Sometimes the name says it all. In the case of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), the dilemma posed to advertisers for the industry is well represented in the moniker itself. In all of commerce, few businesses are in as fast, fickle and dynamic of a marketplace as those in FMCG. To an advertiser, this fluid, nuanced market is filled with consumers whose tastes and brand loyalties seem to change on a whim, often for no other explanation than the nature of the industry itself.
Fortunately for advertisers in FMCG, innovation has responded to such quick paced demands with AI-based technologies that provide the much-needed agility to keep pace with the breakneck speed of FMCG. While AI is already proving to be extraordinarily beneficial to all of advertising, its particular strengths truly shine in the FMCG space, giving campaigns the ability to act and react in a marketplace where nimbleness is rewarded and complacency condemned to the faceless masses of a hypercompetitive industry.
A Unique Market Requires Innovative Answers
In many regards, companies in FMCG sectors lack the ability to fully leverage the digital age to its highest capacity. While other industries, ranging from consumer electronics to banking, can rely on their online content and web presence to act as a primary driver to direct sales, FMCG companies are inherently more reliant on old-fashioned models like shelf space and end caps in markets. In FMCG, online presence is, at least at the moment, most suited for brand development and consumer engagement, rather than direct sales.
Still, even for with those respective barriers, FMCG companies can utilize technology, particularly the AI-based platforms rapidly being adopted, to optimize their advertising efforts and maximize conversion to sales. In that regard, the combination of big data and AI-powered algorithms can provide the immediacy needed to mold a campaign around such a rapidly changing customer base.
Given the short lifespan of the products in question, advertising campaigns in the FMCG space need to be on the cutting edge of preference and behavior. Whether the company manufactures fidget spinners, diet soda or anything in between, sales are subjected to those dynamic preferences and behaviors, absolutely demanding a high degree of agility from an advertising strategy.
With advancements in computing power and algorithmic modeling, huge amounts of current market data can be processed to identify consumer trends with very little lag time. Of course, such immediacy is dependent on the accuracy and prevalence of scan movement data, but with the highly integrated nature of different technologies now available, FMCG companies can certainly find that immediacy with little to no difficulty.
AI Already in Use in FMCG Campaigns
Although adoption rates are still on the rise, there are already some distinct examples of AI-based technology being utilized in FMCG advertising efforts. Given the constant need for immediate data to fully inform its campaigns, it's not surprising that data gathering and dissemination are at the heart of the most readily available examples of AI in FMCG to this point.
Procter & Gamble, In-Store Data Technology
Few corporations represent FMCG better than Procter and Gamble with their wide-ranging stable of consumer products. With their overwhelming reliance on retail outlets to drive sales, integrating AI-based technology into those outlets seems like an obvious choice for P&G to apply the new technology.
By partnering with Cloverleaf, a third-party vendor of retail technology innovations, P&G has started to integrate the shelfPoint monitoring and information gathering systems into product displays and shelf space in retail outlets. The shelfPoint integration is an effort to use AI-capable hardware and software to provide them with much-needed consumer data.
The hardware is able to monitor facial expressions from potential buyers while searching for products, feeding the information back to P&G to use in their existing predictive analytics platform. The system also provides real-time information on product movement without even the slight lag offered by scan movements. Just like the facial expressions, that information is fed back to P&G to monitor what products are trending, which are slumping, and alter their advertising focus accordingly. The real-time processing and interpretation of the data is a function only an advanced AI-based system can afford the company, giving P&G the ability to react to sudden changes in FMCG consumer trends and preferences in an immediate manner.
Unilever, Knorr Foods
Similarly, FMCG giant Unilever has recently incorporated AI into their Knorr Foods campaigns, giving it an interactive quality to increase the level of engagement and interest in their products. In order to better reach the segment of their customer base that might not have constant broadband connectivity, Unilever developed an AI-based customer engagement system called Chef Wendy.
Using SMS as the foundation for the interactive communication, Chef Wendy allows users to text recipe requests and general questions regarding the use of Knorr products. Due to its ability to interpret natural language rather than reliance on a mere keyword search, Chef Wendy interacts with customers through SMS, sending recipes, advice and cooking tips as direct responses to customer queries. Of course, as a direct product of the communication, Knorr collects data on the nature and depth of the interaction and tailors its advertising and product offerings according to the trends isolated from the data.
As AI continues to gain traction, its use in the FMCG advertising space will only expand. While it's primarily used in data gathering and interpretation at the moment, its popularity will continue to grow, especially when it's combined with VR and other advanced technologies. In the rapidly shifting swings throughout FMCG, AI gives advertisers the agility needed to stay at the forefront of consumer demands and preferences.