When “Share a Coke” returned to the U.S. in May, the brand promised fans more first names on more packages for more occasions. One way Coke is delivering on that promise is through a new e-Commerce platform that lets consumers order personalized glass bottles of Coca-Cola online – either for themselves or to share with someone special – for at-home delivery within days.
To date, Coke has shipped out more than 500,000 eight-ounce bottles – which sell for $5 apiece, plus shipping – with names and custom messages printed on the labels. Some fans have used the bottles to toast 2015 graduates, honor dads on Father’s Day, celebrate weddings and births, and even congratulate the FIFA Women’s World Cup champs. Others have ordered them to use as party favors or gifts.
“We thought most of our orders would be from people who couldn’t find their names in stores, but it quickly became something way more personal,” said Jennifer Brevick, e-Commerce director, Coca-Cola North America. “We’ve gotten a ton of nicknames, celebratory statements and terms of affection.”
Some consumers have spelled out “Will you be my prom date?” or “Marry Me” across multiple bottles, for example. “The creativity we’ve seen shows that ‘Share a Coke’ is about more than just names,” Brevick adds.
After deciding to explore an e-Commerce solution for “Share a Coke” in early 2014 – borrowing a concept from colleagues in Europe – the Coca-Cola North America e-Commerce department and a cross-functional project team selected certified co-packaging partner, Coregistics. “Coregistics had the capability to implement a robust, automated end-to-end e-Commerce fulfillment solution,” Terry McGann, Coke’s director of co-manufacturing.
Here’s a brief description of how the Share a Coke e-Commerce operation works:
A consumer visits ShareaCoke.com and submits a name or message for approval. If the request is on a pre-approved list of nearly 400,000 names, the order is processed. If not, the consumer is prompted to submit the entry for approval. Most submissions receive a response via email within hours.
Every approved order is sent to a digital printer, which prints the labels to Coke standards. QR codes on each label keep the bottles in each order together.
The Coregistics team affixes the personalized labels on glass bottles of Coca-Cola, using innovative technology to ensure quality.
As the bottles move down the line, the QR codes on the labels ensure that all of the bottles are correctly labeled, that orders are correctly assembled, and that each order is sent to the right shipping address.
Coke North America’s packaging engineering team designed high-gloss, custom cardboard carriers to ensure the precious cargo reaches its destination without breaking. The single-bottle and six-pack carriers hold each bottle separately to avoid glass-on-glass contact.
Before the e-Commerce site launched, the team put the carriers to the test by tossing them down flights of stairs at Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta. They also shipped boxes to all 50 states during the cold winter months.
“We designed the ShareaCoke.com packaging not only to be beautiful, but also to protect the bottles so they arrive in perfect condition,” said Noel Stewart, global lead, secondary and tertiary packaging. “We sent packages to Cleveland and South Dakota, and none of the bottles arrived frozen, despite the fact that a few packages sat on porches for more than a day.”
The “Share a Coke” retail campaign ends later this month, but the e-Commerce operation will continue indefinitely. A few surprises are in store for the coming months, just in time for the holiday season. These include personalized packing slips with gift messages and expedited shipping options for last-minute shoppers.
“For now, our goal is to get these iconic, customized bottles in as many hands as possible so consumers can connect with the brand they love in a very special and personal way,” Brevick said.