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"It's amazing what people have come up with during this time to continue to serve their customers, so we try to support them as much as we can. In most places around the world, pet care services are actually considered essential."
— Loic Moutalt, President of Royal Canin
Pets are the heart of Royal Canin’s business, and with 400 million pets around the world, the company is busy making sure these beloved furry family members get the nutrition they need.
These efforts have gone into overdrive during the COVID-19 pandemic as Royal Canin helped independent pet shops, veterinarians, shelters, pet specialty stores, and other small customers digitize their operations, said Moutalt, president of Royal Canin.
“Our strength is understanding animals, and we’re really passionate about that, so when this [the pandemic] happened, our teams really rallied together so that we could continue to serve,” Moutalt said.
“We know our products make a difference, because in some cases if certain dogs or cats who rely on a therapeutic diet don’t get our product, they really struggle. When people are really galvanized by a mission, they go the extra mile,” he said.
Moutalt shared how Royal Canin is serving as a lifeline for customers during this time and bringing its brand purpose to life through digital experiences on the Unpacking the Digital Shelf podcast episode "Bringing Brand Purpose to Life in Digital Experiences."
Royal Canin, which is part of the Mars brand portfolio, is a purpose-led company. It's guided by a mission to make the world better for pets.
But to achieve this mission, the company had to undergo a transformation and make digital a core part of how it does business. Royal Canin's digital shift began in 2017, and the company focused on digitizing the services it provided to pet professionals, such as veterinarians.
"Digital technology enables us to reach many more professionals with higher-quality services that we can do in a physical world. That's how we started our journey, which was basically to equip breeders around the world with tools that would help them be better in their practice. Same with veterinarians," Moutalt said.
"It was really very strategic for us because we wanted to bring more than the product to them. We also wanted to bring the knowledge that we have to make the products — and the education that goes with it — to help them make better diagnostic decisions and provide better nutrition solutions," he said.
For example, the company has created a Veterinary Partner Program that provides convenient online ordering for veterinarians and gives them access to online continuing education courses, technical support for products, and the latest product and pet health nutrition information.
With this offering, Royal Canin is using digital to both empower and educate its customers.
Royal Canin also has leveraged digital technology to improve pet health. At the end of last year, it launched an innovative product in France: Royal Canin Individualist.
"It's an individualized nutritional answer," Moutalt said. "Basically, a veterinarian makes a diagnosis based on blood and urine samples and physiological diagnostics. We get that data, and then we have an algorithm to compute the ideal nutrition solution for that single pet. We then make the product, and if the owner agrees, we ship it directly to their home. It's a product that is totally unique to that pet."
"The innovation is as much in the nutrition itself because it's very complicated to organize. The manufacturing is totally reverse-engineered because the product is not made in advance of the recommendation," Moutalt adds. "It's an amazing innovation, totally enabled by digital tools."
How Royal Canin is using digital is really profound. Pets can't communicate their wants or needs, but digital tools give them a voice and enable pet owners and pet professionals to understand their nutritional needs better. In turn, Royal Canin is gaining valuable data to personalize its products and improve its offerings on a much broader scale. Moutalt said digital has become "energizing for the company."
"It just simply broadens our ability to achieve our purpose on a much bigger scale, but with much greater precision to help pet owners and pet professionals," he said.
All of these efforts have laid the groundwork for Royal Canin to transform into a digitally-driven company, which has allowed it to be much more responsive to its customers' needs, especially in recent months.
After the pandemic began, Royal Canin started to create and share more digital content that provided pet owners and professionals advice about how to care for their pets during this public health crisis.
With social distancing, many pet owners also were hesitant about shopping in-store even though these essential businesses were open, so the company helped independent pet shops with setting up digital home delivery services. It also offered a store and product finder tool to help customers get the supplies they needed for their pets.
With the home delivery services, all customers had to do was call their local pet shop or vet clinic, place their order, pay the pet shop or clinic directly using one of three online payment methods, and then book home delivery using one of the available delivery service providers listed on Royal Canin's website.
"We tried to offer the kinds of online services our customers needed to continue to operate and serve pet owners with the nutrition their cats and dogs need," Moutalt said.
Moutalt said it will be important for Royal Canin to be as nimble going forward as it has been during the pandemic. He said two things will be crucial to making this happen: breaking down silos and focusing on outcomes further to integrate digital into the fabric of the organization.
"It's interesting what we've been able to do for COVID-19, for example," Moutalt said. "It's probably the first time that I could get all of the different components of my different communication channels sitting down around the table and say, 'OK, now what do we do?"
"Whether you're scientific communication, whether you're consumer care, whether you're external affairs — whether you are, you know, mainstream communication to a pet owner — suddenly we were able to do what we probably needed to do for two years, which is literally build an editorial line for next week where all of the channels are consistently going to the different stakeholders in our ecosystem," Moutalt said.
"We have coordinated communication today, but it took a crisis for us to pull that together. The question for tomorrow is 'How can we do that in a systematic way?'" he added.
Operationalizing collaboration and creating regular opportunities for cross-functional teams to come together — whether it's through weekly virtual meetings or by using collaborative communication and project-management tools to keep everyone on the same page — will be critical for Royal Canin and other organizations to provide digital experiences that are responsive to their customers' needs.
"What you're able to do under pressure in crisis mode is actually harder to embed on an ongoing, regular basis. The danger is that you go back inside the organization to silos and to functional dividers instead of finding a way."
— Loic MoutaltPresident of Royal Canin
"But how do you find a way to be in service of the outcome you're trying to reach? If you channel your organization toward an outcome, you have more chances to get there," he said.
Moutalt said it's essential for organizations to create accountability not solely focused on role or function, but rather assign whoever is most competent to participate in achieving a specific business outcome.
Digital technologies have given companies the capabilities to offer a range of services, including home and contact-free delivery and subscription programs. However, to make these experiences more frictionless in the future, organizations need to orient their teams around outcome-based goals, Moutalt said.
By taking this approach, the focus will be less on the process and more on actual results. It will also spur more collaboration because performance won't be measured in terms of individual contributions, but will be framed around a larger organizational goal that moves the business forward.
Like Royal Canin, many businesses are learning lessons during the current crisis that could transform the digital experiences they offer consumers in the future.
“The leap in technology is going to last. It’s only been an accelerator of things that we were already moving towards,” Moutalt said. “Everybody now has to learn how to work digitally.”
Listen to the full podcast episode to hear Moutalt discuss his path to digital transformation and how his team has brought these experiences to life in an agile way.