How AB InBev Got 2M SMBs Buzzing with a Next-gen B2B Platform

Jason Lambert

SVP of Product at BEES | Ab InBev

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5 -minute Read,

Posted on October 5, 2021

A new approach to data interpretation helped the global brewer better understand customer behavior.

AB InBev Digital Product BEES

To run a successful business, you need to understand your customers. To understand your customers, you need to understand your data—and where it came from.

Many companies think they understand their customers’ needs, but end up making decisions based on guesswork and assumptions. Even the most well-established businesses can learn more by delving deeper into their data to find insights on their customers’ motivations. The exercise can be eye opening, and a turning point for an organization.

A Personal But Limited Approach

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) is the world’s largest brewer, and our 500+ brands include iconic names like Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois, a pilsner that traces its roots to Belgium in 1366.

Despite our size, we had a very personal, boots-on-the-ground approach to business. Our local sales reps would pay regular visits to bodegas, bars, and restaurants on a weekly basis. They’d talk to owners and managers, take orders, and learn what our customers needed and what trends they noticed.

This face-to-face approach was great for building relationships, but it also had its limitations. One of the biggest downsides, for example, was that our reps could only take orders during their business hours, which meant diverting business owners and operators from other duties. While we have some of the largest customers in the world, many of our customers are actually small mom-and-pop shops, cornerstones of their local communities, and they need to make the most out of every minute of the day. When thinking about the reality of these small and midsize businesses (SMBs), we realized we had a massive opportunity to make impact at scale by delivering a digital product to the market alongside massive process change management.  The result of which would go straight to our core objective; Helping these businesses thrive.

BEES: One Global Solution to Truly Become Customer Centric

In 2016, AB InBev embarked on a digital transformation that would fundamentally change our relationship with our customers. Flashforward to 2020, we launched BEES, an e-commerce company targeting the B2B ecosystem of SMBs retailers and supplying partners. This app-based solution empowers our customers to browse for products, place orders, earn rewards*, arrange deliveries, manage invoices, and access business insights all from one place.

BEES is live in 12 countries including Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, China, and the United States. With this exponential geographical growth, we needed actionable insights that would help us offer our customers a better selection of products and new tools to fuel their growth. To do this, we added Amplitude to our technology stack and started looking for ways to take our digital transformation to the next level.

Interpreting Our Data with Amplitude

Amplitude is a leading digital optimization platform for digital-first operations like BEES. It can analyze billions of data points to help companies discern and predict what products, services, features, and customer actions translate into business outcomes, as well as those that lead to customer loyalty, revenues, and a lifetime of value.

With Amplitude, we flipped the script and asked our customers to tell us what they wanted. Every click, every swipe, and every app interaction was honest input directly from our customers. It turned out to be a thousand times better than any of our previous strategies or assumptions, and we were humbled by the results. We got a ton of hard data telling us precisely what they needed, why they needed it, and where and when they wanted it. We knew that Amplitude could lead to deeper insights into our customers’ needs, but we weren’t prepared for what happened next.

Data is not enough. A lot of data is not enough. You need a way to make sense of it and get actionable insights for it to impact your organization and your customers. Click To Tweet

We decided to pilot Amplitude in late 2017, beginning in Mexico City and Guadalajara in Mexico, and Buenos Aires and Cordoba in Argentina. We all gathered at our seventh-floor office in New York City to witness the launch. I’ll never forget the moment when data started streaming in from across Latin America. High-fives were flying all over the place as we saw our customers placing their orders in real time.

It sounds simple, but it was really something else. Amplitude was showing us far more than numbers. These data points illustrated rich customer stories that complimented the face-to-face interactions that we have each and every day in the market. We knew our customers much more deeply now than ever before!

Fueling BEES’ Growth

A successful digital transformation involves three components: people, process, and technology. Amplitude ties together all three of those components by allowing us to understand how our customers behave. We know where and when they’re using the app and how they interact with our products. Through Amplitude, our customers tell us everything we need to know to ask better questions about our products and provide better answers about their needs.

A successful digital transformation involves three components: people, process, and technology. Click To Tweet

This, in turn, has fueled BEES’ growth. By the end of 2021’s first half we had over 1.8 million monthly active users (huge in the B2B space!) and captured more than $7.5B in GMV.

BEES has transformed the way our customers place orders. Instead of needing to wait for a rep to visit or call them— our customers can place an order before they open, after they close, or when there’s a lull during business hours. Thanks to Amplitude, we know 40% of our orders now come in outside business hours and we are using data to improve the experience of customers who prefer this approach.

Running BEES without Amplitude would be like flying a plane with no controls or visibility. Without Amplitude, we would have found ourselves on autopilot in a cloud bank, with no way to see where our customers were steering us and no idea of where we should land. Even though we moved quickly into the digital-first space, we would’ve ended up lost.

Bridging the Digital Divide

There was one surprising way that Amplitude helped guide us. It gave us insight into low- and no-technology customers. Some of our retailers, especially those in rural areas, don’t have cell phones, data plans, or WiFi access. They rely on old-fashioned landlines and were in danger of being left out of the loop. Amplitude gave us insight into these non-digital forward customers who balked at our previous BEES registration process.

Instead of asking them to fill out detailed online forms, we created a simplified registration mechanism and personally walked them through it. Instead of bringing them into the funnel, we brought the funnel to them and bridged the digital divide.  Now, we’re proud not only to serve the tech savvy modern trades, but also to bring the power of technology to those who may have been previously left behind – helping everyone thrive!

We Built a Unique Platform in a Crowded Space

AB InBev is not just another brewer. We are one of the world’s biggest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, along with names like Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Coca-Cola. Amplitude has enlightened us about our customers’ needs and has helped us build a unique platform in a very crowded space.

With Amplitude, AB InBev has built one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world from scratch using modern product architecture and cutting-edge customer data tools to cut through the noise. Amplitude has helped us understand our customers as well as we understand our friends and families. We can all happily raise a glass to that.  Cheers.

See how Amplitude helps you use customer data to build great product experiences that convert and retain users by exploring Amplitude today!

Footnotes

*Regulatory obligations may impact availability in certain markets

Jason Lambert

Jason Lambert is the SVP of Product at BEES, an Anheuser-Busch InBev company. Prior to BEES, Jason also served as Global VP of Product at AB InBev.

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