Digital Insider

Digital Insider: Guilherme Lebelson on digital innovation in AB InBev

Alessandro Pavan
Alessandro Pavan October 26, 2021
Digital Insider: Guilherme Lebelson on digital innovation in AB InBev

Years ago, it seemed impossible to imagine a world where beverages could be delivered cold, fast and directly to your home. Yet it proved to be possible thanks to the customer-centric approach adopted by ZX Ventures, a technology and digital innovation business unit of AB InBev, the largest beverage company in the world.

Read on to find out more about the ecommerce innovations of a CPG giant from an episode of Digital Insider, a podcast series about the digitalization of retail, featuring Guilherme Lebelson, Global VP of Ecommerce and DTC at AB InBev and Co-Founder of Zé Delivery.

The birth of ecommerce at AB InBev

With 20 years of experience in the beverage industry, Guilherme Lebelson has witnessed the birth and evolution of ecommerce operations, both in the CPG industry and his organization, AB InBev. In the podcast episode, Guilherme goes through the early days of ecommerce and the reasons that pushed AB InBev to go in the direction of digital innovation. More recently, this approach led the company to start ZX Ventures, the company’s investment and innovation group.

ZX Ventures is that key part of AB InBev that is focused on driving digital innovation. With this purpose, Guilherme Lebelson created Zé Delivery, the AB InBev subsidiary that quickly and conveniently delivers cold beer to its customers thanks to a vast network of brick-and-mortar retail stores. Zé Delivery is a clear example of the use of digital technology to improve and solve a consumer problem, a consumer-centric approach that Guilhereme considers vital both online and offline. 

We started with a white canvas — it was something different that nobody was doing, not even us at that point. ZX Ventures was created to tackle disruptive growth and opportunity areas; and ecommerce was one of these.

Guilherme Lebelson, Global VP of Direct-to-Consumer at AB InBev and Co-Founder of Zé Delivery

Digital innovation in large organizations

One of the most interesting insights that the episode provided is about bringing innovation to large organizations, like AB InBev. Giant companies can be tricky to manage, let alone innovate them. It’s really hard to picture a 75.000 people organization shifting the way things work, investing in disruptive ideas and starting new operations from scratch at a very fast pace. 

Yet adopting ecommerce and digital solutions was essential for AB InBev and it played well during the pandemic. New digital solutions allowed AB InBev to experiment and explore new business opportunities, like direct-to-consumer (DTC) operations. 

As a matter of fact, trends suggest a real DTC boom in the landscape of traditional B2B companies. One of the reasons behind this is the rush towards the customer insights that kind of model can guarantee you. 

But only players with the right mindset have been able to leverage from these operations efficiently. Often, companies innovate just for the sake of staying relevant, overlooking their customers. Bottomline, it is important to innovate in order to bring value to the consumers by solving their real problems, whether that is a need for convenience or new products.

In many cases, you see companies and brands focusing on a brand problem instead of a consumer problem. There has to be a shift in the way we use our data. 

Guilherme Lebelson, Global VP of Direct-to-Consumer and Co-founder of Zé Delivery

Guilherme gave many more insights thanks to his experience in bringing innovation to a large organization like AB InBev, such as:

  • Suggestions for a better digital strategy;
  • The importance of having the right people and leadership onboard.

To discover them all, listen to the episode at the link below — and don’t forget to follow the podcast for fresh retail insights.

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