As a teenager, John Carroll’s first job was bagging groceries at his local supermarket in Miami. Now, three decades later, he’s focusing his time on the digital shopping experience, leading Coca-Cola North America’s business in the fast-moving eCommerce space.
“This is, without a doubt, the greatest retail revolution we’ve seen over the last 50 years,” said Carroll. “The brick-and-mortar world and the online world are merging. Mass retailers are buying smaller online companies, and online retailers are developing an offline presence. And it’s all being driven by how and where people are shopping.”
Kantar Retail estimates that eCommerce today accounts for just 2% of grocery sales but that number is expected to climb to 8% by 2025. And according to iSHOP data, 23% of U.S. shoppers are shopping online each month for groceries.
Coke’s eCommerce strategy entails working with retail and restaurant customers to find ways to sell more beverages in more buying occasions. It also includes building eCommerce capabilities across the company and its network of bottling partners – from digital marketing to supply chain – to grow in today’s technology-driven “omni-shopping” landscape.
“eCommerce is not a channel,” Carroll said. “It’s how people are buying, receiving and experiencing our products. Winning in this ‘route to me’ environment means following the consumer, and pushing ourselves to think very differently. It’s an either-disrupt-or-be-disrupted scenario we see as more of an opportunity than a challenge.”
Here are six ways Coke is embracing the retail revolution:
‘Alexa, please order me a Coke’: The company is partnering with Amazon Echo and other smart speakers to attach its beverages to voice-activated orders. “We’re thinking about it as the next platform not only to get on shopping lists but also to build our brands with new and engaging experiences” “It’s all about convenience – making your life easier and getting away from the 90 minutes a week you have to spend in the store.” The company also is finding ways to drive beverage purchases through restaurant customers’ mobile ordering apps.
Making Coca-Cola brands ‘pop’ on the digital shelf: For years, Coke has used in-store merchandising to drive impulse purchases as shoppers approach the beverage aisle. Now, the company is applying the same creative rigor online by using high-resolution photos, inspirational copy and targeted marketing to inspire clicks.
Capitalizing on the food delivery occasion: Coca-Cola is partnering with restaurant delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash to find ways to add beverages to-go food orders, and with meal-kit delivery service Chef’d to curate Coke beverage pairings with menu items. with. “We estimate that as little as 10 percent of all delivery service orders include one of our products, so the opportunity is huge,” explained Carroll, who said the company is doing delivery pilots in markets like Philadelphia and Charlotte. “We’re trying to deliver a better to-go food experience for consumers and drive our profits for our customers.” Similar work is underway with goPuff, an on-demand convenience store delivery startup catering to college campuses.
Click, collect… and refresh: Tacking on last-minute beverage orders to “click-and-collect” orders – where shoppers buy online and pick up their grocery orders in stores or at lockers – is a key priority.
Direct-to-consumer order fulfillment: For the first time in Coke’s more than 100-year bottling history, bottlers are delivering select brands directly to consumers’ homes via a pilot called eFulfillment. Shoppers can order multi-packs of specialty products like TaB, Fresca and Coca-Cola from Mexico and have them shipped directly to their doorstep. Local bottlers pick, pack and ship the orders.
Building emerging brands: The company’s Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) unit and its innovation partners are approaching the digital marketplace in new ways. “We want to leverage eCommerce as an incubation tool,” Carroll said. “We’re determining how eCommerce can build brands online before taking them to the next level. And we can hyper-target our marketing with precision communications.”