These days, brands are able to have a direct dialogue with consumers and hear from the public about the product innovations, solutions, experiences and value they seek.One of the many benefits of the social media world, is the ability to have direct communication. These days, brands are able to have a direct dialogue with consumers and hear from the public about the product innovations, solutions, experiences and value they seek. CPG companies are taking advantage of this, as well they should. And here at the Lempert Report, we believe retailers would be hugely mistaken to underestimate the power of this massive shift. We urge stores to leverage what brand manufacturers learn and collaborate with them to develop timelier merchandising and deals to consumers. Retailers need to partner in good faith with CPG brands in a way that benefits both parties. If not, they will be left out. Already, the growing closeness between food, beverage and household product companies and digitally connected consumers is paying off. According to the 2013 Financial Performance Report, Growth Strategies: Unlocking the Power of the Consumer, net sales growth for food manufacturers was 7.0% in 2012, for beverage makers 5.5%, and for household goods suppliers 3.2%" well above U.S. retail sales performance last year. The report also notes that more than 40% of CPG companies expect to sell products directly to consumers in 2013, a big jump from 24% in 2012. The comprehensive report covers many aspects of CPG financial performance. Much of the data provides valuable information for all retailers when it comes to developing consumer relationships and loyalty. * 45% of consumers who follow brands on social media make an online purchase at least once a week, while 58% of that same group make one purchase in a physical store during the same time period. * Consumers expect brands to present a single truth ”the essence of the brand” across every channel 24/7. Through social networks, they’re interacting for the first time with brand employees who had no prior customer-facing role. These interactions influence their brand experience more than the brand’s official marketing messages.