Spirits brands continue to underinvest in search despite the crucial role it plays for consumers researching and buying products, contributing to overall poor performance in digital marketing for most brands, according to Gartner, Inc.
The inaugural Gartner L2 Digital IQ Index: Spirits U.S. 2019 ranks the digital performance of 69 spirits brands operating in the U.S. market. These brands were measured across more than 1,200 data points against four critical components, including digital marketing, desktop and mobile sites, e-tailers and social media. From these calculations, two brands were classified as Genius (Johnnie Walker and Hennessy), 22 as Gifted, 13 as Average, 21 as Challenged and 11 as Feeble.*
“The spirits industry is facing its third year of slow consumption, so tapping into online alcohol retailers is an important opportunity for brands to find growth in this sector,” said Brian Lee, senior principal at Gartner for Marketers. “As consumers between 21 and 35 continue to drink less and spend more time online, spirits brands need to find a way to lean into their target audience’s buying behaviors.”
Online sales for spirits increased 61% between 1Q18 and 1Q19, according to Gartner. However, digital investment remains nascent for U.S. spirits brands, with most indexed brands spending, on average, almost 20 times more on TV advertising than online display.
Early movers are aggressively investing in online channels to capture as much visibility as possible before the space becomes more crowded. Gartner research identified four key findings for marketers for U.S. spirits brands to keep in mind as they look for new ways to drive growth:
First-Mover Advantage: There is tremendous white space in paid search for U.S. spirits brands, as they can achieve substantial visibility by increasing investments in Google text ads, developing site content based on search trends and partnering with publications. Gartner research shows that search is responsible for the largest proportion of site traffic for the spirits sector. As activity moves from organic to paid, U.S. spirits brands must consider search’s potential for driving brand awareness.
Partner Up: Another area that leading brands are taking advantage of is partnerships with online retailers and publications, as it is becoming the fastest way to reach consumers and tap into established audiences. Handing off from brand sites to online retailers is now table stakes, as leading brands are now taking additional steps to maximize visibility and reach through e-tailer platforms.
Tailor Content to Platforms: U.S. spirits brands fall short in creating platform-specific social media strategies that resonate with consumers, and replicating content across channels is no longer effective. Instead, leading brands are finding reach and engagement by tailoring content and influencer strategies, such as cocktail and event content on Instagram and educational content on YouTube.
Streamline Site Experience: Consumers look to U.S. spirits brand sites for educational content, product expertise, recipes and information regarding production facility visits. To best suit consumers, leading brands’ sites support three main objectives: Be the best source of product information, attract traffic through search-optimized content, and facilitate retailer handoff.
Additional details on the digital performance of spirits brands in the U.S. is available to Gartner for Marketers clients in the report Gartner L2 Digital IQ Index: Spirits U.S. 2019.
Companies were classified as either “Genius” (their digital competence is a point of competitive differentiation for these brands); “Gifted” (the brands are experimenting and innovating across site, mobile and social platforms); “Average” (digital presence is functional yet predictable); “Challenged” (limited or inconsistent adoption of mobile and social media platforms); or “Feeble” (investment does not match opportunity).
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