Craft breweries have seen major growth in Canada over the past 10 years, but many are struggling to make ends meet due to COVID-19 lockdowns taking place. For many, they are finding a new channel by moving their products online. The ones that already had an online presence have transitioned quickly, while others have been left scrambling to launch a web store. While creating an online store may seem daunting, this article will detail the steps necessary in creating your web store and being sure it is found online.
Do Breweries Need an Online Presence?
The answer is yes, and now more than ever! COVID-19 has hit the market hard and with the recent spikes in cases, sadly there is no real end in sight. However, in an interview with Beverage Dynamics Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head brewery said;
“Craft brewers are resilient and determined individuals that are continually adapting to the changing industry and marketplace. That resilience and determination, as well as their ability to be creative, will be the keys for any business — not just craft breweries — to survive this uncertain time.”
Many brewers are being creative, and have done a great job launching web stores at record speeds. By offering curbside pickup and delivery, which is now legal in all of Canada, many brewers have been able to create a lucrative new sales channel. However, launching a site is only the first step on the road to success. Brewers who recently moved online need a strong strategy to identify their local target markets and optimize their site to increase their Google visibility. While there is some truth to the ‘build it and they will come model’, those who are successful have been taking extra steps in order to be sure their product stands out online. We will take a look at some of these tactics below.
Target Locally and Beyond!
When launching a web store it is important to understand your local online target market. By understanding the amount of competitors fighting for visibility in your area, the amount of search volume, and what online methods appear to be succeeding you will be able to build a strategy that will ensure your brand is above all the rest.
JumpSearch is located in Toronto, Ontario so we will use the trendy west end as an example of performing a local search for breweries.
The image above is a Google search for “Brewery near me” in Toronto Canada. As we can see there are plenty of options online! With the market in Toronto somewhat saturated how does a brewery stand out and what are the methods to do so?
The screen capture above displays the search volume for ‘beer delivery’ associated keywords forecasted for the month of November in Toronto Ontario, Canada. All of the keywords selected are deemed high-value target keywords for a brewery since they have high user intent. This capture details the cost-per-click Google Ads search cost (how much you would spend), clicks (how many clicks your ad will receive and impressions (how many people will see your ad in the search results.)
Having your brewery appear high in the Google search results for these keywords will lead to new customers shopping at your web store. As you can see from the forecast chart above search volume is predicted to continue climbing over the next year, meaning it’s more important than ever to get your store launched.
Let’s look at one keyword phrase in particular “beer home delivery”. There are 980 potential customers searching for this in Toronto in the month of November. Ranking high in the search results can result in potentially 60-70 clicks (organic listing non-paid ads) which may convert as high as 30-40% (1 in 3 users clicking your web store buying).
What ECommerce Platform Should I Choose?
The two platforms that are dominating the market are Square and Shopify. They offer a fully turnkey experience that can have you up and selling in a couple days. Many store owners have raved about Shopify’s ease of use, an abundance of themes, omni integration and more! In our research most breweries are using one or the other and are seeing great success. Several factors should be considered when choosing, we outline a few below.
Is the platform user friendly for your staff? We often focus on the customer, which is very important, however you must be sure the platform is friendly enough that you will be able to train your staff to use it. Having to allocate staff time and resources into training to use the platform is costly, so determining a platform that is turnkey with easy usability is crucial to get up and running efficiently.
This is one of the more important factors in choosing an e-commerce platform. Does it offer all the popular payment methods customers are using(credit, debit, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Play etc…)? Again, it is important to find a platform that has these as native features, if you need to install several different plugins or apps you will increase the complexity of your website.
Many platforms offer custom themes that you can use to create your web store. Having a vast selection of themes is important since this will reflect your brand. It is important to select a theme not only by how it looks, but how it will interact with your site. Many themes can add unnecessary code to your site that will affect the user’s experience. Do your research!
We have seen many breweries creating two separate websites for their web store, this can inhibit search rankings and cause you to be competing with yourself for traffic! For example, a large brewery in Toronto launched a web store recently on brandname.shopify.com while keeping their main aged domain (brandname.ca) with high authority separate. What do we mean by aged and domain authority? Aged is the amount of time they have owned and operated the domain – the older the domain the better in Google’s eyes. Domain authority means the amount of trusted similar niche websites pointing to your domain indicating to Google that this is a trusted site. It is best to build your web store on your current domain (example: brandnamebrewery/buy-beer-online) since this will increase your branded search visibility as the domain already has authority. It also gives you the ability to insert keywords into the URL where you host your web store. Key takeaway – keep things simple!
