More than 3 years later, people still talk about Oreo's epic tweet that stole the 2013 Super Bowl, "Power Out? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark." Retweeted 10,000 times in the first hour, parent company Mondelz demonstrated the power of social media when combined with a live event and took center stage as a digital innovation leader; especially in the consumer packaged goods category.

Last week, I interviewed Neil Ackerman, Global eCommerce Director at Mondelz International who was speaking at Shoptalk, and he shared how his team continues to innovate and maximize the customer experience online.

The ROI of Influencer Marketing
In previous articles, I've highlighted the growing power of influencer marketing (see related article, "Influencer Marketing Delivers 11X ROI Over All Other Forms of Digital Media"). While Mr. Ackerman does not directly manage influencer marketing at Mondelz, he is the one responsible for leveraging the content that gets created to help drive more sales.

"Besides leadership responsibility in eCommerce Data, Technology, and Supply Chain, I am directly involved in taking the content that [our influencers] create and putting it where the eyes are" says Mr. Ackerman. "One of our brands is belVita. It's another global brand. We took some fantastic content that we had from influencers including images and, written content and created a gorgeous A+ premium content page on Amazon.com. Our sales just from that one change (we didn't change anything else) we have double digit increased conversion and sales are up over 100% in 60 days! Just by adding the content to where the eyes are. Further. We just launched new content for Oreo and expect similar results."

2016 is the year that we're seeing more and more examples of the ROI of Influencer Marketing. No longer relegated to the discovery and engagement phases of the customer journey, influencer marketing is responsible for driving transactions. For Mondelz, it's not just one brand, either.

"So then we did another experiment with Trident gum," Mr. Ackerman explained. "We added absolutely gorgeous content including images and highlighted the variety we have. We were expecting to have single digit conversion, but we are in the high double digits, and as a result Mondelz is clicking on all cylinders."

Real-Time Decision Making Using Big Data
In his role as Global eCommerce Director at Mondelz International, Neil Ackerman leverages the power of big data to identify opportunities in real-time as they happen. "We have big goals. We want to have over $1 billion in eCommerce sales by 2020. We want to be one of the best eCommerce leaders out there especially in the areas we compete," Mr. Ackerman said. "This is driven by price, selection and convenience and the answers we need are in the data and the inputs that we constantly measure. This includes in-stock, search rank, our price, content integrity, images, search optimization terms, and these things come together and we score them. Once we know we're all green, we know that we're hitting on all cylinders. The outputs are that the customer gives a good review or a good rating and buys the product again and again. We are very data driven with our investments."

Continuing the Growth with Customer Advocacy
Mondelz International understands that transactions are not enough. In order to meet its goal of $1 billion in eCommerce sales, Mondelz International must leverage the power of its customer advocates.

"In the past, you would have had to use research or a panel or a focus group to figure out what your customers are saying about you. But today, it's easy. There are thousands of reviews everywhere and hundreds of people like other people's reviews." Mr. Ackerman said. "What's the benefit? We as a manufacture have the option to talk to those customers and write back to them, thank them for their review and suggest other recipes, for example. Or when something is not right, we can engage with them and learn all sorts of idiosyncrasies allowing us to continue to improve. Where as before it would take you a month or two to get all of that, now we're getting constant feedback instantly."

The Power of Distributed Commerce
Distributed commerce is the idea that you no longer have to map a customer's journey to traditional commerce channels, but rather can allow them to buy from you on their terms. This covers everything from buy buttons on Pinterest and Instagram to incorporating intelligent shopping recommendations into the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

While the idea of distributed commerce is a powerful one, it poses some interesting challenges for consumer packaged goods companies like Mondelz International.

"You can't buy a package of Oreo's and have them shipped to you for free", Mr. Ackerman explains. "The product costs 3 dollars. The shipment is more than the order. So what you need to do is create an assortment of 3 or 4 packs so that the shipping is now viable."

In order to take advantage of distributed commerce, Mondelz International must adjust its offerings so that its partners, which include Amazon.com and Wal-Mart, can support a customer's desire to make a purchase decision wherever they are online or in a physical retail store.

Supply Chain as Profit Center
Mondelz uses big data to manage their supply chain "from bakery to customer reviews", says Mr. Ackerman.

"Big data tells me everything that's going on in the supply chain," Mr. Ackerman said. "Did we get our output out of the manufacturing center? How was the product when it was delivered? What's the damage rate? How fast did they get it on the shelf? Did it sit there? Who bought it and when? How much did they pay? Imagine taking all that data and put it into data visualization tables. And now you can watch your cookie store and see the magic coming to life. In real-time!"

"Then, when someone writes a compliment or complaint, I know where that cookie was baked because I can follow it through the entire supply chain. And when a customer writes a 5-star review about how much they loved their experience, we can go back and say, 'Hey guys on Line 7 of the Portland bakery, great job. This cookie came from your line.' And this is so impactful to the business. These bakers give joy to people. They are part of that experience."

3 Surprises Neil Ackerman Learned at Mondelz International
At the end of my interview, I asked Mr. Ackerman if there's anything we didn't cover that he'd like to include in this article and he identified three surprises that he learned while on the job at Mondelz International:

  1. Look at your supply chain as an enabler to ecommerce. It should not be seen as a cost center.
  2. Content matters big time. Go for the essence of the brand across all platforms. Posting content randomly and praying it works is not a strategy.
  3. Most brands are reading, but not responding to customer reviews. Empower every level of your employees and you'll have great success.

Great advice and powerful insights from the man fueling the growth of Mondelz International's march to $1 billion in eCommerce sales by 2020. And this was just one of the more than 300 power speakers at Shoptalk. If you weren't one of the 3,000 attendees at this inaugural event, you're going to want to make sure you are there in Las Vegas March 19 to 22nd 2017.