How the alcohol industry can take the on-premise experience online

Vice President, Audience Engagement

It’s Always 5 O’clock Somewhere Online

For the alcohol industry, creating and sharing a brand experience is key to product differentiation, increasing trials, and ultimately converting a prospective customer into a brand ambassador. Often times, this experience is developed and fostered on-premise (in stores, bars, and restaurants), where patrons can belly up to the bar and see an eye-catching tap handle or glowing bottle on the shelf that piques their interest. It’s also where they can ask their trusty bartender for samples or recommendations on a new style of beer, hard cider, or spirit they’ve heard about.

Like most industries, beer and spirits have been impacted by the pandemic, particularly with the restrictions on bars and restaurants. However, many brands have also seized an opportunity to boost their online sales and delivery offerings, or switch gears to producing much-needed hand sanitizer.

Even with those adjustments, what’s still missing for these brands is the valuable on-premise experience that proves so effective for this industry. We’re more likely to buy something after we’ve tried it. That’s why sampling programs are so successful. How many times have you purchased the fancy imported cheese at the grocery store after they lured you in with a tiny, free bite? For me, every time. With that in mind, we’ve considered ways that the alcohol industry can recreate the on-premise experience online and at home.

Reinventing the On-Premise Experience

The first step is to know your audience and build an engagement campaign around personas. With those insights, brands will be best positioned to understand what motivates and intrigues their prospective customer and tailor the campaign messaging and experience accordingly.

Typically, consumers follow a path with their adult beverages. Regardless of the category, people usually begin with an entry product, then move to a mid-level offering, and ultimately graduate to the higher-end product.

For beer, most people start with the widely consumed pilsner, but when it’s time for something new, many may feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the expansive craft industry. We’ve had success building an experiential program that educates consumers in an intriguing and non-intimidating way, arming them with the knowledge and confidence they need to “hop” into this new territory (“beer jokes” are the new “dad jokes”). This originally designed on-premise experiential program can easily be adapted for digital execution through clever content.

Online Engagement

We know consumers are interacting with the alcohol industry online. According to The Spirits Business, in March, 284 brands saw a 327% spike in social media engagement over the prior year, largely in part to those companies that donated to coronavirus relief efforts. The brands that took the opportunity to give back likely gained many new fans in the process.

Another opportunity to increase engagement is for brands to provide added benefits to online orders. For example, the standard purchase of a bottle of Tennessee Whiskey could include branded merchandise and a tasting kit with food pairings or recipe suggestions. Featuring social network information and campaign hashtags with a call-to-action for consumers to share their experience are the seeds of developing an organic influencer campaign.

If you’re looking for more ways to bring the tasting room to the living room, let us know. We’d love to discuss over a virtual cocktail. Cheers!

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Jillian Cascarino
Vice President, Audience Engagement
As our vice president of audience engagement, Jillian puts her more than 20 years of experience connecting companies with their customers through targeted storytelling techniques to good use. Her expertise in customer engagement strategies and tactics extends to organic social media, content marketing, and public relations, as well as strategic planning and messaging, marketing persona development, and audience alignment. When she’s not working, Jillian’s baking sweet treats for family and friends, tending to her garden, or playing board games with her husband and son.

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