04 May 2021

Adjusting your business model to conquer new markets

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Consumer behavior is changing due to various digital transformations. During the past few years, delivery services have allowed customers to have almost anything imaginable delivered to their doorstep. These services also provide new opportunities for businesses to reach their customers. Unilever’s ‘Ice Cream Now’ project is an inspiring example that shows how businesses can adapt to these digital transformations by adjusting their business model.

In the most recent Beyond Digital, the knowledge-sharing discussion club organised by digital expert Ariad, Julie Dierickx, E-commerce Manager at consumer goods giant Unilever, gave insights on the ways companies can utilise digital transformation to create new market opportunities. Dierickx used the Ice Cream Now-project as an example of how new digital platforms provide new opportunities to reach customers in a direct and user-friendly way. Ice Cream Now allows customers in most major cities around the world to order ice cream via the platform of their preferred delivery service and have it delivered within 30 minutes, an impressive feat for a frozen product.

From cool idea to even cooler ice cream

Unilever launched Ice Cream Now to adapt to new customer behavior which evolved from the popularity of delivery services. The company developed the platform, turning a cool idea into even cooler ice cream wherever you want. This was accomplished in only three months, which proves that even a business as huge as Unilever can adapt to a rapidly changing market. “We started investigating how we could get our products on e-commerce platforms,” Julie explains. “The FMCG market is changing rapidly, as are consumer demands. Therefore, we need our products to be within reach when and where consumers want them. This includes rising service platforms such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo. That’s where Ice Cream Now came in.”

In order to adjust Unilever’s business model to work with these new platforms and services, the team behind Ice Cream Now worked with a business model canvas to map all their assumptions about possible customers. “We didn’t start this project overnight but had a lot of testing and learning. This was part of our concept development, much like a start-up business would work,” describes Julie.

“It is really important to know who your customer is. Making personas is crucial to make hypotheses about their behavior and needs.”

Julie Dierickx, E-commerce Manager @ Unilever

Do your research

To make sure there was a demand for a service like Ice Cream Now, the team started doing extensive research while testing the service in a handful of pilot cities, using a MVP in the form of a digital test store. “It’s important to let people know you’re working on the product and that you want their feedback to improve the service,” Julie says. “We also worked with online consumer panels through UsabilityHub and posted on social media to get customer reactions. This way, we could verify our test hypotheses about their needs.”

The team also looked into the data of the delivery services, such as the popularity of ice cream in the ‘desserts’ category. “We also measured the attention span of customers by using heat mapping and made sure the interface was clear and correct. Consistency and differentiation are key,” Julie adds. The team is still looking for new ways to optimize their service by testing unboxing experiences, subscription models and reward systems. “Once we knew what people were searching for and when, and we noticed the demand for our virtual store was large enough, we started looking for a sponsor so we could upscale the project. Having all the data and consumer feedback really helped us to find the necessary funds and allowed us to position our service in an optimal way.”

Opportunities for other markets

Businesses in other markets are also adapting their business model to deal with new digital trends. While Unilever started a B2C-service, others are exploring C2C services. While scaling and implementing these ideas from MVP to an industrial solution can be challenging, these C2C services also provide advantages for companies, such as reducing the costs of customers returning used products.

One of the hurdles in scaling up the MVP is the acquisition of user data. Getting the data is crucial, but we have to keep the legislation in mind,” acknowledges Julie. “Delivery services get user data because consumers need an account to use the service, but we don’t get that data directly from them. However, we really need to know who our customers are and what their behavior is. Therefore, we are looking into partnering up with retailers and delivery services in order to get relevant data.”

Do you need help to accelerate your digital transformation? Are you missing the right experts to help you better understand your data and your customers? Learn how Ariad can help you.