Our team published the results of the “COVID-19 craft beer drinkers” survey. You can download the report here.
The report gives some encouraging signs and helpful insights for craft breweries who are persevering with beer-to-go sales while taprooms and venues are closed.
1. Craft beer drinkers are drinking more
The overwhelming response from our survey was that craft beer drinkers are still drinking craft beer. Despite the concern that macro beer would be an easy substitute at the grocery store, a significant number of respondents said that they were both drinking more beer overall and more craft beer overall.
2. Breweries need to focus on their established consumer base
The survey data suggests that consumers are sticking to what they know during the lockdown and are not trying beer from as many new breweries as they usually would.
Loyalty to a craft brewery was the #1 consideration for consumers choosing a brewery to buy beer-to-go. Craft breweries need to take advantage of this and engage with their closest consumers: regulars, mug club members and historical supporters. Breweries have seen success with a number of tactics: Facebook and WhatsApp groups, weekly virtual happy hours and social media giveaways are all great ways to keep your loyal consumers buying beer and sharing your message online.
3. Don’t forget loyal consumers who are a little further away
A surprising insight from the survey is how far craft beer drinkers are willing to travel to buy beer-to-go. One in four consumers said they would travel over 20 miles to buy from a craft brewery. To take advantage of this, craft breweries can increase the regularity of their new releases and offers – so that their consumers who are further away know when to plan their brewery visits in advance.
Also be clear on all of the buying options available – if consumers can get your beer mailed or delivered, then make sure those who are further afield get a clear link to buy. This may mean different email content for consumers within 30 miles and those further away.
4. Communication is key
Consumers want to receive regular, consistent, and clear updates from their favorite breweries to easily pick up beer-to-go. Breweries should prioritize regular updates to email lists and social media at a set time every day, every other day or every week. Any important changes should be pinned and highlighted at the top of each social channel. It is important to control the messaging that comes out of your establishment and having easy-to-find updates helps this.
Quality of information available through social media updates was the 2nd most important factor for consumers in choosing which brewery to buy beer-to-go from. Be clear on availability, upcoming releases and instructions on your to-go process.
5. Stick to popular styles
Many breweries have reported that they are seeing increases in sales of higher ABV beer, likely due to the fact that is easier to drink high ABV beer at home than in the taproom. At the same time, consumers are reporting that they are trying far fewer new beers and styles than usual.
The data suggests that during the lockdown breweries would better fare with a “more of the same” approach rather than branching out to new styles for the first-time.
6. Show how safe and easy it is to get beer-to-go
Over half of consumers listed how safe and sanitary a brewery to-go process is as a deciding factor in whether they bought beer to go. As a brewery, you can go out of your way to demonstrate to consumers ahead of time the steps you are taking to keep them safe.
It is worth creating a short video or virtual tour that walks consumers through your beer-to-go process. If consumers can see how easy it is to pick up your beer, they are more likely to come and give it a try.
7. Start to prepare for a normal in how consumers search and reserve craft beer
It will be a while until taprooms are buzzing again with people – and even once they are full again, there will always be consumers who are extra careful and not willing to be amongst crowds. Fewer consumers will also want to wait in line for limited release beer.
The lockdown is showing us that consumers are looking for more ways to search for and reserve beer online, and so as a brewery you can use this time to test online, advanced sales, and pre-order platforms and processes that can remain in place once your taproom is open again.
8. Gift cards are not selling as they should be
Consumers commented on wanting to buy brewery gift cards but reported that it was often difficult to find cards online, and once they were found cards available with the amount they wanted – work with your POS to see if you can offer a flexible price amount. Consumers mentioned Jester King Brewery as having a great gift-card setup on their website.
9. Organizing and innovating is helping breweries and their staff
In tough times, consumers are reporting numerous examples of breweries making the best of bad situations to both sell beer and support brewery staff. A number of local, state-wide and national campaigns have been formed to help formalize these movements including Community Beer’s #NationwideCheers campaign.
One innovation in brewing that opens huge possibilities is the rise in virtual brewery collaborations; opening the door for future collabs that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.
