The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Elevate your on-premise success with effective channel strategies

Charlie Mitchell, CGA by NIQ Research and Insight Director, explores the value of conducting consumer research and engagement to inform strategy development.

What would an on-premise strategy would look like if we were to start again from scratch?

Depending on which country this hypothetical strategy would cover, the sector could be constrained by complex licencing, distribution and sales laws.

There would also likely be some form of governmental legislation to consider, be that marketing or logistical, a route-to-market lined with a host of competitive and often cannibalising distributors for your products and thin, if not non-existent, sales data with which the strategy could be tailored.

With that in mind, any sensible organisation would likely start from an internal standpoint and evaluate the assets for which the strategy would be developed.

For any drinks brand, this would be centred around sales and marketing teams, the brand and the power of the brand in question, and of course, the product itself, the liquid that we, as naively enthusiastic brand owners treat as a unique proposition, that will delight drinkers and take over the sector, like no other before or after.

Starting with sales and marketing, we would likely assess our sales force capacity to understand how to best sell our product. For many, this would result in a geographical or channel-led strategy.

Our field sales teams would be distributed across the country, with specialist sales teams for specialist outlet types.

With even the most basic data, we would be able to assign teams according to where the greatest opportunity is and, applying some basic targeting, could also incorporate brand-relevant parameters; for example, if our product is a luxury one, then we would likely upweight the level of field sales for high-end bars if there are more of those in the third biggest city in the country than the capital then we would upweight the salesforce there.

Brand and marketing also have a role to play within this, supporting those field sales teams with messaging around our products and persuading distributors to work out the logistics of our perfect outlets stocking our perfect product. We would also use marketing to target specific occasions on which our drink best fits and specific consumers with whom best resonates.

Bring all of that together and we have the On Premise Channel Strategy 101. By and large, this is where most on-premise suppliers land. A simple strategy which is easy(ish) to deliver and consider all logistical, operational and marketing needs to win in the channel.

Except, the channel isn’t simple. And neither should channel strategies be.

The near-unquantifiable (note: not impossible) factor that should take centre stage of any on-premise strategy is, of course, the consumer – the person who purchases and decides what, how and where to drink and, crucially, why. By nature, and given the inherent complexity of human beings when having a drink, this makes things complicated.

What is (slightly) less complex is mapping the needs and demands of these consumers and associating them with the attributes of our products. A strong brand purpose and proposition is crucial here, as is undertaking research with consumers to uncover these needs.

The fundamentals of understanding where, when and on which occasions the need-states of consumers occur should set the foundations of how, when and where to position products, allowing us to translate this consumer-led concept into one which can logistically be achieved.

In less theoretical terms, this means getting out and speaking with consumers. It means assessing the drivers of drinks choices and it means hours of consideration and planning for how our liquid, serve-strategy, flavour profile and promotion of our proposition meets these needs.

Of course, there should be a perfect core target of the right consumer, on the right occasion, in the right outlet and the strategy should be easy to implement and service from a distribution and field sales perspective. But if the consumer is not at the heart of any on-premise strategy, then, just like any given day, sunshine will soon be washed out by showers.

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