How Liquor Stores Can Make the Most out of OND (Part 1)

October 4, 2018 In Retailer Insights

This post is part 1 of a 2-part series on the busiest time of the year for beverage alcohol sales: October-November-December (OND). Look out next week for part 2—Turning Holiday Shoppers into Loyal Customers—for our tips on best practices for OND and easy ways to grow your loyalty club this holiday season.

The busiest and most prosperous quarter for beverage alcohol sales is officially upon us: OND (October-November-December). This is the time when the largest portion of alcohol sales take place, where consumers are purchasing alcohol most consistently and regularly, with numerous occasions for friends and families to come together and celebrate throughout the holidays.

There’s another, less obvious reason that OND is so important for liquor retailers: it is the time when holiday shoppers can be converted into loyal, year-long customers. It’s simple: during the holiday season, there will be more people shopping in your store (and online) than usual, bringing in first-time customers, many of whom will be looking for a nice gift or a great bottle of wine. Any way you can ease the stress of shopping for gifts or special occasions will resonate with consumers during the holidays, and an enjoyable or above-average shopping experience will stick in customers’ minds.

There’s another reason that OND is so important for liquor retailers: it is the time when holiday shoppers can be converted into loyal, year-long customers. Click To Tweet

Providing a great shopping experience during OND requires going above-and-beyond how you engage your customers normally throughout the year, and it isn’t as simple as hiring a few more employees to man the registers or help customers throughout your store. While customer service is extremely important—as the quality of experience can be one of the most memorable aspects of a shopping trip—succeeding during the holidays is more than just good service.

Ensuring your customers have an exceptional shopping experience requires you to take full advantage of the analytics and customer engagement tools available to you. Leveraging analytics can help you hone in on effective holiday merchandising and pricing strategies, and integrating digital marketing tools (including social media, email marketing, and loyalty programs) can go a long way in drawing people into your store.

Here are some tips to help liquor retailers turn holiday shoppers into loyal customers and make the most out of OND this 2018.

Merchandising & Product Selection

Carry the hottest products, right now and from last OND

It’s not too late to optimize your product selection with the holiday season in mind. Keep an eye out for trends that you can capitalize on when foot traffic in your store increases during the holidays, such as hot categories and product innovations. This year, make sure you have a wide selection of craft spirits, especially bourbons and botanical gins.

It’s not too late to optimize your product selection for OND. Keep an eye out for trends that you can capitalize on during times of increased foot traffic. Click To Tweet

Similarly, be sure to understand what specific brands and products are popular in your local area, so you can have them in stock to draw people to your particular. For limited-release beers or hard-to-find spirits, having these in your store (and making sure the inventory is listed on your website) can attract customers from far and wide, as well as reducing the risk of disappointing customers who come in your store looking for a specific item and leave empty-handed.

We wouldn’t usually say you should base your decisions on what happened a year ago, but in the case of OND, reviewing your Q4 sales is a valuable exercise so you can understand what products and categories sell well during this time.

Be strategic with your VAPs

For those unfamiliar with the term VAP, it stands for “value-added-packaging” which is the industry term for products that include a free giveaway or specialty packaging for no additional cost compared to the normal package. One popular example is the Veuve Clicquot wine bottle cooler bag, and other common VAPs include things like a free cocktail shaker or two martini glasses. They can be extremely popular with consumers, particularly those enticed by the idea of a FREE giveaway, although some consumers will avoid them entirely.

There can be other downsides to VAPs: due to their larger size, they take up more space on your shelves, during a time when that shelf space is even more valuable than usual. Additionally, VAPs are generally produced for different seasons and occasions, so if a holiday-themed VAP doesn’t sell during the time-period it was designed for, it can take much longer than expected to sell out of the remaining VAPs.

Finally, although it can be tempting to stock up on gift sets of numerous brands and start ordering VAPs whenever they are available, if the product doesn’t usually sell well in your store or if shoppers don’t believe that they’re purchasing a quality product, VAPs can backfire and sit on your shelves into the new year.

Therefore, only invest in VAPs for products that you know will actually sell.

Pricing & Promotions

Schedule tastings in conjunction with promotions

We don’t need to tell you that tastings can be valuable in generating sales of a new product or a pre-existing product to a new consumer, but we also don’t need to tell you that sometimes they aren’t worth the effort. That’s why it is so important to put serious thought into the creation of your tasting calendar, especially during OND, and analyze your data to identify what products and tastings are most successful in your store.

If you schedule tastings for products that appeal to your customers during times of high foot-traffic, a single tasting can lead to a significant increase in sales and create an enjoyable shopping experience for a customer when they discover something new.

Well executed, a single tasting can boost a single day's sales figures and create an enjoyable shopping experience for a customer when they discover something new.. Click To Tweet

Another way to maximize the benefit of tastings during the holidays is to schedule them in conjunction with promotions you are running. This can take a variety of forms, whether it’s a 10% discount on the product being tasted that day, scheduling tastings for seasonal items that are popular during the holidays (eggnog, anyone?), or even planning a series of tastings in the same category—such as blended Scotch—to keep customers coming back.

Mix it up: offer a different deal each day

Along the same lines of scheduling a series of tastings centered around a specific category to give die-hard fans of that category a reason to come in again-and-again, another way you can attract customers to keep coming into your store is by offering a different deal each day.

Here’s an idea: why not offer a 10-15% discount each day for a different varietal in the days leading up to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannaukah, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve? You can select some of the most popular wines in your store throughout the year, or some underrated wines you think your customers would enjoy, and as long as you select enough items that provide you a healthy profit margin, you’ll still be able to make money on these sales.

Not only will these customers potentially buy other products while they’re in store to purchase the item being promoted each day, but you can ask them what they thought of their last purchase in the series and recommend other items they might like, cultivating a personal relationship that maximizes the lifetime value of this customer.

This concludes part 1 of our 2-part series on how liquor retailers can succeed during October-November-December. Look out next Thursday, October 11th, for part 2: “Turning Holiday Shoppers into Loyal Customers” for our tips on best practices for OND and easy ways to grow your loyalty club this holiday season.