10. Data suggests that consumers are ready to buy – lobby your politicians
If the “Effects of COVID-19 on US Craft Drinkers” report tells us one thing it is that craft beer drinkers want easier and more convenient access to craft beer. State laws differ substantially, and in many cases are restricting craft breweries ability to get beer into the hands of consumers who want to buy. This bureaucracy is putting our craft brewery businesses at risk – and so requires an organized collaborative effort to change laws and restrictions.
Every stakeholder of the craft brewing industry should be vocal about changes that need to be made in their State. You can find your representatives here
The Hopalytics team has collated tips to help maximize the impact of craft breweries beer to-go set-ups. We talked with breweries across the US to find best-case examples of recently set-up beer to-go stations at craft brewery taprooms.
Here are things that are important for craft breweries to focus on as they continue to sell beer to consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak:
1. Plan your to-go process so that consumers are safe
It is important to understand the physical journey someone is going to take when arriving at your brewery. Your setup needs to allow for safe and easy pick-up as well as the ability to form a line with maximum social distancing.
As the spread of the virus increases, consumers are less likely to want to leave their car to pick up to-go orders. If you are able to, it is important to have the ability to place product directly in the back of consumers cars and trucks.
Today, OLCC made it easier for bars & restaurants to get approved to sell beer, wine & cider to-go, & to be able to deliver alcohol to customers at the curb or at home. There are 5,500 bars & restaurants in OR that could benefit from this fast-track process. We’ll keep you posted pic.twitter.com/ubGufc1rRf
It goes without saying that transferring your high standards of cleanliness from taproom to beer to-go is crucial. All employees should be wearing protective gloves and changing them often.
From a consumer perspective, ensuring that they can purchase beer-to-go with no or very little person-to-person contact is important. It is also important to offer hand sanitizer for customers at point of sale and collection stations.
If you don’t have a car, we’ll ask you to stand outside and order from your phone. This is what’s best for everyone and the only way that we can ensure a contactless experience.
One of the best ways to keep consumers and employees safe is to reduce the time required for person-to-person interaction. Clear signage – not just for pick-up but for parking as well – can give consumers info that they would instead have needed to ask about.
Make it clear what you want consumers to do as soon as they enter your property. The first thing consumers should see is signage with instructions/rules on how to pick-up. They should also see a menu with exactly what to-go options are available, again to reduce the time they need to speak to anyone on-site.
It is easy to film a 30-second virtual tour from a consumer perspective which becomes great social media content and acts as a clear example of how to buy beer safely.
4. Offer Additional on-site tipping options
Consumers are keen to support your tipped staff – and so ensure that your point of sale and to-go sales process allows for this.
Some breweries have set-up a tip bucket at their property exit that consumers can drop cash into (without touching it). Others have added a donation card as an online ordering option that goes towards tipped staff.
5. Offer online ordering, over the phone, text confirmations etc
It is important to encourage pre-ordering, even if a consumer orders from their car 2 minutes before they reach the taproom. Pre-ordering drastically reduces the amount of person-to-person interaction required to complete a to-go transaction.
Alongside online ordering, consider offering phone and text options as well. To maximize sales you need to offer a number of communication mediums to include every consumer behavior. Consider putting a text/call phone number on the first sign that consumers see in case they have not yet ordered-ahead.
Over the next few weeks/months communication is going to be key in helping small businesses engage with consumers. Check to see whether your point-of-sale system collects (and validates!) email addresses and/or phone numbers.
As you process transactions, ask for email addresses and phone numbers (have a way for your employees to collect) – even if they are already collected at your point of sale. You want to have your consumers’ most up to date and primary email address that is checked most often – whereas point of sale systems often have an older saved email address attached to them.
7. Encourage social media follows
As with ensuring you have your consumers’ most up to date email address, it is important to drive your consumers to follow your social accounts so that you can maximize information flow over the next few weeks.
One tip to maximize social engagement is to encourage consumers to document their to-go experience to share online, and make sure they know to tag your brewery in their posts. If you are actively re-sharing anyone who posts about their experience, this will encourage others to produce content as well.
There are craft breweries still open in the Twin Cities selling beer to-go! 👏🙌🍻 Check this helpful list!!https://t.co/FHOMSRRmtG
Another key thing to focus on as you offer beer to-go is your communication plan. You should plan daily social media posts; and get into a routine and be consistent about style and information that each one details.
