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The Exponential Power of “Local Search” for Beer, Wine & Liquor Marketers

According to Google, in the last two years “near me” mobile searches have grown over 500%. And yet, alcohol marketers have been slow to embrace and adopt “local search” as a competitive advantage in driving both on and off-premise sales.

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Lastmile Retail

Harnessing the Power of “Near Me” for Alcohol Marketers

According to Google, in the last two years “near me” mobile searches have grown over 500%. And yet, alcohol marketers have been slow to embrace and adopt “local search” as a competitive advantage in driving both on and off-premise sales. Today, local search marketing is left entirely in the hands of individual end retailers, many of whom are not equipped to do so very effectively. As a result, when a user searches for “[Your alcohol Category / Brand] Near Me”, there is very little consistency to the quality of the advertising and user experience, if your brand even shows up at all.

At the root of the problem is that, historically, ABC laws and the 3-tier system have prevented brands from establishing their own local presence making local marketing difficult if not impossible. The best brands could do was support their end distributors and retailers by reimbursing time-tested programs such as slotting allowances, digital and paper circulars, in-store point of sale materials, and similar store-specific marketing.

In the age of digital, however, these programs are growing less and less effective as consumer attention shifts. Yet just as digital is disrupting these traditional marketing programs, it also creates a unique opportunity to go beyond the limitations of the 3-tier system and allow alcohol brands to directly promote their products online by digitally “becoming” the store.

Instead of leaving to chance what happens next, alcohol marketers can direct high-intent foot traffic to preferred liquor stores and retail accounts by going beyond the classic “store finder” and setting up localized microsites for each and every store and region in which they sell. In this way, when a customer performs a high intent local search, the brand can directly rank, with a page and shopping experience they control, and facilitate the online-to-offline shopper journey on behalf of their end retailer.

This creates major advantages for both the shopper and the brand. First, it creates a level of consistency and quality of marketing that fragmented retailer efforts simply can’t match. By directly controlling the local web pages and associated marketing, the brand can ensure that the brand’s message and experience is of the highest quality, every single time, across their entire distribution footprint. Second, by optimizing and advertising against pages the brand controls, they can directly measure the impact of “local search” marketing investments.

Finally, this approach provides alcohol marketers with the opportunity to tie-in to inventory control systems, which give further path-to-purchase visibility and present a level of detail and granularity that is otherwise not provided by distribution partners.

Migrating TV, Radio and Outdoor Media Budgets to “local search”

Perhaps most exciting of all, is that by controlling the local experience online, brands have their first major opportunity to transition waning traditional marketing programs to digital mediums where customers are increasingly spending their time.

Consider that today, 87% of shoppers begin their product searches online, according to the latest research from Salesforce and Sapient. Given that understanding, wine and liquor marketers, can start to go way beyond brand awareness and start directly funding localized campaigns against high-intent searches to customers poised to purchase.

Perhaps more interesting is just how little investment can produce an outsized return. This is because the “local search” category has been neglected for years despite its growing role in a shopper’s path to purchase.

“We’re seeing our clients achieve a return on their investment of 5x or greater” said Last Mile Retail EVP, James Gordon”. “Many of our clients begin with small test budgets and then quickly ramp up when they can see a direct impact and positive ROI in the local markets where they invest.”

Given that almost no major brands are doing this today, there is massive opportunity for competitive disruption by tapping into local search across many lucrative markets.

It’s not that traditional broadcast media should be ignored. Brand advertising plays an important role of generating awareness. In fact, when “local search” has been properly leveraged, there is a direct correlation between your brand advertising efforts and an increase in search traffic.

One study by Google noted that “two-thirds of smartphone owners use their phones to learn more about something they saw in a TV commercial.” That’s because people are no longer passively watching TV or listening to the radio anymore. They are actively engaging with their mobile devices and when they hear something that interests them, they tend to use their smartphone to take immediate action. You can see these trends for yourself when you overlay your search traffic with your traditional media schedule and see direct correlations in the search volume and traffic spikes. They key is to properly leverage “local search” marketing to ensure you are receiving the full benefit of your integrated marketing efforts.

Getting Started with a Simple Test Campaign

If you aren’t sure how effective your “local search” efforts are, the fastest easiest way to validate the power of “local search” is with a simple A|B test. Select two (or more) similar markets in order to track sales volume both on and off-premise. By holding a similar market as a constant (i.e. not changing anything you’re already doing now), you can see the direct impact a larger focus on “local search” delivers.

By selecting key retailers, bars and restaurant accounts that you would like to dominate, you can deliver substantial increase in sales and be in a much better position to negotiate the additional support you require inside these key accounts. By further refining your “local search” efforts, you can tap into a growing trend that has largely been ignored; especially in the alcohol market.

Armed with the data and a proven successful track record, you can begin to develop new approaches and “local market” models that support your desired growth. This allows you to have more control and influence over the “last mile” of the customer purchase decisions. Because, after all, doesn’t all your marketing and advertising efforts lead up to that most critical step in the customer journey? Where and what they buy matters and “local search” gives you the power to create substantial influence in these final moments that creates brand winners and losers when it comes to the final purchase decision.

Banning Policy by Platform

Amazon Policy: prohibits the listing of alcoholic beverages (except from pre-approved wine sellers), liquor licenses , any product marketed for customers over 21 years of age or any product that encapsulates raw alcohol

Google Policy: we abide by local alcohol laws and industry standards, so we don’t allow certain kinds of alcohol-related advertising, both for alcohol and drinks that resemble alcohol. The following are prohibited: Gmail ads, Reservation display ads. Consumer ratings annotations, and app install image and video ads.

Facebook Policy: Ads that promote or reference alcohol must comply with all applicable local laws, required or established industry codes, guidelines, licenses and approvals, and include age and country targeting criteria consistent with Facebook’s targeting guidelines and applicable local laws.