Taste the Transformation: How Coca Cola is Building a Digital-First Business

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With 500 products sold in 200 countries and billions in revenue, Coca Cola is not only one of the world’s largest soft drink makers, it’s also one of the it’s most recognizable brands. While for decades the name “Coca Cola” was synonymous with innovation and imperious business practices, in recent years revenues have dropped due to, amongst other factors, declining soda sales and rising operational costs. 

In an effort to reverse the tide, Coca Cola launched its new digital transformation initiative in 2018. 


Coca Cola’s 4 Point Digital Transformation Strategy

Coca Cola wanted to transform from a legacy company to a digital-first business. In order to accomplish this, it pinpointed 4 key areas it needed to address:

  • Experience transformation: How to create more relevant, more personalized experiences for consumers and the retail customers who serve them.
  • Operational transformation: How to make the company better from the inside by using data and technology to accelerate and remove processes and, ultimately, remove the barriers that exist.
  • Business transformation: How to create disruption within the company before external factors do.
  • Cultural transformation: How to change the fabric of a company that views itself as a traditional CPG? As Coke’s ASEAN marketing and digital IT lead Harish Kundargi explained at a 2019 conference, “digital transformation is only 50% strategy, and the remaining 50% is culture.”

Though Coca Cola’s digital transformation is still in progress, it has realized a number of notable successes so far. For example, using artificial intelligence (AI) to reinvent the vending machine.

Now, in select countries, customers can purchase cokes and other soft drinks from vending machines using Coca Cola’s loyalty app, Coke On, instead of entering money directly into the machine. Using the app, customers can also redeem loyalty points at vending machines and order multiple drinks at once. Using machine learning (ML) and AI, the company can more effectively analyze the customer behavior data generated by this app and, using those insights, refine its approach to where it places vending machines as well as deciding what should go in them. 

It’s also experimenting with AI assistants for vending machines that produce personalized soda blends based on an individual’s unique preferences. As an added bonus, Coca Cola is designing these bots to adjust their “mood” or tone based on the environment. For example, a Coke machine at a theme park might be jolly and upbeat while one located in a hospital might be more somber. 


READ NEXT: 3 Pearls of Data Governance Wisdom from Coca-Cola’s Maximiliano Just


Coca-Cola in the Age of Covid

50% of Coca Cola’s business is derived from out-of-the-house activities such as movie theaters, restaurants and sporting events. As public spaces such as these shut down in March 2020, Coca Cola took a substantial financial hit.

However, like many of the other organizations we’ve covered, Coca Cola used this downswing as an opportunity to accelerate innovation. In August of 2020, Coca Cola announced a series of massive organizational changes intended to consolidate its global operations, increase agility and reimagine its marketing apparatus. As Coke CEO James Quincy explained to reporters, “The changes in our operating model will shift our marketing to drive more growth and put execution closer to customers and consumers, while prioritising a portfolio of strong brands and a disciplined innovation framework.”

To support this new approach, Coca-Cola is also creating a ‘platform services’ organization “to elevate and accelerate data, analytics and insights capabilities to accelerate topline and bottom-line growth.”


*Image sourced from Coca Cola's Growth Strategy, https://investors.coca-colacompany.com/strategy/growth-strategy 


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