Chart and magnifying glass bw 666x666 - Nowhere to hide


As consumers increasingly see straight through spin, genuine transparency has become the answer for today’s businesses.

In 2015, the world saw high-profile scandals which not only significantly cost several multinational corporations financially, but also further undermined the already faltering faith of consumers in the businesses which make a living from them.

Today’s consumers are better informed and more discerning than any previous generation; they can afford to be so with all the options available to them, and the information they can quickly tap into. With product reviews, opinion pieces and insider information just a mouse click away, covering up mistakes and putting an inappropriate spin on the truth is no longer a viable option for business.

The sheer amount of information readily available to consumers today makes Transparency one of the most wide-reaching and most important of the ten trends identified in our Global Consumer Trends 2016 report.

One part of the Transparency trend is heavily focused on product origins. Consumers are increasingly scrutinising what is going into their products, and where exactly they are coming from—and companies are reacting by leveraging technology to provide this extended information.

One example of this is through the use of scannable QR codes, which allow access to detailed product information online that is not limited by the amount of space available on packaging. In the US, Hershey’s pioneered SmartLabel codes last year; an industry-wide platform where customers can scan codes on packaging to access a landing page with ingredient and nutrition information, and even a hotline to contact the company directly with further questions.

And it’s not just in the Western world where the need for transparency is evident, with companies responding to needs specific to local areas. In China, drinks companies are using technology to combat the prevalence of counterfeit goods, an issue particularly prevalent in the region. Rémy Martin partnered with Selinko to produce a smart bottle fitted with near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows customers to check that the bottle is real and whether or not it’s been opened using a mobile app, and a prototype for a similar smart wine bottle using ThinFilm Open Sense technology was unveiled last year.

Despite all this new technology which is making it easier for us to know exactly what we are consuming, it increasingly seems that merely being transparent about products and services in themselves isn’t quite enough. For today’s consumers, the organisation behind the products and services in question seem to be equally important. Increasing attention is being paid to businesses’ ethics and whether their approaches line up with the consumer’s own approach.

And it’s also important that businesses are transparent about their role in the world and show awareness of the issues going on around them. Companies benefit from standing for a cause and engaging in meaningful action to support it—especially with the Millennial generation, who are more likely to care about a company’s position in society. From Ben and Jerry’s encouraging Londoners to vote in the upcoming mayoral election to the Dock Street Brewery across the pond in Philadelphia attempting to slow the ascendancy of a certain tousle-haired billionaire, businesses are taking the opportunity to engage consumers by themselves engaging in important political and social issues.

In short, whether it be the origins of its product, its social responsibility or its internal ethics, businesses need to be clear on what they stand for and what’s more, they need to mean it. Today’s consumer has the power to purchase by conviction. They look for what’s behind the brand, and if what they find is openness, honesty and responsibility in all areas of the business, they’ll likely take that to heart.

Find out more in our Global Consumer Trends 2016 report, available in the Reports Shop.

Author: Chris Giles