We all have access to the Internet 24/7, from our desktops at home and work to our handheld smartphones loaded with mobile apps in our pockets. Then there’s in-store signage, roadside advertisements, television commercials, e-mail blasts, and the traditional weekly circulars we regularly pluck out of newspapers.
The list goes on and on, says Steve Cole, Chief Marketing Officer at Gladson. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands in effect have unparalleled opportunities today to inform and get in touch with digital-age consumers of varying ages, backgrounds, and regions.
But Cole adds that retailers and manufacturers are struggling more and more to satisfy these want-to-know-it-all consumers and their growing expectations for accurate and consistent product data.
In fact, they’re finding it gradually more difficult to maintain and dispense accurate product images, details, materials, and origin across the mounting number of channels those consumers now utilize.
And as manufacturers fail to provide this necessary, high-quality product information, the supply chain becomes less and less transparent, and the consumers’ desire to know the who, what, where, why, and when of the products they’re interested in go unfulfilled.
“The struggle that we see amongst CPG manufacturers is really living up to those expectations,” Cole tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today. “They, and certainly the larger organizations, have very large numbers of items that they’re providing, making, and selling. Each of those items go through frequent revisions, whether it’s new ingredients, new packages, or new claims about the product.”
He adds: “The struggle for them is really to keep up with the changes that are occurring inside their own companies. The discussions that we have with some of the leading manufacturers show that it’s very difficult for them to assemble, in one place, all the information about any single product.”
Information, he adds, includes images of the product, ingredients, materials used, directions for use, safety indications and warnings, expiration dates, allergens, and nutritional labels, depending on what the product is.
“That’s the first level of information that the shopper is looking for,” Cole says. “As you work back into the supply chain, we move quite quickly from the individual package to all of the logistics units that are used to actually move that product around, whether it’s a case or a palette of product.”
That means, he says, it’s not just consumers asking for the above information; brand owners are too. As a matter of fact, many are spending more and more resources to please the various and expanding product content necessities of their retail customers and internal departments.
“We’re talking about the fundamental information about that product – dimensions, weight, handling instructions, temperature, environmental requirements, when it’s in the distribution system – all those types of things required for the manufacturer and the retailer to make sure the product arrives efficiently and in good condition for the shopper to buy,” he says.
The inability to provide this information, he adds, demoralizes customer relationships, jeopardizes brand integrity, and offsets internal efficiency.
“When we talk to big manufacturers, they’re essentially saying, ‘Look, all of that information is in our company. It’s just not in one place, in one database, so that they can easily send it to you or me to help us run our businesses more efficiently,” Cole says.
HERE’S A SOLUTION
The key then to all of this, Cole says, is that information must drive everything that the shopper sees.
“It’s used to drive the way the products are arranged on the shelf. It’s used to provide advertising images for the circular that you see in your newspaper that appears every week. It is used to drive ecommerce and websites and mobile apps,” he says, adding that studies show that “in excess of 80 percent of shoppers” research their groceries online, including at the store via their smartphones.
Obtaining product content distribution success is not easy, he says. But he offers a few basic, universal suggestions.
First, he says, consolidate your source for accurate product content. “Have a central repository for all this product information,” he says. “There has to be a single place where it lives within the business, whether you’re a retailer, wholesaler, or manufacturer. You need that central repository.”
Second, remain committed to keeping that “central repository” up-to-date.
“As soon as you’ve got it finished, you’re essentially in maintenance mode because roughly, 20 percent to 25 percent of consumer packaged goods products are replaced or changed in any given year,” he explains. “There’s a constant flow of changes that are going into that database. “
Third, he says, is to have “a flexible and scalable content distribution,” particularly for brands to be able to reach all the retailers they’re working with.
“Retailers have unique needs on how they’re going to receive information. They’ve got their own internal systems,” he says. “Flexibility and knowing how Safeway wants their information may be different from the way Walmart wants information. Being flexible in that way is critical to the distribution side.”
Founded in 1971, Gladson is the leading provider of product images, product content and related services for the US consumer packaged goods industry. Our Database is widely acknowledged as the most complete, accurate and up-to-date database available, supporting shelf space management, category management, logistics, advertising, research and e-commerce applications such as online shopping and nutrition programs for consumers.