Embracing a Direct to Consumer Strategy to Increase Sales and Grow Your Brand

Nov 17, 2021 3:00 PM4:00 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways

The consumer experience is at the forefront of marketing, and thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are asking for more. So, how can you grow and build a sustainable business when the landscape changes?

Consumers demand better experiences, customer service, engagement, and a sense of connection to the brands they support. There is an opportunity for brands to understand and create unique consumer experiences. What are the ways your brand can improve consumer loyalty, support, and acquisition?

In this virtual event, Aaron Conant sits down with Sabina Van Wijk, Head of Digital, CRM, and GDPR Europe at Coca-Cola, Bruce Richards, Industry Strategy and Marketing Leader for Retail and Consumer Goods at Adobe, and Raghu Kakarala, Executive Vice President of Commerce at Bounteous. They discuss the changing landscape of DTC content marketing, presenting an authentic brand, and maintaining the consumer experience through convenience.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:


  • Bruce Richards discusses building a real-time data foundation that will allow for precise consumer personalization
  • Understanding the value and efficiency of data for better performing content
  • How has the DTC landscape changed for content marketing?
  • The opportunities of DTC interactions to scale brands
  • Raghu Kakarala talks about the importance of presenting an authentic brand for consumer acquisition and loyalty
  • Sabina Van Wijk looks at brand engagement as a foundation for attracting new consumers
  • What are some obstacles brands have to overcome to deliver exceptional customer service?
  • How the consumer experience can scale a brand
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Event Partners


Bounteous helps leading companies create big-picture digital solutions by optimizing the flow of data, insights, and interactions across the digital brand experience. Their expertise includes Strategy, Experience Design, Technology, Analytics and Insight, and Marketing.

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Adobe Experience Cloud is the most comprehensive suite of customer experience management tools on the market. With solutions for data, content delivery, commerce, personalization, and more, this marketing stack is created with the world’s first platform designed specifically to create engaging customer experiences. Each product has built-in artificial intelligence and works seamlessly with other Adobe products. And they integrate with your existing technology and future innovations, so you can consistently deliver the right experience every time.

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Guest Speakers

Sabina Van Wijk

Head of Digital, CRM & GDPR Europe at Coca-Cola

Sabina Van Wijk is the Head of Digital, CRM, and GDPR Europe at Coca-Cola, where she leads digital transformation by implementing key digital projects, innovations, and partnerships across Europe. She is the owner of Sabina Van Wijk Digital Marketing, and prior to her role with Coca-Cola, she was the Senior Online Marketeer and Product Owner at Eneco, Head of Communications at TEDxAmsterdamWomen, and the Senior Online Marketing Consultant at YER.

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Raghu Kakarala

EVP, Commerce at Bounteous

Raghu Kakarala is the Executive Vice President of Commerce at Bounteous, creating transformative digital experiences, and an Angel Investor for Converge - Automating Marketing Reporting. In his previous roles, he was the Managing Partner at FortyFour and an Angel Investor for SocialQ, PlacePunch, and SearchIgnite. He was the Chief Technology Officer at Engauge (US) and WE Engauge, and the Chief Operating Officer at Spunlogic.

Bruce Richards LinkedIn

Senior Manager, Industry Strategy and Marketing, Retail & Consumer Goods at Adobe

Bruce Richards is the Industry Strategy and Marketing Leader for Retail and Consumer Goods at Adobe. He has a track record of transforming and building brands and is the CEO and Founder of k3 Advisory, LLC. He worked as the VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at dunnhumby, Associate Partner of Global Consumer Center of Competence, Retail, and CPG Industry Solutions at IBM, VP of Retail Practice at MBS, and VP of Marketing and Shopping Services at Bloomingdale’s.

Event Moderator

Sabina Van Wijk

Head of Digital, CRM & GDPR Europe at Coca-Cola

Sabina Van Wijk is the Head of Digital, CRM, and GDPR Europe at Coca-Cola, where she leads digital transformation by implementing key digital projects, innovations, and partnerships across Europe. She is the owner of Sabina Van Wijk Digital Marketing, and prior to her role with Coca-Cola, she was the Senior Online Marketeer and Product Owner at Eneco, Head of Communications at TEDxAmsterdamWomen, and the Senior Online Marketing Consultant at YER.

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Raghu Kakarala

EVP, Commerce at Bounteous

Raghu Kakarala is the Executive Vice President of Commerce at Bounteous, creating transformative digital experiences, and an Angel Investor for Converge - Automating Marketing Reporting. In his previous roles, he was the Managing Partner at FortyFour and an Angel Investor for SocialQ, PlacePunch, and SearchIgnite. He was the Chief Technology Officer at Engauge (US) and WE Engauge, and the Chief Operating Officer at Spunlogic.

Bruce Richards LinkedIn

Senior Manager, Industry Strategy and Marketing, Retail & Consumer Goods at Adobe

Bruce Richards is the Industry Strategy and Marketing Leader for Retail and Consumer Goods at Adobe. He has a track record of transforming and building brands and is the CEO and Founder of k3 Advisory, LLC. He worked as the VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at dunnhumby, Associate Partner of Global Consumer Center of Competence, Retail, and CPG Industry Solutions at IBM, VP of Retail Practice at MBS, and VP of Marketing and Shopping Services at Bloomingdale’s.

