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The Future of Consumer Goods

| June 22, 2023

The consumer industry is evolving through new technologies and consumer preferences, with online and e-commerce becoming increasingly prevalent. To remain sustainable and competitive, businesses must adapt their strategies and operations and consider sustainable programs. We recently explored these and some other issues with a panel of our global colleagues and guest speakers in leading roles with multinational companies.

Disruptive technology: designing strategy, operation and route to market.

'The opportunities presented by technology are endless and ever-flowing, so depending on the industry, some companies are doing better than others when it comes to keeping up and making full use of it. Being in a traditional industry (e.g., the food industry) makes it harder to overcome the internal hurdles of adapting or looking at new technologies and many are just at the beginning of exploring how to leverage things such as ChatGPT to improve business operations as well as inspiring the workforce to adapt. On the other hand, and despite the progress made with AI, the concept of the brick-and-mortar store is still paramount to strategy to many industries ( e.g., electronics, smartphones) and goes hand in hand with AI implementation when it comes to business development, capital allocation and forward planning. 

One thing to consider is we have an aging society, and this is something we can actually see as having potential because AI is not only for low-skilled jobs anymore. I think there's a positive side to it but each of us is accountable for this, not only the CEO. It's everyone who makes decisions on whether to use this technology and for what purpose,' says Blair Bullus, President, Wamame Foods.

Blair Bullus
President, Wamame Foods

“Strategy starts with designing world-class quality products, and tapping into what makes a product unique.”

‘On the question of whether businesses are leveraging technology to meet these requirements, every brand has a different approach to how they want to service their consumers. Technology has become a centerpiece, such as in transaction and efficiency on a business’ platform to improve the user experience. Data collected from customers in stores for example can be analyzed and used to target customers in a more efficient way. There are currently a lot of corporate projects across supply chains and databases on how to service consumers by combining the physical and technological resources available. Furthermore, a lot of luxury and beauty brands are developing a presence in the metaverse. While not necessarily a tool for sales conversions in all businesses, this trend will continue to interest a certain audience and the scope of possibility is still being defined.

The legal and ethical implications with large-scale AI adoption must also not be overlooked. When reviewing whether or not there exists a robust framework in this respect, our experts believe the risks are minimized by following the rules. Large multinationals perpetually want to avoid any infringements where data privacy is concerned as the repercussions could far outweigh the benefit from the data collection standpoint, so no organization would intentionally take any risks. Companies have a reputational balance to maintain which is completely justifiable and understandable. However, companies making products for e.g., for the healthcare sector or other sectors where the data they're collecting has implications, have a much greater challenge in data collection from the ethical standpoint and therefore need to be very clear on their goals and governance,’ adds Tobias Lüning, Senior VP Central Europe/Country Manager, Metsä Tissue GmbH.

Embracing diversity: making recruitment and marketing connect with all backgrounds and generations.

'Work-life balance is viewed differently across generations, and whilst it is difficult to attain this consistently, organizations ought to be open-minded as a one-dimensional approach may not quite work. This is a complex and ever-changing dynamic. Per the combined experience of our panel, a less diverse workforce is a less prosperous one.  Along the value chain, from production across operations, age groups differ and it’s not by accident. Different roles require varying traits, energy and work ethic. 

A large shift is being seen by some in not using the word diversity as a buzz word, as people talk about it constantly and there's a level of authenticity that is required which can even be legislated in some territories, making it mandatory. The general consensus is that if companies are not focusing on diversity, they are really missing out on a lot of opportunities, particularly in the case of global businesses,' states Thateng Shimange, Head of Business EXACT, TFG (The Foschini Group).

Thateng Shimange
Head of Business EXACT, TFG (The Foschini Group)

“There are different types of diversity. For us we also have another angle, which is what we call inclusion. It's not only about bringing in different people, but we have different races, sexual preferences, management styles, and it’s also about being able to work with them. If you don't manage this properly, you just get little tribes within your organization.”

‘In the younger generation, a craving for stability and having a purpose is something that is being observed and pushed in employer branding. Companies do not differentiate between younger and older generations when they promote their brands. Furthermore, companies promote certain other trends that they are encountering, such as sustainability. Being in touch with what is important to target generations is key to being competitive,’ says Kostas Spyropoulos, General Manager, Balkans, The Estée Lauder Companies.

As technology develops, so too does the need for the right leaders to drive companies through the changes and to maintain corporate identity and branding that reaches all targeted generations, and all within the correct legal frameworks. At Kestria our mission is to keep on top of these needs across industries, continuously talking with the experts in the field on the most important things to be considered while tweaking the formula for success with our partners.

Kestria Insights