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