#AsiaeCommerceAwards spills: How Nestlé adapted to excite consumers in the new normal

Despite being an MNC, Nestlé has proven that it was able to adapt and remain agile during uncertain times. Earlier this year, it unveiled joined the food delivery market in Thailand with MAGGI Kitchen, that aims to deliver freshly-cooked meal boxes. At the same time, its business solutions unit Nestlé Professional tied up with Starbucks for a new service named "We proudly serve Starbucks" coffee solutions. Over the past year, it has also came up with various ways to meet consumers' expectations as well as delight and excite them.

As a result, the brand bagged gold for Best eCommerce Campaign - Content Marketing, and bronze for Best eCommerce Campaign - Influencers as well as Best Integrated eCommerce Campaign at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Asia eCommerce Awards 2020. Nestlé shares how its marketing plans shifted amidst COVID-19 and what it takes to be a good marketer.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for Asia eCommerce Awards 2020. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?

Nestlé: Particularly in such an unprecedented year, change is happening faster than ever, and this includes expectations, behaviours and habits of consumers. They are constantly evolving, and at the same time, they are faced a plethora of choices. As consumers grow more discerning and can access information whenever, wherever, their expectations are higher than before. If I had to sum up the future of food in three words, they would be healthy, sustainable and personalised.

Health is such a relative term today, something everyone can resonate with amidst this ongoing pandemic, and consumers are seeking healthier options when it comes to what they put into their bodies. For this, we are in a privileged position as a nutrition, health and wellness company offering a range of healthier and tastier choices.

At the same time, consumers today are increasingly mindful of the impact their consumption has on the environment. They expect brands to have sustainability commitment, and to demonstrate such commitment in the products. Our consumers need to see how the products they buy contribute to a better planet, and we want our consumers to feel like they are contributing to a better planet by making choices and buying our products. We recently launched our Nestlé Net Zero Roadmap, a commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which means our offerings will have a better environmental footprint in the near future.

Last but not least, there’s a rising tide of individual taste, meaning consumers seek something personalised as they are increasingly in touch with their individual needs. We are exploring many ways to capture this trend, from what we offer to how we offer it. EBusiness plays such a significant role in this, as consumers spend more time online and rely more on digital channels to get information and make purchases.  

How has your marketing/your clients marketing plans shifted this year?

Nestlé: The pandemic has resulted in people spending more time at home, and at the same time, they also spend more time online. According to Kantar, 75% of consumers reported that they now surf the internet more than before, while 38% said they ordered food delivery more during the spread of COVID-19. During the lockdown, food delivery platforms such as Grab and foodpanda have witnessed a 30% increase and they represent around 8% to 10% of restaurant revenue.

With such a significant shift in consumer behaviour, we felt it was important to engage directly with our consumers in a meaningful way – this has always been at the heart of all of our marketing communication. This year we shifted our communications to be more online, and at the same time we also increased our overall search activities as we wanted to ensure we were reaching consumers in moments where their interest in our brands or categories were high, and more importantly where they had a true need and intent.

Another new territory we have ventured into this year, based on what I said earlier about the growth in food delivery, we have partnered with food delivery apps to engage with our consumers by offering special dishes, and we have also initiated MAGGI Kitchen to capture the rising business opportunities by responding to the new normal lifestyle of city dwellers.

As people shop online more, the demand for logistics services has increased as well, and millions of parcels and packages are shipped daily. Spotting this trend, we did dry sampling with Kerry, offering NESCAFÉ Latte sticks with some of the packages that they delivered. Nestlé also did a lot of sampling activities with Lazada and Shopee on grocery basket so every grocery order has a sample of NESCAFÉ.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Nestlé: Definitely, as the pandemic is still happening, people are more conscious about their health and safety. Some of the “new normal” measures are here to stay, and a BBC article stated that the world of work may change forever after the pandemic, with working from home becoming the new normal, and virtual meetings or hybrid meetings becoming more common. At Nestlé, even before the pandemic, our employees enjoy flexible work arrangement options which offer us flexibility in terms of where we work, so the workplace culture at Nestlé had already readied us for the change. We have all the necessary tools needed for working remotely and collaborating remotely.

Another trend which will continue to rise is the need for more convenience. During COVID-19, consumers at home relied on online shopping, and while the situation was in favor for our online business, we did not stay complacent – we took this opportunity to work even harder to win in the eCommerce area. We have to make our products more visible and conveniently accessible for our consumers, right when they need them.

As for readying my team for these trends, I believe it’s all about further building our digital capability and investing in technology that will enable us to meet consumer demand and engage meaningfully with them.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Nestlé: A good marketer not only knows the products well but also knows what the consumers want, need, and look for. It’s all about being consumer-centric and keeping up with the pace at which consumers are evolving. It is about knowing where they are, and being there with them.

Digital tools are very crucial for marketers, and this year Nestlé Thailand has come up with many campaigns using digital tools like AR and Instagram filters to engage with our consumers. Experiential marketing creates real-life experience that will be remembered and is an effective way to increase brand awareness.

Beyond the fun side of things, it is about being reliable and being trusted as well. Consumers are loyal to brands that they can trust, and it is an honour for Nestlé Thailand to have been the most trusted food and beverage company in Thailand for several consecutive years. Building trust requires constant commitment, honesty, and emotional connection. Consistency is what settles our brand in the mind of consumers, and earns a feeling of trust.

Last but not least, a great marketer must be responsive. Marketing is not a one-way street anymore – consumers do not just want information, but they look for relevant content, genuine conversations and tangible customer-centricity.

How are you planning for 2021?

Nestlé: While it seems to be yet another year filled with uncertainties, what we know for sure is that we will continue to invest in the future, in our brands, in our people by equipping them with more digital capability, and in our infrastructure to ensure that we can meet the growing and changing needs of our consumers, whatever the next year may bring.

And we are not doing this alone. We are fortunate to have strong and capable partners by our side, and next year we will continue to establish new relationships while leveraging existing partnerships for mutual growth and the development of the eBusiness ecosystem as a whole.