Pandemic 'accelerates' digitalization of Coca-Cola PH

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2020 07:47 AM | Updated as of Aug 31 2020 08:19 AM

MANILA - The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digitalization efforts of Coca-Cola in the Philippines in terms of communicating with consumers, partners and in operating the business virtually, officials have said. 

Understanding how consumers communicate with brands and how their behaviors shift with lockdowns and quarantines in place are crucial in crafting strategies, Coca-Cola Philippines president and general manager Winn Everhart told reporters in a virtual briefing.

"We acknowledge that your home has become your office, your playground... it has become everything. So a lot of our communication now will acknowledge that interaction in our brand," Everhart said

"That's where we're already headed.. which definitely has been accelerated because of the pandemic is our digital communication," he added.

The entire island of Luzon, home to roughly half of the Philippines' 100-million population, was placed on lockdown in March to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

During the period, public transportation was suspended while only select businesses were allowed to operate. Those allowed to function faced limited work force due to transport constraints and virus fears.

Coca-Cola is also making sure that it is engaging customers not only on TV and radio but through the "digital space," Everhart said. 

The popular beverage maker is also more focused on brands that are more relevant today especially in this time of a pandemic, he said. It is also looking at more ways to digitize the business, he added.

In terms of operations, running the business remotely and virtually when the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed had been "challenging" in the first few weeks, said Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines Inc president and CEO Gareth McGeown. 

But in the last few months, the company was able to recover and regain operations by providing digital tools for its work-from-home staff while ensuring a work-life balance, McGeown said. 

"A couple of hundred people working from home... we're making sure they have the tools to continue doing their jobs and be productive but also managing that work-life balance is a constant challenge," he said. 

"We're learning, for me the biggest learning is to be able to operate the business remotely, virtually with people working from home," he added. 

Coca-Cola products are also available through various channels such as the website CokeBeverages.ph, the company said.

Despite facing a challenging business environment, McGeown said more investments would be coming soon. It recently announced a top up of P1.1 billion for this year earmarked for infrastructure and capacity building. 

The company said it has redirected P150 million to relief efforts and donated beverages, personal protective equipment and food packs to cushion the impact of the pandemic to vulnerable Filipinos.

The brand has 20 manufacturing sites and 76 distribution centers in the country.