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Coca-Cola’s digital transformation: how e-commerce is shaping the future of this iconic brand

A lot has changed since Coca-Cola’s famous ad 'I’d like to buy the world a Coke' first appeared in 1971. That was before the internet, the personal computer and today’s nearly ubiquitous mobile devices. It was before Facebook, virtual reality and e-commerce.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see just how digital our world has become. Nowhere is that more relevant for iconic brands like Coca-Cola than the ways in which shoppers are interacting with (and purchasing from) them. To address the numerous changes in shopper behavior, Coca-Cola has set out a multi-pronged digital transformation strategy, which The Drum reported on last month.

Yet the very meaning of the word ‘brand’ is undergoing transformation as well. In today’s digital age, some individuals have as big a brand as many companies. Having millions of followers has become the new norm for leading social media personalities. What brands mean to us is changing—and brands need to change along with us.

As a result, brands are seeking out new ways to be relevant to how we digest content, current in their use of modern technologies and integral to our shopping experiences, whether those take place online or in-store.

With that in mind, and based on our collective decades of experience working with the world’s largest brands and retailers to craft their digital and e-commerce strategies, here are three key tenets brands must keep in mind as they transform themselves for a digital world:

Maintain omnichannel brand integrity. Amazon is now worth a trillion dollars, and some analysts are estimating the company could be worth double that in just a few short years.

At the same time, in-store purchases still represent 90 percent of total retail sales. So, for today’s brands, it’s not a question of online or in-store, it’s a question of how to maintain brand integrity across multiple digital and in-store channels, and how to do that in an efficient and scalable way. The answer is: using the right tools (but more on that later).

Digital content focus. Strong e-commerce offerings and product content can help boost in-store and online sales. Great digital content isn’t just about selling more online. In fact, 81 percent of shoppers check online reviews before they make a purchase decision, and some 60 percent of shoppers now check their mobile devices while in store.

That means best-in-class product content, including product descriptions, images, videos and rich media, can not only help drive more sales online but in-store, as well.  Great content is also required for digital ad campaigns, with high-res images, videos and other digital content a must-have for many of today’s e-commerce advertising efforts.

Speed to market. Regardless of whether shoppers are buying in-store or online, the speed with which brands now need to execute has changed. Years of product planning time has been transformed into months, if not weeks or days. Brands that want to remain competitive are leveraging the wave of digital shopper transformation to accelerate speed to market both online and in-store.

In one industry-leading example, PepsiCo created a whole new division focused on the intersection of e-commerce, digital marketing and content. It’s already driving more than a billion dollars in annual revenue. With the right tools, PepsiCo has been able to speed time to market for new products from three months to two days or less. That means a better shopper experience and increased sales.

Insights for Digital Brands

Coca-Cola is smart to recognize that the buying habits of shoppers are changing rapidly in the digital era. And the company is even smarter to establish a four-part digital transformation strategy to make 'buying the world a Coke' a truly digital experience.

But success isn’t only about being smart—it’s about execution. The question now will be to see how quickly a brand like Coke, with a rich, hundred-year legacy, can bring in new tools and technologies, update its workflows and execute on its digital transformation strategy. The good news is, we won’t have to wait a hundred years to find out the answer. Because when it comes to digital transformation, success is measured in days and weeks—not months and years.

David Feinleib is founder and CEO of Content Analytics, Inc.

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