Coca-Cola Bringing Google-Powered Digital Signage System to Retail
By John Karolefski
The Coca-Cola Co. aims to enhance the shopping experience in the center store of supermarkets by delivering branded video and e-coupons through a new digital signage system attached to endcaps designed to engage customers.
The plug-and-play system, powered by a mix of Google Cloud technologies, works on any HDMI-ready display. The new digital signage can tailor content messaging to approaching shoppers based on data on their smartphones. Targeted messaging can range from brand campaigns to store-specific promotional offers or even app-guided shopping lists.
“We can understand who the consumer is and get the right content and messaging to him or her at the right time,” Greg Chambers, Coke’s global group director of digital innovation, said on coca-colacompany.com. “We’re using the power of the cloud to bring a real-time, media-rich experience to shoppers in the store.”
The Albertsons grocery chain was the first food retailer to deploy the signage-equipped endcaps. Chambers said a 250-store pilot with Albertsons delivered a one-month return on investment. “We also significantly increased category lift,” he added, “which means not only did the end-caps help sell more Coca-Cola products… everything else on the carbonated soft drink aisle, too.”
Installing digital screens on the Coke endcaps took place during the last phase of a three-year project in Albertsons. Kristin Moulin, who leads shopper marketing for The Coca-Cola Co. in the western U.S., described the process in a recent presentation in New York at the Shopper Marketing Summit hosted by the Path to Purchase Institute, a division of EnsembleIQ. What the trading partners accomplished over three years of fine-tuning serves as a textbook example of collaboration that addresses a problem and develops a creative solution.
“Throughout the journey, we kept the shopper as our primary focus,” Moulin said. “The objective was how do we stop our core shopper in the store and begin to invite her down the [beverage] aisle.”
In 2014, the Albertsons noticed that fewer and fewer grocery shoppers were venturing down the beverage aisle of its stores to see the exciting new carbonated soft drinks. As a result, soda sales were slumping.
To remedy the situation, the retailer collaborated with Coca-Cola to look for a solution. Moulin said the trading partners understood that connecting with shoppers in an emotional and innovative manner drives engagement. They collaborated from the concept/design phase all the way to implementation to drive the success of the activation.
The program started with three test stores in 2014, scaled up to 250 stores in 2015, and added 200 more in 2016. To further engage shoppers, the 2016 version was equipped with digital screens so content could be updated quarterly. Today, the creative endcap display – highlighted by a huge iconic Coke bottle – is positioned at the top of the beverage aisle to draw shoppers with its varied product assortment and digital signage. The endcap was designed to serve as a beacon to stop shoppers in their tracks and provide value by presenting consumers with the right product in the right package for the right meal occasions.
“During our set-up phase, it was important for our team to make sure we had the right people in the room who could make a solution come to life in a retail environment,” Moulin explained. The team included marketing and merchandising executives from Albertsons, as well as Coca-Cola executives whose specialties were shopper insights, sales and category management.
In the ideation phase, the team sought ideas to help generate the appropriate solution. The brainstorming included insights, shopper cohorts, shopping missions, and consumption occasions.
In the alignment phase, “we all agreed on what the solution was going to be, how [the endcap] would look, and how we would bring it to life in store,” she said. “We thought about every single detail of the design. For example, how do we leverage the iconic bottle? How do we depict consumption occasions? What kind of materials, and how do we carry that through the aisle?
“We also had to align on the assortment,” she continued. “When you get marketing together with merchandising together with designers, there are multiple points of view that need to come together. We had to stay true to our shopper and our objective.”
The team launched three test locations: two in northern California and one in Arizona. They focused on what success should look like, and what should be the success metrics.
“It was important to the customer to see category growth,” Moulin said. “If the Coke brand won, and the other brands didn’t, it was not a win for the customer.”
Finally, the results. “We saw trips increasing, spending increasing. We had reversed that decline. We gained alignment to scale,” she summed up.
In her presentation in at the Shopper Marketing Summit, Moulin was joined by Liza Etu, Senior Shopper Marketing Manager at Coca-Cola, and Karen Sales, Vice President of Shopper Marketing for Albertsons.