, “points of interruption”, and alcohol eCommerce with AB InBev’s Carolyn Brown



In the US, due to variations in laws and regulations around selling alcohol in different states, consumers have different levels of awareness for buying beer online. This presents unique opportunities for brands like AB InBev, and highlights the importance of accuracy when targeting different audiences.

On this episode of BRAVE COMMERCE, hosts Rachel Tipograph (Founder & CEO of MikMak) and Sarah Hofstetter (President of Profitero) sit down with Carolyn Brown, Head of eCommerce at AB InBev, to discuss different marketing strategies to employ as eCommerce matures for the alcohol space, how her company is innovating to inspire purchase opportunities, and the bravery necessary in parenthood.

How to sell beer online when not all shoppers know it’s possible

Buying beer online is “not something that a lot of people know you can do,” Carolyn reveals. “People think it must be illegal. But it's not. You can order beer online. You can order it for delivery in most states.” For the consumers who are well versed in buying online, AB InBev can “tailor messaging more towards what brands might be the right for that person”. Others, however, do not know that it’s possible to buy beer online at all. Marketing tactics in these cases start with driving that awareness. This has been a major initiative at AB InBev. Carolyn’s team purchased, which served as a product locator and prominently featured AB InBev products. These campaigns target potential shoppers with ads displaying a variety of brands “within our portfolio to figure out what it is they're looking for, and that occasion that they're shopping for.”

Consumer insights learned from these campaigns are then incorporated as awareness continues to increase. Content creation becomes more nuanced, and are geared toward “having impactful brand programs, as well as creating really appealing onsite content, great product images, videos, other rich content, so that the shopper can see, learn, get the sense of the feeling, touching, and experiencing that brand identity.” These are opportunities to create targeted and digital experiences that can exceed what is possible at physical storefronts.

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Project adjacencies and “points of interruptions”

Another major focus in driving awareness is strategic product placement online, and knowing your product adjacencies. It’s about being “visible when and where people are shopping, and bringing the right brands in front of different groups of consumers.” To do so, Carolyn emphasizes the value in creating “points of interruption,” or points in the consumer shopping journey where an AB InBev product is a complementary product to drive bigger basket sizes.

That’s why the click and collect grocery trend has become key to alcohol eCommerce. “Meals are such a universal occasion that every family, every individual, of every demographic, experiences,” Carolyn explains. “It's just a matter of how beer and hard beverages and alcohol fit into those occasions for them.” For example, displaying beer by the meat and cheese section in stores nudges people to consider, “I'm creating a meal. What kind of beer can I pair with that?” This cross-category placement outside of the beer aisle is even more crucial for innovative brands emerging in the digital space in order to “associate those products with other things that the shopper is familiar with.”

Bravery in parenthood

Carolyn recounts her bravest experience as becoming a mom. Not only was it “something that nothing in the world can really prepare you for”, but also “something that you do kind of alone”, even if it takes a village. For her, the experience was also “the most ridiculous on-the-job training experience that you can get,” and there is “no book or piece of information” that is going to be as helpful as “just doing it”.

“It's been an amazing experience,” she reflects, “but life-changing for sure.”

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