PepsiCo Launched Two Consumer Ecommerce Sites in 30 Days — Here’s What We Can Learn From It

The following article first appeared on the Salesforce Marketing blog in January.

Last May, at the height of the COVID pandemic’s first wave, PepsiCo raised some bubbles by launching not one but two websites where consumers could browse and purchase a selection of the company’s more than 100 widely munched snack and beverage brands. At a time when many outlets were closed and people ordered more food online, the company quickly made it easy for consumers to buy directly.

One ecommerce site, PantryShop.com, took a lifestyle-themed approach, offering bundles of products in categories such as “Rise & Shine” (Tropicana juice, Quaker oatmeal, Life cereal) and “Workout & Recovery” (Gatorade, Muscle Milk, and Propel electrolyte-infused water). A second site, Snacks.com, offered a more straightforward lineup of Frito-Lay brands such as Lay’s, Tostitos, Cheetos, dips, nuts, and crackers.

These platforms complement PepsiCo’s retailer channels to ensure the company continues to deliver consumers their favorite products on the right platform, in the right place, at the right time. 

Whenever, wherever, however has been the mantra of ecommerce digital marketing for a while, but it’s become more important in the age of COVID-19.

Whenever, wherever, however has been the mantra of ecommerce digital marketing for a while, but it’s become more important in the age of COVID-19. Most of Salesforce’s customers – particularly those in high-velocity consumer categories such as consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail, and restaurants – have had to become extraordinarily flexible over the past 10 months to adapt to ever-changing local guidelines and consumer behaviors.  

What was most striking about PepsiCo’s foray into direct-to-consumer (D2C) commerce and marketing was its speed. “We went from concept to launch in 30 days,” said Mike Scafidi, PepsiCo’s Global Head of Marketing Technology and AdTech. “Within 30 days, we stood up our ecommerce capabilities and started delivering direct to our consumers.”

PepsiCo’s products are consumed more than a billion times daily in 200 countries. It boasts 23 brands with more than $1 billion in annual sales. How does such a large and complex global company pull off such impressive footwork?

The answer, Scafidi said, was preparation. “Digital is inherently disruptive,” he explained. “We’ve been training for this for a long time. We’ve been preparing to adapt to disruption for 20 years.”

Planning for change is a skill

Scafidi and I spoke from our remote locations about “Building Resilience and Adapting Your Marketing Tech in Uncertain Times” during Ad Age’s CMO Next conference, co-hosted by Ad Age’s Heidi Waldusky. Scafidi stressed that tumultuous times took PepsiCo back to basics — inspiring the company to lean on skills it had been developing for years — especially in consumer research and media measurement.

Part of the reason PepsiCo was able to launch Snacks.com and PantryShop.com so quickly, he said, was “we were leaning on what we were doing already.”

He reminded me of an analyst quote I read recently on embedding resilience into sales and marketing plans: “[T]he more an organization practices resilience, the more resilient it becomes.”

Over the past year, many organizations have had plenty of time to practice being resilient. As stores shut down and millions huddled at home, there was a surge in digital activity across all channels. Media consumption soared: people around the world watched 60% more video, for example. And they shopped. Salesforce’s latest Shopping Index shows that comparable online sales were up 55% in Q3 of last year after climbing 71% in Q2.

We’ve heard from many of our customers that they needed to launch new capabilities faster than ever before. Otherwise, they’d lose business. Curbside pickup, buy online, pickup in store, expanded digital storefronts, appointment scheduling, contact tracing – the list goes on.

Our desire to help customers adapt to rapid digitization inspired us to launch Digital 360, a suite of ecommerce digital marketing products combining marketing, commerce, and personalized experiences under a single umbrella. With it, Salesforce Trailblazers like Spalding and Sonos were able to scale their online commerce dramatically, making up some of the shortfall in brick-and-mortar sales.

When times are changing, it’s too late to build up basic skills. If you have a foundation in place, that allows you to adapt.

MIKE SCAFIDI, PEPSICO GLOBAL HEAD OF MARKETING TECHNOLOGY AND ADTECH

Unilever also faced dramatic market shifts in the recent past. Keith Weed, the company’s chief marketing and communications officer, pointed out back in 2018 that the pace of change “will never be this slow again” – not knowing just how fast that pace would get. And like PepsiCo, Unilever met the hyperfast present by relying even more on its customer research skills.

“We know that people search [online] for problems, not products,” Weed said. So the company created Cleanipedia.com, which offers detailed solutions to cleaning problems in 26 languages. Built before COVID-19, the site was ahead of its time and has attracted 28 million visitors to date.

Building a foundation that scales to meet customers wherever they are

When times are changing, it’s too late to build up basic skills. “If you have a foundation in place, that allows you to adapt,” Scafidi said.

For example, the PepsiCo team was able to rapidly restructure its internal media measurement analyses because it had already put in the work to develop an ROI Engine, which helped determine the real impact of its advertising, promotions, and email. The ROI Engine automates data inputs, processing, and algorithms to improve paid media optimization decisions. Combining the ROI Engine with a customer insight capability called Consumer DNA, “We were able to stabilize our understanding of the consumer and adapt to where they were,” Scafidi explained.

PepsiCo’s Consumer DNA project is an example of a custom-built tool that allows the company to gain a 360-degree view of the consumer to enable more effective and targeted media buying and marketing activation.

At Salesforce, we help our customers engage with their customers. To do this in 2020, we too relied on core skills, built up over years, to adapt to an environment that seemed to change by the second. The result was launches like Digital 360 and Work.com. The latter helps companies safely reopen their workplaces. We also introduced a customer data platform (CDP) called Customer 360 Audiences, which serves as a single source of truth to build a unified profile for marketers and others.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.” As customers like PepsiCo show us, the best way to adapt is to build core skills that can help you pivot quickly in the future.

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