The Exponential Power of “Local Search” for Beer, Wine & Liquor Marketers


Despite the archaic ABC laws, the sale of off-premise alcohol follows a predictable path from drinkers who are blissfully unaware of these laws. When someone is looking to purchase alcohol, they will either (1) follow a well engrained pattern and go where they typically shop, or (2) pull out their mobile device and type in one of a very low number of probable search terms such as “liquor store near me” or “liquor store open near me”.

What is less understood is the growing power of “local search” to disrupt established patterns as well as direct the foot traffic of shoppers with immediate high purchase intent. While the liquor stores and retailers that are allowed to sell alcohol have historically been the primary beneficiaries of “local search” traffic, pattern disruption occurs when savvy brands choose to step up their “local search” focus.

Harnessing the Power of “Near Me” for Alcohol Marketers

According to Google, in the last two years “near me” mobile searches have grown over 500%. And yet, alcohol marketers have been slow to embrace and adopt “local search” as a competitive advantage in driving both on and off-premise sales. Instead of harnessing this growing power, the default mode of cutting checks for below-the-line marketing and advertising dollars to distributors is still the norm.

Retailers, liquor stores and distributors all talk a good game when it comes to their savvy local-market and regional marketing plans. However, slotting allowances, digital and paper circulars, in-store point of sale materials, and similar store-specific marketing tend not to be very effective. Instead, it’s a great way to help retailers and distributors increase their own bottom line profitability without significantly increasing sales for alcohol brands.

Alternatively, when a shopper searches for “[Your Alcohol Category / Brand] near me,” they are declaring that they are interested in purchasing the very product you sell in the most convenient location to where they are standing when they tap that search term into their mobile device.

Instead of leaving to chance what happens next, alcohol marketers have the opportunity to direct high-intent foot traffic to preferred liquor stores and retail accounts – while also measuring the direct impact of your “local search” investments. In addition, this approach provides alcohol marketers with the opportunity to tie-in to inventory control systems, which give further path-to-purchase visibility that is otherwise not provided by distribution partners.

Migrating TV, Radio and Outdoor Media Budgets to “local search”

Today, 87% of shoppers begin their product searches online, according to the latest research from Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient. Given that understanding, what percentage of your current budget has been allocated to “local search”? For most beer, wine and liquor marketers, this number is a rounding error, which means the exponential power of “local search” is up for grabs in many lucrative markets.

Perhaps more interesting is just how little investment can produce an outsized return. This is because the “local search” category has been neglected for years despite its growing role in a shopper’s path to purchase.

“We’re seeing our clients achieve a return on their investment as high as 500%,” said Last Mile Retail EVP, James Gordon, who specializes in “local search”. “Many of our clients begin with small test budgets and then quickly ramp up when they can see a direct impact and positive ROI in the local markets where they invest.”

It’s not that traditional broadcast media should be ignored. Brand advertising plays an important role of generating awareness. In fact, when “local search” has been properly leveraged, there is a direct correlation between your brand advertising efforts and an increase in search traffic.

One study by Google noted that “two-thirds of smartphone owners use their phones to learn more about something they saw in a TV commercial.” That’s because people are no longer passively watching TV or listening to the radio anymore. They are actively engaging with their mobile devices and when they hear something that interests them, they tend to use their smartphone to take immediate action. You can see these trends for yourself when you overlay your search traffic with your traditional media schedule and see direct correlations in the search volume and traffic spikes. They key is to properly leverage “local search” marketing to ensure you are receiving the full benefit of your integrated marketing efforts.

Getting Started with a Simple Test Campaign

If you aren’t sure how effective your “local search” efforts are, the fastest easiest way to validate the power of “local search” is with a simple A|B test. Select two (or more) similar markets in order to track sales volume both on and off-premise. By holding a similar market as a constant (i.e. not changing anything you’re already doing now), you can see the direct impact a larger focus on “local search” delivers.

By selecting key retailers, bars and restaurant accounts that you would like to dominate, you can deliver substantial increase in sales and be in a much better position to negotiate the additional support you require inside these key accounts. By further refining your “local search” efforts, you can tap into a growing trend that has largely been ignored; especially in the alcohol market.

Armed with the data and a proven successful track record, you can begin to develop new approaches and “local market” models that support your desired growth. This allows you to have more control and influence over the “last mile” of the customer purchase decisions. Because, after all, doesn’t all your marketing and advertising efforts lead up to that most critical step in the customer journey? Where and what they buy matters and “local search” gives you the power to create substantial influence in these final moments that creates brand winners and losers when it comes to the final purchase decision.

Banning Policy by Platform

Amazon Policy: prohibits the listing of alcoholic beverages (except from pre-approved wine sellers), liquor licenses , any product marketed for customers over 21 years of age or any product that encapsulates raw alcohol

Google Policy: we abide by local alcohol laws and industry standards, so we don’t allow certain kinds of alcohol-related advertising, both for alcohol and drinks that resemble alcohol. The following are prohibited: Gmail ads, Reservation display ads. Consumer ratings annotations, and app install image and video ads.

Facebook Policy: Ads that promote or reference alcohol must comply with all applicable local laws, required or established industry codes, guidelines, licenses and approvals, and include age and country targeting criteria consistent with Facebook’s targeting guidelines and applicable local laws.