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant 0:18

What's up everybody my name is Aaron, I'm the Managing Director and co-founder of BWG Connect, we are networking and knowledge sharing group with 1000s of brands. I run this division and I get the privilege of talking to 30 plus brands a week to kind of advise and then network and knowledge share with them in the digital space, we'd love to connect with anybody on the line today. And we don't sell anything here, we're just a networking group, we're gonna do close to 240 virtual educational informational events for the network this year. And then we're gonna try to do close to 300 next year and close to 100 in person events, small format dinners, you know, 15 to 20 brands around the table super fun, if you're in a tier one city, just shoot us an email, we'll love to sign you up on the invite list and, you know, get to you know, meet you in person, again, get back to like the good old days, a couple housekeeping items as we get started. Number one, you have any questions drop into the chat or the question section or email them to me Aaron aaron@bwgconnect.com. The other thing is, you know, it's, we're starting here about four minutes after the hour, and just you know, we're gonna try to wrap up with at least four minutes to go on the hour as well gonna give you plenty of time to get on to your next meeting without being late. So now, you know, I want to kind of kick off, you know, this conversation today. And before we jump out to kind of a roundtable with, with the panelists that are here, to kind of give you an you know, an overarching theme that I'm seeing and, and then we, you know, put out a white paper, you know, with Adobe and with Bounteous around, you know, what's really taking place, because it's been very, very interesting to see how the landscape has changed. And it's, it's changed a lot from the standpoint of this, you know, standard, I just need to drive to consumer site, let's get it up and going to, hey, I need to really be good at this. A lot of companies we're finding are now over indexed on Amazon, they don't want to fuel that fire anymore, they want to own the customer, and they want to provide, you know, an avenue to connect with them and enhance that relationship. And the direct consumer, you know, website is where there's a ton of focus right now. But the difference is, is that we kind of found so we did some stats here that we surveyed 107 different professionals that were out there, 65% brands, 22% manufacturers and product companies, and 13% retailers 70 Oh, close to 75% of them said digital commerce experiences are very important to direct consumer. So this is, this is like that 75% That's now saying it's more than just a direct to consumer site that I need. We need to actually be really good at it, we need to be able to engage it's user experience, that's important, but people are getting out of it. So it's not 73% They're saying hey, when you address consumer site is 73 saying, hey, we need to be really, really good at this and approach it differently. And this is everything from, you know, categorization of items, front end UX overhauls staffing correctly, you know, having the right programs and shipping and payments, and everybody just so you know, we can send you a copy of this white paper after it but, you know, that's kind of the set the, the, the framework for the conversation today. And now, you know, kind of we got some great friends, partners, supporters of the network, you know, friends at Coca Cola friends of Bounteous, Adobe, just no great, you know, partnership and great supporters of the network as a whole. So I want to kind of just kick it off with Raghu, you know, table kind of just intros, you know, we'll go Raghu first and then we'll go to Bruce and then we'll go to Sabina so Raghu want to kind of kick us off and Bruce, you know, is here audio just, you know, no video with him today, but he'll jump in as well. So

Raghu Kakarala 3:54

incredibly handsome person and will be missed on

Aaron Conant 3:58

In a suit too

Raghu Kakarala 4:02

I'll do I'll do my best to fill in. My name is Raghu Kakarala. I'm the EVP of commerce here at Bounteous. And we worked for a wide variety of mid market and enterprise brands to help them conquer the direct consumer marketplace to be excellent in the rest of market that consumers bought to understand how to get ROI, both internally and also from a pure p&l perspective. And honestly to keep pace with the market of VCs moving very quickly and we try to keep up to date in when we can be a step ahead of the competition.

Bruce Richards 4:41

Thanks. Hi, everybody. I'm Bruce Richards apologize, technical difficulties and can't be on camera today. We tried couldn't make it work. But I lead industry strategy for consumer goods at Adobe. And what that means is I'm responsible for the industry positioning our go to market strategy and thought leadership that helps consumer goods brands shape their digital transformations, and deliver outstanding digital experiences. And like Raghu, you know that that really means keeping pace with the market keeping, keeping our finger on the pulse, understanding what's going on, and translating that into the Adobe solutions that we bring back out into the market. Because as the consumer goods, industry changes and grows, we have to make sure that we're keeping pace. So glad to be with you all today. Awesome to be

Sabina Van Wijk 5:29

my guys. So I'm Sabina Van Wijk I am the EU lead for consumer data and digital strategies in Europe. Which means that I think about how we reach, engage and nurture our relationship with consumers from end to end. And in that capacity, we're also thinking about how can we strengthen and deepen our relationship with consumers. And in our case, DDC is actually a metro involvement of that. So that's my reason for being here today.

Aaron Conant 5:57

Awesome. So if I kind of like kick off, you know, an initial question here, you know, Bruce, kick it over to you first, you know, key factors, you know, there used to roll out DTC business model successfully, you know, where you just, those ones that you want to be concerned about that are just, you know, core functionality right now, we'd love to hear from you, we can kind of go roundtable here, and just, you know, bounce questions around as they pop up?

Bruce Richards 6:22

Yeah, it's, that's, it's a pretty loaded question. You know, Aaron, um, you know, the the key factors and what we've tried to do, in the past couple of years, as we've seen so much disruption in the consumer goods space, is sort of consolidate those things down to the ones that are going to be the most important and the ones that consumer goods brands should focus on. And we kind of talk about it in the context of four key use cases, the ones that you really need to focus on to get this DTC model up and running. The first is building a data foundation that will allow for precise personalization. And that's all about collecting and normalizing and unify unifying the data into real time profiles real time is the critical phrase there. And that's meant to let marketers deliver personalized experiences across any channel and do it at scale. The second would be automate scalable content creation and delivery. So it's all about finding, connecting and reusing assets in real time through, you know, a CMS, a content management system, and then delivering them quickly to different devices through a dam and then ultimately measuring them and understanding whether they're working or not. The third, I would say would be automating decisioning, and personalization across all channels. It's one thing to have the data, it's one thing to have the content, but you've got to use that to automate the delivery of that creative and make sure that the personalization is dead on. So that's making it more granular with real time profiles. So you can get the right experiences to the right person at the right moment. And then the last one, I would say, is deploying a frictionless shopping experience. And that's all about commerce, managing multiple stores and brands from one platform and making it frictionless, making the customer experience frictionless across every touchpoint, including web, mobile and marketplace. And then they kind of see that kind of feeds back up to the first one, which is data, because it's one thing to get the touch points, right? What if you're not using the data that comes out of those touch points and bring it back up to the top? You're missing the boat?

