Coca-Cola: Ways to Embrace the E-Commerce Revolution

Atlanta / GA. (ccc) The Coca-Cola Company, since January 2019 parent company of British Costa Limited, is scaling up strategies to ensure its brands are «within a click’s reach of desire» as online shopping continues to surge due to Covid-19.

Lockdowns have triggered a digital buying boom in 2020, with shoppers seeking the safety and convenience of contactless options – including click-and-collect (curbside pickup), restaurant takeout and delivery, meal kit subscriptions, e-grocery shipments and more.

«We have heard from many retail and foodservice customers that their E-Commerce business has sped up three years in three months,» said Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Elaine Bowers Coventry. «This is no longer an alt channel.»

A significant chunk of online shoppers are new to the world of E-Commerce this year. And shoppers of all ages – not just Millennials – are ordering via their phones and computers out of necessity. Shoppers of all generations are now purchasing differently given the increased convenience.

«They’ve been forced to experiment whether they like it or not,» Chairman and CEO James Quincey said during a recent Consumer Goods Forum webinar on the post-pandemic future of foodservice. «And a big part of that will be permanent in the future.»

Walmart’s digital sales in Q1 nearly doubled what they were in the same period last year, the company reported. Click-and-collect accounted for more than half of its sales growth in North America for the quarter, and the Walmart mobile app topped the Apple Store download charts during the early stages of the outbreak.

Many believe the click-and-collect model, which has extended beyond grocery to other categories such as electronics and home improvement in 2020 especially in the U.S. and Western Europe, will continue to grow as shoppers get comfortable with newly formed routines.

«Shoppers seem to enjoy the convenience of driving up and having their groceries loaded into their car versus having to fill a cart and go through the check-out line in store,» Bowers Coventry said.

To support the surge in E-Commerce channels – which have doubled in some countries as more people order necessities for home delivery – the Coca-Cola system is prioritizing package options that are fit-for-purpose for online sales, boosting investment in digital imagery, increasing in-app visibility with e-delivery grocers, and piloting digitally enabled fulfillment models.

Bottlers are investing in digital B2B solutions to manage customer orders and deliveries as customers are looking for the same contactless convenience in placing orders. In the U.S., more than 8,000 outlets were added to the MyCoke digitized ordering platform in the second quarter.

The Coca-Cola system also continues to experiment with direct-to-consumer (D2C) commerce by expanding online platforms like Coca-Cola En Tu Hogar in Latin America, which lets consumers order beverages and groceries for home delivery. Coca-Cola En Tu Hugar has 1 million household users and is posting double-digit monthly sales growth.

«We are aggressively going after the omni-channel opportunity, with the consumer at the center,» Quincey told analysts on July 21.

Here are three steps Coca-Cola is taking to capitalize on the upsurge in E-Commerce and help shape this unprecedented digital demand:

Enhancing Brand Presence on the «Virtual Aisle»

The company is investing in high-quality content – photos, videos and product descriptions – to ensure its brands look as good online as they do in store. «We want to provide a digital shopping experience that, at minimum, mirrors the physical shopping experience and converts browsers to buyers,» Bowers Coventry said. «We’re applying the same commercial and shopper discipline to the digital path to purchase.»

This includes partnering with e-grocers and retailers to make Coca-Cola products visible and eye-catching on screens; optimizing content for search engines based on how consumers talk; and sharing and scaling digital best practices across globally networked teams. Coca-Cola China partnered with a large ecommerce platform to increase revenue by 65 percent during the recent 618 Festival, the country’s largest mid-year shopping event.

On the foodservice side, Coke is working with restaurant customers and third-party aggregators to ensure its beverages are featured prominently on digital menus and in combos as consumers quickly migrate to mobile delivery for groceries and prepared meals. Coca-Cola North America worked with large restaurant delivery intermediaries to add value bundles to more than 4,500 restaurant menus in the second quarter.

Prioritizing Preferred Brands and Packaging

Coca-Cola teams are collaborating with retail customers to adjust supply chains and prioritize delivery and promotion of core brands and SKUs like multipacks as people adjust to stay-at-home lifestyles. With consumers sticking with established, trusted brands during uncertain times, the company is working to keep top-selling offerings in stock and scaling back or postponing planned brand launches.

«Customers are very focused in times like these on what moves,» Chief Financial Officer John Murphy said last month at the Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference. «So the bigger brands, the bigger SKUs, get a lot of preference. We’ve tailored our approach accordingly.»

Coca-Cola North America also is taking a digital-first approach to promoting new brands, partnering with Walmart on click-and-collect sampling campaigns for Coke Energy and AHA sparkling water.

Triggering Impulse Purchases on Digital Path to Purchase

The Coca-Cola system is using personalized offers, food-and-beverage bundles and social commerce solutions to prompt impulse purchases online, building on deep expertise in the physical shopping environment.

«We’re working with our partners to naturally integrate impulse purchases into the flow of the digital shopping experiences – through after-basket prompts in the online cart and geolocation messaging as a shopper approaches the store for a click-and-collect order,» Bowers Coventry said. «We’re exploring ways to disrupt online shoppers in the same way we do in a store with digital solutions that present more options for personalized messaging and offers.»

She concluded, «Collectively, we’re pivoting our plans as behaviors change and moving through the shopper curve with the right capabilities that deliver value to our customers. The future is always coming, but now it’s coming faster than expected.»