Product digital identities fast becoming a business survival essential
Today’s consumer is more well informed, and demanding than ever before. With unlimited information, exposure to the opinions of a vast network of contacts, plus the ability to rapidly place, amend, and cancel orders at the touch of a button, we’re in an unprecedented world of on-demand consumer expectations.
Coupled with the ongoing ‘Environmental, Social, Governance‘ (ESG) revolution, more than ever consumers are focusing on brand values, and seeking alignment with their own values. Modern consumers increasingly buy only from companies that they believe align with their values, and so product digital identities have needed to evolve to keep pace with shifting consumer values.
In the past, a brand would convey its values through advertising, but with increasing costs and diminishing effectiveness of advertising, companies are spending more and more money while achieving less brand visibility and loyalty. While almost all premium and private label brands are making promises of inclusivity and sustainability, consumers demand proof — specifically backed by data — around these claims. They want to easily access information on health, CO2 footprints, and Fair Trade promises, among others.
This next frontier of brand visibility requires supply chain transparency, showing real progress made against brand purpose using rich media.
Transparency, traceability, authenticity
The principal challenge in the consumer industry has been gathering information data across the journey of every product item. With a frequently fragmented supply chain, brands might not be making, distributing or retailing products directly, so data is scattered across points both within and outside the enterprise.
Up to now, true visibility and full transparency throughout the supply chain have been an elusive target. But societal, economic, and legislative pressures such as sustainability, health and inclusivity have put enormous pressure on this area to mature. With 99% of consumers saying that transparency is important in fresh food products, and 75% of consumers saying they would switch to brands offering more complete information, this demand for data is too important to ignore.
Regulators are also putting pressure on – requiring enhanced transparency and accuracy around ESG goal attainment to ensure compliance. This level of end-to-end visibility has, up to now, been elusive, but with advances in technology, this is not only becoming realistic, but required.
A data intelligence milestone in digital identities
3.5 billion people have smartphones, which are essentially pocket-sized, data-generating devices and user interface tools. This not only enables consumers to access the data they require, enabling them to verify a brand’s values, but also opens up huge opportunities to gather information about consumer behavior. Never before has it been possible to gather so much rich data about the ‘who, where, when’ of a purchase, which can then be used to refine business strategies.
This direct-to-consumer engagement also provides an avenue to establish a more personalized relationship between a company and its consumers, promoting an enhanced level of engagement (recipes, styling tips, even suggested products to compliment the original purchase) and building brand loyalty through reward schemes.
The ability to mass serialize products, digitally printing unique digital identities onto goods on a mass scale at scalable cost, and then sharing this data across the supply chain has also generated an explosion of data – and with the computing power and cloud capacity to process and store these massive amounts of data from each product, the potential to gather valuable insights from these interactions is huge.
For example, a product can be authenticated as being genuinely produced — providing visibility of production — but a consumer can interact with the same digital identity – either as they consider the purchase in-store or as they interact with the product post-purchase. Even beyond this, for some products, the traceability provided will give valuable insights into the full product lifecycle, and even recycling and re-commerce – all key factors in the ESG movement.
Brands must act now to stay ahead of the curve
It’s no secret that competitiveness depends on agility and resilience, and that’s really about data. Consumer pressure and regulatory requirements are making end-to-end visibility a must-have – and those businesses that harness it and use that data to their best advantage will gain market share and growth.
Several businesses are already leading the charge and realizing the benefits of this new world of transparency. Almond.io is already digitizing their products, providing supply chain transparency and crypto-rewards to their consumers; Mowi, the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon, is enabling consumers a look into where their salmon was hatched, raised, and processed when harvested; and Ralph Lauren is rolling out a digital transformation program in a mobile-first world for the apparel industry, drastically reducing their counterfeit problem.
It is essential that all FMCG businesses understand how digital product identities and data gathering can contribute to their objectives, and take steps now to implement those strategies, or risk being left behind.
Article contributed by Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe, Chief Relationship Officer at EVRYTHNG
5 December 2023
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