According to the US Department of Commerce, US consumers spend more than $230 billion every year on alcoholic products. At the moment online beer sales are a very small segment of the total beer market, but it is growing. As younger people enter the market, there will inevitably be greater demand for beer online from the 75 million-plus tech-savvy millennials. This has not been overlooked by the brewing industry. However, the industry does have some particular hurdles to overcome, not faced by other sectors, such as age verification.
PART 1 – EXPLORING THE MARKET
The Potential Market
Some industry pundits are speculating that the size of the online alcohol market could grow to between $7 billion to $15 billion. A prize worth fighting for. According to industry giant MillerCoors, it is expected that 5% of US beer sales could be made through the Internet within the next few years.
The US industry is lagging far behind the UK at the moment, with just 4% of US beer consumers regularly buying their beer online, compared to 34% in the UK. Click and Collect is only just being introduced in the US, whereas this distribution model is well established in Europe amongst the supermarket chains.
Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Study in 2016 interviewed 30,000 respondents who have Internet access in 63 countries and discovered that the percentage of online buyers of alcohol was just 8%, which made it one of the lowest online take ups of any sector.
Profile of Purchasers of Alcohol
In-Store Only Online Alcohol Buyers
The average age of purchaser 49 39
Percentage of male buyers 49% 77%
Household Income over $100,000 31% 43%
Buyers who are married 53% 73%
Buyers who are in full-time work 42% 71%
Are they urban or suburban? 56% suburban 56% urban
The average online buyer of alcohol, according to MillerCoors is in the 35 to 45 age range. They enjoy a higher income than the average beer consumer, and when they do buy their beer online, they will buy much more than they would normally purchase in a store.
Distribution Method for Online Alcohol Sales
Click and Collect 50%
Same day delivery (within hours) 41%
Delivery in 1 or 2 days 34%
Delivery time over 2 days 27%
America’s Three-Tier System
Here we have the biggest barrier to alcohol e-commerce in the US. When prohibition was repealed, and the 21st Amendment became law, it specified that there had to be three tiers in the distribution model.
· The Producer
· The Middleman/Wholesaler
· The Retailer
Consequently, the beer brewers cannot sell directly to retailers, bars, or restaurants. They cannot pay them in any way to promote their product. This includes providing coolers or paying for shelf space. The brewers cannot sell directly to consumers, this is only permitted by licensed retailers.
In effect, this makes it impossible for breweries to operate their own eCommerce sites. The result is that it is easier for US brands to enter foreign markets than for foreign brands to enter the US market. Despite this, US brands are unhappy with the three-tier system, as it is less efficient. Another factor to be considered is that it infringes on free trade agreements.
No National Regulations
Another difficulty for online beer retailers in the US is that the 21st Amendment also handed over responsibility to individual states for regulation of alcoholic drinks, which means brewers have to handle 50 different regulatory bodies for manufacture, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcohol. In some cities, there are also regulations from individual municipalities. In the UK, such matters are handled nationally.
Third-Party Delivery Apps
Most alcohol purchased online in the US is through a variety of online delivery platforms. These apps have local retailer partners, and when you order from the app your beer will be delivered in about an hour. At the moment it is only these apps that are increasing the share of online sales in the alcohol market. But they are expensive to operate, do not offer a wider selection than the local partner stocks, and will typically have minimum orders, and delivery fees.
· Drizly (The Original Player) – Serves 40 markets in the US and Canada
· Klink – Miami, Washington DC, Dallas, Ann Arbor
· Saucey – Mostly West Coast
· BrewDrop – 14 cities
· Minibar – 33 markets currently
· Thistle – 10 markets
· Swill – 15 Cities
· Drink Easy – Ships to most US states but 3-5 days delivery.
PART 2 – STRATEGIES FOR MARKETING BEER ONLINE
Digital Branding Strategy
Beer brands should take control of content strategy by ensuring that there is detailed and consistent product content across available eCommerce platforms. There is even a Dallas Beer company that hired a Dallas DWI Lawyer to help with their branding strategy. There should be well designed and effective product portrayal across these platforms. They should also invest in their own website.
Content is King
Just as with other consumer products, producers tell the story of their product, provide interesting product-related content and competitions. This content should include well-designed images and video content to support the text. Tying in the product to key events throughout the year is also consistent with this strategy.
Co-Operate & Conquer
Beer brands should learn to work and develop those apps that are producing high volumes of sales. These apps are NOT licensed retailers but are classified as technology apps, so the 21st Amendment does not stop Brewers from investing in these apps, to ensure prominent placement of products. In return, the apps can provide detailed analytics back to the Brand.
Take a look at meal Delivery Services
In the UK, Heineken has developed a partnership with Deliveroo. Kail from MillerCoors suggests that other key players like UberEATS are trying to find ways or building similar partnerships and add beer to the list of products they provide.