Aaron Conant 8:26

Yeah, great. Raghu. I'll kick that over to you your thoughts as well. And then over to Sabina? Yeah,

Raghu Kakarala 8:31

I mean, I think there's one key factor that sort of drives everything else is, um, what can you do uniquely? Right. Can you? Oh, I'm glad to Sabina agrees with me, I might even be right.

Sabina Van Wijk  8:46

But, you know, my points out, you know, there's nothing for me to say.

Raghu Kakarala 8:54

I mean, ultimately, I mean, you have like a unique selling proposition you could have, I mean, you have the best price. I mean, yeah, that's always one thing. I'm the best experience. You could be do unique, premium, personalized items, you could have a longer, you know, tale of products offered. So you uniquely offer a selection. But you know, not everything you do have to be unique, but enough has to be unique to provide a reason for being. And then you'll also get sales on your other items that are available in other places. But, um, yeah, that's the key factor. And I think it drives everything else. And if data is the reason that you can offer something unique, get that data and use it, if you're getting the data, use it, and people appreciate the fact that you what you did with the data.

Sabina Van Wijk 9:50

Exactly, I think I think I mean, I have nothing much to add, and we translate that and only cook and do experiences, right? So the reason for us to do DDC is basically because we're able to offer something that's unique to our brands, our products and our services across the globe that you can find through the Amazon, the other big retailers, right. So that's our reasons for existing for the consumers. And at the same time, when they're giving us their data, because they're getting those unique experiences, were actually able to translate that data into even more personalized and more tailored solutions that they might not even knew they were needing. But yet, we're actually actioning on that, too.

Aaron Conant 10:33

So the idea of data is to be an owl kind of stick this stick with you on this one, data comes up over and over again, right? I mean, we've got now it's not a data lake, right? It's a data ocean, right? That's just collecting it. Like, how are you like proving the value of the data? Right? How are you collecting it? How are you utilizing it? How you partitioning it? How are you then being able to say, hey, we're able to doesn't matter how much data you have, at the end of the day? If you can't do anything with it? Right?

Sabina Van Wijk 11:03

How do you guys look at that. So within Europe, we have quite a specific regulation around data. So we're facing GDPR. So that privacy law where we're not allowed to collect data, without having a good reason for it, right? So we can only collect data that we can actually use it for the benefit of the consumer, we have to be very clear why and why we collect the data, what we do with it. So that actually makes us really think about what kind of information or data do we ask or use from our consumers. And for us, basically, the reason we've been able to kick off our DTC efforts in Europe is because the scarcity of data because the data value is so big here, DTC is is actually one of them unique consumer facing platforms, we have to capture that firsthand transactional data from our consumers and being able to process that to not only provide them unique experiences back but also in our whole end to end strategy. We use that data to drive efficiency on a media by efficiency in a content creations. So it drives value along the entire chain. And that's also the reason why the company recognizes that taking action within the DDC space is a good thing to do. Yeah, Bruce, I

Aaron Conant 12:21

mean, from your standpoint, you know, on the technology side with data, what are you what are you seeing people are doing with it and using it to enhance, you know, the direct consumer experience as a whole?

Bruce Richards  12:33

I think you particularly in the US, people are struggling with it, quite frankly, you know, that the industry has been so reliant on second and third party data historically, for so long. But the the concept of having access to first party data is, is foreign to them. And even if they have it, they don't quite know what to do with it. So what we're seeing is a great deal of immaturity in the space, understanding what to do with it. So a lot of the conversations that we're having are around, you know, once you get it, what do you do with it? How do you use it? How do you create create that unique value that Raghu and Sabina talked about. And then if you overlay the whole concept of cookieless, you know, which is rapidly approaching here, it's just it's creating a sense of urgency here. So from a technology perspective, the conversations that we're having are about primarily around CDP it's and making that real time. And then, you know, there's another layer to this as well in the consumer goods industry, because you have so many houses of brands, that typically brand managers hold their data close to the vest, and they don't share amongst brands. But I think a lot of those silos need to be broken down to if the value of data is really going to be realized. And the value of the of the technology solutions that they're going to be buying to collect and utilize data is going to be realized. So ROI from a technology perspective becomes a big factor here.

Aaron Conant 14:04

Yeah, I mean, here's a great question that comes in is how do you get brand managers to see the value in first-party data? How do you show them what the data is worth to them?

Sabina Van Wijk  14:14

So from from my perspective, I'm happy to take that question, right. So what we're able to do is we provide them with insights on performance of their media campaigns, right. So brand managers are, and I'm very general, generalizing here, but if they create a great TVC, or great video content, they're eager for that to perform right and the more information we can provide towards them on the audiences and the triggers and what my you know, react with them, the better their content will perform. So it's an ever evolving loop. So we're, we started small last year with providing them the first insights for them to start create content on that and then they gradually see that this is actually making their content perform better, hence their campaign performing better They're actually becoming more and more eager to get those insights across into their, to their brands.

Aaron Conant 15:09

Awesome. Yeah, I love it. Another thing. Yeah,

Bruce Richards 15:15

just another thing to add to what's been said is this whole concept of, in a digital world, the test and learn environment becomes so much easier. So proving, proving out the value in a test and learn environment is, is something that, you know, one brand manager could deploy with another brand manager, it's, it's a concept of, you know, hey, let's just give this a try and see if it works. And then as soon as the value is realized, then there's a willingness to do more, and you end up with that cross brand sharing, you know, because in a house of brands, you can't assume that consumers aren't buying your brand. So they aren't buying another brand in the house. So you have to figure out how to leverage the insights that come out of both of those brand behaviors, and make them valuable to both and just unlock just in learning environments are great for doing that.