Online behaviors have changed overnight with social distancing, and consumers are seeing and engaging with a lot more social posts. You should also prioritize being able to answer questions online and engage with consumers as their share content on your brewery
To save time, you can use free social media tools such as Hootsuite to create one post that can be shared across social platforms. At a minimum, this is an easy way to share to Instagram,. Facebook and Twitter and you can schedule posts ahead of time.
You should also use your existing email lists and newly collected email addresses to send regular email communication about any changes in your hours, to-go process or offerings.
9. Tap-into local, regional and nationwide campaigns
There are many organized online campaigns that are helping to co-ordinate and drive local craft breweries beer to-go sales.
Some of these campaigns are time-sensitive and can help to drive to-go sales in the run up to their execution. For example the #NationwideCheers campaign organized by Community Beer Company runs each Friday at 5pm and can help to drive Thursday and Friday sales.
In an effort to keep the momentum going we are turning the #NationwideCheers into a weekly “happy hour” event to continually support our local craft beer industry.
Other online local campaigns include virtual happy hours and toasts. It is also very easy to coordinate virtual “Cheers” amongst the people who have purchased your beer to-go, and this encourages them to return. Consider systems like Zoom to host online gatherings and update your regular consumers.
10. Get on every 3rd party to-go list
There are a number of local, regional and national lists of breweries selling beer-to-go forming online – and it is important that your brewery be listed on each relevant list.
Also look at your local community websites and social media pages for lists forming of all small businesses offering to-go options in your town/city.
As you can see with the Hopalytics list above, many breweries offer online gift cards. Gift cards are an option for consumers to support you without coming to the taproom to pick up beer. There is a growing online campaign for small business supporters to buy gift cards as a safe way of supporting their local brewery as well as having something to look forward to once the virus restrictions are over.
Ensure that you add Gift Cards to online ordering menus and to your online store.
12. Manage your can/crowler supply-chain
Over the next few weeks your suppliers will be under increased pressure with both increased demand from breweries and interruptions in their own supply-chains. Make sure you are in constant contact with your suppliers to identify supply-chain issues ahead of time.
When it comes to to-go cans and crowlers, you should worry less about can aesthetic and more about can quantity and availability. Consumers buying to-go beer are more concerned with safety and cleanliness than can artwork!
13. Lean on your partners
Once you have your to-go process finalized and are ready to communicate, use your distribution, restaurant or retail partners to help promote your to-go set-up. If your wholesales partners are in a position to sell your beer to-go then make sure you are promoting them as well – every stakeholder has a vested interest in seeing your to-go campaign succeed.
Every consumer who visits your beer-to-go set-up is a potential return-visitor: they are identifying themselves as someone who wants to support your brewery and is willing to drive to pick-up to-go beer. It is important that you work to ensure that these consumers return week after week. You should collect their contact information to be able to communicate about your next beer release. If you are able to, consider throwing in a $5 gift card for orders over $50.
In terms of content, it is also important to tell the story of your brewery and the people behind it. At a time when consumers are keen to support small businesses, it will help to have the story behind your brewery readily available online.
15. Use all of the information available to you
Additional resources for craft breweries beer-to-go set-up:
The virtual, from-home event will take place at 5pm on Friday March 20th, and is designed to encourage consumers to use curbside to-go stores at craft breweries over the country who have had to close taprooms due to COVID-19.
With the growing restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak there is a real fear for the impact on small-business owners reliant on in-person sales. Many small independent craft breweries fall into this category as taprooms are forced to close.
There is a growing online movement by craft beer drinkers to support our independent craft breweries through this time by purchasing online gift cards that can be used once the crisis is over.
We have compiled a State-by-State list of breweries and craft-beer companies who are offering gift card purchase directly online. A purchase will help the brewery with short-term cash flow and give you – the consumer – something great to look forward to once the crisis is over.
If you are a brewery and have online gift-card purchase link, where your receive the revenue directly and instantly – please reach out to be added to this list: [email protected]
The above information was sourced by the Hopalytics team through internet searches by State – if you would like for your brewery or craft-beer business to be added, please get in touch: [email protected]