Companies that have a direct relationship with consumers understand what shoppers want. This data can influence everything from product decisions to retailer relationships

For consumer goods (CG) companies, selling through retail partners will likely always play a major role in business strategy. But more and more CG companies are realizing they need to build their own relationships with consumers. That’s because retailers are in a powerful position: they own your consumer data sets and can mine them to develop private-label offerings. And when that happens, the true differentiator that stops a shopper from choosing a competitor or store brand over yours? Personalization - powered by consumer goods first-party data.

What, exactly, is first-party data? It’s the information a business collects directly from its customers - and owns. Here’s how consumer goods companies can collect it and gain value.

Start with a D2C strategy

D2C channels offer an opportunity to collect first-party data and use it to improve customer satisfaction and experience. There’s no doubt CG executives know how important this is. In fact, 99% report prioritizing direct-to-consumer (D2C) initiatives. A D2C strategy is not merely about creating a new channel to sell products. It’s creating the infrastructure that will power intelligent decision-making for the business. Why? Because companies that have a direct relationship with consumers understand what shoppers want. Access to consumer goods first-party data can inform everything from product decisions to retailer relationships, and even unlock new consumer segments.

D2C channels provide opportunities for brands to offer more personalized experiences to consumers. However, only 43% of CG leaders are completely satisfied with their ability to leverage customer insights from retailers. That’s disappointing in an industry where access to end-consumer data helps accelerate innovation and time to market. What’s more, the data can fuel artificial intelligence efforts that help brands build personalization, convenience and automation capabilities.

Still, D2C is just one-way CG brands can build relationships with consumers. Their service centers and loyalty programs also help them collect data at both scale and a more granular level.

Let’s walk through setting the foundation to gain value from consumer goods first-party data.

Get to know your end consumer

Before you begin, ask consumers what they want, what they need, and how they feel. To do so, use a mix of direct queries - for example, consumer surveys - and indirect queries, such as online browsing and search behavior or customer service data. Combine this with data from retail partners for a deeper understanding of your consumers.

You can also analyze your media data to uncover insights. What types of products are consumers looking for? How are they searching for them? Keep an eye out for patterns you may not have seen before. For example, maybe consumers are talking about how they wish you had spicy flavors. Or that they love your brand, but need a gluten- or dairy-free option to meet their changing lifestyle.

Based on your learning, you can build a communication plan for further consumer goods first-party data collection. Digital advertising and social media targeting can help here. Test your plan first on internal employees, which is a low-stakes option to gather feedback. Then, fine-tune your approach and launch it to different consumer segments.

Personalize your relationships with consumer goods first-party data

Consumers expect a give-and-get from the brands that they interact with. In fact, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. Immediately relevant experiences that resonate and drive sales all start with data. Yeti did this with a single point of consumer information and order history. The brand was then able to personalize interactions that drove conversion 27%.

To turn individual preferences into opportunities, a single source of truth for data is key. To help you gather data and uncover insights from across your business, consider a customer data platform. This makes it easy to link marketing, commerce, and service data so you can connect, automate, and personalize every single interaction. Artificial intelligence (AI) also comes into play. AI can help you measure each action, use intelligent analytics to understand program efficacy, and uncover avenues for continued improvement. Based on these insights, you can adapt your channel, your message, and your content to personalize the experience and build trusted relationships for consumers at scale.

Engage consumers on their terms

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to consumer engagement - your team’s creativity and business needs will lead the way. But there are some basic principles to keep in mind.

Aggregating consumer goods first-party data across all your touchpoints, including service centers, D2C interactions, and loyalty programs, you’ll find your most valuable consumers are repeat loyalists - they score high on average order value, purchase frequency, and ROI in marketing. It’s essential to turn your one-time buyers into repeat customers by creating a long-term, personalized experience over time. Pull people into loyalty programs with the insights you’ve gathered across the consumer journey, then re-market to them according to their preferences and behaviors.

Each micro-moment - from the start of a consumer’s search all the way through purchase - should lead to a different call to action. Regularly review your personas. Look for engagement statistics that indicate if your personas are relevant. Does your communication plan account for each step in the consumer journey? Test, repeat, test, repeat, then go back to the drawing board if need be. Identify if there are any points in the journey that can make or break the experience.

A/B test content and offers regularly, and use tools to personalize the consumer journey at scale.

The more you know about your consumers, the more you’re able to offer an experience that meets them where they are. That’s the true benefit of a D2C channel - and how you gain that competitive advantage. When you invest in the consumer relationship, you build brand equity and value, all with your owned data.

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