The alcohol industry is one of my favorite categories to research. I was a bartender in college and always enjoyed the social part of the job, as well as the creative aspect of mixing drinks. I worked at a sports bar, so I was by no means a mixologist – but I am fascinated with the “magic behind the curtain,” so to speak.
When conducting research in this industry, Elevated Insights has found that a key to a successful study is to be “present” at the point of consumption, learning from consumers as they take that first sip. If consumers are asked to recall the experience around a drink they had the night before, they often can’t remember, at least the details. And there is so much more to learn about the experience than the drink itself – how it’s consumed, who the consumer is hanging with, language used, attire, music … Also, by not being present you may miss out on the added value that a bartender can bring (all bartenders have stories, right??).
Developing insights during a focus group can become a love fest, since all of the focus is on this one product. Whereas collecting insights in-person provides a real-world context, with the full range of competitors present and, in the consumer’s, direct line of sight. Additionally, the linkage of alcoholic beverage choice and experience with occasion, mood, vibe and the reflective badge value can be observed and understood.
Best Practices for Liquor Research
Here at Elevated Insights, we have found a variety of ways to collect rich In-The-Moment insights for our wine, beer and spirits clients, whether in-person or online.
We often partner with clients to conduct in-person intercepts at venues where they are selling or testing a product. Most commonly, we look for true users of the drink and only approach them once they have purchased it and have had some time to begin consuming. Alternatively, if the drink is not frequently ordered or currently being offered – we approach patrons and ask them if they are willing to try a new drink, if we buy it for them, and let us ask them a few questions.
One of the reasons I love conducting alcohol research onsite is because tipsy people love to talk, which makes our job so easy 🙂 But it is important to be aware when someone has had too much to drink, and exclude their answers from your analysis.
A few additional pointers for on-premise interviews:
- Patrons are typically onsite with friends/co-workers, so offering a small cash incentive or a free drink for stealing them away from their group for a few minutes is helpful.
- We always like to have at least two interviewers onsite for safety reasons, and also because duos are more likely to participate if they can both join in the fun and earn a few bucks (each interviewer will speak with one person.
- It’s also important to consider the age of your interviewers. It will feel more natural if interviewers approach patrons who are about the same age as your target.
Observations are Sometimes the Most Insightful
We find that recording observations onsite are also important, especially when we are not actively interviewing. When at the same venue for hours a day, we have the opportunity to observe bartender behavior, how the consumers are drinking the beverage – are the brand’s intentions for consumption actually coming to life? These observational insights can be so beneficial for the client, who isn’t typically onsite seeing for themselves.
Bartender knows Best
Just as important as patron interviews, is taking time to talk to bartenders and learn from their perspective. Bartenders are the experts and it is amazing what they observe and learn from their experiences. During a recent project we were exploring the idea of a new mixer, so we spent time in two different markets visiting a variety of bars and restaurants talking to both consumers and bartenders. We sat with the bartenders, asking them to experiment with this new mixer, creating their own drinks. We then offered the drink to consumers and asked their opinion (as well as tasted it ourselves – for research purposes, of course).
When we do an online / nationwide alcohol study, we have a few approaches we include in our methodologies to ensure rich and valid insights.
If we are researching a unique liquor, we like to ensure our consumers are true users, so we start our recruit by asking respondents to upload a picture of their liquor cabinet. Later, we also use this image to analyze what other types of liquor this target has on hand, to see if there are any commonalities.
As I mentioned earlier, we feel it is critical to be “present” at the point of consumption and get in-the-moment feedback from our respondents, even when the study is online. When conducting an online study, we task respondents with consuming the alcohol / drink and providing immediate feedback. Depending on what we are specifically researching, we may assign some respondents to have a small house party or to visit a local bar to try the drink. We ask respondents to video their first sips and initial reactions to the drink, as well as answer a few short questions. If it is a mixed drink, we ask them to include the drink being made in their video.
When we are asking respondents to have friends over or travel to a bar to consume alcohol, it is so important to ensure their safety. If they are having a small party, they need to make sure their friends are staying over or have arranged a ride home. If they are going to a bar, they must assign a designated driver or take an Uber or public transportation home. We always make sure we are offering respondents sufficient incentive so they can buy drinks at the bar or ingredients at the liquor store and pay for safe transportation.
To wrap it up, developing insights at the first sip enables your research team to –
- Obtain a true picture of usage occasions
- Gain real-world context from consumers and bartenders
- Understand or clarify your badge value relative to your competitors
- Fully grasp the emotional end benefit or mood shifting of the brand
Ready to take action and gain In-The-Moment insights? Call me at Elevated Insights for your next alcohol study – I would love to partner with you to craft a custom approach tailored to your needs.