Costa Coffee wakes up new markets with localized content — and caffeine
Long website builds created a competitive disadvantage
Needed to off-board quickly from previous content platform
The parent company’s content solution wouldn’t offer brand autonomy or quick edits
Lacked the technology, architecture and bandwidth to support widespread localization
An API-first, composable content platform easily integrates content, tools, and data
A user-friendly interface encourages editorial autonomy
Localization features enables global teams to easily create regionally-tailored websites
Content models full of composable content support quick site create and launches
“A lot of our site is driven by outside sources of content. We have all these APIs tied to store locations, products and our app. As an API-first content platform, Contentful was a nice change. We were able to build a setup that wasn't tied to just the CMS.”
“What we’re creating is a fully modular structure where local markets can plug in and out exactly what they need or that they don't need. The pipelines should enable certain functionality. What’s built after is then layered on the website’s core functionalities, extending and enhancing them.”
“With our old CMS, content and website creation, updating and maintenance were more manual. You'd have to package content up, deploy the code and then redeploy the content because the content and the CMS were bundled together with the code. It was a little bit more error-prone and way slower.”
Everyone takes their coffee differently. Some prefer something fluffy and sweet, others take theirs frill-free and dark. For the past 50 years, Costa Coffee has delivered on its customers’ unique coffee preferences — something the brand doesn’t plan to stop doing even as it continues to expand beyond the United Kingdom, where it’s been voted a nationwide favorite for a decade and counting. While its 4,000 stores and 10,000 self-service Costa Express machines gain significant foot traffic, Costa Coffee’s digital presence, which includes a web and mobile app plus the customer rewards app Costa Club, fuels customer loyalty. On these platforms, Costa Coffee sets itself apart from other coffee brands by showing customers it’s helpful (by providing cafe locations), thoughtful (by offering deep product information), and giving (by sharing discounts and other perks).
When Costa Coffee was confronted with the opportunity to switch up its tech stack and digital governance, its team of engineers researched, built, and pitched a plan and new technology that would allow its brand voice to continue to be as bold and expansive as its caffeinated offerings.
Brewing the right content solution, not just a good one
In 2019, Costa Coffee left the Whitbread family and was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company. Joining such a recognized conglomerate was equal parts exciting and stressful for Costa Coffee as the brand was given just five weeks to off board from its previous CMS. Costa Coffee engineers had two options: move to Coca-Colas’s well-known, heavily supported legacy CMS or pitch a different, brand-specific content solution to its new owners.
While the first option would be the easiest, Costa Coffee engineers knew it would be limiting. The timeline and processes surrounding content publishing, editing, and management would depend on governance granted — or restricted — by the brand’s new parent company. “We try to build a personal relationship around coffee so, while Coca-Cola’s stack is great, we had some questions on how our brand would work with that stack,” said Gordon Lucas, Global Head of Engineering with Costa coffee. The brand moved to explore other content solutions.
Building a buzz around the globe
Customer loyalty wasn’t the only thing Costa Coffee engineers were looking for though, they needed a solution that would yield a quick return on business KPIs. They needed a content solution and strategy capable of supporting the brand’s plans to enter the American and Japanese markets. It also wanted to tailor existing web content for the locations where Costa Coffee was already established — Europe, the Middle East and APAC — instead of starting from scratch. The goal was to obtain something more flexible that could grow with Costa Coffee. API-first, composable content platform Contentful came recommended by an internal engineer. After a quick proof of concept followed by approval from Coca-Cola, Costa Coffee was free to build their stack and architecture with global customers in mind.
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While Costa Coffee relies on Google Translate to speak customers’ languages — they address market-specific preferences with segmented websites supported by individual spaces and composable content modules in Contentful. “Each site follows the same brand guidelines but they are unique to each market. For example, the Japanese market — we're technical about their coffee. They want to see the details of where it’s sourced and the nutritional information. In Germany, it’s all about the experience — the smell and sound. Teams working for each market have the ability to customize the content and modules to these market-specific preferences,” says Sezin Cagil, agile delivery manager with Costa Coffee.
Costa introduced automation processes to move builds along even quicker. They now have 15 localized websites — and that number will continue to grow. With automation and its “drag, drop, and tailor” method for building localized sites, Costa Coffee’s four-person Engineering team — plus the market-located team spearheading the project — can easily support its growing network of websites. The brand now has the potential to stretch around the globe without stretching its budget, workload, or team.
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Blending tools, teams, and responsibilities
Tech stack talk aside, Contentful has been an easy software for non-technical and technical Costa Coffee team members to learn. Lucas and Cagil agree that ease of operation is something all brands should weigh when considering new technology. “Because of the way Contentful is set up — and how we’ve set up our templates and models — marketers find it quite easy to use. They're able to build sites, grow them and respond to needs autonomously. Over time they gain confidence and can begin creating and adjusting at pace. I think that's really important to scaling,” said Cagil. The two also agree that the ability to preview content and make quick rollbacks provide peace of mind as they keep mistakes to a minimum. Those that do make it into the world can be smoothed over in seconds.
Going forward, Costa Coffee engineers are looking to streamline their Contentful user interface further. “We work as a group. We design with and learn from each other so it’s really important that every person has access to the tools and team members they need to get the project done,” added Cagil. Costa Coffee is already using Netlify to achieve some wins on this front and, with the Contentful Marketplace, they’ll be able to easily introduce other tools as new needs arise.
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