Aaron Conant 16:04

is crazy, we live in a you know, this digital landscape is just perfect for testing learn, right, it's. So I want to bring you on, like the role that DTC plays, you know, in brand enhancement, you know, we've done a one of our dinners, and it was interesting, you know, in Chicago, we had some tea from coke there, but also, you've got Colgate Palmolive and instant brands and camping world and sCJ. And it was just really interesting to see, you know, in this world, you know, brand enhancement, those are well known brand names that people are trying to execute on. And it was super interesting, right with you and your team there. You know, I'd love to hear you know, if you, you know, ideas around what that role DTC plays in brand enhancement, not just for, like, digitally native brands, but like, a lot of it is, you know, more established brands as a whole.

Raghu Kakarala 16:56

Yeah, no, totally, and, you know, been around just long enough to have witnessed a couple of other things that were like, Oh, should we dabble in this? It was mobile, should we dabble in this new social, you know, commerce. And, you know, my statement back then was, um, did you always mean to be in mobile and antisocial. And the thing is, your core brand values were that you always wanted to have a conversation with customers, except it just wasn't possible that technology didn't exist, the ability to do it at scale didn't exist. So you broadcast messages. And then maybe you do surveys on how they felt and then social, suddenly, you're getting a conversation and it was great. You never meant for them to sit in front of a desktop computer, and upright chair like I'm doing right now and interact with your brand you wanted them to be in the context of what they're doing. Technology really didn't exist, it was very niche. And until it wasn't brand, it's never meant to make you go out of your way to get their product. They always wanted to talk about their product, in verse with you about your needs, be with you where you are, and then be within arm's reach of desire, as one smart person said a number of years ago. And this is the modern within arm's reach of desire with DTC if we aren't that, and why what are we as a brand.

Sabina Van Wijk 18:26

And actually, that within an arm's reach of desire has been changed, right? So it's now within a clicks reach of desire and DTC is actually allowing us to fulfill that. And also what it does is it allows us to attract a group of people to our brands that might not traditionally have bought our brands, right for us, especially specifically teams, they love to wear us, right, they were our shirts, they were our caps, but they weren't always eager enough to buy our dreams, right. So if we put our T's and shirts at the same shelf where they can buy also our drinks, then that transaction becomes a lot easier. Right? So it's also for us a way to connect on a deeper level with a group of with a group of consumers that might not traditionally have bought our

Bruce Richards  19:12

product. Yeah, and that distance between, you know, arm's reach and clicks reach is great because or it's it's enormous because the click allows for trial in a

Bruce Richards 19:28

much speedier way than the arm does. Right? You know, so. So what we saw during COVID was, I think it was like something like 40% of shoppers in the US tried a new brand, for a lot of reasons. They couldn't get what they wanted because of supply chain and shelter and things like that. They tried a new brand. And that was to be expected. But what the surprise was was 21% of consumers stuck with the new brand that they tried, because those brands saw new content. Zoomers come into their brand and acted on it, they started sending personalized personalized messages they started, you know, you know, customizing the types of things that they were offering to them. So you know, when you talk about digital or direct to consumer in the context of brand value, the speed with which the customer can get to the brand, and the speed with which the brand can react and get back to the customer is, you know, lightning speed if they're doing things in real time. So, you know, desire within arm's reach, yep. But clicks click within clicks reach, it's making it a lot a completely different landscape.

Raghu Kakarala  20:35

And Aaron, I would say, why don't we take it a step further and say, Why would you allow any interaction to have a dead end? Right? If they can, if they care to continue to purchase your product, that is a path that's available for any digital interaction should be available in any digital interaction, it might only be 1%, or 1/10 of 1%. On that go down that route. And in a email, it might be 20% of the people who click through to buy, but why would you allow any digital interaction to exist? That does not allow it to possibly end up in a transaction? No, we're not. We're capitalists Aaron a capitalist? Yeah.

Aaron Conant 21:24

No, I mean, it's interesting to you now have that, like you're saying within a click streets as a brand, you now have the opportunity, there's not a middleman in between there the retailer, right? And it's now easier than ever to launch it, it's just are you getting where, like Digital 2.0, right. It's not just enough to have a website, if you're going to have this site, and you're going to transact on it, and you're going to be meaningful, like you're saying, like, people want that interaction, that desire, that's great stat that 21% stayed with it. You know, it's, you have to have the next level in place. You know, so what he's, what is that next level? You know, Bruce will kind of kick this over to you like the future of DTC? Mm hmm. Right. What is that next level? You know, COVID has changed a ton. Yeah, right. And so maybe it's the back half of a, this is what's happened over the last 16 months, like, this has gotten us to digital 2.0, then digital 3.0 is XYZ, we'd love to hear your thoughts, though,

Bruce Richards 22:22

I think, you know, the future of DTC is going to, it's going to start with big houses of brands defining what direct to consumer means in the context of each of their brands. First of all, for some, that's going to manifest itself as a direct commerce environment, you know, click to buy right then and there. For others, it might mean just establishing a one to one relationship with the consumer, and then, you know, pushing them back through a channel or marketplace to actually make the purchase. So that becomes more of a, an engagement, direct to consumer model versus an econ one, and I think both of those are going to find their place within the industry. But I think, you know, it's, it's become very clear that direct to consumer, regardless of how it manifests itself, is becoming a very important thing within the CPG space, I'll be it, the numbers are still small relative to the rest of their business. So I think that that's going to start to change traditional business models, where the consumer relationship was once owned by the retailer, we're going to see things like subscriptions, in particular, becoming an alternative model for CPGs, who really walk a fine line between wanting to meet their end consumer and not wanting to damage relationships with their retail partners. So I think subscriptions are going to be a big model that we're going to see grow in leaps and bounds over the next year or two, I think we're also going to see a lot more data sharing between brands and retailers. Maybe not at the individual level yet, especially when there are a lot of restrictions like in the EU, but certainly at the segment level, there's a lot of value there. For both sides, they're they're starting to realize that there's more value than risk, then the risk, they're always saying cannibalization of my business, there's more value there when they're sharing as much data as possible about those businesses. And they can both get their piece of the pie. You know, we're already seeing large grocery chains like Kroger and Albertsons, and even CBS launching new media networks. That is they're going to give CPG brands opportunities to create branded experiences on partner sites. And that'll definitely lead to new data sharing environments. So I think the future is going to be a much more collaborative space because at the end of the day, consumer goods brands and the retailers through which they're sold are inextricably linked, and they have to find a way to each leverage the value that's there. So I'm going to

