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Compared with other industries, alcohol has been slower to enter the ecommerce space in a meaningful way. The cause? The three-tier system in the U.S. makes the ecommerce landscape unique for alcohol.
Leslie Danford, senior national account manager of ecommerce at Beam Suntory, a global premium spirits brand, shared her perspective on the challenges and her company's approach to meeting consumer demands online.
“Many people still believe ecommerce is ‘not possible' for spirits as a result of these factors, but that’s just not the case. Both traditional players, as well as new entrants, are getting into the game to meet consumer demand. We at Beam Suntory are working with our existing channel partners to ensure we capture this mutually beneficial opportunity,” says Danford.
Leslie leads the U.S. ecommerce efforts for the company’s brands, including Jim Beam, Midori, and Canadian Club. Leslie also coordinates best practices for ecommerce globally across the world’s third-largest premium spirits company.
"This is an exciting time for our industry. Although ecommerce is small today, it will grow.
In fact, looking at precedent categories, ecommerce growth accelerates when it reaches a tipping point of about 3% to 6% penetration of total category sales.
The alcohol industry needs to be prepared for when this channel becomes more meaningful."
"Content is king. It’s critical not only for online purchases but also for consumers who shop in stores as well."
— Leslie Danford, Senior National Account Manager of Ecommerce, Beam Suntory
"Research shows 38% of U.S. grocery shoppers do online research, regardless of where they make their final purchase. Consumers’ relationships with spirits brands are different from many other CPG [consumer packaged goods] category brands.
The good news for alcohol is that many brands have rich family histories and specialized production processes, which is the kind of information consumers are eager to engage with. The key is getting this content in their hands."
Content is king. It’s critical not only for online purchases but also for consumers who shop in stores as well."
There are three areas that you can focus on when planning your product content.
"First things first: Make sure the basics are right (e.g., bottle shots, descriptions, key facts). Not having this information — or having the wrong information — can have a negative impact on the consumer experience and purchase."
"As consumers flock to authentic products and classic cocktails, they want to know about brand heritage. Inspire them with the background of what they’re drinking."
"Consumers are often looking online to learn. Educate them on your product, whether it’s how to make a particular cocktail or the difference between bourbon and Japanese whisky."
"Beam Suntory is investing ahead of key ecommerce capabilities in anticipation of the growth of the channel, which has played out in other consumer goods categories previously.
We are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the growth of this channel while leveraging the learnings from other categories that have gone online before us.
In recent years, we’ve been at the forefront of innovation across the spirits industry. With our ecommerce programming, we are excited to position ourselves for further growth."
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