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What Food & Beverage Packaging Study Teaches CIOs about DigitizationArun Saksena, CIO and Digital Transformation Officer, Danaher Corporation’s Product Identification Platform

As a technology leader, I’m continually looking to gather data and insights that strengthen my business case for digital transformation within my organization. 

Shopper insights on food and beverage packaging helps marketers, designers and packaging engineers create innovative product designs with strong value propositions based on data and feedback on how and why shoppers buy both in-store and online.

For example, in the recent study, “Packaging and the Digital Shopper: Meeting Expectations in Food and Beverage”, shoppers state that they trust the objective data on the package: the expiration date, the ingredients and nutrition facts. In fact, what shoppers say is the most important information on the package (the expiration date) is also the very last touch the manufacturer gives to the product.

Further, people expect the online experience to mirror the offline shopping experience. They expect continuity of brand and product, regardless of whether they are surfing on their mobile phones or cruising the store aisles. Sixty-one percent of people expect the product packaging they see online to be exactly the same as what’s on the shelf in their local store.

For tech leaders supporting brands, these learnings demonstrate the importance of the integration of the packaging data ecosystem with marketing efforts like search engine optimization (SEO) and e-commerce. But how can a tech leader, such as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Information/Innovation Officer (CIO), take the findings from the study to further advance their marketing and packaging departments? There are five things I feel that a CTO or CIO must do to help the business.

Be the digital transformation leader your marketing and packaging colleagues need you to be. Challenge their perceptions of what is possible with technology. Observe them doing their work and make a list of what might be digitized to help them get their work done faster at higher quality levels. These departments look to their digital leaders to help provide them with the support and approvals to implement new technologies.

Establish a current view of all the systems and software that support your packaging value chain. Have you created an ecosystem diagram or a MarTech landscape for your company? Then, create an ideal future state diagram, from design to production to meet shoppers’ expectations and the timing expectations of your head of marketing. Once you have defined your current state and your ideal future state, identifying key pain points and areas for process improvement, you will have a strategic roadmap. It’s important to do this especially for the packaging function because, as McKinsey recently found, consumer packaged goods is the industry in which digital tools have penetrated the least.

Eliminate sources of error whenever possible by mapping out your sources of truth. For instance, instead of re-keying information from the packaging to complete item listings on e-commerce websites, consider connecting or linking to the original sources of the approved, high-quality information that ends up on the package. The sources, for example, could include systems like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), the Digital Asset Management (DAM), Marketing Asset Management (MAM).

Digitize everything. This is why: if you digitize a task, you can probably start to automate at least part of it, and then also connect the output of the task to other departments and systems that need that output. The output could be design files, product content, images romance copy or other content that is on the package. If everything is digitized, it allows for a seamless, error-free workflow throughout the entire value chain.

Invest in digital skills and technologies. None of the above is possible unless your organization is willing to invest in building digital capabilities and in taking a calculated amount of risk.

Establish a current view of all the systems and software that support your packaging value chain

The outcomes from applying digital technologies are not certain; many digital technologies, especially AI and IoT, are still evolving. Gartner places them at the peak of the hype cycle. But they are also maturing fast and will become mainstreamin the next few years. If you haven’t already embarked on the digital journey, your company risks losing out to the competition and being rendered irrelevant by your customers. Start small and focus on quick easy wins –but also keep on the lookout for business transformation opportunities – that’s the real promise of digitization and a source of lasting competitive advantage.

The way people are shopping is changing, and our processes for creating and bringing products to market should evolve accordingly. Insights from the food and beverage study allow senior leaders to identify the many opportunities that already exist to optimize, evolve and connect packaging; driving increased sales, increased relevance and the transformation of the technology platforms that support the entire packaging value chain. And as the CIO, you can help steer the innovation of process and tools used to make products, which can often be the competitive advantage.

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