You Cannot Afford to Forget Amazon
Any online strategy should have Amazon in a central position. They are the biggest US online store and also functions as a place where consumers compare products. Amazon Prime already delivers Beer in a select few markets, but Amazon will surely develop and bigger strategy to dominate this market as they have so many others. Check out Amazon.co.uk.
Beer brands should seek to be the subject of online discussion on Social media. The creation of viral material and creative linking to campaigns can do a lot to enhance brand awareness.
Frequently challenger brands have been the most successful in making an impact online. Do not forget these small brands. A case where the small challenger brand has made a big impact online is the success of BrewDog in the UK, where a small brand has quickly become a major competitor in a given market.
PART 3 – TEN TOP SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS
Beer Brands have used a variety of techniques to mobilize the power of Social Media over the years. In this section, we take a look at some of the techniques they have used. Mention social media and people immediately think of ways of creating viral posts. In fact, social media can be used in far more creative ways, as you will see.
It is also important that you realize that good campaigns can be reused or modified at a later date. In this way, you can build on the success of excellent campaigns.
Kingfisher Head Banging Beer Advert
This campaign from Indian Brand Kingfisher Beer featured a beer vending machine that dispensed beer in return for “headbangs.” At the machine users strapped on a special helmet that recorded the number of headbangs and log onto their Facebook account, and then do as many “Headbangs” as they could in 30 seconds. The number of beer cans dispensed was dependent on the number of bangs. Their success was posted to Facebook accounts. Results = 100,000 headbangs in three days and a massive 3 million impressions online.
Miller Lite Campaign
This campaign featured user-submitted photos of their “Miller Time”. The company offered $1,000 awarded to 10 people every day for 100 days. The response to the social media posts was phenomenal. 180,000 photos were submitted during the campaign. At the end of the original video posting a giant collage of visible under the #itsmillertime tag.
BrewDog, famed for creating unusual brews ran a campaign that allowed Twitter and Facebook users to create their own beer, by deciding which ingredients were used to create it. The result was #Mashtag (see the picture). The beer eventually contained New Zealand hops, Hazelnuts, and Oak chips. It had an alcohol content of 7.5%. The campaign claimed that BrewDog had created a democratic beer.
Newcastle Brown Bad Photoshop Ads
In response to Miller Lite’s successful Photo submission campaign, Newcastle Brown did a spoof version, where they invited social media users to submit photos to be badly photoshopped into adverts for Newcastle brown beer. Not only did these spoof ads have intentionally terrible photoshop work but they also featured groan-inducing puns (see the picture). A low-cost campaign that worked well.
Budweiser Buddy Cups
This campaign was based on some special cups used at Budweiser events. The cups have a special Choi-p in the bottom and when arriving at the event users have to scab the barcode on the bottom of the cup, to register. Then every time they do a “cheers” bringing glasses together the system automatically sends a friend request on Facebook. A clever gimmick to encourage event-goers to get to know each other. Another example of using Social Media interactivity in the real world.
A new mobile app allows you to buy a pal a drink-through Twitter. Both parties have to have a PayPal and Twitter account to use the app. When you Tweet a Beer you send your Pal $5 and also send them the name of the place you want to meet and when to meet, for the beer.
Amstel has a passion for dragging people away from their smartphones and enjoying a relaxing beer with a friend instead. The digital detox app rewards users for staying away from their smartphones for eight hours, by buying them a beer. This app has been a great hit with users on social media. One of the most popular apps that were tested.
The Offline Glass
Introducing the glass that forces you to choose between your beer and your smartphone. This special glass has a slot cut out of the bottom of the glass, so it can only stand straight if propped up by your glass. . this brings people back from concentrating on their phones instead of enjoying the company. This was built especially for a bar but could well be used an s promotion for a beer brand.
Spontaneous Party Campaigns
this is a Real-Time campaign that was initially staged in New York. Social media users who want to take their party to the next level are encouraged to Tweet why they deserve a Heineken Themed Holiday Party. The Tweets are monitored in Real-time and winners will instantly get the party essentials straight away. The essentials include a DJ, UBER gift cards, an event photographer, and as you can surely guess – Heineken Beer. The campaign later rolled out to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
I Bet He Drinks Carling Black Label
We finish with a vintage advert from 1990 which cleverly played on the rivalry between British and German football, and references the wartime classic movie Dam Busters. A funny film that resonated with the public and did a great deal to raise awareness.]
We began this article by looking at the potential market and how Beer Brands can exploit the Internet. We looked at the current state of play in online beer sales in the US, and identified problems related to the 21st Amendment, comparing the situation to the UK.
This led to a look at the best-performing methods of selling Beer online that currently exist. Moving on to other strategies that can be utilized. Finally moving on to some excellent examples of campaigns run in recent years.
There is still much to learn and it will take a lot of change before the US can match the online results of the UK and other European countries.