The brewing industry continues to experience major shifts. Changing demographics and generational influences are also creating new drink and flavor trends. Just look at Europe’s craft-beer scene, which experienced huge growth—178 percent, according to figures released by Mintel (a London-based market research firm)—with new-product launches more than doubling.
The way consumers purchase beer has also evolved. Today’s mobile-enabled consumers are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their purchasing decisions. They choose the brands most relevant to them at an increasingly rapid pace. And they pay a premium. Consider how craft has become the “new premium” in beer. Consumers are happy to pay more for smaller-batch, more handcrafted options rather than those that are mass-produced. The consumer desire for new experiences has also led to more new beer styles than ever before.
And we are already seeing how new and emerging technology can play a key role in delivering these new experiences. IntelligentX Brewing Company (London) brews four beers: an amber, a golden, a black, and a pale. Each beer is brewed with an algorithm called Automated Brewing Intelligence (ABI) that collects customer feedback through a Facebook Messenger bot. IntelligentX invites consumers to try one of the beers, then provide input on such characteristics as flavor and carbonation levels that is fed into the ABI algorithm to produce a new recipe that has been refined using real-time consumer feedback. The idea is, of course, to improve the recipe from the consumers’ point of view—to customize it, if you will. With or without technology, consumers are coming to expect personalized beverages created just for them—from something as simple as a unique cocktail to a drink custom-made for their individual genetic makeup or adapted to their unique anatomy. And brands will soon be able to go even further and tailor a product or an interaction to an individual’s particular mood. That’s personalization on a whole new level, and it won’t just mean matching beverages with consumers’ tastes, needs, or even their DNA. For brewers, the implications of this form of “precision manufacturing” will take companies far beyond mere supply-chain and fulfillment challenges. Manufacturing itself will need to change dramatically. Expect to see brands increase their ability to make late-stage product adjustments as well as move manufacturing much closer to consumers.
Relevance and Audience Participation
If constant change is the new normal, brewers must learn to continuously flex and adapt by developing fine-tuned abilities to sense, shape, and respond to each key consumer trend and market development.
What’s the right play for brewers? One answer: relevance. More than ever, we are seeing that today’s digitally enabled consumers are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their purchasing decisions. Relevance is becoming the key brand differentiator. And consumers are willing to go the extra mile to ensure they get it—by actively participating in all aspects of the brand.
Relevance and audience participation are now the drivers of consumer loyalty. And we are seeing brewers meet consumers’ strong desire to participate by bringing them right into the heart of their organizations. Consumers don’t just want to be deeply involved with a brand’s products, services, and experiences—they increasingly expect it.
We are seeing a blurring boundary between the company and the consumer. Consumers feel increasing “ownership” over the brands they love. And opportunities are emerging to allow them to express that ownership at every point in the value chain, whether sparking new ideas for products, selling the brand to other consumers, or even performing audits of individual stores. Consumers are taking control and are now firmly in the driver’s seat.
Just look at how Scotland-based BrewDog has evolved from a punk craft brewer into a personality that its global fans have embraced wholesale. Whether it’s moving into hospitality, becoming a subscription content streamer, or even offering investors the chance to fly on the world’s first craft-beer airline, BrewDog is a shining example of the power of treating a brand as more than just a product—and putting it right into the heart of consumer lifestyles.
To succeed in delivering personalized experiences to the consumers of the future and building brand value in this complex landscape, brewers will need to be highly targeted, agile, and able to operate without boundaries. Getting that right will be the secret to future success and growth.
However, the reality is that there is no archetypal consumer. Everyone’s needs vary depending on time and context. Successful companies will see and act on these fluctuations in the moment. And in this new era of digitally born disruptors and consumer control, beer purchases will increasingly be determined based on a brand’s relevance to the buyer’s needs in the moment.
And with available new technologies, it’s about building a company with the capabilities to deliver relevance at scale by staying on the pulse of today’s tech-savvy consumers and crafting hyper-personalized experiences that truly resonate with each and every person.