REPOST FROM INC.

By: Jeff Pruit

Published 9/25/17

https://www.inc.com/jeff-pruitt/4-digital-transformation-lessons-to-learn-from-coca-cola.html?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_feed%3Bo%2BCMkzBRT4qXDWzolk0wlw%3D%3D

 

Digital transformation –it’s become a common phrase across business in every sector, but what does it actually look like in action? How do you achieve true transformation in the digital age?

A shining example comes from a brand many of us know and love, The Coca-Cola Company. They’ve become the world’s leading beverage company with customers in more than 200 countries consuming more than 10,000 drinks per second. But they haven’t risen to this level on accident.

The forward-thinking company learned early on that they had a mountain of data (culled from sales, vending machines, production and distribution channels, feedback, etc.) at their fingertips and they’ve been actively mining it since. In fact, they were one of the earlier adopters of leveraging big data and using it to guide strategic business decisions.

Here are four ways in which Coca-Cola is using data to win the hearts and minds of consumers, tighten up behind-the-scenes operations, and move existing products to new echelons.

1. Go digital to increase efficiencies

Internally, the company is using augmented reality (AR) in its bottling plants to connect technicians to remote experts who can help service equipment. Through the use of AR, the remote technical expert is able to see exactly what the technician at the plant is seeing to better diagnose and remedy issues. AR is also used to check in on and fix remote vending machines, eliminating the costly expense of transporting technicians around the globe.

Coca-Cola has also found ways to leverage data to ensure consistency in their products and efficient production of those products. For instance, for their orange juice, at any given time they’re monitoring weather, crop yields, and satellite information, among other data points, to make sure they’re growing crops efficiently and maintaining the right flavor ratios. Thus, if poor growing conditions arise they can quickly pivot and adjust pricing and distribution where necessary.

More recently, the company began using artificial intelligence (AI) in its vending machinesto accept mobile payments, offer specials, track sales, and trigger maintenance and refill needs. This allows them to avoid out-of-order machines, which not only costs them sales, but creates a negative experience for the customer. It also provides a window into customer behavior and buying patterns, allowing them to adjust pricing and ordering accordingly.

2. Always be listening and learning

By getting to know and understand their customer and their behavior patterns, Coca-Cola improved their ability to introduce new products they already know will be a hit. Sure, they still have the occasional misstep, but by monitoring things like data from their vending machines and self-service soft drink fountains, the brand gains key insights into what custom blends their customers are making.

They’ve carried the listening over to social media as well, constantly monitoring posts and photos about the brand and its competitors. Through this lens, the company is able to see how its products are represented, who their consumer is, where they are, and what motivates them to post in the first place.

Aside from using active listening to collect imperative data, there also well positioned to provide a more personalized experience to each customer. This was something Coca-Cola glommed on to seven years ago when they introduced their “Share a Coke” campaign. They understood the power of personalization and how it shapes the customer experience.

3. Create a personalized experience online and off

Now the beverage goliath is looking to take the customer experience a step further with its AI-enabled vending machines. They’re beginning to roll out app-controlled machines that enable customers to order drinks –now two at a time — from any location and have it ready to pick up at their chosen vending machine.

The app will also enable two-way communication and will tailor to each vending machine based on its location. For example, for vending machines on college campuses, the app will have a fun personality versus those in the hospital setting that may be focused more on utility and functionality. In doing this, Coca-Cola has a direct line of communication with its customers even when a third-party distribution channel is involved.

By listening to their customers and monitoring data, Coca-Cola identified a friction point and successfully utilized technology to solve the problem. They also keenly discovered how to integrate the online and offline to create an experience focused on building an emotional connection.

4. Become a great storyteller

Not only are they using data to see who is talking about their products and where, they’re also using it to dish up relevant content at the right time and inspire their customers to participate in the content creation. Anyone remember Coca Cola’s Content 2020?

They identified that consumer-generated stories outnumbered those generated by the company across nearly all of their brands. They’ve studied their customers, and the trends at large, and came to realize what resonated with them –connectivity, emotional connection and empowerment. And they knew, the key driver behind this dynamic storytelling was technology.

What key data points are you sitting on that could be keeping you from realizing true transformation? Start digging in to uncover what levers you can pull to take your business to the next level of innovation. Most businesses won’t be as equipped as Coca-Cola, but you likely have access to more data than you think.