The Digitization of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry (Pt 2)

Lukasz Piotrowski
October 7, 2020
How you can start going digital in the drinks industry

Since you have landed yourself on this article, chances are that A) you're in the alcoholic beverage industry and/or B) you have come to understand the sheer importance of going digital for the survival of your business. I have discussed it in length in the previous instalment of this series — "Why Drinks Business Should Go Digital Now or Get Left Behind".

This part of the article will help to kickstart your digital journey by giving an overview of the different actions you can take to start digitizing your business. I’m breaking them down into four areas — e-commerce, social network, digital ads and marketing, and contactless experiences — but no doubt you will soon find that they are all interconnected.

1. E-Commerce: The First Step

It goes without saying that in order to “go digital”, you have to take your business online, literally. This is not just crucial as we continue to navigate life during a pandemic, but also for beyond COVID-19. IWSR CEO, Mark Meek, said, “Many people will be exploring home delivery services and e-commerce services for the first time during lockdown and social distancing. Consumption habits formed now may stick around in the future.” In fact, even pre-COVID studies have shown that by 2040, 95% of all purchases will be facilitated by e-commerce.

Keep in mind that it would not suffice if your online store is simply a place to order products. With various e-commerce platforms available out there such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce, it has become easier to start an online business. What this means for you is that there will be more competition, and thus brand differentiation is key. Augmented reality (AR) has become increasingly popular to boost consumer engagement digitally. It opens up more “space” for you to display extended content — content that is both informative and entertaining — in a visually rich and immersive format. As your e-commerce site is essentially a store that is open 24/7, there are endless opportunities for consumers to engage with your brand and products and you want to ensure that you are creating lasting impressions.

More importantly? AR drives impulse purchases as 72% of AR uses admitted to buying items that they didn’t initially intend to, because of AR

2. Social Network: Building a Community and Connecting With Consumers

Consumers would appreciate having a space where they can connect with other like-minded people who have decided that your brand is a good fit for their lifestyle. Image credit: NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Did you know that as of last year, internet users spend an average of 2 hours 24 minutes on social media and instant messaging apps daily? Did you also know that people don’t just follow other people on social media, they follow brands too. In short, it is no longer practical for businesses to not be on social media these days.

While some may have the impression that building a social media presence is costly, that is not always the case. Typically, running ads on social media is more affordable than traditional media, as you have the flexibility to set your own budget and spending limits. Even influencer marketing has evolved to involve micro- and nano-influencers who are more within reach for smaller businesses. Alternatively, if you are just trying to dip your toes into the waters of social media and are not ready to spend a dime, carefully planned organic content and sharing of user generated content work just as well too. At the end of the day, consumers would simply appreciate having a space where they can connect with your business on a more person-to-person level, as well as with other like-minded people who have decided that your brand is a good fit for their lifestyle.

If your curiosity is piqued and you want to delve deeper into how your beverage brand can build an online community for your consumers, stay tuned for the next part of this series which will be out in the next two weeks. (Spoiler alert: I will also be touching on marketing on instant messaging apps and livestreams.)

3. Digital Ads and Marketing: Persuasion at the Right Place, Right Time

There is a reason why renowned companies in the industry such as Heineken, Pernod Ricard, and Patrón have been significantly upping their digital marketing budget since 2015 — that’s because when done right, it works. Online advertising, be it on social media platforms or the Google network, can be highly targeted and localized through functions such as geo-targeting, filtering audiences by interests and demographics, as well as remarketing. What this ultimately means for you is that online ads are more value for money as not only are you in control of when and how you spend, you are also able to fine-tune your target audience based on those who are more likely to engage and convert.

While video ads tend to show promising results — with up to 82% completion rate for pre-roll ads by wine brands — there are many other formats that you can present your ads in. What excites me and my team at Omniaz recently is the official global launch of Google Swirl, which was in beta last year. This new ad format is essentially a 360° ad which “lets consumers engage with a product like it's right in front of them by allowing them to rotate, zoom and expand the creative in the ad”, as the company explained.

Again, you don’t necessarily have to spend any money on digital advertising and marketing. With some effort put into organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can ensure that your brand and online business reach your targeted consumers. This, alongside the rise of voice-search and voice-commerce, will also be expanded on in a future instalment of this series.

4. Contactless Experiences: The “New Normal” Everyone Is Talking About

Even with the re-opening of brick-and-mortar stores, things are not simply back to “business as usual”.

The reality is that we are not done grappling with COVID-19, thus everyone is resuming everyday life with caution.

For businesses, it means limiting the maximum store occupancy and ensuring regular sanitisation of high-touch areas and publicly shared devices. In a bid to negate this issue, store owners have implemented a slew of measures, such as curbside pick-up of orders, digital queues and menus, and encouraging cashless payments.

In a survey by Rapyd in August 2020, 54% of consumers concerned about handling cash as a result of COVID, and 60% plan on using contactless payments instead of cash. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Venmo are some of the most popular mobile wallets in 2020.

Yet, contactless payment is not the only “touchless” experience brands can offer. Once again, technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) prove that they have become indispensable to modern businesses, as they allow consumers to interact with you and your products remotely in a plethora of ways. One of the most ideal scenarios made possible for wineries and breweries thanks to AR and VR is the continuation of site tours — virtually, of course — so that new and regular customers can continue to discover your brand and products.

Moreover, in the current state of the world, businesses that are able to offer immersive and enjoyable shopping experiences remotely are more likely to be trusted and seen as having integrity and caring of their customers’ wellbeing.

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In the upcoming articles in this series, I will dive into more details and discuss at length three of the areas I highlighted above — social network, digital ads and marketing, and contactless experiences. Watch this space for the latest release.

Lukasz Piotrowski
CEO & Founder
Lukasz Piotrowski is a dedicated entrepreneur and a force of change in the alcohol and retail industries, constantly innovating solutions that blur the lines between offline and online retail. After establishing brands DRNK:AR and Reetail:AR under Omniaz, he is keen to share his 15 years’ worth of knowledge and experience on how to digitize retail businesses.