Spirits brands face the hurdles of complicated regulations and prohibitions against end-to-end ecommerce, reports eMarketer. These factors have undoubtedly contributed to their slow incorporation of digital channels into the overall marketing mix. But brands are likely to start moving toward them, especially since digital-savvy younger consumers present new opportunities for growth.
A December 2012 survey of spirits brands worldwide by L2 Think Tank found that 84% of brands had incorporated retail locators into their websites. Still, most companies can go a few steps further to make things even easier for prospective customers. Only 40% of brands polled provided maps and directions to users searching for a retail location. Even fewer—8%—had the capability of auto detecting consumers through IP addresses, although this low figure could be due to privacy concerns and restrictions.
Brands with mobile-optimized sites are even smaller in number, but those that have made the leap are attempting to forge strong ties to social media, with about nine in 10 incorporating links to social networks. Spirits companies with mobile sites again lagged in providing retail locations; only about one-third of them did so, a potentially significant oversight given how useful mobile is for consumers attempting to search and find locally. Adding this kind of functionality to mobile sites can only smooth the online-to-offline path to purchase for potential customers.
Thus far spirits companies have focused mobile app efforts largely on Apple’s iOS, with half of surveyed brands creating software for the iPhone and another 29% creating apps for the iPad. In comparison, only about three in 10 had developed a mobile app for Android phones.
Spirits brands would be well served by focusing more attention on apps, especially if they intend to target millennials. A Q2 2012 study by SymphonyIRI of various digital influences on brand selection among US millennial shoppers found that smartphone apps sat atop the list, followed by recommendations from blogs and social networks.