The brewer will pilot several direct selling initiatives worldwide in the coming months to garner the customer insight needed to put in place the strategy. It plans to sell beer and merchandise from social networks such as Facebook in partnership with supermarkets, alongside developing dedicated commercial hubs for brands such as Budweiser and Beck’s.
The Budweiser owner cites Pinterest as a platform of particular interest with the channel’s high female user base and content rich proposition offering the potential to introduce its beers to new audiences. The brewer, however, says it will not invest in the platform until an age-gate is installed.
Rival brewers are also turning to direct selling, with Heineken recently announcing plans to launch its first global ecommerce platform. Hugo Hanselmann, global director of digital connections at AB Inbev, hopes the scope of its investment will bridge the gap between content marketing and sales faster and reach more fans.
He told Marketing Week: “Buying beverages is not the most convenient thing to purchase in the supermarket. We’re seeing in some markets that consumers are buying beer online more and more.”
The business already allows UK fans to add Stella Artois directly to their online supermarket basket when they click on a Facebook advert.
Hanselmann adds: “It is still very early days for us in the [ecommerce arena] but we are looking at how our brands can live in the space and are testing new things. We’re looking at how we can ship beer to peoples’ homes and make that whole experience much more convenient. we need to be able to tie that engagement to what does it do for the brand’s sales.”
The move is part of wider shift away from using social media solely as customer acquisition channel to using it to drive fan engagement. The brewer has made growing its online user base a prime focus over the past 18 months with investments in its brands dedicated to consumers who have chosen to connect with the company.
Hanselmann says the next phase is to use a combination of video – both long and short-form – real-time marketing and mobile apps to put its brands at the heart of fans’ real-world interactions with friends.
He adds: “The next move for us is working with fans, professional crowdsourcing companies and our own agencies to look at how we can do things differently that involves getting them to work on briefs and having access to more relevant content.”