Aaron Conant 24:53

read a quick line here, then we'll come to you Raghu for a question here. This is from the white paper and again, anybody wants a copy Have it more than happy to provide it after the call. It says, So as with a lot of positive developments across the board, it's like 46% think that, you know, over half their sales are going to come via direct consumer site. It's really interesting. Despite all these seemingly positive developments, the shift to CDC has highlighted several key pain points across customer acquisition, engagement, loyalty, fulfillment, support, you know, all these need to be addressed. And so, you know, you know, we're doing this to kind of where you guys step in, right, I know, that helps, you know, figure a lot of this out from a strategy standpoint, you know, what challenges, you know, you see organizations facing, and how are they using these kind of that turning point to win over the consumer as a whole? What are those pain points that you're solving? You know, for the, you know, for the brands that are out there that help address the issue of how do I get a great experience for the

Raghu Kakarala 25:51

consumer? Sure, yeah. Um, you know, the way we present it is, you know, we believe in complete commerce, and you get that when you focus in when from desire through delight, right, the, you might enjoy buying something, but you definitely enjoy getting the product more than you enjoy buying it, right. I mean, it's, you know, this does continue on here. And when you think about it, from a complete commerce standpoint, it flexes a lot of muscles that brands maybe aren't used to, or it goes across different departments into fulfillment, and then the unboxing, and the enjoyment of the actual product. So until you get all that right, it's still that journey, to knock things off little by little and feel like your brand. At each of those stages have experienced what is your brand feel like when they're they support issue, it should still feel like your brand, and how you react. And what you do is just don't be like when you open the box, when you purchase a product, when you find that ad that might intrigue you, and you want to learn more about learn more about it. So we can help along the journey. But some of those things are glamorous, right, you know, the demand generation, some of those things are glamorous the commerce site except itself, and you you know, and you're coming coming through, but there's also checkout, and there's tax, and there's shipping, and there's the expected date of arrival and all that stuff. That's, you know, I like it, I think it's interesting. And maybe that's why we offer the best, we think the entire process of testing, we have experts along each step of the process, and we get you excited about it as well. Because your brand can express itself in each of those touch points. So you have a complete commerce experience at the end of the day. So I want

Aaron Conant 27:41

to just pull that thread a little bit, which is, you know, around, you know, getting in front of people. So when you think about it, like how are you getting to like direct, you know, line of sight into who the customers are, so you can market to the right people and grow. I mean, at the end of the day, is it? You know, it's you know, it's for profit, right? I mean, Coca-Cola wants to make money, they want to sell goods, right? And they want to, you know, delight the customer, the consumer along the way. How do you get to that? Like, how are you finding what that looks like, as a whole? And I'll start with you, ergo, then we go to Bruce. And then we jump over to Sabina sound good.

Raghu Kakarala 28:20

Yeah, sure thing. And look, there's two stages, right? It's not just about going to the low hanging fruit customers who buy from you or buy from you again, as long as you didn't screw it up. Right? Um, and you've got email, and you've got some retargeting and, you know, subscriptions and things like that. Which is still the growth date for most brands. So you want to get customers who haven't bought from you before, or prospects, if you want to call them that. And it's using look alike audiences, it's using inferences from data to try and test into linear markets adjacent areas, and see how it comes through and see what the efficacy is. And if you have a greater you know, in the math person, and he says, if you have a greater than one ROA is, you know, it's good, but you'll have to get into new and adjacent audiences and not just your existing channel base. And I think that's, that's the thing I think you can build a sustainable business. I'm targeting the same things that you've done, but you can grow by conquering new markets adding adjacent areas and understanding the agency brand relationship how best to work with the consumer how best to find them how best to make the brand relevant and a lot

Aaron Conant 29:44

first, love to hear your thoughts.

Bruce Richards  29:45

Great answer Raghu I couldn't agree more. It's definitely rooted in bringing new new bodies into the brand and and you know, but once you do that, then it's all about nurturing them and keeping them there. You know, because we know The brand loyalty is now a very fleeting thing. But the mechanisms that you use to get them into the brand are changing the path to purchase is very different the things that particularly younger consumers like millennials and Gen Z are looking for, that's leading them directly to the brand to explore, you know, we know that we know that those consumers are going to coke.com to look for some kind of brand experience, and then it's up to the brand to pull them in, and give them the reason to engage. So and that's one of the ways that they're going to get those new people coming into the brand. And I think it speaks to a lot of the things that we covered, you know, what are the relationships between these brands? And retailers look like? How do they leverage each other's strengths to make sure that, you know, if, if you've got a consumer shopping at the retailer, and they're buying a certain they're behaving in a certain way, is that behavior translatable to they should be a coke customer, let's talk to Sabina and get them, you know, engaged at the coke brand, that kind of that kind of information is something that's going to have to be shared. And at the end of the day, it comes down to how we started this conversation, which is data, you know, you've got to have the right information, what behaviors do you know about those that are going to get those new consumers into your brand?

