COVID-19 has had a profound effect on every facet of our lives, from health to business and beyond.
The shutdowns caused by the pandemic have done more than disrupt normal sales patterns. They have forced businesses to steer through an uncertain recovery period with no playbook.
Even more, businesses aren’t driving the changes: Their customers are, most substantively through a sharp pivot to digital commerce. They are rapidly shifting to online retail for new product discovery and purchase. This signals for beverage alcohol brands and retailers to do the same.
“If you look more broadly at some of the data regarding consumer behavior online, the consumers are really the ones pulling the brands and the retailers into the digital world,” 3×3 CEO Mike Provance, PhD, told an audience of industry leaders during Bar Convent’s Global Bar Week in October 2020.
“About 70 percent of US consumers shop online for one sort of product or another. And at the same time, when you look at manufacturers, about $2.6 billion in sales have been done online. That’s only 1 percent of the entire off-premise industry,” he said.
“Retailers are probably the ones who are struggling the most to figure out what digital means to them and how they can reach consumers online…this is an area that is still going to be a big draw for consumers and it is going to be important for retailers to figure out.”
Redesign Discovery with Social and E-commerce
For small brands and the retailers that sell them, a digital presence has become a core element of success. E-commerce websites and social media communities are now helping small brands reach their customers, replicate traditional discovery and hand-selling, and build more valuable relationships with consumers.
Right now, customers are buying better-quality products to replicate the on-premise experience. But in doing so, they are spending less off-premise than they would have in a bar or restaurant. In order to develop premiumization, smaller brands and retailers should shine a light on their diverse product offerings that are not available at the local grocery.
Additionally, product choices are mainly influenced by website user experience and brand recognition, not by retailer recommendation or unique discovery. Smaller brands and retailers need to ensure that their digital commerce setups are simple, functional and arranged to move the right inventory.
Take a Holistic Approach to E-commerce
For e-commerce to be successful, it must be more than just a shopping platform that runs itself. It should be a way to take hand-selling into the digital sphere. Meet the customer while they search, aid in discovery through omnichannel engagement and show them why they should purchase from you.
Think of e-commerce as part of a holistic community-building strategy. This approach can produce longer-lasting relationships between retailers and consumers—ones that will continue in a post-COVID world.
Develop a Successful Social Media Strategy
In the retail ‘new normal’, omnichannel marketing will drive purchases, meaning every digital asset—your company website, digital ads, social media, and so on—must be directly connected to a clear and user-friendly purchasing path for the consumer.
Beverage alcohol retailers should use their specific business goals to build an effective social strategy. But to pull customers from competing stores or see a product-specific, category-specific or general lift in sales, a retailer will require a granular, hyper-targeted strategy to see the best and most precise results. This involves a combination of organic social media content, paid advertising, direct audience targeting and community engagement.
Digitally Target the Right Customers
On social media, most retailers focus on the bottom of the funnel. While this is important, it’s not enough to grow a business. Ideally, retailers should have a social media plan that targets all points on the customer journey:
- Awareness: Drive recognition, interest and recall of a brand or store.
- Consideration: Increase engagement and activity to push toward purchase.
- Loyalty: Encourage recurring and future purchases.
Specific targeting is the greatest value that social media ads offer over traditional ones. It’s important to identify the customer targets for each ad and limit the audience only to those targets. This limits the amount of ad spend wasted on low-propensity customers and focuses your message on an ideal audience that is predisposed to buy from you.
3×3 found that the purchasing habits of consumers are not as tied to physical attributes, like age and gender, as to psychological aspects, like behavior and lifestyle. We use this information and other psychographics to find consumers who are more likely to make a specific purchase, target them successfully and drive more traffic to stores. It’s a method that generates a higher return on ad spend than something more general purpose. Done right, social media can incur as little as 1.5 percent of monthly profits in cost and still deliver improvement in all three ways.
By understanding the important roles that social and digital media play in beverage alcohol, independent brands and retailers can be better prepared to cement longer-lasting relationships with customers.