When it comes to consumers, the experience is everything. The most successful Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies are already leveraging interactive marketing and social media to drive awareness of their goods as well as their brands – and with good reason. To harness the effects of interactive marketing, social media, and the emerging technologies now available with the plethora of mobile apps and cloud computing, CPG businesses must create an engaging experience for consumers that is secure and reliable.

Today, mobility is the driving force within consumer packaged goods and retail markets. As consumers with smartphones, we tend to rely on our mobile devices while shopping. We share pictures of products with friends and family, scan barcodes and compare prices, research product features and availability, find store locations, and hunt for deals and coupons. One in five smartphone users buy goods or services through their mobile phones.

Smartphones and tablets are the way customers will discover your brand, browse your products, receive offers, purchase products, and contact customer care.

CPG companies face many information security issues. These include the challenges of creating visibility and a business case for security, ensuring the security of third parties, securing sensitive data, and security manufacturing systems in plants.

Keeping this mind, I sat down with Mike Gillespie, Lead Channel Manager of Consumer Packaged Goods at AT&T, to gain some deeper insights into the trends for this vertical market:

1. What is the technology vision for the CPG in 2013?

MCG:  The primary focus is the Customer Experience and having the right people/processes/technologies in place to deliver on the customer experience.  The responsibility of the brand is to have the right product, in the right place, at the right time in the customer’s buying channel of choice (Omni-channel).

2. How does security play a role?

MCG:  Security is paramount to delivering a great customer experience, from enabling a secure/personal web/mobile experience and ensuring a secure path to purchase to protecting the personal/private information of the customer.

3. Why does privacy matter in CPG?

MCG:  Leading CPG firms have moved from a transactional relationship with customers to an interactive one-on-one relationship with customers. Customer loyalty is based on respecting the relationship with the customer, delivering on the customer experience, and securing/protecting the details of the interactions between the customer and the brand.

4. Do you see the need for a holistic strategy around security/privacy based on information protection?

MCG:  Security is not an island and does not stand on its own; security should be inherent throughout every interaction between the brand and the customer.  To put it another way, security is “table stakes” for enabling and delivering a great customer experience.

5. Speaking of information, what is the buzz about big data?

MCG:  Big data holds the promise of being able to provide much deeper insight into the customer experience and enabling the CPG firm to deliver a “highly personalized brand experience” to their customer(s).  Big data can be overwhelming for CPG firms who are not ready for the tsunami of information generated by all of their customer touchpoints. Brands that are able to gain actionable insight from big data and use that insight to deliver the appropriate customer experience will have an advantage over those that do not.

What does big data include? MCG:  Mobile, social, location, M2M, and related technologies have created a huge amount of unstructured data.  The combination of structured and unstructured data has created a flood of customer data and CPG firms are looking for ways to monitor, capture, analyze, and create actionable programs from this information and insight.

6. What is the intersection between big data and security intelligence?

MCG:  I’ll take us back to the beginning of our discussion…it all begins and ends with the customer experience.  There’s a great deal of responsibility placed on the brand to deliver the customer experience, respect the brand relationship with the customer, and ensure to the greatest extent possible that interaction with the customer is personal and secure. Big data and technology can enable the customer experience, but big data is only information and technology is only a tool. At the end of the day, they support solutions designed, architected, and implemented by people.  The brand relationship with the customer is a personal relationship. That’s something that leading CPG firms understand, while laggards are struggling to get there.

What would you like to hear about specific to the security challenges in this space?