The brewer is thought to be in the early phases of building the hub and plans to use it to sell branded products such as clothing and glasses to consumers.
It aims to provide deeper shopper insight by integrating the platform into the marketing activity for brands such as Desperados and Strongbow. The business is looking for ways to react faster in beer and cider markets that have become increasingly competitive in recent years, particularly in Western Europe where sales have slowed as a result.
Part of the development is being spearheaded from the brewer’s UK division, which has recently completed a four-month restructure of its marketing team. Changes such as giving brand managers greater responsibility and revamping the way campaigns are planned were made to reflect the increasing use of digital activity in campaigns with the brewer claiming it is “embracing a new approach to category development, innovation, brand building and execution”.
Jacco van der Linden, Heineken’s UK marketing director told Marketing Week: “In our new organisational structure we have put in place category and trade marketing teams, all of which ecommerce will become a big part of what we do as a business moving forward. Within our plans to grow both the beer and cider categories ecommerce will play more of a role where together with customers we start to develop a whole ecommerce platform.”
The UK team has been testing online shopping already this year through its use of the Slingshot tool to allow fans to purchase directly from its online ads. Rival AB Inbev has also been piloting the tool on its Facebook pages as part of a wider push to increase the digital activity for top brands such as Stella Artois.
Heineken’s ecommerce hub is thought to be a first for the beer and cider industry but the brewer expects to see further shifts into the space from rivals in the coming years.
Van der Linden adds: “We’re only in the early stages of developing the ecommerce platform but think it will play a bigger role in how FMCG brands market their brands, particularly in our industry where things move so fast.”
Separately, the brewer is planning to double the rate of cider innovation this year, from 7 per cent of UK revenues to 15 per cent, through its Strongbow and Bulmers brands. It is also planning to develop more lower alcohol variants similar to Foster’s Radler as part of wider efforts to tap into new consumption occasions (see video).
Watch a Q&A with Jacco van der Linden here:
Van der Linden says the innovation drive is part of broader ploy to be a more insight driven outfit that can react faster to shifting consumer habits in the beer and cider categories.
He adds: “Since restructuring the UK marketing team we have a structure where all the consumer insights, all the shopper insights, all the category insights come together. It allows our marketing managers to understand more than any other player where cider and beer are headed and what they need to do to unlock growth.
“For beer we’re focusing on moderation being the key consumer driver for purchases. We’re looking at how we can better promote our schnooner glass – which holds 2 thirds of a pint – as well as lower abv propositions and smaller pack sizes. With cider its about how we can provide drinker with greater variety and flavour.”