Shifting Consumer Loyalties Put Pressure on Speed to Market

Survivors of a typical business school education from a couple of decades ago will likely remember being drilled on the importance of capturing consumer brand loyalty early. Consumer preferences, went the refrain, tend to form early in adult life and are stable ever after, seldom changing as people get older. As a result, the 18- to 34-year-old age demographic was routinely exalted as being critically important. Catch them young, we were told, and you’ll have them forever. Lose that battle, and you’ll never get them back from competitors.

As often happens over time, however, the reality on the ground has never been quite that simple. While brand loyalty is a real (and tremendously valuable) thing, subsequent studies have found that it can, and does, change. Research has suggested a number of mechanisms through which consumer preferences evolve and shift, many of which can take place at any time of life, triggered by multiple factors.

Moreover, as consumers, we don’t even appear to be all that concerned with whether or not our desires are consistent over time, or even necessarily logical. Research by Accenture found that consumers are actually quite comfortable having preferences that appear contradictory or even paradoxical, such as wanting to favor products that align with their beliefs and values, but not at the expense of economic value. In that study, 69% of study recipients felt that having seemingly paradoxical preferences was simply part of being human. We like what we like when we like it, and that’s okay.

Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that the same study found 88% of corporate leaders indicating that their consumers were changing faster than their organizations could keep up. 

It’s probably not fair, however, to blame consumers with shifting preferences for creating a volatile food and beverage industry. As we’re all-too aware, consumers have dealt with a lot over the last several years, from supply shortages and inflation to shifting geopolitical and regulatory pressures. At the same time, consumer choice has exploded. There is a far greater array of innovative products on shelves than ever before, while the shelf itself has increasingly gone digital. Consumers can access more products, with more attributes, via more channels that at any time in human history.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. But as the old business school model of the consumer loyalty pyramid fades into the past, brands face new challenges when it comes to staying relevant. On the one hand, brands with consumer-favorite products already in market face the double challenge of fending off new competitors while maintaining product quality and consumer experience against a backdrop of shifting supply lines and volatile costs. On the other, brands bringing new products to market need to be able to spot opportunities and address consumer desires quickly, in the full knowledge that a competitor will always be trying to get there first.

With all those factors in play, it’s never been more important for brands to think holistically about speed to market. And the word “holistically” is doing real work here, as speed to market is an inherently cross-functional goal, requiring leaders to think broadly about operational capabilities. But with consumers willing to explore new brand experiences and allow their preferences to evolve, sometimes rapidly, brands face greater pressure than ever to get strategic about moving fast.

The reality is that the real issues at the heart of speed to market are often concentrated around inefficient collaboration and poor information exchange. Every scavenger hunt for documentation, every request for information that languishes in an email inbox, every frustrating search in SharePoint, every dropped handoff or missed approval, and every hour wasted on tracking down an incorrect document version all add up to long product development cycles and delayed market response. For brand leaders, there is no frustration like knowing that a competitor has brough an inferior product to market, but still captured share because they got their first.

The important thing to realize is that in the battle for consumer relevance, all of those problems are solvable. And as is often true in food and beverage, a strong place to begin is with the basics of ingredient and material specification management. Quality teams, R&D and their partners in procurement may not always agree on everything, but one area where teams can usually find common ground is on the need for clear, standardized, unambiguous and well-managed ingredient specifications. Understanding what’s needed, validating potential suppliers against specification requirements and, where necessary, collaborating smoothly with suppliers and manufacturers on detailed specifications are all critical capabilities for a team that needs to move quickly. 

Empowering speed with TraceGains Specification Management

TraceGains Specification Management is the tested, industry standard for food and beverage ingredient specification management. Seamlessly integrated with a comprehensive suite of both NPD and compliance tools, Specification Management ensures that all teams are working from the correct specs, all the time, while mapping them to items and suppliers as well as to formulas and finished goods. Meanwhile, secure collaboration tools allow brands and manufacturers to work directly with suppliers on a single digital asset, eliminating ambiguity, while ensuring that both ingredient and finished good specifications are aligned across manufacturing partners.

To learn more about how TraceGains can help you stay in sync with consumers and ahead of the competition, request a demo today.

Related Content

Specification Management Transforms Retail

Specification Management Transforms Retail

As brand owners, manufacturers, and suppliers grapple with increasing market pressures, it’s critical they ...
5 Easy Steps to Innovation

5 Easy Steps to Innovation

Innovation has always driven growth. It can be the foundation of R&D, a new approach to marketing, or it can be ...
Consumer-Driven New Product Development

Consumer-Driven New Product Development

As the economy struggles to claw its way back, a new, still-shifting reality looms for the food and beverage business.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This