Aaron Conant 31:23

Sabina how do you get that that line of sight into who the consumers are and how you're marketing to them.

Sabina Van Wijk  31:29

You know,

Sabina Van Wijk  31:30

every activation, we do a build a strong audience architecture where we really look at consumer behaviors and triggers that would either get them to engage with our brands, or even we can also look at triggers that get people to buy, right, so those pools, those tribes of people that we're targeting, that is, as Raghu said, is shifting a bit, right. So from really the traditional tribes that we've targeted to get that brand engagement to really start adding in the behavioral signals we get from our buying platforms to actually attract those people. And we should not forget that at Coke, we have a really big base of loyal fans. And that's also for us a great measure to get new people into into our system, right? If you have such a loyal base of advocates, they are actually your strongest ally, to get the word out that you can start buying from us directly. And that has proven time and time again, to be our best and first effort to start.

Aaron Conant 32:29

Sabina I'm gonna keep you here, it used to be for saying because, you know, as we, you know, I'm talking to brands, you know, every week, you know, in how much has changed, you know, are on the pandemic, not just, you know, what we have to do operationally. But also consumer expectations as a whole right is now we're at this spoil me now mentality for a lot of consumers as a whole. And so just going back to the white paper, some of the stuff we can pull from it is when shopping, dried consumer consumer DTC consumers are frequently looking for fast delivery times unique product offerings, high quality differentiated product offerings, you know, strong price to value highly competitive online, you know, experience as a whole, there's all these things that have been looped in, you know, that they're looking for all at once, it's not like, hey, we just want, you know, a fast delivery time, they know, on everything, and they want it now, that you know, so you know, how big of a role then this customer service, you know, play in your DTC efforts as a whole?

Aaron Conant 33:31

Because that's gonna be a huge part of it, right?

Sabina Van Wijk  33:34

It definitely is, I mean, we should ensure that in any touchpoint, you have, you have the same experience, right? Raghu mentioned the you have you have your brand experience across every step of the way. And I think, in our case, we're lucky to have quite a strong customer care center across our entire digital chain. So they're play a crucial part. But to your point on, people want it all I want to now we know as a company, we cannot respond to every piece of demand simultaneously, right, we're not set up structured in a way then an Amazon is so we, we not might not be able to deliver it that same day, or according to the same rate. So what we should strive to do is really play our key strengths. And do that in a way that the consumer is, is is accepting maybe some of them lesser delivery points that we might have on the fast delivery or on the competitive pricing mean, the products we sell will be are more premium are more unique. And we see that consumers accept that as long as we're open about it. And as long as we deliver that brand experience across every single step of the way, right. So when they open the box that it's not just the box of product, but that's the box of product in the coat way right. And again, the same goes for customer care that if you call that you feel that you're actually interacting in a cold way.

Aaron Conant 34:58

Raghu gonna eventually get over to you just that Same thing, and you guys are dealing with a ton of organizations across the board. Are you seeing the same thing for this enhanced role of customer service as a whole?

Raghu Kakarala 35:09

I mean, the moment somebody's talking to you on the phone, you know how valuable that is. I mean, so it might be because where's my package? Right, but you know, you can turn that into a positive, because you have this, this and you look it up in, you know, it's here, which is arriving, it's track to arrive tomorrow. And you know where it is, and you're saying it, and it might have been delayed by the weather, it might have been delayed by holiday, you know, volumes and things like that. But you know it and now you're talking to that consumer and the way you you know, your way to say it, I mean, there's a famous brand here in Atlanta that finishes everything with my pleasure after they've had a chance to talk to you. So every interaction and how valuable is it that you get to talk to a consumer one on one, if you think that it's customer service, or it's an even one to one email, embrace that turn around, and then be able to also maybe give them a coupon on their next purchase, but there's a off experience and have some parameters for that interaction. But Jesus the most valuable time that somebody is talking to you, hopefully, it's for a good thing. And it wasn't this so wonderful. I'm so happy I wanted to tell you about it. But even when it's not, give them a good honest answer. And empower your customer service with the right tools to know what's going on behind the scenes, and the right methods and way of talking about things. And you're all set, and I think you every experience should become a good one.

Aaron Conant 36:34

Yeah, me on that customer says that we did a call earlier this week, specifically around that, and it's like, you know, 80% of the enquiries right now around where's my package? And so the balance of Do you have that answer via AI? Or do you engage with it on the the UI with an actual person? Then there's issues with that, and staffing and there's a ton of different pain points that pop up, you know, system, you know, what are your like, in this DTC space? What are your top three to four, you know, pain points, you know, you experience

Sabina Van Wijk 37:11

I think for us, it's very much also an internal pain point that we have is really to prove, to engage with all of our brands to really adopt this new mindset and adopt new thinking about delivering those unique experience on our site. So that's one pain point to really pivot this mammoth of an organization into this new space. And this new thinking, which is quite a, quite a new endeavor. And then secondly, is to really make sure that we deliver the quality across every step of the way, I think that's a challenge, right? We're heading into new territories. With the right partners, it's easier to do. But still, you have to define as a company, what the value is that you want to deliver, what is the right, even the package you want to deliver it in, that's all those decisions to be made across. That is new to a business that has never entered that before. So I think it's the newness. And then finally, it's to make sure that we deliver that consumer experience as Raghu mentioned, writing across all of the contact points that we have, and to really integrate it also into our whole end to end ecosystem and not just to be a standalone, but to be really part of the whole consumer facing experiences that we deliver, whether it's through social or email or in our campaigns for Christmas, it should all make sense that it should all be one story that we're telling. Yeah, love

Aaron Conant 38:33

the first one. I mean, prior here, I was at a large pharma company, and it was the internal struggles around strategy as a whole. Right and getting executive team over management buy in a whole new area to engage in especially address consumer side and some larger organizations that are, you know, traditionally brick and mortar. You know, how does DTC, you know, your strategy evolved over the years? Right? What did maybe what does it represent in 2019 2020? You know, this year, I mean, these are a couple few, you know, crazy years here, then what do you think 2223 24? You know, what is DDC represent it for you as a whole? And how is your strategy changed over time?