An omnichannel is having a simple integration with all your sales channels under one platform. Linking your store to your social, ads platforms and baked in mailing solution will ensure your products are being seen on your entire digital ecosystem. Shopify is a great example of an e-commerce platform with strong omnichannel capabilities, they do a great job of summarizing its benefits in this article.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your Brewery
If your brewery does not have the budget for online ads or wants to increase your visibility in Google organically (non-ads) then you will need to implement SEO into your web store. How is this done? By implementing the correct target keywords, implementing local structured data, business citations and increasing the number of trusted links to your website. This can seem overwhelming at first, but we will break down each step below so you can start ranking organically.
Keyword research and implementation
Identifying what keywords you will use to populate your website’s meta titles, copy and structured data is an important factor in SEO. What do we mean by keywords? These are the words and phrases that best describe your business’ products and services.
The above screen capture is a list of possible target keywords you will want to populate your meta titles, copy and structured data with. These are all non-brand which casts a net of attaining new lifelong customers searching Google for “craft beer shop”. This data is localized to Toronto Ontario, Canada and sorted highest to lowest “impressions” for each keyword. If you were to rank on the first page for “craft beer shop” your website will appear for 284 potential new customers looking for this on Google. Optimizing your website to target this keyword could attain new lifelong customers who find you in search results.
Local Structured Data
What is structured data? This is your business name, address and phone number (NAP) that indicates to google where you are located when it crawls your website. You can add structured data to your products and local target market pages that will assist Google in understanding your business is local to a certain area. Adding local structured data to your website will indicate to Google who your target market is and show your website in the search results for local customers. Since COVID-19, Google’s algorithm has been hyper-localized to help businesses promote curbside pickups and delivery, so this is something you should be taking advantage of.
What is a citation? A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) and works concurrently with your local structured data. Similar to links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business. Citations can be put into local directories that match your structured data which will increase your web store visibility in your area.
Adding quality high trust flow links (other websites linking to your website) to your website will indicate to Google that your domain is trustworthy and in turn, Google will present it higher in the search results. Link building is different from citations since citations are more localized and link building will help your national and global reach. Attaining localized .ca links will assist in attaining a better search presence in Canada. Prior to reaching out to a website in hopes of attaining a link, you must determine if the link will be beneficial to your store. Attaining a link from a website that has low domain authority and trust flow will hinder your appearance in the search results.
Landing Page Optimization
When building your brewery landing page you must have the consumer in mind, and try and present them with products and messaging that will entice them to purchase. For example, try and populate your main landing page with some of your best selling inventory as opposed to a dark 9% European Lager that only the true craft brewery connoisseur will enjoy. This may seem like common sense but many breweries will push what they think their customers will enjoy instead of letting the market decide. Furthermore, analytics is crucial to adjusting your landing page to understand how your traffic interacts with the page. You must research which products are receiving the most clicks, which pages have high bounce rates and low dwell time. After reviewing the analytics you should demote or adjust the low performing pages and promote the top-performing. Shopify and Google analytics offer effective insights into how customers are interacting with your products so be sure you are familiar with all the analytic features in your software.
Setting up automated mailers and newsletters is a great way to engage your customers with new product/seasonal discounts and other news and events. Customers who sign up for or agree to on your mailing list will have a much higher chance of becoming a lifelong customer. It is important to not overwhelm your mailing lists with an abundance of mailers as they will become fatigued and unsubscribe. It’s best to understand your target audience and how they engage with your mailing lists – again, analytics is key! Shopify provides open rate, click-through rate and unsubscribers along with conversion rates. These metrics are more than enough to rework your content and campaign frequency to fully optimize your mailing engagement.
Having a social presence is mandatory for any business looking to approach a larger audience. Social engagement is a great way to build brand awareness, but you can also use it to drive traffic to your online stores that can lead to direct purchases.
To put it bluntly, Craft breweries are in strenuous times with limited customer accessibility due to COVID-19. Some breweries will not weather this storm but the ones who take this hurdle as an opportunity to strengthen their web presence by optimizing their sales channels will be rewarded with a lucrative new sales channel once COVID-19 restrictions loosen.