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The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit: Consumer Centricity in a Data-Driven World

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit: Consumer Centricity in a Data-Driven World

The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit has a legacy of inviting some of the most influential names in retail and consumer goods to address delegates, and this year’s event is no different. In fact, it looks like it’s going to be the biggest Summit to date.

“The Summit is the venue for industry leaders, including chief executives and other C-level executives,” Peter Freedman, managing director of the Consumer Goods Forum tells ESM. “That is the essence of the Consumer Goods Forum.”

Industry Barometer

Given the socio-economic disruption that preceded last year’s event in Berlin – Brexit, the election of Donald Trump et al – this year’s event also acts as an opportunity to test the pulse of the retail and consumer goods sectors, measuring how they are responding to a global marketplace that appears to be constantly in flux.

“Essentially, the maelstrom of industry disruption continues unabated – that’s how most of our members see it,” says Freedman. “It’s almost like disruption is now the norm, and we had better get used to it.

“As with any disruption, you need a ‘true north’, and most of our members are latching on to the consumer as that true north. With that in mind, figuring out how the consumer is evolving will be a major focus of the summit.

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“In keeping with the theme, that includes a lot of what is happening in the data-driven world, but also addressing the needs of millennials and Generation Z, changes to the store environment, and retailers experimenting with what they can do with data.”

All Eyes On Asia

Indeed, there are few better venues for this year’s conference than Singapore, located in the heart of Asia – a continent at the centre of many of the paradigm shifts taking place in global retail at present.

“There are a lot of people who would argue that Asia, and specifically China, is pointing us to the future of integration of the online and offline world – a key theme of this year’s summit,” Freedman notes.

Managing Disruption

While 2017 was not as eventful a year as that which preceded it, Freedman believes that events taking place in the global economic landscape will give delegates plenty of food for thought at this year’s summit, particularly around areas like free trade and the rising tide of protectionism.

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“The impact of increasing protectionism is, arguably, more of a threat now than it was a year ago,” he says. “The back-and-forth between the US and China on tariffs has brought this into the spotlight, and will provide a very interesting backdrop to the consumer goods industry."

Allied to that, discussions about the future of big-brand marketing – with Unilever recently pulling its adverts from YouTube, how many of its contemporaries are likely to follow suit? – workplace diversity, equal pay and corporate social responsibility are all weighing heavily on the industry, and will likely be among the main discussion points addressed.

“I think we’re on an inevitable journey towards greater transparency,” says Freedman. “The whole notion of being transparent to consumers as a means to build trust is fundamentally the mission of the Consumer Goods Forum, but it’s also what most organisations want to achieve, because their business depends on this level of trust.

“It is not easy. There are those who might argue that it’s not a good thing because too much information overloads, but I think those arguments are being addressed now, and almost everyone accepts that we have to be more transparent as an industry. How that transparency is activated will be interesting to track.”

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Day By Day

Following a day of store tours, which took place on 12 June, the first day of the summit (Wednesday 13 June) kicks off with a series of insightful seminars from companies including IBM, dunnhumby, Nielsen, AT Kearney and Ernst & Young.

Afternoon presentations on the first day, which is entitled ‘Asia Pacific: Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Scene’, come from Chia Song Hwee, COO of investment firm Temasek International, Seah Kian Peng, CEO of NTUC Fairprice, and Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization, among others.

Day Two (Thursday 14 June) features presentations from a myriad of heavy-hitters including James Quincey, CEO, the Coca-Cola Company; Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba; Theo Spierings, CEO of Fonterra; and insightful panels like ‘The Changing Face of Retail in Asia’ and ‘Global Millennials: The Data-Driven Facts’.

The conference wraps up on Friday, with presentations by Emmanuel Faber, CEO, Danone; Dick Boer, the outgoing CEO of Ahold Delhaize; and Alain Bejjani, CEO of the Majid Al Futtaim Group; among others, before former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright closes proceedings with a keynote presentation entitled ‘What to Expect from the World?’

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Year-Round Effort

While the summit has long played a fundamental role in both establishing the key trends and focus areas for the trade to address, it now forms part of a series of events hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum over the course of the year.

In March, for example, Tokyo played host to the Global Food Safety Conference, while this October, the Sustainable Retail Summit comes to Lisbon, Portugal. Freedman believes that these events feed into each other, to a certain degree, providing the forum and its members with multiple touch points for discussion and planning around key issues.

“All our events are fundamentally motivated by what consumers are more interested in,” he says. “The way we think about the summit, essentially, is about devising the leadership agenda for the industry, evaluating topics at a high level, from a leadership perspective, and in relation to the trade-off between the investor community and consumer needs, and so forth.”

As for what Freedman himself is looking forward to most from the summit?

“I’m very interested in the dialogue around ‘new retail’, as Jack Ma of Alibaba calls it,” he explains, “the online and offline merging. In Asia, the pace of change is so rapid. I cannot wait to see what emerges from this year’s summit.”

© 2018 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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