Advice for breweries – how to thrive in the digital world

Advice for breweries – how to thrive in the digital world 1015 1520 Stephens Scown
image of brewery

How has Coronavirus impacted breweries and what do breweries need to be aware of when bringing their business into the digital sphere?

This article was originally published in the SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) magazine and is part of the Stephens Scown Future Focus initiative.

Since the lockdown, we have since a major shift in consumers buying habits and how businesses interact with consumers. This includes a big shift towards a direct consumer model.

For many breweries this means that they are selling directly to more consumers than ever before but are doing so via their online shops. For some this is a big ramping up of their online presence; for others it is a brand new venture.

Across a range of sectors, we are seeing businesses making quick decisions directed at short term survival, but without regard for the longer term implications of those decisions. By taking a moment to step back and consider the long term implications of decisions made now, businesses can ensure that their pivot to an online direct to consumer solution is not just about surviving in the short term but rather that it becomes a long term sustainable part of their business plan.

Here are some considerations for businesses who want to make the most of current opportunities:

The law for selling online if different to selling offline

Consumers have greater protection when buying online

The protection for consumers buying online is far greater than in traditional retail environments. Amongst other things, this includes a much greater right (with only limited exceptions) to return products for any reason. This right of return can create a cash flow problem for those who are not ready to deal with it. In order to mitigate this risk, businesses should ensure that their website and the terms and conditions of that website are compliant with the Consumer Rights Act. This can reduce the risks associated with returned product and help ensure that businesses are not creating a long term cash flow problem as they try to avoid a short term cash flow issue.

Reputation is key

Reputation becomes even more important online. Now is a time that businesses will need to rely on their trade mark protection. Businesses should therefore ensure that their trade mark protection is up to date. When trading through traditional routes, reputation is important but your ability to control your brand, once you have let it loose to internet users, who may use it in ways you do not anticipate including, on social media, is key.

Engagement with social media and advertising standards

Is your marketing content compliant?

Businesses, regardless of the medium, need to make sure that their marketing content complies with the relevant codes of conduct. All online communications will be treated as a form of marketing. This includes your website content, social media posts, etc. Ensuring that these are compliant with the code of conduct is really important. This can be easy for businesses to forget, given the speed of this medium.

Be aware of the rules around advertising alcohol

Businesses need to be aware of the rules around encouraging drinking in marketing and branding. This is relevant when choosing a beer brand, communicating to the public and in prize drawers and other activity which could be seen as encouraging drinking. This could be an increased risk as breweries look for more imaginative ways to draw business to their website during the current situation.

Remember your customers are your greatest asset

Protecting customer data

In a business direct to consumer model, businesses will be handling significant amounts of consumer data. For many businesses this will be a change from what they are used to. Businesses need to remember that data is an asset belonging to their consumers and that there are rules in place to ensure that data is treated with respect.

Complying with GDPR rules

The current situation is testing businesses’ GDPR and cyber security policies. Ensuring that these are up to date is important, as well as ensuring that staff are trained on how to use customer data. If you want to make the most of data that customers submit through your website, for example signing up to newsletters or just in the process of making purchases, then it is really important that your systems are compliant, that your teams know how that data is going to be processed and that this is communicated clearly to your customers.

About the author

Stephens Scown

An award-winning employee owned law firm passionate about the South West. Stephen Scown helps businesses and individuals to solve problems and seize opportunities.

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