-consumer retailers and heightened customer expectations are all urgent hurdles they need to get over. The last few years have seen CPG companies searching for new ways to meet these demands, but the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the need for more effective customer-centric solutions.
Thankfully, digital transformation has given the CPG industry vital tools and technologies that help enhance operations from top to bottom. And when these solutions are properly deployed, businesses can access troves of customer data that can help shed new light on their behavior and what makes them tick. Here are some general facts to know about CPG customers, their needs, and how to enhance the CPG customer journey to achieve business goals.
The 3 Ways CPG Retailers Fall Short of Customer Expectations
CPG customers, and retail customers in general, expect superior customer service. And while digital transformation technologies such as IoT, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) have made meeting those expectations easier, many are still missing the mark. Here are three of the biggest mistakes businesses are making with CPG customers.
1. They Fail to Understand Who the Customer Really Is
The nature of the industry makes it difficult for businesses to get a full picture of the CPG customer experience. This knowledge gap results in a lack of visibility into who the customer is, what they want, and what they need. However, it’s not all doom and gloom — using the right blend of tools and technology can help CPG customers gain the same level of insights into customer behavior that other types of retailers have.
2. They Don’t Show the Appropriate Level of Care
This is NOT intentional or due to lack of trying, but customers’ expectations are notoriously heightened in the modern market. Customers interact with brands and shop across multiple touchpoints — on apps, on online marketplaces, and in stores — and expect a flawless experience across all channels. Companies need to adapt to provide a seamless CPG customer experience no matter how or where they 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This challenge could point to process inefficiencies within the company, outdated or ineffective systems, or even poor customer service policies.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 because CPG companies aren’t actively engaged with customers across channels, this demonstrates to CPG customers a lack of responsiveness. As we know, customers 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 Customer Journey
The CPG customer journey has changed — it’s no longer linear, but has taken more of a “figure 8” shape. Because customers spend more time researching than ever before, they may start and restart the traditional customer journey multiple times, and utilize non-traditional research methods (think social media influencers) before making their final purchase.
While a prolonged CPG buying journey might frustrate retailers, it actually presents an opportunity to improve the customer experience and customer service on a whole. The new CPG customer experience 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 other stimulus.
- Active Evaluation: This is the information gathering and shopping stage, where consumers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want.
- Closure: Ultimately, after research and weighing options, the consumer selects a brand at the moment of purchase.
- Post-Purchase: This step is of critical importance, as it can help ensure customer loyalty. After purchasing, the consumer builds expectations of the product and brand based on experience to inform the next decision journey. If it’s a positive experience, they are more apt to be repeat buyers, replicating the moment of purchase step and enter what is known as the loyalty loop.
10 Best Practices to Enhance the CPG Customer Journey
With the tools and technologies available today, CPG companies can meet and even exceed today’s customer 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 CPG customer journey.
- Provide critical support for agents working from home – In the time of COVID-19, it is crucial that your support teams can still do their jobs remotely. Invest in solutions like Microsoft teams that allows them to meet customers where they are.
- Leverage technology/data/AI to surface relevant info for agents – Speaking of dashboards, make sure your back-end interface that collects and analyzes customer data is equipped with the necessary tools. Things like AI will help your teams be more effective and efficient in their tasks, making for happier employees and customers.
- Help agents personalize their conversations – Personalization is the name of the game in retail, and CPG is not immune. Train your customer service people in how to effectively communicate with customers in a way that makes them feel valued, and not like just a number.
- Create seamless customer service through omnichannel support – With omnichannel technologies, customers should have a seamless experience across platforms. This reduces friction and helps customers complete the buying process efficiently and successfully.
- Automate certain workflows to allow agents more one-to-one time – Using the technologies mentioned above, such as machine learning and AI, some time-consuming workflows can be automated. This frees up agents to personally handle customer inquiries and concerns, which enhances the overall customer experience.
- Offering something unique for different channels – Providing an omnichannel experience is a must, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t create special offers on certain platforms. Consider a social channel special offer or a unique experience for users on the app. This will entice customers to access the brand across platforms and improve engagement across the board.
- Build an online customer community – Social media is a great tool for marketing purposes, but it can also help build a robust customer following and community. Many consumers today change their shopping habits based on word-of-mouth advice, and a customer community can be one of your best advocates to other shoppers online.
- Be where your customers are and eliminate barriers – Using omnichannel digital solutions, CPG brands can meet customers anywhere they shop. This also means they can provide a seamless experience, which is required to succeed in today’s retail world.
- Making sure not to waste the customer’s time – Customers want a frictionless buying experience for many reasons, but chief among them is that they don’t want to waste time. The buying process should be simple, straightforward and free of obstacles. If shopping a CPG brand is simple, customers are more apt to return.
- Understanding that customer experience is about people – Customers want to feel valued and appreciated, that’s what enhancing the customer journey is all about. And by using customer data, CPG companies can tailor their offerings and experience in way that shows customers that they matter.
How Hitachi Solutions is Reshaping the CPG Customer Journey
Harnessing customer data and utilizing it to improve the customer journey starts with comprehensive, intelligent digital retail solutions. At Hitachi Solutions, we are experts in these technologies and have helped clients see great success with some of our cutting-edge programs such as D365 for Customer Service. With this tool, which can be complemented by our complementary customer insights assessment or the customer voice application workshop, you can provide a seamless experience to your customers. If you are ready to change the way customers interact with your brand, contact our team today.
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