Sabina Van Wijk 39:14

So, for Europe in 2019, it was an ID on PowerPoint, very much. So, it we've come a long way since then. So, actually, 21 was really the year of launch and where we, where we started to test and learn and 22 will be the year of evolution, where we go big, and we go broad, and we go, we go hard. And it's it's, it's the good thing is that it's starting to segment across the entire ecosystem of our business, right, so with our internal ITCC, but also with our bottling partners. So I do actually see in 24 this being evolving into a system, system wide platform where we can offer consumers a full fledged, you know, full ecosystem of CO products and COVID variances, and it'd be a really integral part of every marketing campaign that we do so that we can actually deliver. Like, if you if you advertise on Christmas to stay within the momentum that we're in, that we can actually deliver this whole end to end experience from the great TVC you see at the APM, between your favorite show that actually going on that side and buying your Christmas presents and and supplies in one go.

Aaron Conant 40:26

So he's talking about all these different platforms. So just yeah, the guy peppering you with questions here right now. You know, the integration of all of that. Yeah, right. That challenge strategy is not just MSF, direct consumer side, it's then payments, processing delivery inventory, returns, its product placements, its showrooms. It's everything here, right?

Aaron Conant 40:51

How do you manage that

Aaron Conant 40:53

successful kind of integration across all those different, you know, segments.

Sabina Van Wijk  41:00

First and foremost, you have to have the right people in place and the right partners, otherwise, you'll fail from the start. So that's, that's, that's the first key thing. And then secondly, is, you know, you start small, like with everything else, because if you want to do it big from the start, you're going to fail up front, because it will always be in a silo. So that's I think the beauty of the approach that we're currently taking is really building it from a smaller set up, and then evolving it along the way within campaigns that we do, but also within offline activations and offline experiences that we're having. And also that we get to test and learn, right, so specifically with payments. And then for years, specifically, we have 41 markets, 41, different taxations, 41, different payment systems, 41 different delivery services. So it's it's a nightmare. So that's to do that, right? You do it, you know, step by step. So we try to identify our biggest markets, clear out the big issues there, and then gradually evolve. And hopefully, that way we saw save ourselves a bit of trouble further down the line.

Aaron Conant 42:12

Is, is some people asking about, you know, the next level, which is the, you know, the experience as a whole, right, and, you know, I'm gonna kind of kick this over to Raghu, because you guys crush in a variety of ways here with a lot of cool clients and things that you've done, even on the the mobile app side as well. You know, how vital is the digital commerce experience right now? So we talked a little bit at the beginning, like, Hey, we're in 1.0. Now we're in 2.0, it seems to be that level. I mean, is it like just table stakes right now? Or are people right at the forefront just starting to figure it all out? Oh, important. You see that being? You know,

Raghu Kakarala 42:54

I mean, I would say, when you really in a digital commerce mindset, you never get out of it. And, you know, we keep talking about, you know, what they want, and, you know, what we can offer them and things like that, um, you know, channel Pink Floyd's other than a little bit, um, you know, all those are consumers, right? So we've been 10 hours a day, you know, trying to improve etc, rules for our site for our, with our customer, we do that. And then everyone on that all at the end of the day, after you make all these, perhaps odd rules about how Company X need to do commerce, we go home, and then go to 10, different commerce places, chop, buy, do our things. And we said, all those things that you like, and all those things you do dislike about being a consumer should always be funneled back about how you can be a better person in DC to make your customers happy. We're all it's not a new thing. So yes, consumer experience matters. And you want to create a great one. But by the way, if you work all day on creating one, then you go home, and you actually experience another customer, and 10 other brands experiences, especially this time of year. So what do you love about it, what frustrates you about it? What makes you never stop thinking about it, because when you truly enjoy this world, you want to create great experiences, because we want to have experiences for every brand that we like to use. And by the way, it's not always the platform that you build. It's also where you are, I mean, it's the Instagram and where you have your product available for purchase behind the scenes, it still leaves a route to your customer service is still needs to show up in a box it still needs to, you know, hopefully have the same price point so you don't feel you know, like you've um, you know, just on one because on Instagram, it's this price on Facebook, it's that price. Ah, so you get it right but you get it right as many places and you never stop thinking about it because somebody's always doing something better than you. And boy, you should feel jealous and want to then fix that. And when you have that mentality Be, you'll serve the consumer, right. And I think that's important for all of you, all of the participants from the agency side, and from the brand side.

Aaron Conant 45:09

I love it, I love that you brought up Instagram, because just going back to one of the things, they just scroll over here to white paper is, you know, from the feedback 107 You know, digital professionals, the shift to DC has resulted in a massive prioritization of marketing strategies that's never heard before. And so you brought up like Instagram, but then other you know, paid search, traditional paid search, paid social, tick, tock has popped up social selling influencer marketing, then you get retention, marketing, you get loyalty you get, we just, you know, SMS is huge, obviously, email is huge. We actually digitally you know, digital age direct mail was plugged into your campaigns, like an email marketing campaign is, those are massive. So I'll kick this over to Bruce first, like, what trends in direct consumer marketing? You know, do you see our pop that recently and are here to stay?

