The Future of Manufacturing: Real Time Feedback and Efficiency

How consumers feel about a given company and its products has been the centerpiece of marketing courses and studies for decades. Consumer insights drives advertising campaigns, new product rollouts and, most importantly, the bottom line. In fact, when looking at Fortune 500 companies, an average of 11% of the annual revenue is dedicated to marketing budgets-- that translates to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Understanding how the average buyer makes purchase decisions and pinpointing what factors contribute to these transactions, is a billion dollar business. And now, getting that information is easier than ever.

The rise of the internet led to an explosion of ecommerce, social media and a whole new way for marketers to understand how people purchase. With online searches and online shopping, companies are now able to see consumer behavior digitally and in real time, creating a treasure trove of usable data and insights. So, how important is this feedback loop? Short answer, very. Organizations that leverage customer behavior data to generate behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margin.

Of course, this works both ways. Real time purchasing insights, also means real time customer feedback. With smartphones in hand, shoppers are researching products, writing reviews, and conducting online price comparisons before they make a purchase. This shortened feedback loop creates an opportunity for businesses to capitalize by building in new efficiencies to the development and manufacturing process that use and encourage this behavior.

For example, let’s say Nike created a new workout pant that has a different kind of pocket on the pant leg-- but via social media they quickly discover that thousands of customers keep snagging that pocket on things because of the way it’s positioned, tearing the pant leg. Nike could more quickly react to that product defect and alter the pocket if they had processes in place to account for this kind of feedback-- saving vast amounts of money on shipping, manufacturing and returns.

Although the example was a hypothetical, there are businesses thinking this way about consumer data, and some have the foresight to put practices into action.

Local Southern California apparel manufacturer, The Vertical Collective, is using real-time consumer feedback to streamline design, product development and manufacturing. Through their unique approach of using customer insights, they are able to determine and make modifications to designs that mirror consumer demand.

By thinking about audience insights as a tool for design, companies with prescience are able to incorporate customer priorities into the planning process to guarantee a saleable product.  

“When companies come to us to revive their products and do a complete refresh of their line, we always ask to see the customer feedback and social media comments,” says The Vertical Collective co-founder Katherine Zabloudil. “Buyers and brand loyalists are the key to unlocking detailed design and functionality elements that provide a point for difference.”

Customers know what they want, are willing to share those thoughts, and now have the venue to do so. Smart brands will listen and learn.