Integrated Innovation

Think of it as the “threshold of change.” It’s that point in a consumer’s mind at which he or she is sufficiently intrigued to try something new and different. It’s easy to know when you’ve crossed it – products and services start flying out the door – but knowing how to spark that change in today’s more complex and personalized retail landscape is critical to success.

A few years ago a story in the Harvard Business Review reported that three out of four consumer packaged goods and retail products were unable to generate even $7.5 million in revenue their first year. Why? In part because hitting the mark on activation is vital, and an increasing challenge for brands.  Many innovation systems focus on the product and the brand, but then come up short in supporting activation.

Over the last few years, there’s been huge innovation in retail, products, and marketing. The OmniShopper conference is itself evidence of just how dynamic these worlds have become. But to fully leverage these investments, brands need to commit to a more integrated approach that more closely links product innovation and shopper activations.  To do that, you need market research that can move seamlessly upstream and down – from product development and design to social commerce – driven by a deep understanding of your highest value customers.

Small shifts in market positioning or communications strategies can make a huge difference in consumer response, and activation points can vary by region, category, class of trade, or occasion.  Identifying the point at which you can activate change means you have to bring both an understanding of the industry and an empathetic relationship with the survey population.

When it comes to understanding what consumers want, you can’t keep asking the same people the same questions the same way. You have to engage them where and how they live. Ideally, the conversation will start early in the product development phase and carry on through go to market and customer experience.  The process has to be fast to capture attitudes that are increasingly a moving target.  All of this requires buy-in from senior management, and a commitment to the omnichannel approach across the organization.

Experience shows how powerful this can be. In one instance, we partnered with a CPG shopper insight team and, using our Shopper Intelligence platform, identified an emerging activation point for a lower income segment of the market (cash flow).  Using that point of differentiation, the company developed a special package of products targeted to those customers.

The technology now exists to drive product innovation in clear, well-researched ways, syncing up with the marketing world to leverage insights and ideas gleaned from large, highly targeted communities. There are more consumer touch points than ever, more opportunities to create personalized journeys through the world of consumer brands. These innovations have been quietly disrupting market research as well.  New platform solutions are emerging, and greater demands are being placed on market researchers who need to understand not just their industry, but their clients’ industries as well.

The good news is that we have a rapidly improving ability to reach individuals directly, in the context of their daily lives.  But the question this then poses is a fundamental one:  now that you can talk to them, what do want to say?

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