Innovation is the mother of progress. The continuous march of developing technologies seems to facilitate groundbreaking change in every facet of our lives. But one area of our circumstances that may escape consideration in this acknowledgment of continuous improvement is beverages. The supply chain for our favorite libations is a dynamic combination of sophisticated chemical processes and fickle customer perceptions. The combination of these two factors is what's changing the face of the business as we know it. Better processes, more accurate quality control measurement, and high-efficiency equipment may impact the final product, but new technologies that leverage customer engagement are taking center stage as firms look forward.
The changing economy is comprised of complex circumstances affecting a wide-array of stakeholders. In addition, the sharing of information and quick access to data is causing the pace of business to accelerate at a rapid rate. This combination of complicated decision-making factors and high-speed pace mean that businesses without ready, actionable insights are sure to fall behind, and quickly.
For this reason, the beverage industry is taking a Big Data approach to common issues. According to a study by KPMG, 49% of surveyed beverage CEOs are using analytics to fuel operational and supply chain decisions. This approach rewards proactive firms by using ubiquitous data collection to actively improve product quality and consistency, resulting in a better brand reputation and greater market penetration.
But this engagement isn't limited to the manufacturing line. Firms with an eye on the competition are using data more than ever to effectively position themselves in the market. In the aforementioned survey, 42% of CEOs surveyed responded that they were using analytics to better affect product distribution and 35% of those surveyed were using data to acquire customers.
This kind of numbers-first mentality is spreading to nearly every critical aspect of the beverage industry. Savvy businesses are managing brands and products more effectively, actively making pricing decisions on the basis of data collection, and optimizing their operating model. This decision-making practice is not likely to disappear either, especially with consumer engagement technologies on the rise and an evolving marketplace demanding better and better adherence to its changing whims.
As businesses strive to optimize profits, revenue streams are not the only components receiving scrutiny. As beneficial as strong customer engagement and data-driven insights can be, lowering overhead costs by optimizing how an organization functions can provide essential savings when working to remain competitively viable. For this reason, businesses have adopted the much-hyped and still-young Cloud to change the face of operations.
In doing so, however, the expectations and uses of such solutions have changed. According to the KPMG report, businesses were using the technology less frequently for external means and more often for internal organization. In 2012, 25% and 16% of survey respondents reported that the cloud "will change (their) interaction with customers and suppliers" and "accelerate time to market" respectively. In 2013, those numbers had dropped to 16% and 10% respectively. In the process, the number of respondents expecting the cloud to "fundamentally change (their) business model" doubled, along with the expectation that such solutions would provide management with greater transparency of transactions.
With firms adopting internal optimization protocols capable of reducing operating costs, the remaining piece of the puzzle lies with customers. With ubiquitous social media and potential for customer engagement, the picture of running a business has changed drastically, and the beverage industry is no exception to this fact. New engagement opportunities mean both responsive businesses and active relationships.
The impact of social media is a secret to no one, and while business practices involving these platforms are still quite young, drink-makers are tapping into the platform in tune. Facebook and Google+ pages, along with Twitter accounts, allow customers to tap into a direct line of communication, enabling both rapid feedback and quick responses. This new standard of communication is elevating customer service capabilities and expectations in tandem. Quick answers to customer requests and complaints offers an opportunity to add a personal face to an organization, build a reputation of engagement, and spread those characteristics at lightning speed as particularly successful methods are rewarded with viral publicity.
What's most important about this evolution, however, is the understanding that it constitutes an opening of conversation, not an establishment of more efficient customer support hotlines. Answering customer questions pays dividends to be sure, but the ability of users to publicly and actively demonstrate their opinions regarding corporate and product changes means that savvy managers would do well to keep an ear to the ground. Bad publicity can spread like wildfire and maligned decisions can hurt brand perception. Reading social media channels gives companies in the beverage industry a chance to respond to these concerns quickly before negative perceptions can spread any further.
This combination of technologies represents a watershed for the beverage industry. Evolving technologies not only offer the chance to improve operational efficiency, but change business effectiveness and customer responsiveness. From actionable insights gleaned from Big Data analytics to improved decision-making through Cloud technologies to an active consumer conversation in social media, the beverage industry is leveraging technologies to the benefit of both profits and product. While doing so does not guarantee competitive success, adoption of these innovations provides a real chance to surpass customer expectations and vastly improve critical operations in the process.
To learn about additional findings included in the survey mentioned throughout this article, watch the short summary video below: