One of the world’s most iconic organisations, Coca-Cola, has embarked on a five-year plan to transform itself from a physical bricks-and-mortar operation to into a digital-first business, according to Chief Digital Officer David Godsman.

Given the scale of the company’s operations, that’s quite an ambition.

Coca-Cola serves almost 1.3 billion consumers in over 200 markets around the world, and each day those consumers drink almost two billion beverages.

“I think you know that there aren’t many physical shelves in the world where you can’t find a Coca-Cola. If you also do the math, you’ll realise that we engage with about 18 per cent of humanity every single day. And we do that with an opportunity to take advantage of all that data to create those memorable experiences,” he said.

Godsman was speaking to delegates at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas last week, telling them the company which has managed many transformations through its long history now faces a new digital world. “And this is a world that is somewhat unknown to us.”

“It’s a world where we need to learn more about consumers, to understand their preferences and their behaviours. It’s a world where we need to personalise at scale. And ultimately it’s a place where we need to bridge the physical and the digital worlds.”

The driver, he said, was smart mobility. “Consumers don’t go anywhere without their mobile device.”

Coca-Cola’s transformation will focus on four areas: customer experiences; operational transformation; business transformation; and cultural transformation.

According to Godsman, “When we think about experience transformation, it’s how we create more relevant, more personalised experiences for our consumers and for the people who serve them.”

Operational transformation is about using data and technology to accelerate change and run the business better.

“When we talk about business transformation, it’s about disrupting ourselves before someone else does it. And you can see in the market where we faced some of that. And lastly, and most importantly, it’s about cultural transformation. It’s about how do we change the fabric of a company that has been around for 130 years and really viewed itself just as a traditional bricks and mortar company.”

Saying that this is one of the hardest things Coca-Cola will do as a company, Godsman noted, “We are asking traditional brand marketers, who are really creative, bright in executing a campaign, to become experience makers. To think about the world differently.”

The great challenge he identified for Coca-Cola is that all of those 1.3 billion consumers are unique with their own preferences and behaviours.

“And our consumers engage with us in very different ways. They engage with us in mobile, on the web, in social, They engage with us in virtual reality and ultimately they’re now engaging with us in voice. And voice is a really strange animal for us because voice removes your brand, your packaging and your point of sale capabilities.”

Digital payday

Digital offers two big wins, he said.

“One, it enables us to create unifying experiences for these consumers, regardless of that individual’s location in the world. It helps to bring them together, to enable them to experience the brands,” he said.

“And it also does something else, and that’s not controlled by us. Digital actually enables consumers to participate, actively and co-create with us, in the experience that we bring to market … Our consumers are (also) experience makers. This happens tens of thousands of times a day because of their love and their community with the brand,” he said.

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