In 2016 and beyond, all consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry trends share a single theme: growth. And growth will likely continue to be the primary theme for many years to come. That’s partly because consumers are less brand loyal, their spending in the U.S. and internationally remains uncertain, and they’re hungry for innovation.

This is forcing established companies to not only catch up to the latest trends but to also execute them at a level that satisfies today’s demanding customers. However, doing so often requires additional resources and skill sets that companies may not have readily available. This is where freelance professionals can help fill the gap.

Below, we’ll explore current CPG trends that will likely continue to be top of mind in 2017. And we’ll see how freelancers can help companies overcome the challenges these trends may present.

Trend: Shoppers are increasingly diverse

By 2020, Hispanics are expected to represent more than half of the U.S. population growth, millennials (born between 1980–2000) are now the largest generation, and the American household is no longer defined simply as a married man and woman with a single income. These shifts and other cultural, religious, and geographic changes mean shoppers are more diverse now, and it’s reflected in their buying habits.

Why it matters

In order to grow, marketers must exhibit a detailed understanding of their consumers’ shopping patterns, and the needs/desires behind them. From this deeper understanding, companies can segment customers to leverage marketing strategies, such as in the Hispanic market. For years, the industry erroneously lumped all Hispanics into a single category, but they could be segmented further by geography and levels of acculturation.

How freelancers can help

  • Marketers can help gather detailed market research and analyze findings.
  • Copywriters and other creatives with cultural specialization can create targeted marketing content, pricing, and promotion strategies.
  • Multilingual customer support professionals can personalize service and help increase brand loyalty.

Trend: Consumers are flooded with marketing messages

CPG and consumer products manufacturers are among the biggest spenders in advertising—to the tune of nearly $6 billion in digital advertising for 2016 alone. In an effort to target consumers more, they’re focusing on mobile, video, and programmatic marketing.

Why it matters

Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages at every turn, swipe, and click. To cut through the noise, marketers must aim for quality versus quantity. As smartphones and videos continue providing more convenience and entertainment, increasing spend in these channels just meets consumers where they’re at. Programmatic marketing lets companies take advantage of the mountains of proprietary and third-party data to better target consumers. Although programmatic isn’t widely used now, it’s so effective that it’s predicted to make up 50 percent of digital ad sales by 2018.

How freelancers can help

  • Videographers and other creatives can create content and help execute campaigns.
  • Mobile developers can optimize the user experience.
  • Digital marketers can provide insights and strategies based on collected data.

Trend: Omnichannel shopping is gaining popularity

While the internet drives online sales, it’s shown to bring more people into physical stores too. Because today’s shopping journey often involves multiple channels, a customer may start by researching online, use an app to download a coupon, then make a purchase in-store. Mobile is often a key part of most omnichannel experiences since it accounts for 60 percent of U.S. internet usage.

Why it matters

Omnichannel shoppers spend more, averaging a 30 percent higher lifetime customer value. What’s more, digital doesn’t end once shoppers step through the doors—while in-store, nearly half of them search for information online. It’s partly why a survey involving 50+ leading CPG companies ranked e-commerce as the second leading driver of change over the next five years.

How freelancers can help

  • Mobile and IT infrastructure developers can optimize your company’s presence across channels and create a unified user experience.
  • Customer support specialists can speed up response times, handle volume spikes, and cover new support channels like live chat.
  • Inbound marketers, SEO pros, and creative talent can help create campaigns with effective personalization and localization.
  • Data scientists can identify shoppers’ behavior patterns to help define marketing and sales strategies.

Trend: Big data is now smart data

Big data isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. Especially as more products like TVs, phones, and wearable devices are connected to the internet. But the flood of data this provides can be difficult to sift through and draw insights from. And it’s not always clear which trends are worth pursuing. Smart data helps make sense of the information by fine-tuning the analysis with intelligent algorithms.

Why it matters

If big data can show weekly sales numbers, smart data can help you identify peaks and valleys in sales volume over time. Focusing on smart data can provide more actionable insights that move companies closer to the holy grail of providing the right product, for the right consumer, in the right place, at the right time. The British CPG company Reckitt Benckiser used smart data to increase sales of cough and cold products by 22 percent during a four-week period. They achieved this by using search data from WebMD to track the course of a given illness and anticipate where outbreaks were likely to occur. From this background, they launched a geography-based and symptom-specific advertising and promotion campaign.

How freelancers can help

  • Digital marketers are skilled at leveraging data to maximize returns and minimize risks for programs and promotions.
  • Product managers can help test and launch new products.
  • Business analysts can help increase productivity, output, and distribution.
  • Data scientists can create tools and methods to make sense of the massive amounts of data.

Trend: Brand entrants are more focused

Online startups are spilling into the market, laser-focused on very specific niches. These nimble companies efficiently use mobile and social media to gain market share. And part of their growth involves using less traditional promotion strategies to transform their products from a commodity into an interactive brand. By focusing on direct-to-customer relationships in this way, they boost consumer word-of-mouth sales and loyalty.

Why it matters

These lean entrants operate on a business model that can eat away at a traditional CPG company’s profitability and customer base. Two of their advantages are that they’re not weighed down by typical assets, and they can scale with greater ease and speed. These advantages make some established product lines vulnerable. For added protection, companies may consider improving direct-to-customer relationships, even though that’s traditionally done on a retail level.

How freelancers can help

  • Social media marketers can help create innovative ways to strengthen customer relationships.
  • Web and mobile developers can build digital features, designs, and experiences that improve customer loyalty and word-of-mouth.
  • Digital marketers and program managers can help design cutting-edge ways of doing business for long-term growth.

The experience is part of the product

The days may be over when companies can win over consumers just by creating a better mousetrap. Today, companies must also create a targeted product experience—before, during, and after the sale. The better companies achieve this, the higher their potential for growth.

Leading CPG companies are leveraging complete freelancer management solutions like Upwork Enterprise to engage freelance professionals at scale. By working with freelance talent, they’re able to innovate faster to meet consumer trends now, and in the future.

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