E-commerce strategy overhaul and building operational excellence
HEINEKEN is the worldâs most international brewer, with revenues of over âŹ27bn, brands present in over 180 countries and operations in more than 75 markets. Heineken is a proud and independent global industry leader, with a strong brand portfolio and an extensive sales & distribution network across the globe. Understanding that digitisation is driving a seismic shift in how people connect, consume media and consume products, HEINEKEN launched a broad set of digital initiatives across functions and markets throughout the world, with a view to âstaying in the gameâ and learning along the way.
Acknowledging this promising start, SparkOptimus urged HEINEKEN to fundamentally elevate and accelerate its digital transformation. Committed to accelerating growth in a rapidly changing competitive playing field and driven by the ambition to become the clear winner in beer & cider in a digital age, HEINEKEN asked for SparkOptimusâ support in co-developing a shared vision, strategy, and execution plan with HEINEKENâs key decision makers: the Executive Team and MDs of HEINEKENâs largest global Operating Companies.
Together with the Executive Team and key local leadership teams, we co-created a shared vision, strategy and 3-horizon plan for accelerating growth in a digitised world. We also defined what was required to realise this ambition across the globe. After formulating the 3-horizon strategy and plan, HEINEKEN asked SparkOptimus for support with achieving the core components of the plan. As part of that support, HEINEKEN and SparkOptimus jointly embarked on an ambitious, multi-year programme to drive the most exciting, most rewarding but also the most complex âpillarâ of the three-horizon plan: digitising HEINEKENâs B2B Route-to-Market to outlets across the globe (scope of this case study). This represented a significant challenge given HEINEKENâs decentralised governance model and the large variety of routes-to-market and digital maturities present across different markets.
SparkOptimus has helped us to walk a path we otherwise never would or could have. We embarked on a fundamental transformational journey in our global customer approach and SparkOptimus has formed a crucial role in the shaping and delivery of this journey. Their strategic capability and digital expertise combined with their ability to truly transform analogue businesses on the ground in varying local market contexts, allowed us to successfully embark on a digital transformation that will significantly improve the way we do business with our customers across the globe.
Jan Derck van KarnebeekChief Commercial Officer
In our experience, companies generally go through 4 different stages in becoming customer-first, self-learning and high-velocity businesses â at scale. With HEINEKEN, we focused first on moving from stage I to stage II, and subsequently to move from stage II to stage III (see Exhibit 1 – Stages).
The first phase focused on digitising analogue customer business processes. For example, allowing outlet owners to place an order, submit a maintenance request or view invoices via an app on their phone, or allowing outlet owners to digitise operational tasks, such as stock counting or book keeping.
Such digital interfaces help outlet owners to grow their businesses and/or simplify their lives. In addition, these are ways for HEINEKEN to maintain or establish direct (digital) relationships with outlet owners â Â irrespective of the outletâs size and geographical location.
The digitisation of these analogue business processes and the parallel build-up of the internal teams and processes followed a three-staged approach (see Exhibit 2 – Approach).
Firstly, we designed the overall transformation approach and roadmap. Activities included defining transformation principles, objectives and milestones, developing an end-to-end transformation plan with a detailed first-year roadmap, setting up the transformation organisation and governance and mapping out different route-to-market configurations. Finally, together with HEINEKENâs leadership, three markets with distinct routes-to-market (direct, indirect with exclusive distributors and indirect with non-exclusive distributors) were selected to pilot the digital B2B RtM.
Secondly, we delivered the omnichannel foundation by initially âgoing live with Minimum Viable Productâ (MVP) platforms and ecommerce businesses in the three selected pilot markets. This phase began with in-depth customer research in each of the three pilot markets to uncover current customer ways of working, and identify customer pain points and unmet needs. With these customer insights in mind, we supported HEINEKEN with the launch of a tender for building the MVP platforms for each pilot market and with guiding the build through an agile development process. In parallel with the build process, we prepared central and local organisations for the daily operation of the ecommerce businesses, having previously assessed the digital operational excellence gap (central and local) and steps required to close the gap. Lastly, we provided 3-6 months of on-the-ground support to each of the pilot markets to lead the go-live of MVPs in these markets, and to help establish core digital business operations, processes and teams (including build / recruitment of first capabilities).
The third stage consisted of two parallel streams: on the one hand, we supported the three initial pilot markets in gradually but ambitiously scaling their MVPs, digital teams and business operations towards mature, sizeable digital businesses; on the other hand, we supported new HEINEKEN markets in going live with similar MVP platforms and digital operations in multiple new markets across the globe. This work was always performed by joint SparkOptimus-HEINEKEN project teams working shoulder to shoulder in the market. In parallel with the latter, we also started rapidly transferring the skill of going live in new markets to a central HEINEKEN team. By onboarding a fast-growing team of HEINEKEN internal âdeployment specialistsâ, we embedded this skill within HEINEKEN, which allowed SparkOptimus to start focusing on the next stage: monetisation of the digital B2B RtM.
With a growing number of HEINEKEN markets with digital B2B routes-to-market in place, along with growing national coverage of these solutions within those markets, it was time to start moving HEINEKEN towards the third stage: tech-enabled processes with data-led decision-making.
In other words: supporting front-running HEINEKEN markets with how to use the âfuelâ (=data) coming out of the digital touch points to increase customer satisfaction and boost the top line.
The core approach taken in this, is a data-driven learning loop to continuously ideate, test, analyse and scale business improvement ideas that improve digital and non-digital interactions with customers (and consumers). This approach requires an integral cross-functional way of working, which is very different from the (functional) way in which HEINEKEN is currently structured. As such, we agreed on a new organisational model with HEINEKENâs Executive Team, âdigital customer businessesâ, to be piloted in select front-running HEINEKEN markets. These digital customer businesses effectively operate as start-ups inside the local operating companies, growing customer business while fundamentally shifting towards a digital way of working: iterative test and learn, cross-functional and high velocity.
By supporting HEINEKEN with digitisation of the B2B route-to-market, we helped them improve customer satisfaction and grow the top line. In addition, we helped HEINEKEN effectively lay the foundations for digital customer business operations, enabling HEINEKEN to become the business partner of choice for outlets across the globe in an increasingly digitising world.