Brand innovation drives consumer engagement
With a universe of choices, tempting customers to choose your product from the shelf has never been more difficult – or more exciting. In a digital world, the right brand image is fundamental to attracting and retaining customers. Brands are increasingly embracing limited editions and personalization. Meanwhile, in the food market, companies are experimenting with innovative flavor combinations and building upon the core product and brand image to attract a whole new generation of consumers.
However, there is a massive obstacle to this type of product development: the mismatch between brand marketing and retailer demand lead times. To fill their shelves, retailers are working on a two- to three-day lead time - especially in fresh and chilled food – with the on-shelf product mix dictated by intelligent analytics that factors in variables such as weather, holiday, and sporting events as well as trends in consumer demand.
Meanwhile, FMCG companies have to keep up to create the correct packaging for big sporting events and must work six to nine months ahead with several variables of their own. Brands are faced with the prospect of missing opportunities or risking both product and packaging waste by predicting print quantities based on unknown variables, such as sports game results.
How can brands manage this unprecedented demand volatility at a time when experimentation and product testing has become essential? Domino Amjet Group Business Development Director Lee Metters explains how the convergence of digital printing and coding and marking is enabling brand marketing teams to deliver just-in-time innovation that captures consumer attention.
Boosting production capabilities to meet consumer demands
If anything that can be agreed upon is that millennials prefer choice in consumer goods. Millennials generally seek a wider range of food options and require more transparency from manufacturers than their forebears, desiring options such as ethically sourced products and plastic-free alternatives, and access to far more granular product information.
Retailers are now fundamentally reconsidering how their range engages their customers, both young and old. In many ways, the onus of delivering change and responding to increased consumer demand has fallen on the brands themselves. From flexible pack sizing to sustainable packaging and innovative design, consumers have pushed the demand right back up the supply chain, requiring brands to make vital production line changes.
Boosting production capabilities
Brands are now stepping up by overhauling production processes, and utilizing innovative printing technology to support incredibly short production lead times, to respond to retailers’ small-order, just-in-time demands. The number of pack sizes has multiplied to meet the consumer demand for more choice and smaller options – and packaging is being revamped to optimize environmental footprint. For brands, such flexibility is now essential to retain retailer contracts and shelf space, but this speed of change creates new challenges.
Speed of product iteration is key, yet while production lines are increasingly flexible, the packaging creation process and supply chain often remains a significant barrier to innovation and a constraint for marketing teams. In other words, while many brands are now beginning to optimize their manufacturing processes to enable fast, cost-effective responses to consumer and retailer requirements, they are yet to bring this agility to the product packaging process.
As an example, brands may want to respond to consumer demand for variety in products with limited editions, new flavor combinations, and vegan and organic product variants – all requiring their own unique product packaging. Anecdotal evidence suggests that utilizing traditional product packaging lines for new product launches can lead to up to 50% wastage of packaging stock due to the uncertainty of demand. Besides the inherent financial waste, this is in direct conflict with most brands’ commitments to improve their environmental credentials.
In general, digital printing technology is used at packaging rather than production sites. Due to the changes in consumer demands, the market is evolving with an opportunity to bring coding and marking and digital printing technology under one roof at the manufacturing site. This digital convergence paves the way for late-stage customization of product packaging, providing manufacturers and brands more control and agility within the factory walls.
One key enabler is the increasing availability and cost-effectiveness of digital printing technology for packaging. Manufacturers’ ability to access short lead-time packaging production (down to 12-24 hours from an historic 5-7 day lead time) at affordable costs means just-in-time delivery is becoming possible.
Now manufacturers can print best before dates, ingredient information, and customized packaging designs all within one site. This same digital printing technology can also be applied in-plant to allow packs to be customized and personalized online. Extending production innovation in this way to include packaging is essential if companies are to make short lead-time design changes and still have great looking packaging without incurring untenable costs and waste.
Added value through post-sale product marketing, safety information
In today's world, marketing doesn't have to end with the sale. Every person basically carries barcode and QR code scanners in our pockets every single day. Brands are starting to explore how new coded information can be added to enhance consumer interaction, increasing options for consumer engagement post-sale.
There is a significant opportunity for brand owners to connect directly with the consumer, using codes to provide a lifetime marketing opportunity. Looking into the future, this could provide manufacturers and retailers with valuable information such as when and where consumers scan a barcode or QR code, providing new insight into customer behavior and a chance to engage individuals via ongoing communication.
In addition, analysis of the locations of customers scanning codes will provide brands with invaluable insight into consumer purchasing behavior – information that can be used to enhance conversations with retailers and inform future marketing campaigns.
Today, QR Codes and Barcodes can helps address legislative demands globally for improved food safety and meet the expectations of environmentally aware consumers who want clear information about ethical sourcing and food provenance. The ability to share information about an item, including the origin of ingredients, provides a chance to appeal directly to those individuals actively looking to make more informed purchasing decisions.
Meeting consumer needs today & into the future
Retailers are pushing hard to provide a richer experience to attract a demanding consumer base. Physical products need to offer something different to engage the customer – and they need to appeal to an increasingly diverse consumer base. For brands, the pressure to innovate not only on the product but also in design and messaging is hugely challenging, but it also creates compelling opportunities.
Brands in 2021 are so much more than the physical product itself; consumer desire for engagement and interaction is creating an amazing chance for marketers to work with production teams to bring a new depth to the product experience.
By remodeling production processes, and introducing digital printing solutions for use alongside coding and marking technology, brands can achieve an extraordinary pace of iteration. New products can be designed, produced, packed, and trialed on a near-daily basis. With ease of customization, short-run efficiency, and short lead times, test marketing can be achieved incredibly quickly, enabling better targeting as well as short runs of limited editions.
In effect, by embracing this digitized model, brands can move from one or two product launches a year to continuous product launch mode and feed ever-increasing consumer demands.
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