Coca-Cola has lived to 109 years in the Philippines because it subscribed to the mantra that to weather the inevitable crises, it must change with the times while remaining true to its core values. It did so once again amid the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic and it responded to the massive disruption by aggressively pursuing its digital transformation.
Coca-Cola felt a responsibility to emerge stronger from the pandemic as it supports and serves almost one million microretailers and more than 6,000 key accounts across its value chain that spans the entire country, as well as employees, communities and its millions of loyal customers.
“The pandemic has further heightened the need to be agile in every aspect of our business—it has challenged our strategies, the way we do business, and our ability to adapt. Innovation is a key driver: we need to innovate to thrive as a business, which in turn will allow us to continue caring for our people and the communities and customers we serve,” said Gareth McGeown, president and CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines Inc. (CCBPI), the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the country.
Indeed, for Coca-Cola, it’s people first, and always will be.
Its digital transformation journey started in 2019 and it emphasizes on technology as a strategic differentiator, one that helps strengthen its place at the forefront of the beverage industry.
“It allows us to optimize what we have now, and it also empowers us to innovate, transform and evolve the company and the business,” said Winnie Rebancos, director for technology of Coca-Cola Beverages PH.The pandemic accelerated the transformation in that its two-year roadmap was compressed into just two months.
The result is a CCBPI that leverages digital technology solutions to strengthen its 1) internal network and platforms, 2) supply chain and customer management, 3) data and systems security and 4) employee engagement across its entire operations.
For the internal network and platforms, investments were made, for example, in using digital robots and chatbots to automate repetitive tasks and the transformation of legal, procurement and finance-related management systems.
Process automation, meanwhile, allowed CCBPI to serve its customers better and more efficiently, especially during these difficult times marked by quarantine restrictions and logistical challenges. And since data security is a foremost concern, CCBPI invested in keeping that technology secure as it processes an increasing number of applications and data. It assures employees, customers and partners that the company can handle their data security and that it is on the constant lookout for cybersecurity risks and threats.
Employees were not behind in its digital transformation under the People First principle. CCBPI in fact harnessed the best of technology to engage with employees and keep the organization connected while being socially distanced.
“CCBPI has 20 bottling plants, over 70 sales and distribution offices, and 10,000 regular employees. It is very important that we have the ability to reach every single employee across the Philippines,”
As CCBPI strengthens its own internal processes, it also bolstered its external presence with the use of technology, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a dramatic surge in online transactions given the mobility restrictions.
In 2020, with shoppers seeking the safety and convenience of contactless options, the Philippines experienced a digital buying boom, including click-and-collect (curbside pickup), restaurant takeout and delivery, meal kit subscriptions, e-grocery shipments and more.
Many online shoppers of all ages—not just millennials—are now ordering via their phones and computers out of necessity, and are purchasing differently given the increased convenience.
Data show that 70 percent of food delivery is now executed via smartphone apps with 21 percent of users ordering more often now than before the March 2020 lockdowns. Over 60 percent have purchased beverages online with 9 percent ordering more often than before the enhanced community quarantine was imposed.
CCBPI adapted by intensifying its e-commerce presence to keep in step with the radical shifts in consumer behavior caused by the pandemic, prompting the acceleration of its three-year timeline.
Among the steps taken were the strengthening of its e-commerce website—www.CokeBeverages.ph—which was launched in 2015 and the forging of more partnerships with food aggregators and other e-commerce partners including Grab, Lazada, Great Deals, Metromart and Lalamart—ensuring that customers get the best deals.
“Commercially, we are pushing for a total saturation model—meaning we want Coca-Cola to be present everywhere, especially in the e-commerce & digital sphere; our goal is to tap as many online partners as possible to reach the greatest number of consumers nationwide,” said Richard Schlasberg, Commercial vice president of Coca-Cola Beverages PH.
Another major step it took was the establishment of the Coca-Cola PH Suki Super Store, its new business-to-business selling platform. It is targeted to sari-sari store owners who may order products via a chatbot messenger called Aling Cora—its first-ever Coke Retailer Assistant.
Through Aling Cora, sari-store owners can conveniently choose, modify and track their orders online via Facebook Messenger.
Launched on April 16, it is available for select Quezon City and Tagum sari-sari stores. Plans are in place to expand and cover more areas nationwide. For inquiries and orders, please access https://www.facebook.com/Coca-Cola-PH-Suki-Super-Store-103950631768891/.
CCBPI also expanded its home delivery service called Happiness on Delivery, which allows consumers from Nueva Ecija to Metro Manila to Batangas to order Coca-Cola products via call or SMS and have these delivered straight to their doorsteps. Happiness on Demand (HOD) used to cater to a good mix of households and office spaces—but starting last year (from the initial implementation of community quarantines and lockdowns), there was a significant shift of HOD’s primary market to households.
This market shift necessitated a quick recalibration of its Happiness on Demand business model to service multiple drop-off points, as well as the improvement of the logistics capacity of delivery partners. CCBPI had to ensure that we adapted quickly so it could provide a better service model for its partners and customers.
“Additionally, we have been working together with partners to boost their capabilities to adapt to the new normal, expanding product knowledge through understanding current market information and data, and purchase patterns and trends. With this, our partner distributors have harnessed the huge potential in the HOD market—and this has helped them further grow their business in an otherwise difficult time,” Schlasberg said.For Happiness on Demand inquiries and orders, please contact +632 8 813-2653 or SMART/PLDT Toll Free Hotline: 1-1800-1888-2635; GLOBE Toll Free Hotline: 1-800-888-2635.
These are just some of the steps that CCBPI have taken as part of its ongoing digital transformation journey and it is not about to stop anytime soon as it keeps itself nimble to quickly adapt to a fast-changing market environment.
“As a company, we continue to reimagine and reframe what the future will look like, as the business and the organization continue to grow. We are undergoing this journey because we want to be an organization fit for the future—so we can better serve our customers, partners, consumers, people (associates) and communities, within a modern and ever-changing market that is now well on its way to recovery. We look forward to better days ahead,” McGeown said.