Harnessing the power of customer data for CPG brands

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Harnessing the power of customer data for CPG brands

by Arturo Mendiola


Like all other businesses, the CPG sector felt a major impact with the pandemic in 2020. However, in this case, the onset of the coronavirus created a surge in demand for CPG products. In fact, during 2020, the industry saw more absolute growth than the four-year period (2016-2020) leading up to the quarantine.  

Now almost three years later, what is the outlook for CPG brands as some consumer behaviors go back to pre-pandemic habits? And what is the outlook as other behaviors (e.g., BOPIS) remain intact which were demonstrated as a part of COVID-19 safety measures and preventive exposure?

A recent article published by PwC outlined six areas of focus for CPG brands in 2022. Those included the following: 

  1. Reclaim strategic differentiation 
  2. Devise a technology-enabled ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy to help create value for all stakeholders 
  3. Target direct consumer relationships using the abundance of available data 
  4. Rethink commercial operating models to help meet omni-channel consumer needs 
  5. Future-proof the supply chain 
  6. Pursue digital transformation for the next wave of cost reduction 

From our perspective, the two areas of focus from the article that really stand out, and where CPG companies can rise above their competitors, were the third and fourth areas of focus: customer data and omni-channel customer journeys.  
With privacy and security at the forefront of consumer trust, more and more brands need to rely on zero-party and first-party data.  

  • Zero-party data points are inputs that proactively come directly from the customer. These could include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context and profile/account information, along with how the individual may want the brand to recognize them.   
  • First-party data refers to behavioral data captured (with opted-in permission) of users/customers as they engage with a brand’s various digital touchpoints – website tracking, transactions, etc.  

Zero- and first-party data is particularly crucial for CPG brands as a lot of rich customer intelligence resides within retail partner databases and sources. Obtaining this data in a secure way is critical in understanding customer needs; to activate relevant marketing and brand experiences that drive loyalty. With a full holistic view (e.g., Customer 360) of your audience, including past and real-time data points, brands can drive omni-channel personalization tactics at scale. The key is to find opportunities for customers to not only engage, but also align to their buying behaviors and purchase preferences.  For CPG brands that don’t have their own DTC model, what are ways to partner with retailers on things like continuing to support an at-home buyer, buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS), buy-now pay later, flexible payment options, or changing brand affinity because of more variety in digital interactions?

Or what are considerations for direct mail or email communications and offers to seasonal messaging – all the way down to automated marketing based on customer behavioral patterns (e.g., it’s been three months since a customer purchased a toothbrush – and dentists recommend toothbrushes being replaced every 90 days)?

Data-driven marketing at scale can deliver that growth—consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies can deliver 3 to 5 percent growth in net sales and improve marketing efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.

 | McKinsey

Additionally with major CPG companies that have multiple brands and product lines, gathering customer data across the entire product portfolio suite can further advance loyalty to the enterprise (and not just single brand purchases). For instance, if a company has oral care products and a haircare line – these customer data points showcasing product adjacencies can be leveraged to bundle and/or complement marketing programs and digital experiences. This can inform enterprise strategies for individual brands to (under the house of brands architecture) support each other in cross-sell opportunities.

Which leads us to personalization. Customers expect their experiences with brands to be tailored. To not only meet their needs, but also anticipate them. If brands aren’t doing that, consumers have a tendency to quickly switch brands. 

On the flipside, if you can activate personalization in the right ways, a study by Deloitte found that “1 in 4 consumers are willing to pay more to receive a personalized product or service” and “in some categories, more than 50 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing customized products or services.” 

As the market conditions continue to evolve with the potential of COVID resurfacing in the fall, inflation causing prices to increase and the looming fear of a possible recession, CPG brands need to help customers navigate these waters by guiding them with the right recommendations and pathways to purchase. Connecting moments from digital to in-store to packaging to product usage. For instance, on a tactical level, if your data on a segment is driven by value (e.g., always needs a coupon/discount to buy), a “‘savings”’ message should be front and center in the marketing. Or if a customer segment is conditionally loyal to a brand that continually provides promotional offers, deliver digital coupons to this audience as “offers for you” with a coupon and/or manufacturer’s rebate.  

Pulling the thread all the way through, the final moment of conversion at-shelf are top of mind for CPG brands to tip the scales in their favor. Understanding there are parameters and limitations retailers have for merchandising, can CPG brands influence consumer decision moments with in-store digital touchpoints – like digital end-cap signage/POS, QR code links to digital coupons and/or promotional tie-in to the retailer app?. All of these bolster customer connectivity, while capturing key data points of engagement.  

This is a very interesting position for CPG brands. On the one hand, they have legacy relationships they rely on with retailers to distribute products on store shelves. But we know retailer customer data often is not shared directly with CPG brands. That said, one of the biggest opportunities we see for CPG brands is capitalizing on capturing as much zero- and first-party customer data as possible, not only to drive more personalized experiences within a specific brand, but also to find avenues for aggregating data across product lines within a house of brands model. This could aid in cross-sell and bundling promotions with adjacent recommendations  
If your channel marketing and promotional plan is solidified, you can then activate it with customer data and intelligence through powerful martech solutions like a customer data platform (CDP). Where the technology enables marketers to aggregate high volume of customer data points into a single repository, unifying individual customer profiles. From which brands can then create key segments for effective omni-channel orchestration. By melding experience, design, data and technology and having the right customer marketing strategy in place, paired with data activation through the experience, all will ensure your brand thrives no matter the market conditions. 

Utilizing CDP to populate any in-store/on-premise tools continues to tie the customer to a digital engagement. This can allow CPG’s to drive sales through real-time messaging in an app, a QR code or other experience meant to connect with the customer in a key moment in their customer pathway.  

By leveraging a data-driven approach, CPG brands can reach their key audiences with the right message and engagement, along their journey – no matter the channel.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how your organization can achieve a single view of 360-degree customer data to activate automated omni-channel experiences, - we’d love to talk about ways to help you realize your brand ambitions and achieve business outcomes together. Let’s connect.

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