Datamonitor's latest report, 'eVolution in Alcoholic Drinks Marketing' identifies the key features of a successful online presence for alcoholic drinks brands and looks at the future of eCommerce for the industry.

Alcoholic drinks marketing is now a more diverse and dynamic process than ever before. With consumers becoming less receptive to standard mass promotions and with technological advances opening new, more personalized communication opportunities, the face of drinks promotion is changing.

Whilst above-the-line advertising continues to take the greatest share of budget, a growing number of consumers are becoming more cynical towards mass marketing techniques. This has created a need for 'mass personalization' and a move towards a more 'relationship' style of marketing.

At the same time, a range of new media has emerged that allow marketers to target consumers with unprecedented accuracy. The Internet, e-mail, and interactive television all provide revolutionary opportunities to bring personalized marketing messages into people's homes and offices.

Internet development

Datamonitor's research reveals that drinks manufacturers have launched websites with enthusiasm, but many have neglected to make best use of their online presence by matching their websites to their audience. Datamonitor's figures dispel the idea that the majority of the online audience is under 24. This misconception needs to be realised by manufacturers if they are to maximise the potential of the web.

The Internet is developing at different rates in different countries, due to local specific drivers of Internet markets. While it is true that many European countries have an online consumer profile that is younger and more male dominated than the offline one, in more developed Internet markets such as the UK, there are almost equal proportions of 18-24 consumers as 25-34 consumers online. The US has almost equal proportions of each age and gender group online.

Currently, Internet penetration is developing so rapidly that many of the gender and age disparities that currently exist will be addressed. The levels of growth forecast mean that not only will the absolute number of online consumers increase, but that the spread of consumers will be broader, allowing manufacturers to select a target audience more precisely if they have the technological capabilities to tailor their web presence to different targets.

Understanding that, at present, the online audience is different to the offline one enables drink brands to present different promotions and messages, while maintaining the core brand values throughout. If differences between the e-brand and brand are too great, however, consumer confusion will result. As the rate of Internet access increases, so the audience will converge. This means that it will be difficult to separate brand messages in the long term.

Brand Websites

Brand websites are at the center of online marketing, as they provide high volume communication to the consumer which few other marketing media can match. Websites represent an interactive presentation by manufacturers, which is sufficiently extensive to allow the presentation of very detailed brand images.

Depending on the choice of content, websites can achieve any of the strategic objectives of marketing from driving brand recognition, to nurturing core consumers. In achieving these objectives, a website has enormous potential. In being consumer led (in the sense that a consumer chooses to visit a website), it can also convey more credible messages than manufacturer led media.

Websites can serve a critical role within a complete integrated marketing campaign. Websites can collect consumer information to allow future 'relationship' communications, and support other media by informing consumers of sponsorships, onsite promotions, retailer offers etc. and raising awareness of current TV and poster campaigns. Integration is doubtless the most important aspect of ebrand promotion for the drinks industry; a successful online campaign needs support from complete online activity such as banner adverts, reciprocal links and affiliations, direct email and content sponsorship. While online media can be used to drive traffic to a website, as well serving a function of raising brand awareness in themselves, integration between a website and offline media can be mutually supportive. Offline media can be used to drive traffic to the website, in addition to achieving the specific marketing objectives independently. In turn, the website can raise awareness of offline campaigns. As the Internet develops, and technological advances allow for different pages to be presented to different target groups, the role for a website as the centre of an integrated campaign will become increasingly important.


The future of eCommerce for alcoholic drinks

The food and drink industry is the one of the latest to be struck by the potentially revolutionizing force of eCommerce. Food and drinks e-tailers are rapidly developing a strong position both within eCommerce and the distribution of FMCG goods generally. Sites such as www.netgrocer.com, www.peapod.com, and www.tescodirect.com are rapidly reaching a stage of development at which distribution coverage is sufficient to pose a significant threat to conventional retailing.

As a result of these developments many small companies and manufacturers themselves have been experimenting with eCommerce, mostly using courier and postal services to distribute goods. Within the alcoholic drinks industry, companies such as www.lastorders.com, www.ebooze.co.uk, and www.chateauonline.com have taken steps to begin distributing alcoholic drinks over the Internet. However, developments in eCommerce may remove the opportunity for independent retailers or manufacturers to successfully distribute alcoholic drinks online.

Consolidation of retailers

There are clearly economies of scale within the distribution operation of large online retailers. It is highly questionable whether distribution of low value alcoholic drinks products by courier or post is commercially viable or sustainable in the longer term. Many small distributors are willing to sustain losses in the short term in order to boost their stock value, or maximize company value to be bought by one of the large online retailers.

As the market develops the competitive advantage will clearly lie with those with developed distribution infrastructures, and the financial resources to compete with traditional bricks and mortar retailers. This evolution means that the online retailing landscape will grow to resemble the offline environment more and more. Ultimately, a few large retailers will be able to dominate the market to the exclusion of smaller independent distributors.

'eVolution in Alcoholic Drinks Marketing', £2995, is published by Datamonitor. For further details please contact Yasmeen Khan on +44 20 7675 7487 or ykhan@datamonitor.com