As we discussed in an earlier blog, consumer demand for buying alcohol online is clearly on a growth curve. More retailers will explore, experiment with and expand online alcohol offers. And technology platforms and services will continue to emerge and evolve at a rapid pace.
The key question becomes: What can alcohol brands do to influence shopper behavior and engage with online retailers and technology platforms?
Follow the path taken by many a CPG brand whose products have already moved online. It’s imperative that alcohol brands take control of their product content strategy. Topping this list is ensuring consistent, accurate and detailed product content across eCommerce channels. Breweries, wineries and distilleries must put their best foot forward to optimize the appearance of their products on eCommerce sites like Amazon, grocery retail sites, on-demand mobile apps, as well as their own websites.
2. Supply Stellar Online Content
Whether it’s sharing the story behind the bottle, drink recipes or party planning tips, online consumers want relevant content at their fingertips. Providing stellar content is where alcohol brands can excel. A prime example is Thirstie, which initially teamed with VEEV Spirits to launch its Branded Partnership Program in 2015. As stated on its website: “We provide brands with a direct connection to our consumers through custom advertising programs. We partner with you to create engaging, integrated, multi-platform campaigns. Our editorial platform
‘Stories’ combines timely and relevant content to consumers during their purchase journey, enabling liquor brands to not only educate target consumers about their product but also sell directly when purchase intent is highest.”
3. Partner with Digital Disruptors that Matter
Alcohol apps, like Drizly, are getting seed money and fueling online alcohol growth in a big way. Alcohol brands must figure out ways to collaborate with these up-and-coming technology platforms. Kail said, “Because they’re not licensed retailers but technology firms, a company like MillerCoors can invest in these platforms to improve brand placement and offer promotions to drive consideration and purchase for their brands.” Drizly provides extensive shopper analytics and custom insights to brands and their parent companies.
4. Support Traditional Retailers’ Online Efforts
As grocers like Kroger, Meijer, Walmart and more build their online offers, supplier support in helping them move up the learning curve will be crucial. But keep in mind that there’s a bit more at stake when working within the US liquor industry’s tiered distribution laws. “MillerCoors works closely with traditional retailers to provide solutions that drive online beer adoption. We not only can provide basic images, but we can provide video content and enriched media to elevate the credibility of these retailers as a destination for beer both online and in-store,” said Kail.
5. Have an Amazon Strategy
Half of all CPG sales growth between now and 2018 will come from eCommerce, with Amazon driving the majority of online growth. Having an Amazon strategy must be at the center of every supplier’s eCommerce strategy. Amazon is not only the biggest US online store, it’s also where shoppers of traditional stores go to compare products, deals and prices and read reviews. Amazon Wine is well-regarded and recognized as a purveyor of vast wine collections. Amazon already delivers in a handful of markets through its Prime Now service. It’s likely only a matter of time until Amazon figures out a way to disrupt the alcohol industry much like it’s done with many other retail categories. Keep a close watch on what it’s doing in the UK, Japan and other markets.
6. Consider Creative Partnerships
Alcohol brands might want to take a page from the UK’s Deliveroo/Heineken tie-up. Finding ways to tie an online alcohol purchase into a restaurant or meal delivery service could provide incremental growth opportunities and online learning experiences. MillerCoors’ Kail said, “There’s other delivery apps that are starting to think about this, some of the food players like UberEATS, DoorDash and Grubhub. They’re trying to think about how to get beer in the meal occasion delivery and we’ll try to partner with them.”
7. Engage Consumers Through Digital Initiatives
The use of the Internet as a sales and marketing tool is becoming widespread in the alcoholic beverage industry. A key way alcohol brands can influence online sales is by developing digital agendas, including online and mobile marketing efforts, which encourage consumer engagement. Finding ways to pair experiential marketing with digital programs should be a core focus to build better consumer engagement. Just like a brewer wants to be part of bar-room talk, so too should they strive to be part of many social media conversations.
8. Launch an eCommerce Hub
Where allowed (barring any legal restrictions like in the US), alcohol brands should consider operating their own eCommerce hubs. One such example is the “Discover the House” exclusive online hub recently launched by Pernod Ricard to expand its eCommerce offering in the luxury market.
9. Watch Out For “Challenger” Brands
Don’t overlook small-brand activity around the globe. The craft beer industry is growing gangbusters. Look at what BrewDog has done to quickly ramp up as a leading UK brand. And consumers are flocking to Amazon to buy it. Any “challenger”
10. Monitor Online Alcohol Activity
Online is rapidly evolving, which makes it even more critical to keep tabs on what moves competitive brands are making, how retail models are evolving, and what’s happening on Amazon. Do homework to identify new product arrivals and understand what brands sell best online. Monitor trends in pack size, pricing and promotions. These are just the kinds of benchmarks and analytics that will keep alcohol brands a step ahead of the competition and make a good online partner.