Consumer goods industry leaders look to the digital future at Global Summit in Paris

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The first day of The Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit drew to a close yesterday (18 June 2014). Taking place in Paris, the Summit has brought together over 1000 consumer goods industry leaders from around the world to discuss the future of their industry, successful retail models and factors that will affect global growth.

The summit was opened by The Consumer Goods Forum co-chairs, Dick Boer, president and chief executive officer of Royal Ahold and Paul Bulcke, chief executive officer of Nestlé S.A., who discussed the issue of trust in the industry.

Boer and Bulcke said that renewed trust will only come about with strong actions, and announced commitments from The Forum across Health and Wellness and Sustainability, which aim to implement measures to reduce climate change and enable consumers to make healthier lifestyle choices. In his keynote speech, VVIP Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, also called for the consumer goods industry to step up to the challenge of climate disruption.

The welcoming address was followed by presentations on the subject of ‘winning globally’, where Jean-Paul Agon, chairman & CEO of L’Oréal and Georges Plassat, chairman & CEO of Carrefour provided a French perspective on the subject. Plassat encouraged businesses to ‘innovate innovation’ rather than simply revising existing products, while Agon showcased L’Oreal’s recent digital innovations and talked about the ‘silver generation opportunity’ for businesses, with the rise of consumers over the age of 65.

The day was brought a close by two presentations on growth and technology. The first by Nikesh Arora, senior vice president & chief business officer at Google, focused on the digital future where he outlined the rapidly changing technology environment and the growth of the informed consumer. Arora said that the rise in technology has created a consumer that is used to instant gratification – for example, 44% of consumers abandon an online sale if the delivery time is more than three days. This is a new challenge for retailers, as logistics not location is now a critical success factor for businesses.

In the final presentation Michel Serres, French philosopher, author and professor at Stanford University, gave a holistic view of the challenges of our wired civilisation. He explained that reasoning, memory and imagination are now captured outside of our minds in computers and mobile devices, which has brought about a new relationship between consumers and knowledge. Serres concluded with the idea that we are creating a new society, and are entering a ‘new world’ that spans all cultures.

Peter Freedman, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum, said: “The calibre of this year’s speakers is outstanding and their presentations have already given us much to think about – it is clear that the change we are facing is of greater scale and pace than ever before and this is an exciting time for our industry. As consumer goods businesses, we have the ultimate noble purpose of doing good for the industry, society and the planet. However it is not always easy to collaborate, or to trade short term for long term gain. This Global Summit and The Consumer Goods Forum is here to inspire, challenge and encourage the industry to take action and make a more tangible delivery on our commitments.”