The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has been in flux. Changes in customer demographics, increases in online product research, and uncertainties about retail shelf space are all affecting the relationship between CPG companies and consumers. A trend of missed connections and opportunities is definitely present in this sector.

As the CPG industry and its customer base evolve, maintaining strong relationships with consumers and collecting the right metrics are imperative. To make informed decisions in the current market, consumer goods brands must adapt their communication and customer care strategies. And, today, social intelligence is an invaluable tool for gathering market insights, helping to improve customer engagement activities and marketing objectives.

Some CPG brands have already found success in implementing social data into their digital strategies, yet the majority have yet to include social into their marketing and research mixes. Yet they need to, and soon.

Formulating a social plan from scratch is a daunting task and may prove inefficient if the focus is misguided or if KPIs aren't clearly outlined at the outset. However, done right, social intelligence can add value by strengthening customer relationships, obtaining valuable insights, and allowing business professionals to make better decisions across the organization.

Beyond Content Distribution

Too often, CPG companies consider social media solely a channel for content distribution, and fail to recognize the role social intelligence can play in their marketing and business strategies.

In reality, social media can and should be used for so much more than content distribution. Social media is a vehicle to converse directly with customers and build personal relationships. It's also a helpful resource to gather consumer and market insights (CMI).

Moreover, brands should avoid keeping social media efforts in a silo. They need to explore the myriad ways social insights can provide value across the organization, in departments as varied as inventory planning, customer support, and campaign management.

We've identified three prominent applications of social intelligence among leading CPG companies:

  1. Benchmarking business objectives
  2. Measuring brand health
  3. Gathering consumer insights to conduct market research

To garner full value from their social intelligence strategies, CPG companies should be mindful of incorporating those three initiatives into their social plans.

Benchmarking Business Objectives

Social is an excellent way to benchmark business objectives, especially for CPG companies. Goals may vary across brands or departments, yet there are endless metrics available within social data.

Companies producing heavily branded content should compare overall share-of-voice online against competitors to gauge differences in the volume and context of conversations. The results can inform marketers about how to adjust current campaigns and future initiatives to increase brand awareness.

Alternatively, smaller niche brands that fulfill a specific use case or target a certain demographic should measure success around their respective goals and KPIs.

For example, an organic skincare brand with a business objective of dominating the "natural" and "organic" conversations can segment online data by these adjectives and sentiments, so that they are only analyzing the discussions that matter. This type of benchmarking is also ideal for CPG companies with specific social missions, because analysts can hone in on specific conversations and avoid tracking larger, more mainstream brands that might not be relevant to the business's concerns.

Measuring Brand Health

Measuring brand health and conducting consumer trend surveys is one of the easiest ways for CPG companies to harness social data and analytics. Since these types of analyses tend to be conducted on an ongoing basis or during certain periods of time (e.g., monthly), the research process can be streamlined by using the same data search for each time frame, to measure the same benchmark repeatedly.

These searches act as a snapshot over a designated period and can show changes in conversation around a brand. Once generated, these reports can be used as a foundation for more detailed market research.

Gathering Consumer Insights for Market Research

Social media has become an invaluable source for CMI research. Social consumer and market analysis can provide deeper insights than overall trend and brand health measurement, and it can be used to answer robust research questions.

Though only a few CPG organizations conduct this type of research, the application of social listening and analytics provides outcomes that are among the most informative and fruitful for business.

This type of research usually falls into one of two formats:

  1. Exploratory research is a type of social ethnography guided by data. In this method, there is no preconceived hypothesis, and the volume of social data available can provide a vast amount of insights without spending a large amount of time and money. An example would be looking into the demographics of people discussing a brand or product, and then proceeding to uncover unexpected insights based on those initial findings.
  2. Research with a specific goal to answer a "why" question. This method should be used to test a specific hypothesis or answer a specific question. For example, "Do people do more laundry in summer or winter?"

* * *

The incredible volume of social consumer insights available for research purposes should empower CPG companies to gain deeper insight about their customers, their behaviors, and the sector as a whole. Smart companies shouldn't let this area of social intelligence fall to the wayside. Incorporating social insights into the CPG research mix is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have.

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image of Alex Jones

Alex Jones is content researcher at social intelligence company Brandwatch.

LinkedIn: Alexandra Jones