There’s no need to state the crippling effect of COVID-19, we’ve all felt it. But in a time of uncertainty, we all must turn to innovation for hope. The craft brewing industry has had to completely pivot. Several breweries have begun shipping nationwide. Many are offering delivery, and nearly all breweries are encouraging curbside pickup.
From this crisis, the importance of having strong business acumen has risen even further to the forefront. No longer can you merely make quality beer. No longer can you merely put out a memorable taproom experience. You must now find unique ways to reach, engage and deliver to your audience. Once we survive the current situation, those breweries that continue to invest in the business side of their operation will once again prosper and grow.
Here is a list of strategies your brewery should employ to maximize your guests’ “new normal” experience and your revenue during this tough time.
Have a good website
Simple, right? However, with as many brewery websites as I’ve visited, you may (or maybe not) be surprised at how outdated a great deal are. I’ve found quite a bit of brewery websites without something as simple as basic contact info. Take the time now to revitalize your online presence and be sure to integrate a component that facilitates online ordering. Create an online experience that’s easy on the eyes, builds trust with your consumer, and stays true to your brand.
Include all info to order on social media
Pretty picture of your newest release? Check. Detailed description of the flavor profile? Check. Link to order? Do not forget the most vital part in converting a fan on social media from someone just swiping to someone swiping their credit card. Include the link and instructions where to purchase. Be sure to utilize each online platform correctly so that the necessary information appears on all mediums.
Consider user experience in online stores
Now you’ve got the consumer to visit your online store. Your goal now should be to make the ordering process as streamlined as possible. Make sure your menu available for online purchase is easy to understand. The end user shouldn’t have any questions to what beers are available for online ordering. Don’t assume the consumer is familiar with all the nitty gritty details of each beer. Provide them with the beer name, style, alcohol content, size options, and pricing. Keep it straightforward and as few clicks as possible to get to checkout.
Don’t be afraid of pop-ups
While pop-ups have negative connotation usually, these little reminders can be your best friend. After your user has selected beer to checkout, ask them if they’d like to add a couple of additional items with their order. “Would you like our limited-edition Virtual Drinking Buddy koozie with that 4 pack of lager” “How about one of our newest brewery t-shirts?” “Maybe a sticker for a buck?” There’s a reason sites like VistaPrint are able to move a ton of business cards. Maximize sales from their online orders and don’t forget the easy upsells.
Work with an online payment processor to eliminate the exchange of cash or credit card at delivery or pickup. While it is necessary to verify ID when providing your beer to the consumer, do everything possible to keep the experience touch free as you follow CDC guidelines. And don’t forget to include the opportunity to tip.
Know how much product you have on hand and integrate this information into your online store. Only advertise what you have available. Run out of your supply of Carole Baskin’s Cool Cats and Kittens Double Dry Hopped Sour IPA? Take it off your website. Additionally, don’t allow guests to add product to their carts only to be told it is no longer available when they checkout. This is extremely frustrating to the consumer and may encourage them to simply visit the other local brewery’s online store.
This is something I am not seeing many breweries offer at all. Consumers spending habits are showing many are purchasing based on familiarity. Many reports are showing alcohol consumption up during quarantine. Use this to your advantage and offer monthly subscription packages, either for pickup or delivery, consisting of two flagship brands. Consider including a six-pack of your IPA with a six-pack of a seasonal for $X each month. This is an automatic charge to your customer’s card. Easy money and a happy customer who now has two of their go to beers delivered each month. Once again, make sure you allot the proper inventory to cover all orders.
Make sure your guests are aware when their beer can be picked up or when it will be delivered. Just like no one enjoys waiting during a 12-hour window when the cable guy may show up, no one at all likes not knowing when their beer will arrive. Please provide accurate delivery windows. If anything goes amiss, stay in touch with the consumer. People like to feel appreciated and know what’s going on. Once you make the delivery or provide the customer their beer, end the encounter with a sincere thank you. Consider even throwing in a roll of toilet paper to make the experience even more memorable.
Find more consistent ways to stay in touch with your consumer
Only 13.9 percent of brewery staff are encouraging guests to sign up for their brewery’s mailing list or rewards program. This needs to change. In addition to social media, it should be your goal as a company with a product to sell, to stay in touch with your potential consumers in as many ways as possible. Semi-frequent emails serve as simple reminders that tell recipients you’re ready to serve them. Keep them informative, entertaining, and give that drinker a reason to visit. In addition, consider collecting your customers cell phone numbers to send the occasional announcement via SMS. A simple text can be a powerful marketing tool to get that person to make a purchase. Collect this information when drinkers online and send them a follow up text the next week seeing if they’re ready for more.
Engage virtually and provide community
Don’t just host a Facebook live happy hour with your brewmaster talking about your latest release. This could have, and should have, been done prior to life during quarantine. Education is great, but what your fans miss the most right now is the community your taproom provides. Help create this community online. Host virtual tastings, virtual trivia, virtual concerts, virtual anything. Brainstorm strategies that involve two-way communication, ideally video, to facilitate engagement. Consider pairing your latest release with a virtual tasting where those who purchase are given the opportunity to engage with your brewmaster or owner online as part of an exclusive experience. I recommend the craft beer specific video chat site Virtual Taproom to host events for your brewery. Keep your community excited about your brand and they will be even more excited to visit once your doors open again.
Andrew Coplon is the Founder of Secret Hopper, a mystery shopping company for craft beer businesses, and Craft Beer Professionals, a community dedicated to the growth and betterment of our industry. Check out all of his CBB articles here.