eTail Europe 2021

London, UK

Tito's Handmade Vodka Brings Ecommerce Strategy to the Drinks Industry

With ecommerce now deeply embedded in society, online shopping is widely considered to be the preferred method of retail therapy for many people around the globe.

When Amazon completed the purchase of grocery brand Whole Foods, it seemed like the same may soon be true for the weekly shop - perhaps a blessing for anyone who has attempted to negotiate supermarket aisles on a busy Saturday afternoon.

However, one industry which has been relatively slow to find its feet in the new world of ecommerce has been wines and spirits. That's slowly starting to change, and Tito's Handmade Vodka has some innovative marketing ideas to help facilitate it.

Drinks Ecommerce

According to the latest figures available, online sales of alcoholic drinks in the US hit $1.7 billion in 2017. While this number is impressive, it's still dwarfed by brick-and-mortar sales and represents an inverse pattern to nearly every other retail-based industry.

"The spirits industry is in its infancy with regards to ecommerce, mostly thanks to consumer awareness and mindset," said Senior Vice President of New Business for alcohol delivery startup Drizly, Justin Robinson. "It's not yet second nature to go online to buy alcohol. As was the case with categories that offered ecommerce earlier on, there is an opportunity for the spirits industry to think ecommerce first and integrate it into everything it does, rather than segmenting it by teams or specific projects."

In fact, may alcohol brands are yet to even offer online ordering as an option, and instead still sell their products through third-party retailers such as supermarkets. This may be a product of being where customers are, however. People tend to purchase alcohol for immediate (or close to it) consumption, rather than to keep it in stock in the same way they purchase groceries.

However, as ecommerce becomes more ubiquitous, adopting online sales capabilities is no longer a way to gain a competitive advantage over one's competitors, but instead a way to remain relevant. In other words, an ecommerce presence will very soon be the baseline for retail brands, rather than an optional extra.

"From what we see, these trends indicate the increasing customer demand in purchasing alcoholic beverages online," reports Oro Inc. "However, not all wine and spirits businesses are sold on the concept of selling online. One of the main obstacles preventing ecommerce for wine and spirits products is alcohol regulations and restrictions. These regulations complicate the shipping and retail of alcoholic drinks. Good news for wine and spirits providers is that these regulations are gradually evolving. This gives beverage alcohol companies another reason to digitize commerce and finally connect with digital buyers."

Digital Marketing

Another complication when it comes to ecommerce for alcohol is found in just how to go about marketing it. With tight regulations around the way alcohol is advertised, marketers must be creative when it comes to finding responsible ways to promote these products.

Texas-based craft spirits brand Tito's Homemade Vodka thinks it has come up with an innovative solution to marketing its products online - with a new partnership with food-based social media platform Allrecipes.

The new partnership involves the creation of an AI-powered chatbot, designed to act as a virtual bartender and help consumers make delicious cocktails using Tito's signature vodka drinks. The chatbot, named Barkeep, operates from Facebook Messenger and converses with users in real time about mixology and flavour combinations. In the US, customers can also make purchases through the chatbot, with delivery being facilitated by Drizly.

"As a brand, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to connect with our fans and to make enjoying a Tito's cocktail as simple as it should be," said former Vice President for Brand Marketing at Tito's Handmade Vodka, Nicole Portwood. "The virtual bartender allows us to help our fans make hand-crafted cocktails in real time and gives us the ability to deliver on demand, bringing the bar one step closer to you."

Final Thoughts

We are finally seeing the wine and spirit industry begin to make roads into the ecommerce space. There's still a long way to go, but the innovative ideas being tested by brands such as Tito's Homemade Vodka are sure to help the industry along its way.

You can hear Tito's Homemade Vodka's Managing Director of International, John McDonnell, speak at eTail Europe 2019, taking place in June at the QEII Centre, Westminster, London.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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