What you missed from Quirks Brooklyn 'BYOB (Build your online brand)' session
“How many of you have purchased alcohol online? What about groceries?” This is how Lisa Caro, Director of Insights & Analytics for Emerging Opportunities, Constellation Brands, kicked off her remarks to a room full of insights professionals at The Quirk’s Event in Brooklyn. The responses to those two questions reflect the challenges and opportunities that alcohol brands face in eCommerce.
In the ‘BYOB: Build Your Online Brand” session, Lisa, along with my eCommerce colleagues, Mike Mabey and Elizabeth Kadrich, shared how we helped Constellation Brands in its eCommerce journey.
Since mobile accounts for the majority of online alcohol purchases, Constellation Brands wanted to help these consumers find exactly what they were looking for more easily, while also helping retailers advance the alcohol category online.
Since I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for their session (no samples!), I’m sharing how this leading international company turned to mobile optimized images to influence shopper behavior.
Understanding the alcohol category in eCommerce
Constellation Brands is an international producer of some of the world’s most iconic beer, wine and spirits brands, including Corona Extra, Modelo Especial, Robert Mondavi, Kim Crawford, SVEDKA Vodka, and High West Whiskey. As an insights professional within the #1 multi-category supplier in the US, Lisa explained the unique situation alcohol brands currently face in eCommerce:
- Closing the online gap relative to other categories: Currently online sales represent less than 1% of total alcohol industry sales, behind other CPG categories. As a highly-regulated industry, alcohol brands are limited in how they can engage with retailers, sell and ship their products. However, they’re experiencing rapid growth (30%+) as click & collect offerings and online adoption grows at traditional retailers.
- Mobile shoppers: Because of the convenience factor, 74% of online alcohol purchases are made on mobile. More often that not, consumers are shopping on the go.
- The challenge of communicating many variants: “We have a lot of different variants per brand that aren’t easily communicated in traditional online images,” Lisa shared. She explained that one vodka brand alone has 75 different SKUs when accounting for all flavors and package sizes. When using traditional images online, “it’s difficult for consumers to distinguish between SVEDKA Strawberry Lemonade and Mango Pineapple vodka or a 750ml bottle from a 1.5L bottle,” she said.
- Combatting lost sales: When shoppers can’t locate the right item, Constellation Brands loses sales. According to Constellation’s research, 1/3 of online alcohol shoppers who purchased less than expected, said it was because they couldn’t find the right item.
With all these eCommerce considerations in mind, “We realized we needed to explore mobile optimized hero images… and needed to do it fast. That’s what led us to SKIM,” Lisa said.
Challenges and opportunities of optimizing and syndicating mobile content
While Constellation Brands was exploring mobile optimized hero images, they were also beginning to syndicate product information and images online. The goal was to have a consistent and accurate online presence across retailer sites. “As a consumer and shopper led organization, we knew it was critical to develop mobile optimized images in parallel to nailing the basics and ensuring that even traditional images were accurate,” Lisa shared.
Our SKIM team is no stranger to optimizing mobile hero images, having worked with Unilever early in its eCommerce journey to standardize guidelines in conjunction with the University of Cambridge. The guidelines specify the most important criteria to optimize for a consumer-friendly mobile hero image: brand, format, variant, and size selection.
“While the Cambridge guidelines were a great start, they offer alternatives that don’t account for the nuances in the alcohol category,” revealed Lisa. “We needed to understand the impact to shopper behaviors, so we could communicate the benefits to retailers and our brand marketing teams.”
Lisa illustrated these nuances by showing mobile image options for Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc wine. “When we look at ‘format in the wine category, that could mean a few different things, Is it wine? White? or sauvignon blanc? Do we show the label zoomed in or is the entire bottle important?”
Testing consumer reactions and conversions on a realistic online retailer environment
Testing all these image/text variations live on retailer sites wasn’t an option for Constellation Brands. Having multiple brand images across sites would cause confusion for consumers, plus they wouldn’t have access to the rich back-end data.
Liz Kadrich, Senior Analyst, revealed how the SKIM online retailer replication platform helped overcome these challenges and uncover the insights Lisa needed.
The SKIM platform allows you to experiment with different online scenarios in a confidential and realistic online retailer environment. “For Constellation Brands, we embedded a choice exercise in an environment mimicking Amazon Prime Now,” she said. “In this eCommerce platform, we’re able to keep everything constant and only vary images, to measure any potential lift in conversion with a mobile optimized image compared to the current image.”
Serving up actionable insights for brand marketing and retailers
The mobile shopping exercise on the SKIM platform revealed much deeper insights than would have been achieved with a ‘best worst’ analysis. The exercise revealed:
- Which images boosted conversion?
- How easy were products to find? Were they breaking through the clutter online?
- Which images were explicitly rated best/worst and representative?
- Which aspects of the image are most appealing to consumers?
Armed with this data, Lisa had to sell in the benefits of mobile optimized hero images to her internal brand marketing teams (who had to agree to any changes to their digital assets) and retailers, many of whom had only recently started exploring mobile optimized images for other categories.
“A lot of our sell-in to internal and external teams was focused on how this was truly shopper and consumer first. We combined our understanding of online alcohol shopper needs, with our mobile optimized hero image research with SKIM to ensure internal teams and retailers knew this would help advance our category online and make it shopper first,” Lisa commented.
After just two months of having these images available, Lisa revealed that Constellation Brands is already seeing success at retail with these images, with others in the alcohol industry also starting to adopt this standard.
She invited Quirks attendees to pull out their phones and search for ‘Robert Mondavi’ on Walmart.com. “I’ll let you see the difference for yourself there. If that isn’t shopper friendly, I don’t know what is!” she concluded.