“One thing that excites me is that this space is always changing. We need to stay on the front foot of this and really understand … how can we make sure our partners and customers around the world have the right content, assets, and data to engage consumers? … And how do we execute at the digital shelf better than we’ve ever done before?”
— Stephen Thompson, Global Senior Director of Ecommerce and Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company

In 2020, we all saw consumers shift from traditional shopping behavior to doing more of their shopping online. Businesses of all kinds realized they needed to improve ecommerce efforts to adapt.

Luckily for The Coca-Cola Company, we had already started on that journey before the pandemic began. Instead of tackling something completely new, the past year has been a matter of getting more focused on an existing initiative.

We honed in on this focus by asking ourselves, “How can we make it easier, better, faster for our consumers to choose our products?” Part of our answer involved improving and expanding how we used Salsify.

My name is Stephen Thompson, and I’m the global senior director of ecommerce and marketing at The Coca-Cola Company. This means I lead the digital shelf efforts for markets all over the world.

As commerce became more digital and online distribution more critical, I took steps to ensure that every stage of the process — from content creation, storage, and distribution to measurement and optimization — was operating as best it could.

In part, that meant learning more about how to optimize Salsify. At the same time, it also meant improving how our teams worked together to expand our Salsify use globally.

Operating a Dedicated Digital Shelf Team

Thanks to a recent restructuring at The Coca-Cola Company, we now have a dedicated digital shelf team — which I’m happy to say I lead. This team is 100% focused on making sure that that digital shelf is as effective as possible across each of our operating units and around the globe.

Having a dedicated digital shelf team has been immensely helpful in our efforts to create, store, distribute, measure, and optimize the right product content.

It’s very much a team journey that we’re on, and part of my role is to help that team operate by breaking down the walls that had existed between different parts of the business.

We have a structured process for implementing new markets in which some tasks are done by the central team while others are done by local markets. This approach means everyone collaborates because everyone’s got their skin in the game. We also have regular check-ins both within our team and with our partners.

One of the most important cultural shifts I’m working on is building an environment where everyone feels comfortable voicing issues as they arise.

Sure, sometimes we may have to disagree and move on, but I’d rather know the positive and the negative points so we can explore what we can do to make things better. These cultural shifts have helped us expand Salsify to so many markets successfully.

Powering Global Collaboration

Being part of a global team, we need a truly global model. So, for example, we need a solution that offers not only English but the local language of each particular market as well. Salsify has been hugely helpful in this area.

One thing it is enabling us to do differently is to have global solutions. It’s not easy to have a tool that works in Venezuela just as well as in Ireland — and building capabilities that are truly global is quite a tricky journey.

But because we’re building these capabilities with Salsify, we’re confident that we can develop viable solutions for any market in the world.

On top of this, we’re now more networked than we’ve ever been across the global organization. Suppose a market lacks the ability to distribute certain content to their end retailers. In that case, we see that as an opportunity where we can step in and give some support, making us a truly collaborative organization globally.

Embracing a Learning Mindset

If I were speaking to someone else looking to build similar global capabilities with Salsify, the biggest piece of advice I’d give is to be prepared to be confused.

I’ve definitely had to delve into the technical world to understand how its capabilities work with our internal systems and what we need to do to implement it in the market.

I don’t have a technical background, but I’ve learned a bunch. The more I learn, the more questions I have — and I’m happy to continue to ask those questions to see how we can continue to improve. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and be prepared to be educated on this space.

Most importantly: Just keep asking questions.

Continuing the Digital Shelf Journey

Our growth mindset and global collaboration have paid off significantly. The Coca-Cola Company now has 24 markets worldwide that use and operate Salsify — and we’re continuing to grow. We didn’t have that 18 months ago.

I don’t think anyone’s fully perfected this journey yet — and just because we have this particular implementation right now doesn’t mean that best practices aren’t going to change someday. We need to stay on our front foot to really understand how we can make customers’ and consumers’ lives easier.

But that’s what continues to excite me. I get to keep asking, “How do we execute the digital shelf better than we ever have before?”

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Posted by Contributor