According to the Washington Post, some 33,679 new products were introduced into the consumer products sector in 2004, up 53% from 10 years earlier. Since the typical store has only 40,000 SKU’s, it can be pretty difficult for a consumer products company to succeed today!
Clearly the world of retail has become extremely challenging – and I’ve been doing a number of keynotes helping consumer products, packaging and other companies and industry associations think about how innovation and creativity can spark success.
Creativity and innovation with retail, packaging and consumer products companies involves understanding the reality of the challenge that exists, and the key strategies that you can use to take your organization team and forward into the world of hyper-change that now surrounds us.
Think about the depth of the challenges that exist:
- Compelling customers….customers expectations and needs are changing rapidly, and yet they are more demanding than ever before
- Loyalty disappears….at the same time they expect creative perfection from you, they are more fickle, and far less loyal …. I’m not even sure the concept of loyalty exists any more for many brands!
- Costs increase….all this is happening in a world in which producers and retailers are faced with a rapid increase in uncontrollable costs…. energy, plastics, you name it! Margins are being squeezed and pressured as a result.
- Time accelerates: Amazon Prime, same day shipping infrastructure…
How do you thrive in a period of such rapid change? I offer my clients the following advice:
- Focus on collaborative relationships The key to innovation in retail today can be found in collaborative relationships and partnerships between packaging companies, consumer products and brands, and retailers. ! Noted Paul Moss, British Bakeries Divisional Marketing Director, “We have more to talk about than price.” No one wants to fight in a brand sector that is involved in a race to the bottom, but that’s what happens when everyone focuses on price. Shift the equation with your partners, and you’ll find a way out.
- Remember — the package is the brand. Heinz, StarKist and other industry leaders have learned that packaging innovation, driven by new methodologies, ideas and technologies, has become the secret to brand image in many sectors, because it permits a shift of value and customer perception in ways that haven’t previously been seen. Think upside-down-Ketchup. If you aren’t innovating with packaging, you aren’t in the game
- Hyper-innovation is key. Throughout the consumer products world, we are witnessing faster time to market in every single sector. The concept of a product lifecycle is disappearing as products come to market and thrive for but short micro-bursts of time. Make sure you’ve got the agility on your team you need to cope with this reality, and you might survive
- Get used to contentious consumers. Desires, needs and demands will continue change at an ever more furious pace, often in ways that won’t make sense. Don’t despair from it: learn from it. Take low-carb: sure, it was a disaster, a fad, and you should have known better! Yet don’t focus on the morning after quarterbacking – focus instead on your agility instead. Did you respond quickly enough? What organizations sclerosis blocked your ability for quick change? And what should you do to fix it?
- Capture the insight of creatively new competitors – constantly. Admit this: there are likely going to be a lot of folks out there who are a lot more creative than you are. They’ll beat the pants off you all the time with quick short bursts of tactical success, while you are still busy marshalling your forces. Rather than losing sleep over their success, study them! Learn from them! And then capitalize by doing what they do – and do it better. Rapid creativity in a time of constant change is the name of the game, and you’d do best to work to obtain the same skills and insight that your best competitors have developed.
- Ride the wave of continuous business model innovation. In retail, we are seeing constant experimentation with store formats, brand partnering, in-store displays, logistics and tracking studies, and countless other new ways of doing things. Get on board the tornado of change in retail and ride it for all it is worth. You should develop a team that has a finely-tuned radar for unique trends, experiments, success stories and innovations. They’re swirling around you continuously, they are constantly reinventing the world of retail on a minute by minute basis – and you’ve got to understand them and capitalize upon them.
I’ve given presentations in the last year to Nestle, PrintPack, TetraPack, an association of chain drug retailers, and lots more. Want to think about creativity, innovation and trends in the world of retail, packaging and consumer products? Contact me….