Bruce Richards  46:02

Is that that list that you just ran through? The differences? No, I'm serious. I think that all of those are here to stay. And probably, you know, before long, we'll have new ones to add to that list. I think that the biggest trend is figuring out within that exalt extensive list of means to which communicate with the consumer. How do you personalize at scale within within that mix? And how do you choose the right medium for the right consumer at the right time. And that'll, you know, and I hate to be a broken record here, but that all comes back to the data? Right? I mean, I think that that's going to be the biggest trend is, is finding the right way to personalize within the context of that list. So that's, you know, but I think at the end of the day, whether it's through one channel, or four channels, or six channels based on the consumer, they're looking for the consumers looking for consistency, and a seamless experience with the brand. Because at the end of the day, the experience that they have with you is the brand, you know, it's it's what they see and feel and touch. But, you know, Raghu touched on something really important, too, we talked about how we, we go home, and we become consumers. It's really interesting, because I couldn't agree more. But we also become become consumers of things outside of the industry vertical that we're talking about. So consumers don't necessarily think about things the way that we do, as people who are in this industry, we think about retail or consumer goods, the consumer goes home and says, I had the best experience with my airline, I had the best experience with my bank, and they're looking for experiences like that, to translate into the things that they buy on an eCommerce site, you know, from a consumer goods perspective. So it's kind of interesting to, you know, I think that that's going to be the biggest trend is, is recognizing that your experience transcends your industry vertical.

Aaron Conant 48:11

I love

Aaron Conant 48:12

  1. Because, you know, we just did a call, you know, prior to this, like with the Cleveland Clinic, because like you're saying the airline, even your hospital, right, your your primary care provider, you're right, that in their comments are exactly the same, which is like, Wait, we're being driven to change because of the global expectation around a consumer now around what to expect in a digital. It's not just the fact that they're buying something in the digital ecosystem, whatever it might be. Here are my expectations. And if you give it to me, like I'll, you know, I'll come back again and again, which is, you know, I kind of want to jump into this next one, like, so I'll stay with you, Bruce. And then we I want to hear, you know, probably from everybody here is we're getting pretty close to time. But how do you win over customer loyalty, I mean, that's it at the end of the day, if you can satisfy them, you know, they're happy when they leave, right? You're trying to manage your business model as a whole, not over indexed and give away the farm, but still provide them with enough that they're a loyal customer, and they come back, we'd love to hear your thoughts about weighing over customer loyalty.

Bruce Richards 49:16

I mean, loyalty is contingent on the experience. As I said, a couple minutes ago, experience is the new brand. So if I, if I walk away feeling like I had a great experience, my loyalty is almost a given. But then you need to maintain that because, you know, it's the it's the arm's length of the clicks, clicks live, and I'm a click away from walking away from you if I have a great experience from someone else. And and the thing is that consumers are becoming far less patient with bad experiences. And COVID has sort of driven a lot of that impatience. Like I don't need this I can go somewhere else. And you know, I think it was um A couple of weeks ago, I saw a quote from Albert's and CEO that says consumers never give convenience back. And I just loved that quote, because if what we've learned through all of this is, this is all about convenience, the experience has to be convenience. And whether it's, you know, buy online, pick up in store, whether it's shipped to home, one minute, every the end to end components of this create an overall experience, and it all feeds back to was this easy and convenient for me? And do I feel good when it's over? I'll come back, but then you better do it again. So that's kind of I think loyalty is not the given that it used to be because COVID force people to just try different things. Yeah, right, we're getting

Aaron Conant 50:46

really close on time here. And I want to kind of go around to some key takeaways, you know, Raghu, I'll go to you first, and then I'll jump back to Bruce, then we can wrap up with Sabina. But, you know, we got about, you know, a few minutes left here. Like, it's been a fantastic conversation. You know, thanks for being such great friends, partner, supporters of the network. I know Raghu like key takeaways, things, you know, people can take some final notes out as we wrap up here.

Raghu Kakarala 51:12

Yeah. Be confident in yourself and who you are as a brand, as a product as a company and express those values throughout, I would disagree is occasionally, only by convenience, it's occasionally on a bad price. But ultimately, if you can elevate it to expressing love, through what you do, how you react, anticipation, desire, and all those things, then you've elevated your brand to a position where you can do very interesting things online. Um, yes, you have to collect tax and collect payment and get the product and things like that. But there's a higher order that you can get to have a brand love of risk, love and respect for consumers as well. And once you get the blocking and tackling done, elevate yourself a higher order above it, and point to the direction that your brand belongs in and you'll be in a good spot.

Bruce Richards  52:08

Loans are good, that's great. Uh hum. I think my advice would be in addition to finance it to the love piece that's that's really good is rally the entire organization around the experience piece of it, you know, it used to be a CMOS role. It's not anymore, it's the entire organization, we've talked about the end to end components of all of this. And whether it's customer service or supply chain, all of those pieces feed into the customer experience. And if the entire organization isn't buying into becoming an experience driven organization, you will fail. And then once you have that buy in, establish a roadmap that gets you there in a measured way, don't bite off more than you can chew.

Aaron Conant 52:53

Sabina, kind of kick it over to you to kind of wrap us up here. Wow.

Sabina Van Wijk 52:57

So yeah, so my comments would be to really play your key strengths, try not to invent or reinvent yourself in any other way than your core self. And to roufusport Really make sure that people in the entire organization are accountable and make sure that you you double down on your data, that's the key to unlock success across across the entire chain.

Aaron Conant 53:22

Awesome, love it.

Aaron Conant 53:24

Bruce, Sabina, Raghu thanks so much for being such great friends, partners, supporters, the network, you know, really enjoyed this conversation as a whole. And if anybody wants a connection afterwards, we're networking knowledge sharing more than having exactly with anybody the panelists today 100% You know, worth setting up some time with RaghuBruce for sure. They're crushing it in the space and come highly recommended from throughout the network. And with that, I think we're going to wrap it up again, anybody can have a copy of the the white paper we can get that out to everybody that we're gonna, you know, wrap this one up. Hope everybody has a fantastic Wednesday, a great rest of the week, everybody, take care, stay safe and look forward to having you in a future event. already. Thanks so much, everybody. Thanks. That was awesome. Thanks, guys.

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