Every industry can benefit from Big Data, IoT and AI, and that includes brewers. Dutch brewer Heineken has been a worldwide brewing leader for the last 150 years, but today, as the No. 1 brewer in Europe
and No. 2 in the world they are ramping up their results thanks to the use of big data and AI. As the company sets out to better compete in the formidable U.S. beer market they plan to leverage the vast amounts of data they collect. Currently they sell more than 8.5 million barrels of its various beer brands
here in the U.S., but they hope to increase those numbers with data-driven improvements and AI augmentation to its operations, marketing, advertising and customer experience.
Heineken Improves Operations through Data Analytics
From forecasting to optimizing delivery routes, Heineken uses data at every stage of the supply chain
. Data informs Heineken's collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment processes to eliminate inefficiencies throughout the entire chain. Through data analytics the brewer can adjust production when there is high inventory, long production or replenishment lead-times, and seasonal variances in the demand for its products.
The Internet of Things and Heineken's Ignite Bottle
The brewer is not letting the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) pass them by. By 2025, the Internet of Things is expected to generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value according to a McKinsey Global Institute report. Heineken has already dabbled in the IoT with its Ignite bottle-one of the winning ideas for the company's annual Future Bottle Design Challenge. These interactive bottles have 50 individual components and sensors including LED lights that turn beer bottles into connected devices that respond to the beat of the music in clubs and reflect its rhythms so that "every bottle becomes part of the party." Its lights also flicker when the bottle is tipped back for a drink, "cheers" another bottle and dims when nobody is touching it. The Ignite bottle certainly contributes to a memorable customer experience when enjoying a Heineken brew.
Heineken partnered with Walmart on a pilot program with Shopperception, a company that analyzes the behavior of shoppers in front of the shelves and uses the metrics it gathers to create real-time events to drive more conversions. This program helped them gather a tremendous amount of data on how every six-pack or can of Heineken left the store. The brewer and retailer can assess all the data collected to better understand the customer who is purchasing Heineken as well what might be the best location in the store to sell beer and when.
Heineken also has a strong social media following and created partnerships with Facebook and Google to better understand their customers. Now armed with this insight, Heineken can create personalized and event-driven marketing experiences.
Customer Engagement and Building Relationships
Building customer engagement is at the core of many of Heineken's marketing executions. The company's social media strategy strives to develop relationships with its fans rather than just bombard their feeds with posts of beer glasses and links to its latest ads. They implemented the "Star Treatment" that includes targeted mobile ads, special offers and exclusive events. Every Facebook and Twitter post is tagged with a unique identifier that allows the social media strategists to gather data on how people are responding to the posts.
The brewer launched a "dual screen" experience with a StarPlayer game during a Champions league football tournament. The football game matched in real-time with the StarPlayer game, so its experience was dependent on what occurred on the field. Of course, the game also helped the fans engage with the Heineken brand at the same time they were cheering their football team.
Last year during the EUFA Champions League Final, the company introduced the Heineken Banternator on Twitter-the world's first AI football commentator. This bot was taught to respond to Heineken's Twitter followers with relevant football banter during every aspect of the entire game from kickoff to penalties to each goal.
The company's New Zealand branch is piloting a new way to engage with customers through Bluetooth Low Energy beacons. They have enabled bar and restaurant management with a smartphone app and content-management software so they can use Heineken LIVE to send out messages, specials and rewards to those within range of their establishment's beacon.
Can Machines Help Us Improve Beer?
IntelligentX is one company that is attempting to deploy AI to improve beer recipes and customize beers for individuals. They don't plan to replace the human artistry of beer brewing, only augment the capabilities with feedback from consumers and other data points. IntelligentX's founders launched the idea after becoming frustrated with how other breweries used data to only data to alter advertising plans rather than actually improve the product. Whether this can be scaled to the worldwide demand is another question, but it's intriguing to watch it develop.