By John Jose (Marketing Director, Tetra Pak Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines)
A few years ago, companies had the upper hand when it came to communicating their brands to consumers. Advertisements in newspapers used to be the way for consumers to gain information about a brand, apart from word of mouth. Today’s digital landscape has dramatically changed the relationship between a brand and consumer. As an example, social media has taken the world by storm, and there is no denying that its presence can hugely impact brands all over the world.
Talking about today’s digital landscape, the Asia Pacific is a dynamic and rapidly growing region, accounting for an astounding 70% of total growth in global Internet users and 62% of the growth in social media users according to a recent Digital in 2017 Global Overview . In Malaysia, there are 22 million active Facebook users, 91% of which access Facebook via mobile. Understanding these rapid digital growth rates and trends will help brands to talk and reach out to consumers, most of which prefer online interaction via mobile devices.
Specific to the food and beverage industry, Tetra Pak, the world’s leading food processing and packaging solutions company, has published its annual Tetra Pak Index. Now on its 10th edition, Tetra Pak Index 2017 delves into the evolving behaviour of consumers, specifically ‘The Connected Consumers’ who are constantly connected and looking for authentic and engaging content from brands.
It reveals insights on today’s digitally savvy population and how they are connecting with food and drinks brands. The index identified a group of ‘Super Leaders’, the most influential subset of the wider online community. When engaged, Super Leaders can help brands to spread messages, shape opinions and help build trust in products.
The world of connected consumers is a virtual community where every voice can exert an influence, however building trust with the consumers is increasingly difficult. The credibility of institutions is being questioned. Belief in the traditional media is at an all-time low. It’s “someone like you and me” that they now listen too. This gives birth to a new group of influencers among these connected consumers; the “Super Leaders”.
Super Leaders are a diverse group, but the one thing they have in common is that they are the most active and social of all the connected consumers. Online for more than six hours a day, they are well connected and highly vocal. 80% of Super Leaders read reviews/ratings on food and beverages monthly, with 68% writing reviews at least monthly. Their comments shared online, with 75% on social media, have a key role to play in today’s customer journey. Almost all who write reviews and comments tag the relevant brands at least some of the time, which reflects their desire to be heard and their expectation of getting a response, and 78% say that they expect the brand to reply. Super Leaders are a golden source of brand advocacy and influence in an age where consumers are becoming both more vocal and more likely to listen to and trust the opinion of their peers. Super Leaders are cultural amplifiers, potent and prolific commentators who pick up and held disseminate trends.
The online world is increasingly mobile-centric. Providing “always-on” access and even greater functionality, mobile is the main driver of connectivity today. Consumers now “pull” the contents and personalize it according to their needs and wants rather than waiting for brand to “push” their desired message to consumers. From browsing products online to making purchasing decision, mobile is becoming the key platform to reach consumers where they will be mostly accessible at all time, an important medium to constantly engage with the consumers.
In Malaysia, over 69% of the population are mobile internet users. Consumers in Malaysia not only use smartphones to browse the internet but to also to do other online activities such as mobile shopping. Thus, brands need to be creative in attracting and engaging with ‘connected consumers’ to achieve maximum reach and returns.
The magic is in generating content that is meaningful, entertaining, engaging and encourages two-way interaction. Social media is a great tool to focus on, as it helps to spread and amplify opinions. Brands can target and maximise their interaction with Super Leaders on these channels in a relevant and timely way to better reach a wider consumer base. Having conversations with Super Leaders is also essential, and encouraging and interacting with their reviews and posts will almost certainly improve brand perception.
An opportunity in the world of connected consumers lies within the process in which a customer buys a product. The report shows how the customer journey is shifting from a relatively linear process to a complex network of multiple touch points. Today, a customer who has basic knowledge of using the internet would search for product information before, during and after buying. And a customer would at least refer to four information sources to read reviews given by other ‘connected consumers’ before buying it. Consumers would place a greater amount of trust on third-party reviews, who are also consumers of the product.
Greater connectivity and the proliferation of online platforms present a challenge for brands, as consumers expect a consistent experience and messaging across all the touchpoints where they interact especially on social media.
In so many ways, the product itself now needs to become a vehicle for direct communication, which means packaging has a key role to play. Technology has opened a vast range of possibilities. Looking ahead, packaging innovation can help brands bridge the online and offline experience with consumers. For example, digital codes printed on packages could allow consumers to connect directly to the brand site simply by scanning the code using their smartphone, which will open a web page with product information, discover ingredients or recipes, shop in virtual stores or enter competitions. It can also offer traceability where the consumer can key in a code from their package therefore allowing consumers to access information across all stages in the making of the product. With smartphones now capable of automated QR code-scanning capability, removing the need for scanning apps, this will enable brands to engage, entertain, and educate consumers in real time, and make it even more convenient for consumers to use and benefit from digital packaging.
Winning over the heart of a connected consumer in a digital, information-saturated world presents both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. In addition to the product, brands need to adjust their communications and use more channel-specific, smart, authentic and engaging content via the right group of influencers such as Super Leaders if they are to seize the opportunities in this new world. Packaging is one of the tools that has a vital role to play in offering a gateway to greater consumer engagement, stronger differentiation among businesses, and ultimately, creating a sustainable competitive edge over other brands now and in the future.
Communications Manager Tetra Pak Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines