Manchester digital marketing agency Return have sealed their position as an authority on the alcohol industry at a time of great change for domestic consumption of alcohol, by producing a whitepaper on consumer trends.

How to use Online and Mobile to Influence Alcohol Purchasing Decisions is an extensive document that presents the case for brands needing to reconnect with customers, and keep up with constantly-evolving marketing channels to stay ahead of the curve, as falling sales and growing competition pose an increasing threat. Old favourites such as wine are falling out of favour in a market which is increasingly dominated by trend-led drinks such as craft beers, gins and whiskies.

Changing tastes and loyalties have been spurred by an increase in start-ups and exciting new products, while buying decisions are thought to now be influenced by factors deeper and more varied than taste, including brand identity and social consumption. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that brands cannot afford to ignore the purchasing power of the millennial – those who do risk missing a huge chunk of the marketplace. The 21 to 34-year-old market consume more alcohol than anyone else and place high value on the whole brand experience rather than the product alone.

Return’s whitepaper highlights how the fractured customer journey of today, now defined by ‘micro-moments’ which are more immediate, intense, frequent and short-lived than previous behaviours, necessitates a different approach to the path to purchase which must incorporate a multi-channel strategy. Consumers’ attention must be held via storytelling and brands remembered via the creation of new moments of consumption. Examples of this are Kopparberg establishing themselves as the natural choice of beverage on a summer’s day; or Bailey’s marking themselves out as the perfect partner to hot chocolate.

In one of many brand-focused case studies, the whitepaper focuses on Hendrick’s Gin, who have successfully created a brand story around themselves which resonates with the whole market yet is entirely false. They have positioned themselves as one of the original English gin brands when in fact, they were founded right before the turn of the millennium – in Scotland. Yet their messaging works and despite not actually being accurate, they have managed to retain an air of authenticity due to their brand connotations of heritage and tradition.

Of course, no conversation around brand marketing in the modern world would be complete without mention of the importance of social media. Drinking culture may have traditionally been a social activity in a physical sense, but to move with the times, brands must put online activity at the forefront of their thinking when shaping their strategies. Who goes out drinking (or dining) without posting an outfit photo, checking into the pub, leaving a review or documenting their night via Instagram Stories or Snapchat these days? Indeed, according to the Wine Market Council, over 50% of wine drinkers discuss what they drink on Facebook, while over 30% do so via other social channels.

Social proof – in other words the power of trust in the opinions of other consumers – is at the core of user-generated content, which should be an integral part of a brand’s story. Bulldog Gin are one given example of an alcohol brand who capitalise on this by acknowledging the majority of their mentions, retweeting and commenting on nearly every post they are tagged in.

Other areas of significance to the alcohol market include organic search, which is increasingly used for research by consumers looking to be fully informed on a brand before committing to a purchase, while paid search has become the key medium for transactional behaviour.

The whitepaper also looks at the future of the alcohol market, particularly around the growth of anticipatory marketing, which involves using smart machines to make purchase decisions for the customer with the assistance of data. Examples of this already in the market include Samsung’s Family Hub fridge, which can make grocery shopping orders all by itself, as well as HP Instant Ink printers, which will put in an order for more ink as it runs low.

Such innovation of convenience is thought to be about to make waves in the alcohol industry, in the form of machines which can recommend new wines or add beers to the weekly online shop before a detected football match.

Download your copy of the whitepaper here