Heineken: We don’t understand our shoppers well enough to succeed online

The Dutch brewing company says a lack of shared data, not enough collaboration and marketers not investing in the right places is holding back its ecommerce ambitions.

Heineken admits it is struggling to keep pace with the shift to online, held back by a lack of data, not enough collaboration and marketers not investing in the right places.

Ghislaine Prins-Evers, the Dutch brewing company’s global head of ecommerce, believes the grocery sector is at a “tipping point” in terms of the importance of online. But says the sector is still grappling with ecommerce and how best to reach customers online.

“For Heineken to be successful in ecommerce, we truly need to understand the omnichannel interactions,” she says, speaking at IGD’s digital commerce conference yesterday (16 October).

“I do not think we understand our shoppers well enough to succeed. We need to convince e-retailers to start sharing data. In this changing world and with this changing shopper, we need to understand and you cannot understand based on intuition; that’s the whole dynamic of this channel.”

Prins-Evers said digital pure-play retailers are usually “much more willing” to collaborate and share data than multi-format retailers. But even if it has the data, Heineken faces a challenge to improve its analytical capabilities and help its operating companies make sense of the data.

According to Heineken, which owns more than 170 beer brands including Amstel, Red Stripe and  Birra Moretti, 58% of people use a tablet to shop, 41% want access to real-time promotions and discounts in-store, 32% compare products and read reviews on-the-go, and 53% want to use their mobile to compare prices quickly and easily.

“Consumers are always on and we need to be ready for that,” Prins-Evers said. “If you look at the consumer purchase journey, the purchase decision hierarchy is not linear. We believe there is a stage before we need to take into account – the capture stage, and capturing the consumer online when they are intending to buy something.”

To take advantage of the opportunity, Prins-Evers believes marketing and sales will need to start working better together, although she admits this is currently “very difficult” at Heineken.

“If you really want to change, you might need some marketing money to actually do some of the sales stuff. At Heineken, this is a very difficult thing to achieve. To work together with marketers to make sure some of their money is going to a retailer, this is the trick we need to master,” she explained.

However, Heineken has seem some success in this area. Prins-Evers cited a ‘Dry January’ promotion for its non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 beer as an example of “true collaboration” between marketing and sales, which began with basic leaflets and posters before activating “neat” online activations.

“This is the future,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve captured it all and I don’t think we are experts yet but this is a good start to try to understand those consumers that are in the online but also offline worlds.”

Bringing together tech and marketing

In an effort to bring tech and marketing people closer together so the compnay can better understand consumers, Heineken is setting up ‘digital commercial accelerator unit’ in its most mature markets. Yet despite this initiative, Prins-Evers said Heineken is “really not there yet”.

“We need to do more; we need to strengthen partnerships and drive online sales with retailers in the markets, we need to help markets hand in hand to make the right strategy and support them,” she said.

“We need to look at the ecommerce-ready supply chain and global e-retailers and see if we can do global work together in key markets to test things. We can improve, we can adapt, we need to learn and to test. Yes we’ve created a language but we’ve not found the answer to all the questions.”

Prins-Evers said certain functions need to interact with one another “much more than ever” and that it is especially important to hire experts to do this.

“Don’t let those ecommerce managers sitting there now in the faraway corner of the business think they’ve solved it,” she said. “This is about true collaboration across the supply chain, marketing sales and trade marketing. If you don’t have dedicated people within those functions that are able to cooperate, we are heading to a lost cause.”



There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Robert Strohfeldt 18 Oct 2018

    Extraordinary. What was deemed Marketing & Sales 101 in the 1980′ s, is now a “huge” problem/challenge. All because e-commerce has come onto the scene – which is Australia makes up less than 7% of retail. Only in China (and for very obvious reasons) is it over 20%. Such major headaches for less than 10% of sales. A lack of data? Take it from someone who has a degree in pure and statistical mathematics, it is not the lack of data to blame, rather the lack of thinking caused by a silo mentality.

  2. PC Pedro 20 Oct 2018

    Heineken desconectada.
    A estratégia e o segredo são aliados do marketing, a formula do sucesso é aproveitar as oportunidades instantâneas e financeiras.
    É raro e notável o testemunho da Heineken do seu desconforto em relação ao “ecommerce”. Assumir os equívocos pode ser parte da nova estratégia de comunicação da empresa.
    Hoje a comunicação digital não pode ser vista como uma extensão da comunicação “off-line” o mesmo consumidor tem comportamentos e interesses diferentes quando esta on-line, ou seja, o cliente digital é um Avatar do consumidor “off-line, ele tem algumas preferencias e desejos que não são idênticos e ainda temos que considerar que o momento que ele é impactado é completamente diferente.
    O insucesso desta campanha pode estar associada em não observar este importante detalhe. Não basta ter uma coerência na aparência dos anúncios ao definir o posicionamento da marca e sua comunicação. Uma releitura deste projeto deve entrar em cena.
    No Brasil, a Heineken tem surgido na televisão ressaltando a importância de beber com responsabilidade e também a diversão sem necessariamente consumir álcool. Campanha de extremo sucesso pela importância e audácia, agregando valor a marca. Mas, quando levamos isso para o modo “on-line” situações e momentos não necessariamente possíveis de consumir álcool, durante o trabalho, antes de sair casa por exemplo. Esta mensagem não tem o mesmo potencial de “gatilho” para despertar o desejo de compra, para uma entrega futura, ao contrário, apenas afirma o subconsciente ao não consumo.
    Em síntese, não acredito que os investimentos da Heineken deixaram de atingir seu publico, uma vez que usaram canais de expressão para mostrar seus produtos. Mas sim, um equivoco na visão de 360° graus(omnichannel) ao posicionar as marcas em diferentes canais. Uma ótima campanha “off-line” mas sem conexão com os cliente “on-line”.
    Assumir é uma ótima forma de zerar uma imagem e criar uma nova.
    Uma possibilidade de criar novos elos de consumo pode ser: fazer a impressão de códigos nas tampinhas das garrafas onde seu consumidor deve cadastrar em sites conveniados e comprar seu produto com desconto, criando um caminho com os consumidores fidelizados ao produto e a partir das informações coletadas desses consumidores já estabelecidos, criar novas estratégias para aumentar o campo de atuação digital da Heineken, atingindo novos clientes on-line.

    PC Pedro – pcsmkt@gmail.com
    Laboratório de soluções de marketing – Startup
    If you don’t know how to read Portuguese, request the comment in English by the email above.

  3. Benjamin O'Dell 24 Oct 2018

    “For Heineken to be successful in ecommerce, we truly need to understand the omnichannel interactions,” Great article, it’s a testing time for lot’s of established brands at the moment. The opportunity is pretty inspiring as there’s chance for a major benefit from some smart marketing.

    For a slightly more on the topic, here’s a solid response article on how Heineken could breakout of their silo mentality:

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