The success of AB InBev’s ecommerce strategy
Anheuser-Busch InBev, known as AB InBev, is the world’s largest brewer. With an incredibly rich history spanning over centuries and with strong roots in markets all over the world, including Belgium, Brazil and the US, the multinational drinks company’s purpose is to “bring people together for a better world”.
Recently, achieving that mission has involved a blend of great products, dedicated teams and state-of-the-art ecommerce technologies for direct-to-consumer (DTC), B2B and marketplace initiatives, a journey in which VTEX has had a significant part to play. Let’s discover more about this one-of-a-kind collaboration.
Collaboration, the foundation for a great ecommerce strategy
AB InBev recognized the switch to the online world, sparked off by the COVID-19 pandemic, early on. Staying true to its customer-centric and innovative DNA, it set off to come to the aid of all of its customers: bars, restaurants, convenience stores and end-consumers.
“Building a direct-to-consumer ecosystem involves optimizing every part of the experience and this ranges from the end-consumers’ experience to the customer delivering that to them.”France Roy, Global VP of DTC Technology at AB InBev
The company expanded within existing areas, diversified and increased its sales channels and its inventory. But for this robust digital transformation, a strong technological backbone was of paramount importance.
VTEX was more than up to the task, as it had powered some of the CPG giant’s ecommerce strategies in Latin America since 2016 and signed a global deal in 2020 to scale that commitment. The overall result? Great growth in the direct-to-consumer space over the past couple of years that is only expected to grow further.
For AB InBev, having a digital commerce strategy has been key to this growth. VTEX Commerce Platform, with servers hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS), came in handy with a headless commerce solution that offers control over the customer experience, as well as room for customization and a mobile-responsive user experience, in addition to fast time-to-market. Technology like this gives AB InBev confidence that it can easily match customer expectations.
“Having our platform on VTEX has allowed us to quickly meet the needs of consumers and expand internationally. Launching a marketplace in a matter of weeks was critical for us as there is a lot of competition in this space.”France Roy, Global VP of DTC Technology at AB InBev
AB InBev’s ecommerce projects with VTEX
VTEX has had the wonderful opportunity to help AB InBev in a plethora of projects, all with their own value propositions and challenges. Let’s take them one by one.
DTC ecommerce websites
The successful relationship between AB InBev and VTEX started in Brazil. There, VTEX has been powering Empório da Cerveja since 2016, with incredible YoY growth every year.
In Chile, the company Casa de la Cerveza is experiencing a similar success, having grown over 90% annually ever since implementing VTEX back in 2017. Last but not least, there’s also a brand-new BackusYa in Peru, functioning in a similar fashion and delivering beer in less than 24 hours.
“Building a platform that scales from scratch is a big undertaking, and that level of customization takes a significant amount of time and money. What VTEX allows us to do is not worry about the structure of an ecommerce and marketplace platform and to focus on delivering value with our technology and product teams where it really benefits the consumer.”France Roy, Global VP of DTC Technology at AB InBev
These multi-brand online retailers offer consumers a wide product catalog with hundreds of crafted, imported and local beers and spirits, not to mention glassware and bar equipment to complete the tasting experience. Unique functionalities and features include geolocation, cashback, gift cards, customer reviews, payment in installments and even the use of dark stores to quickly and easily fulfil online orders.
Overall, these cases validate the business model’s fitness for international expansion, one in which new operations can be replicated with a few clicks thanks to VTEX. Having just one codebase and team to deploy a platform to many countries is a huge benefit to AB InBev, as its team can focus on building critical custom capabilities instead.
There are also other similar yet different ecommerce businesses, including mono-brand stores like the Jupiler Shop in Belgium, and the Cerveza Aguila, Cerveza Poker and Club Colombia online stores in Colombia.
A success case in Brazil
A truly innovative operation, however, is Chopp Brahma Express in Brazil. The online store, which migrated to VTEX in January 2021, enables customers to buy, among others, beer kegs of larger volume and have them shipped home, ready for a good party. Making full use of VTEX’s omnichannel capabilities that integrated over 100 franchises into the store’s system, the site identifies the closest shop that can ship the order based on the shopper’s postal code.
What’s even more outstanding, however, is that Chopp Brahma comes back in a few days and takes back the keg once it’s been consumed! This ease-of-use triggered phenomenal growth, with the store’s revenue increasing by 43% post-migration to VTEX, looking at the January-November periods of 2021 and 2020.
DTC courier services
One of AB InBev’s current focus points is developing and strengthening its courier services, of which it has several.
For instance, released in the beginning of this year, Modelorama Now is the Mexican DTC courier service that brings chilled drinks and ready-to-devour snacks to your home in less than 45 minutes. Likewise, the TiendasYa websites in Colombia and Bolivia, TapIt in Colombia, DrinksMarket in Panama and Estacíon in Paraguay promise lightning-fast delivery.
“Consumers can get cold beer at grocery store prices delivered to them within 60 minutes. This value proposition has really resonated with consumers because it solves several problems for them. For example, they don’t have to carry beer from the grocery store home; they can ensure their beer is cold when they need it and they are able to trust they are getting it at the best price available.”France Roy, Global VP of DTC Technology at AB InBev
The platforms allow people to benefit from free shipping on top of affordable prices, thus transforming online shopping into a great and convenient buying alternative. All have been modeled after AB InBev’s Zé Delivery in Brazil, launched in 2016. The hugely successful beer delivery app, with over 55 million orders between 2020 and 2021, provided the perfect inspiration for other use cases.
Furthermore, VTEX integrations enabled the CPG giant to make use of other SaaS providers to maximize its time-to-market. Instead of building a delivery-man app from scratch, the company simply integrated one into VTEX for full management of delivery — all within weeks.
Digital menu solutions
Another important addition to the brewer’s collection of ecommerce channels is Menu Digital. Having gone live in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and expected in other countries soon, this initiative creates online menus for AB InBev’s brew pubs, offering both takeaway and table ordering. This project was particularly welcome throughout the pandemic, when the need for a safe experience was placed above all else and paper menus weren’t needed.
“This is important during the pandemic for creating a touchless and safe shopping experience at our locations, and it allowed us to learn about digital capabilities we can continue to use to expand these businesses.”France Roy, Global VP of DTC Technology at AB InBev
More than worth the investment
All in all, AB InBev has scored and continues to score gold with its ecommerce strategies. The company looks towards strengthening its digital offering and widening its target audience, always keeping in mind customer needs and marketing trends. Shopping online, for beer of all things, has never been this smooth, so we say cheers to the future!