Coca-Cola CEO: Digital and data driving new approach to business in Asia

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the strong development in Asia’s beverage industry was driven by “rapid and exponential growth of digital technologies”. ©ConsumerGoodsForum
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the strong development in Asia’s beverage industry was driven by “rapid and exponential growth of digital technologies”. ©ConsumerGoodsForum
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey has revealed the firm’s Asia strategy now hinges on being “within a click’s reach of desire” due to the region’s soaring mobile and digital use.

The new catchphrase is a variation of a mantra from “quasi-founder”​ and long-time president of Coca-Cola, Robert Woodruff, who had coined the phrase about putting Coca-Cola “within an arm’s reach of desire”​.

Quincey declared that the strong development in Asia’s beverage industry was driven by “rapid and exponential growth of digital technologies”​ in the region.

He said the rate of mobile-only users in China is four times that of in the US.

“The online-to-offline meals market in China is US$30bn — the size of the entire restaurant industry in Italy,” ​Quincey said at the recent Consumer Goods Forum in Singapore.

“This digital revolution is transforming many aspects of our business.”

One aspect they are seeing is the “exponential rise​” of raw data, which helps to give them the opportunity to glean insights.

Data and consumer touchpoints

Quincey shared what these new insights mean for “building and renewing great brands”​, from the model of Coca-Cola’s strategy.

“The digital age rewrites what we will be able to do,” ​he said.

Blockchain technology is creating greater certainty of the firm’s supply chains, the purity of ingredients and the standard practices of suppliers, while digital marketing is creating new points of connection with consumers and further growing opportunities.

“Digital gives consumers another way to express their choice, and another way to meet their needs,” ​he said.

“We know where the consumer is, we know where they’re going. We think about how we can be a part of their lives, how we can make sure it’s not just the brand they love but the package size, the way they want it, how personalised would it be, how it will come…”

He said Coca-Cola has taken a very aggressive approach to this challenge in the past three years, with a strategy focused on a consumer-centric portfolio.

Consumer-centric channels

Implicit in that strategy is that everything starts with understanding their consumers.

“We need to listen to them carefully and learn about what beverages people want delivered, what benefits they want through their beverages, what they want in packaging, in value and more,”​ said Quincey.

This includes listening to consumer preferences and concerns about health and wellness, nutrition, their focus on energy or desire for indulgence, or a pick-me-up.

Moreover, while the digital revolution has allowed the building of virtual conversations, it is essential to build “the foundation of strengths”​ in the physical marketplace.

“Online brands need a physical presence, as much as traditional brands need a strong digital presence. We need to be where people are — that’s omni-channel,” ​he said.

Firms also need to evolve their product portfolio.

While Coca-Cola had one product for a large part of its history, it has evolved over the last decade, relooked at its portfolio and “married the idea of what’s the beverage and what’s the drinking moment” ​— whether sparkling, hydration, brewed teas and coffees, juice, dairy, and energy.

“The explosion of categories to meet consumers’ needs is ever-increasing, and we’re going to participate in each of these categories, in each of those types of beverages, and build our portfolio accordingly, so we can become a total beverage company,”​ said Quincey.

In that vein, Coca-Cola recently launched its first alcoholic beverage product​, in Japan, Lemon-Do.

Coca-Cola Japan is already renowned for its innovation, having also recently launched Coca-Cola Clear​, a colourless zero-calorie drink, as well as Coca-Cola Frozen Lemon​, the first-ever ready-to-drink frozen beverage.

World without waste

Quincey said consumers in this digital age will hold them to a higher account.

“We’ve embraced the belief that our place in the world depends on the health of the world,” ​he said.

Aside from the goal announced earlier this year to collect every bottle or can sold by 2030, the firm says it is also working to make all its packaging recyclable as well increase the use of recyclable materials.

Furthermore, the company replenishes 115% of the water used in making its products. The goal was 100% by 2020 but it had achieved this five years ahead of schedule.

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