What are the big digital transformation challenges facing FMCG brands?

Jenni Armstrong

Former Brand and Content Manager, Google

Their goods may be fast-moving, but the pace of digital transformation in FMCG companies hasn’t quite matched up.

In last year’s Talent Revolution Survey by Google, consumer goods companies rated themselves across a range of best practices to give a view of their digital capability. While the survey found them to be strong at connecting data from a diverse set of sources on their consumers and translating their marketing objectives into actionable metrics, they scored considerably lower when it came to having the right digital platforms, agency partners and talent internally. And whilst they know the channels they need to be using, they haven’t yet cracked the content to use, especially in video, display and mobile.

FMCG brands are definitely moving in the right direction, with recognition at the most senior levels that they need to transform. They are committing spend to digital channels and recruiting digital talent. The key now is to sharpen their focus on the areas that will enable them to evolve and future-proof their business:

Change the mindset

FMCG companies have existed for over a century and can be set in their ways. For sales and marketing roles the ways of working, processes, roles and career progression have in some cases been the same for decades. Consumer-centric companies that ask ‘what does the consumer want’ as a starting point, and decide messaging and channels from there, will win .

Recruit and retain digital talent

Across industries we’re seeing a shortage of great digital talent – both in terms of specialists in digital platforms, and marketers who can use all channels. For FMCGs this provides even more of a challenge when it comes to recruitment; they need to find the people who are not only great at digital, but who want to join and transform a company who might not yet be digital-first. Not all digital talent wants to do that. Some people just want to be able to get on with their job, without also having to bang the drum and be a change agent.

Retaining digital talent in these organisations is also very different to retaining traditional talent. In FMCG there is a very clear career progression in roles such as sales and marketing, but digital experts may well not want to become a General Manager in the future. They may like being a specialist. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing to switch up digital talent every few years and bring fresh perspectives into the business.

Find the right agency partners

Some of the larger creative and media agencies are also getting to grips with new channels and ways of working. Sometimes it’s better to work with smaller, more agile agencies who specialise in areas such as video or mobile.They’re completely immersed in their channel and can bring insight and learnings to your company.

Share best and worst practices

Communication and collaboration within FMCGs is key. Portfolio brands often work like independent businesses, though they actually have the opportunity to learn much faster by testing things in different areas. Where they often struggle is unlocking these learnings and getting them to circulate between brands. This goes back to the mindset change where everyone in the organisation needs to understand the wider objectives and how their work fits in. You also need tools and platforms in the workplace that make it easy for people to share information and best practice.

Upskill across the organisation

It’s not just about upskilling FMCG marketers in digital, the entire business needs to evolve. Sales teams need to understand the impact of ecommerce, training teams need the right tools to train their regional staff, legal need to understand the digital platforms and what that means for privacy.

Finally – and this goes for all organisations, in any sector – what’s important to remember is that just because someone is brilliant at digital, it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to teach others. Companies shouldn’t rely on a few externally recruited digital experts to upskill the rest of the business. There needs to be a clear training plan for each department, and one that is continuous. You also need to make sure you have the right level of training in place for your digital experts so that they don’t just share their knowledge but then stagnate themselves.

Kate Hamer has over 15 years experience working for Orange, Unilever, Tesco, Disney and L’Oréal. In 2015 she made the leap from the corporate world to start her own marketing and digital consultancy. She joined the Squared Online expert speaker team in 2016. Watch Kate discuss digital transformation with Shuvo Saha, Director of the Google Academy, in our 

Watch Kate and Shuvo Saha, Director of the Google Digital Academy, discuss  big opportunity digital upskilling presents for marketing teams that need to push the envelope.

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