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What is the role of digitization within your sector?

Route to Market (RTM) digitization has impacted the entire value chain across multiple industries from farming to FMCG. This is the next evolution in how we sell to customers and how we service suppliers and outlets within the “traditional trade” segment.

As Coca-Cola East & Central Africa (ECAF), we have taken the approach to digitize the connectivity with our traditional trade customers through owned and third-party platforms. The intention is to enhance the purchasing experience for our customers, making it easier for them to interact with us through multiple avenues, with the aim of making us the #1 FMCG supplier to the Traditional Trade in terms of Service.

eB2B is at the forefront of our RTM digital transformation. It is critical to how we operate today and how we will operate in the future. It is something that Coca-Cola ECAF actively engages with and cannot ignore. One way this is achieved is through expanding the coverage of our sales representatives’ mobile app across the entire country to capture outlet sales digitally. This allows us to better understand opportunity drivers.

In technical terms, this is achieved through artificial intelligence which enables opportunity identification and data analytics.

On the marketing side, we can simulate different RTM models to measure the impact of tactical promotions. In distribution, through a smoother reporting process of coolers in need of repairs, we reduced downtime and thus enhanced customer satisfaction. We have also rolled out an online option for customer-generated orders via, our B2B platform.

How would you characterize Africa’s foundation for digital growth? 

Africa is open for opportunity, and while there are some structural considerations to consider, the ability to solve real problems through tech has largely been welcomed across our top markets.

For example, sales were carried out in the same way until some 10 years ago when we saw the advent of B2C digital tools. The next frontier for sales is eB2B, which will further disrupt how teams engage with customers.

We also see significant investment in value chains, where ~7% of funding flowing into Africa is dedicated to supply chain, logistics & warehousing. This has created opportunities in digital tools for the segment and has also boosted Fintech.

I foresee a deepening in the explosion of micro-credit solutions with a new focus on RTM tools.

In Kenya, the low smartphone penetration is a key inhibitor to this trend, indicating that a collaboration between networks and smartphone providers is needed to unlock future development.

What are some digital tools you deploy to support your retail network? 

In 2020 alone, we launched an initiative called “Open Like Never Before”, which assisted more than 18,000 traders in their recovery from the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns. Through the initiative, we replaced expired products, provided health and safety training, issued handwashing jerry cans, vendor trolleys, face shields, etc. as well as store re-branding.

To achieve this, we leveraged Sales Force Automation, an internal tracking system, which allowed us to select the retailers to be supported and to track the progress of the program. The utilization of digital tools allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of which markets and channels were most affected by the pandemic and how to better support them.

There are of course always ways to make further use of digital tools.

For example, in some countries, Coca-Cola supported the trade with tools like Wabi or myCCBA. These allow retail partners to order our products directly from an authorized distributor or a Wholesaler at any time through their phones.

Tell us about other Coca-Cola ECAF digital initiatives.

Another key digital initiative comes with the acceleration of e-commerce. Covid-19 restrictions fast-tracked the growth of home delivery solutions, especially in urban areas.

Existing e-commerce players grew, new ones were established, and traditional channels were forced to add home-delivery options. This trend has persisted even after lockdowns were lifted.

In response, in 2020 at Coca-Cola ECAF we launched our Direct to Consumer (DTC) platform called DialACoke. This platform is an online home-delivery solution for our full beverage portfolio, with delivery timelines of under three hours.

To achieve these timelines, we work closely with our wide distribution network and have tasked a dedicated team of experts with managing the platform and performing data analytics on consumer purchase behaviors.

As for the future, the market will dictate how Coca-Cola evolves its digitization efforts. While it is clear that there will be a few winners in this space, there is the opportunity for partnership and leveraging expanding networks & ecosystems vs duplicating efforts over time.

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