On October 27, I will have the privilege of moderating a roundtable for Keen Decision Systems  at the ClickZ Data Summit: “Finding the Human Touch in a Digital World.” 

As we set our sights on the horizon of 2022 I think it’s worth taking stock of some of the technology-enabled changes afoot for CPG companies, as they adapt and respond to digital transformation–accelerated by a global pandemic. There are many, but for today I’d like to focus on these four: 

  1. CPGs Get Small
  2. Home Delivery Accelerates
  3. Marketing Planning Gets Smarter
  4. Merchandising Goes Automated

CPGs Get Small

If imitation is the highest form of flattery then the popular and profitable challenger brands should be quite flattered by recent attention from such CPG powerhouses as Unilever, P&G and others. 

Search engine marketing company, Tinuiti, writes in its blog post, “The 7 Biggest CPG Industry Trends & Tactics For Brands”: “The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has evolved rapidly to meet consumer demands thanks to digital technology that has allowed brands to carve out markets by selling directly to customers, from online ordering and delivery to personalized meal kits and more.”

In some instances CPGs are trying to launch their own “small brands.” But  the more popular route, it seems, is via acquisition. According to Kyle Byers, co-founder of Exploding Topics and GrowthBadger, “Since 2015, CPG Unilever has acquired dozens of companies — including many DTC brands. Like Dollar Shave Club (for $1 billion in 2016), Schmidt’s Naturals (for an undisclosed amount in 2017) and UK-based Graze (for £150M in 2019).”

Kellogg purchased RXBar, while Campbell Soup bought the organic soup brand Pacific Foods to target millennials, according to Forbes.

And another path is taking existing brands direct-to-consumers. Byers points out that “Last May, PepsiCo announced two new websites to do exactly that: PantryShop.com and Snacks.com. And their DTC sales nearly doubled in Q3.”

The growth in e-commerce capabilities catalyzed by the pandemic ushered in a slew of new DTCs, and as a result DTC online sales grew to an estimated $17.75 billion in the U.S. last year. Attractive for its margins, DTC also removes previous barriers between brands and their customers.

Home Delivery Accelerates

E-commerce also is raising consumer expectations for faster, easier home delivery, a trend that’s gained momentum as more consumers spend more time at home. 

Amazon and Walmart, for example, have launched CPG marketplaces to capitalize on changes in consumer behavior. And even convenience stores have gotten in on the game, with GoPuff promising delivery in minutes for everything from toilet paper to soda, according to Byers.

Marketing Planning Gets Smarter

“Data has truly come of age in the CPG world,” Tinuiti reports. “Brands want intelligence and insights into market potential and opportunities that will enable them to grow sales exponentially. Only analytics and insights can do that. Expect to see a more data-driven 2022.”