This article originally appeared in Consumer Goods Technology on October 11, 2017.

I click and am instantly transported to another place. I touch the screen and it responds.

Digital media has provided brands with addictive ways to give consumers the information and experiences they crave. But the high levels of responsiveness they enjoy online have set expectations for the same speed across all touchpoints, including packaging and other point-of-purchase displays and promotions.

Our research finds that brands aren’t meeting these expectations at the physical touchpoints, and that’s dangerous. Let’s examine some reasons why.

Physical touchpoints matter
An August survey we conducted with the CMO Council found that half of senior marketers consider in-store promotion and advertising among the top three touchpoints for influencing purchasing behavior. Product packaging also ranked in the top 10, along with digital touchpoints like advertising, social media and corporate websites.

So physical touchpoints remain as vital as digital. And when these touchpoints are out of sync, marketers realize that consumer experiences suffer: two-thirds of marketers say consumers are very or extremely sensitive to visible differences between the packaging images they see online and in-store.

This puts real pressure on brands to close the gap between these two channels, to make physical touchpoints as responsive and agile as their digital counterparts to ensure consistency across channels.

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Measuring the gap
We asked marketers how quickly they could respond to consumer feedback through both digital and physical marketing touchpoints. An impressive 43 percent said they could respond within a single day in digital channels, and another 35 percent could do so within two weeks. But the timeline in the physical realm isn’t as good: only 1 percent could respond in a day, and only 21 percent in two weeks. What’s more, 54 percent required up to 90 days or more in the physical world (compared with 8 percent in the digital realm). That’s an eternity by comparison.

Now that we see the gap, let’s talk about some solutions.

1. What to change: the organization
There’s a good chance you’re keenly aware of the functional silos that separate the digital and physical experience creators in your company. And you’ve perhaps bristled at lengthy decision-making processes that get in the way of rapid response through product packaging development and updates.

A key first step toward correction is to align all the content makers. We’ve seen companies succeed in corralling all brand content development under one creative/marketing leader whose team consists of subject-matter experts for different types of digital and physical assets. They report improvement in the creation, retrieval, reuse, repurposing and publishing of content assets.

Functioning as a unified cost center lets the team more easily use the same content creation, workflow and asset management tools and practices. This harmonizes efforts, reduces inefficiencies and delivers time-to-market gains. And, crucially, it streamlines the decision-making process.

To get started, ask:

  • Who are all of the people responsible for creating or approving branded content of any kind?
  • How can we more closely align these people?
  • Are these teams using separate technologies and processes? Where can we unify to save time and cost?
  • Do we have the right goals articulated to push us toward delivering better responsiveness?


What to change: transparency
Marketers want more transparency from suppliers such as creative agencies, designers, prepress, and packaging printers and converters. One step toward supply chain transparency is for brands to use the same technologies as their suppliers. As more and more of the value chain is digitized, automated and connected, brands can see what’s happening on the path to market in real time, not what happened last month in a report.

To get started, ask:

  • How many technologies do we use to bring all our consumer communications to market?
  • How do these technologies present data to the business?
  • Which systems and processes can we connect?
  • What supply chain information do we need frequently? What information do our retail customers need?

What to change: the entire value chain
Each touch, turn or decision on the way to market incurs time, cost and the risk of error. Don’t be satisfied with a separate branch in the marketing supply chain for packaging; treat packaging management as the important revenue driver it’s always been in-store, and now is online. Disconnected supply chains put your brand at risk for fragmentation, which can lead to shopper confusion and lost revenue. Brand assets created by your agency and content approved by regulatory, for example, should be used across all touchpoints. Again, the more the process is digitized, automated and connected, the more agile your entire system will be.

To get started, ask:

  • What are the steps in getting packaging and communications to market?
  • Where are the inefficiencies that create repeat work, low quality or the need for re-checking?
  • What would happen if we cut time to market in half for both communications and new products?

These solutions are all achievable with tools and technologies available right now. Change is hard, both culturally and practically. But the reward for speeding up time to market for physical touchpoints can be significant: every day gained is another day on the shelf and another day of revenue. It’s now possible to not just gain days, but weeks and even months.

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