UK Alcohol: Let the ideas flow



To win new consumers and inspire existing ones, alcohol companies need to bottle their inspiration – it’s about selling experience, not just drinks.

When it comes to choosing drinks we’re creatures of habit and conditioning. Personal routine and cultural influences become deeply ingrained and we fall into a predictable buying pattern. Celebrations usually mean some kind of sparkling wine; dinner guests are normally offered red or white; a good stock of beer goes with relaxed TV viewing. These are decisions made on autopilot, guiding us to the familiar options time and again. So how can we be persuaded to break our habits and try something new?

A great deal to play for

Our recent Omnishopper study sheds some clear light on the purchasing process. It reveals that around half of buyers make a firm decision before shopping, while one third know what type of product they’re after but make that final choice in the moment. Everyone else buys spontaneously. So when you consider that the off-trade alcohol market is worth a sobering £16 billion it’s easy to see just how much potential lies in those fleeting ‘at the shelf’ seconds.

Unlocking all this potential is about inspiring shoppers – meeting their needs and offering them fresh, enticing, relevant alternatives.

Informative aisles

Serious brand building and consumer marketing are the big spend areas for major alcohol manufacturers, but less tends to be invested in systematic shopper marketing. We encounter inconsistent levels of in-store engagement and information making the shopping experience rather hit and miss. The wine aisle is the most enlightening. Consumer guidance on taste, variety and good food matching is relatively commonplace, but elsewhere this kind of motivational communication is less prevalent.

Our data shows that providing guidance to shopper in-store is good news for alcohol marketers and retailers alike. Consumers are much more likely to try something new from the wine aisles than in beer for example. Perhaps it’s high time for those ‘outside the box’ suggestions and strong visual markers to spread…

Give us a sign

To tempt consumers away from the familiar, supermarkets need to grab attention with compelling in-store signage and make fresh alternatives really easy to find. It’s the best way to break the spell cast by age-old habits. Better still, shoppers who find what they need fast are far more likely to choose extra products and boost the value of their basket…

Duty free thinking

There’s a clear precedent for this kind of bold marketing. Just stroll through any airport duty free lounge and immerse yourself in the prestigious branded displays competing for attention. They are tailor made for shoppers with time on their hands and open minds. This model could point the way in a market that’s increasingly crowded with discounters and shaped by the move away from physical stores to online platforms. Innovative and arresting point of sale can transform the supermarket from a default destination for ‘same again’ purchasing into a place to explore new brands and find new favourite products. These are key ingredients for long-term customer loyalty.

Author: Anna Dunn, Director, Consumer Goods, Anna.dunn(at)gfk.com


Our consumer good experts are offering you the opportunity to run your business challenges past them.

In addition, we have identified 5 key opportunity areas for alcohol companies to respond to challenges facing the market.

To access these insights and learn more about how we can help you, please get in touch by sending us an email at UKMarketing(at)gfk.com.