Historically, the adult beverage industry has been resilient during economic downturns, and that rings true here in the present. According to Nielson, online alcohol sales are up 243 percent as a result of the pandemic. Spirit companies have never reached this level of success in the eCommerce market before. They’ve faced challenges such as restrictive shipping laws, maintaining climate-controlled shipping conditions, and sourcing specialized couriers. Many of these restrictions have become more relaxed amidst COVID-19, and America is drinking.
With sales shifting to eCommerce seemingly overnight, spirits companies were caught unprepared without an effective eCommerce strategy. We’ve put together these four key takeaways for spirit companies to navigate the demand in the online market. Here’s how spirit companies can maintain the momentum in online sales post-pandemic.
Inventory management to keep your product in stock
Our findings show that consumers buying alcohol online care most about product availability. The biggest derailers of a potential alcohol online purchase are when consumers land in retailer pages where their desired product is out-of-stock. This is a huge let down for the consumer, but also a loss for the brand.
Inventory management is crucial in eCommerce for alcohol companies. It’s OK if you have bottles out of stock; it happens to every brand. Just make sure those out-of-stock products aren’t being served in ads to your potential consumers. This will not only help improve the shopping experience, but will also prevent waste in ad spend.
Keeping your digital inventory up to date and having the technology to only advertise products in stock will prevent this roadblock in the customer journey. While not a traditional function of marketing, inventory management is now part of eCommerce. Set alerts for when stocks are running low or when your digital shelf is empty. When you get these alert, adjust your campaigns accordingly.
Minimizing shipping times
Second to product availability in importance is shipping and delivery time. Currently, consumers buying alcohol online have buying behaviors that seem to replicate their purchase experience in stores. They want their drink -- and they want it as soon as possible.
We live in a world where next day delivery and Amazon Prime shipping speed are the gold standard, and some of these expectations have also shifted onto shopping for alcohol online. Taking a good look at your alcohol shipping strategy, and finding solutions on how to get your product in the consumer’s hands ASAP could be the difference between a purchase and an abandoned cart.
This is a concept that successful D2C brands know all too well. Take a page from their book by offering free express shipping when they spend a certain amount, or purchase multiple products in a bundle. This will incentivize the consumer to add more to their cart, and receive the fast shipping they expect.
Creative that Stops Them in Their Scroll
The most successful D2C brands all know that to drive customer acquisition, you need to focus on ads that tell your consumers exactly what they need to know in order to buy. When it comes to creative campaigns, instead of launching a big brand halo campaign, boil it down to product benefits. Show the consumer their favorite type of alcohol and give suggestions on how it can be enjoyed, then convey the value and give them the option of buying it (hopefully with one click!).
You can also increase engagement by showing your ads as a video. Your potential consumers are likely binge-watching video on their devices, so you won’t be able to count on only static creative for your campaigns. Put your product directly into people’s real lives visually. Find engaging ways to integrate the product, like in a cocktail recipe demonstration. Show how it's used, the size, the experience, and any other details that will spark a purchase decision—and what better way to show off these recipes than through a video.
Segment your audience
It’s important for spirit brands (and all brands) to pay close attention to buyer’s preferences, especially right now as online sales have nearly tripled the standard amount. You should always be crafting smarter and smarter campaigns using the audience data you collect. This is especially good for alcohol shopping, because our findings show that there is seasonality to alcohol purchases, and this can be captured opportunistically for optimal targeting. For example, large sporting events are particularly encouraging of large bundled alcohol purchases for sports fans. There is also geographic specificity to the ideal audience for each campaign depending on where the events are taking place and which teams are playing. To run successful campaigns that will fully capture the demand, you will need the intersection of multiple preference data points (retailer, product, team loyalty, etc.) in addition to geography and demographics data.
If you’ve been collecting consumer preference data, there are strategies you can leverage to upsell in your targeting as well. Like a good bartender, you can use your data to suggest to consumers other products from your brand that you think they might purchase based on what they have shown interest in purchasing in the past. For example, let's say someone purchased two bottles of gin for a signature cocktail at a family function. Retarget that consumer with other look-a-like products, and use their taste preference to your advantage (and theirs!).
These days, with buying online being the only option for some to get their hands on their favorite spirit, the sudden spike in eCommerce for alcohol comes at no surprise. While external factors have previously kept the spirits industry on a lag, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an uptick in online liquor sales, we don’t anticipate this trend slowing down anytime soon. Although some states are lifting stay at home orders, social distancing remains in effect. Things may not fully go back to “normal” for quite some time—and the Zoom happy hours, at-home boozy brunches, and “quarantinis” will keep flowing. So when you’re selling online, use these strategies to ensure you’re making the most of this boom—today and for the months and years to come.