Reckitt Benckiser on its ‘challenging’ digital transformation journey

The FMCG giant admits it had “got stuck” in traditional touchpoints such as packaging and in-store point-of-sale, but a focus on analytics and getting agencies and team members to push the agenda has helped drive the business forward.

Successfully driving digital change comes down to providing data-driven evidence, developing great agency partnerships, and creating a shared ambition with both senior people and peers according to Reckitt Benckiser’s (RB) global director of design, user & brand experience, Stephanie Verschoor.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing this week, she discussed the sometimes “challenging” journey she has had driving digital transformation at the FMCG giant.

Vershoor has been at the company for 10 years and is responsible for design vision, brand and product experience, visual appearance and market proposition for RB’s brands including Dettol, Veet and Nurofen. She has been driving a more digital strategy but said it has been a difficult process to convince those inside RB to focus less on offline and more on digital brand experience.

She explained: “When people are good at what they do, it’s incredibly difficult to convince people to change.

She added: “We were suck in the traditional touchpoints we need to focus on – packaging, product experience, in-store – and we knew that as a team if we wanted to drive growth and value we couldn’t stay there.

“If you want to drive transformation beyond what happens on the day to day you have to find budget, you have to find a partner that can do the thinking for you and ideally someone ahead of you because If you try to figure out everything internally the path to transformation is going to be incredibly slow. ”

For Vershoor this meant finding partners both inside and outside the company that were committed to change. On the agency front, that has meant working with partners that are “ahead of the curve”.

“We need to have the right partners, who are ahead of the curve,” she said, adding: “… if you have an agency that just talks about money all the time versus what you want to achieve that can be very annoying.”

“It can’t just be internal you also have to have outside help or the path to transformation will be incredibly slow,” she said.

Internally, Vershoor has focused on finding sponsors to push the transformation agenda. And that is both at senior level but also within the brand teams.

“Finding a sponsor in your organisation that does believe in it that can sell things in for you can be very helpful,” she said.

She added: “Make sure at least your own team they can be your ambassadors and understand everything about what you’re doing and why they’re doing it and what you can achieve,” she said.

Another aspect that has been critical is proving the business case for digital transformation.

“A breakthrough for us was when we could quantify the impact of brand experience and design. We could list exactly what are the key touchpoints that matter for the consumer, what are we currently investing in those, what is the ROI. When you have it on one slide you can see above-the-line isn’t even in the top five.”

The success of her team has led to RB installing design studios in its offices around the world. “They will connect with the front line and with the consumers because you can’t if you’re in a strategic function in headquarters it’s an ivory tower but you need to connect with the consumers,” she said.

Update 24 October: This article has been updated to clarify some of the quotes.