Digital Identities, Competition and the New Face of Marketing
Everyone is talking about the massive volumes of new data available to businesses as a result of digitizing just about everything, but I believe we are just getting started. Every business process, piece of equipment, building, product, customer if they don’t already, will have a digital twin – a unique digital identity. This digital identity is necessary because traditional relationships between manufacturers, brands, products and consumers is rapidly changing? A business’ recognition and response to these digital identities will determine whether they will be digital winners or losers.
Today, everything is generating data – websites, smartphones and apps, vehicles, manufacturing processes, home automation systems, smart cities, etc. However, as much as technology enthusiasts like me talk and write about digital transformation, many products and processes still remain analog, but that’s changing.
It seems every week we read about another retail chain filing bankruptcy or administration. The struggles retailers are having today are significantly impacting their suppliers – the manufactures. Think about the problems toy manufacturers are facing! All the largest toy retailers are gone. How then do toy manufacturers sell toys to consumers without the retailers? The answer is manufacturers must get to know, and better communicate with their end customer. That doesn’t mean removing retailers from the mix, but rather a changing of roles and responsibilities. Manufactures need to take on more of the responsibility of promoting their products and directing buyers to locations where they can purchase their products.
Products, and data about them, can generate an incredible amount of value if they have unique digital identities and are tracked and traced as the following example demonstrates. This list, of major steps in a typical product lifecycle, summarizes where data could be generated as a result of having a unique digital identity, tracked and shared.
- Design – a new type of product is designed, diagrammed and patented in a digital format
- Source – capture data about materials, ingredients, sustainability data
- Digital press releases, marketing and training material are all tracked for location, use and effectiveness and associated with the unique digital identity
- Manufacture – When, where made, batch, production line, packaging components
- Distribute – logistics details, stock location and quantity, 3rd party logistics (3PL) performance
- Retail – Which store, shopper engagement, product authenticity
- Consume – who, when, where, consumer patterns, consumption data
- Operate – live usage data, proactive data monitoring, replenishment, subscriptions
- Recycle – where recycled, sustainability data, change of ownership
- Responsibly disposed – how were the components disposed, when, where, how
- Patent protection – monitor business terms for use, and any violations
All of the major steps in a product lifecycle, if the product has a unique digital identity, can be tracked, documented, archived and shared to generate value. In fact, apps, new business ventures, products, services and business models can all be created based on the data.
Let’s now walk through a product lifecycle scenario together.
- You develop a new innovative type of automotive battery. You give each battery a unique digital identity. The digital identity is associated with its design and patent. It comes with an embedded sensor.
- You issue press releases, produce product information and training materials in digital formats that can report their use and effectiveness. Resellers are trained, tested and certified all online.
- All the materials used in the battery are identified, tracked and documented including their source, ingredients and sustainability data. This information can be used to be compliant to regulations, and in marketing and educational material to attract buyers and to create brand loyalty.
- The battery is manufactured in Lexington, KY USA. All the information concerning when and where it was made, the batch, production line and packaging components are documented and tracked for quality and safety. All the steps that were taken to make the process sustainable can be reported and shared and have marketing and loyalty value.
- The batteries are distributed to automotive parts stores, and the inventory levels and locations are documented and tracked from factory to retail stores. These inventories can show up on Google Location search, Paid search and Inventory searches for all locations. The manufacturer did not wait for resellers to effectively load their products, digital content and update their inventory amounts, rather the battery manufacturer did it – it was that important.
- Some retail stores allowed battery inventory levels to be monitored by the manufacturer for replenishment purposes, product and brand authenticity, sales levels, pricing and marketing campaign effectiveness.
- The consumer is encouraged to register the battery with the manufacturer. They are rewarded with special performance guarantees. The data is now monitored – who bought it, for what purpose, when, how is it working, is the customer happy, etc.
- The product is monitored in real-time for quality and performance. Any recognized issues are noted, the user is alerted and issues are tracked and resolved proactively.
- When the battery’s lifecycle has been completed, the battery is delivered and registered at a recycling location. The battery ownership changes to the recycling service provider.
- The battery components that no longer have value, or are too dangerous to reuse, are disposed according to regulations. The details of when, how and where are documented and reported.
- Even after the product lifecycle is complete, the design and patent may live on. These must be tracked and protected to extend the product’s value.
The above scenario, although fictitious, describes real capabilities, real processes and active trends. Consumers want to do business with companies that are transparent and can guarantee and document how they do business. They want proof that their vendors source and operate legally, ethically and sustainably. They want to better understand their products and have a reason for buying them. Manufacturers in turn want a closer relationship with their end customers. They want to know who has their products, how they are being used, and how they can support their customers better to increase brand loyalty. These desires mean both parties are looking for more data.
Companies that cannot capture accurate data and report effectively on their products and product lifecycles are blind, and will be unable to respond to these trends and the desires of their customers.