A recent survey of the German, Austrian, and Swiss packaging industry found that over half of the surveyed companies consider digitalization of their marketing activities to be important (33%) or very important (25%). But only a minority have implemented such measures in their sales and marketing. Most are focusing instead on using digital technology to improve their internal processes or cut costs. Three quarters of packaging companies see digital tools as a way to improve customer retention, while around 64% see them mainly as a way to boost sales. The survey was conducted by the Allensbach Institute (IfD) on behalf of the consultancy TTE Strategy.
16% of respondents plan to implement a customer portal, 27% have already done so. The figures for marketing automation are similar, with 25% already having introduced it and 17% planning to. On the procurement side, by contrast, around half (46%) are already connecting digitally with their suppliers. 36% use data-driven measures to improve their internal processes.
Commenting on the findings, commercial excellence expert Dr. Johannes Ihringer, Managing Director of our Munich office, says: “Companies have clearly recognized the potential of digital sales and marketing tools. But only a few have yet taken advantage of this potential, with most instead choosing to focus on costs over sales. Customer portals were only ranked sixth out of a total of 15 measures and marketing automation eighth. Other measures came in even lower.” These include the use of AI to identify sales leads and digital complaints management systems, each of which have been implemented by around 5% of surveyed companies; a further 16% are planning to introduce the former and 10% the latter.
Higher satisfaction rate for digital measures used in production or to improve internal processes
The packaging companies reported greater satisfaction with measures that help to cut costs or improve internal processes than they did with customer portals, which came last in the satisfaction ranking (23% dissatisfied). Marketing automation came in second to last place. At the other end of the scale, respondents were far more satisfied with fully automated warehouses (first place, 73% very satisfied) and 3D printers (second place, 69% very satisfied).
Johannes’s verdict? “These figures paint a clear picture. Companies are still making too many mistakes when it comes to digitalizing their sales and marketing. It’s demotivating for employees and discourages companies from investing adequately. But that does also open up a great opportunity for companies that do want to gain a competitive edge – by focusing on sales rather than cost-cutting as a way to improve their margins.” This opportunity arises from the relatively low proportion of companies that have implemented digital sales and marketing tools compared with those that have digitalized their production and internal processes.
Companies need to take a customer-centric approach – and focus on sales potential rather than cost-cutting
The most common challenge to implementing digitalization measures (according to 75% of companies) was bringing employees on board with the changes. On top of that, 68% of respondents reported schedule overruns and 37% said that costs were underestimated. “In sales and marketing, there’s a clear pattern of missteps that holds companies back from being as successful as they could be. These missteps can mainly be attributed to a failure to really see things from the perspective of customers and to put them and their needs first. Companies need to focus on improving processes for customers, rather than just on opportunities to bring down their internal costs. Cost-cutting can be a secondary goal – but we’ve often seen it being the main driver for digitalization projects, which focus more on short-term benefit for the company itself than on value for its customers,” explains Johannes.
“Other commonly observable factors that get in the way of successful implementation are a failure to set clear objectives at the start of the project, clashes between departments over who is in charge of different aspects and a corporate culture that is not conducive to innovation. Companies should carefully analyze whether they have these problems – and if so, take decisive steps to address them. That way, they can get far better results from their digital sales and marketing tools.”
About the study: “Digital 2022” TTE Packaging Barometer
On behalf of TTE Strategy, the Allensbach Institute (IfD) surveyed senior executives from 81 companies in the packaging industry about digitalization at their company. The companies are based in Germany (60), Austria (9), and Switzerland (12). A quarter of the companies have an annual turnover of over 100 million euros and 10% a turnover of over 500 million euros.
One factor that distinguished this survey from many other sectoral studies based on self-reporting was the focus on specific statements about how measures were actually implemented at the respondents’ companies.
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