Wherever you stand on the whole A-B InBev RateBeer.com brew-haha (sorry we couldn’t resist), there is one unassailable point to be noted. That being, the role played by data in the contemporary beverage alcohol sales market is central to success. So central in fact, that one of the largest suppliers in the world is making significant investments in industry data capturing channels and risking significant negative publicity for their efforts. Clearly, they’ve decided the benefits of data outweigh the potential losses.
For those who may not have been following the story, here’s the CliffsNotes version. As part of their efforts to claw back market share from the burgeoning craft beer segment, macro producer A-B InBev has been purchasing up dozens of craft beer labels. Concurrently, as part of their digital media strategy designed to influence consumers, they purchased RateBeer.com, a formerly neutral arbiter and ratings site for craft beer consumers to sound off on their preferred microbrews. According to Brewbound.com, craft beer aficionados and industry stakeholders alike, “believe that A-B InBev will now have access to information that could be used in the global brewer’s fight to recapture market share lost to a growing contingent of small and independent craft beer makers over the last decade.” Citing journalistic integrity and ethical business practices, detractors of this marriage suggest it provides an unfair and unethical advantage to A-B while also diluting the authenticity of the craft beer movement.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t a super brief synopsis, but here’s why it matters. The money quote from Brewbound’s article reads, “As it spends millions of dollars to better understand the high end beer market, and connect with consumers purchasing those products, ZX Ventures [a venture capital arm of A-B InBev] also has put a premium on data. On its website, ZX lists “intelligence innovation and access” as three pillars of the operation, stating that it is “hopelessly dedicated to mining insights and innovation using the latest technology and trends available.” If an industry giant is spending millions on acquiring avenue for capture and analysis of relevant data, it’s safe to assume their strategy is sound.
That said, smaller suppliers need not be spending the truckloads of money InBev is to exploit the idea of “intelligence innovation and access” when it comes to harnessing data to sell more, better. Regardless of how the controversy plays out between RateBeer.com, A-B InBev and the craft brew community, there is plenty a craft brewer can do to leverage the power of Big Data as it pertains to their own sales and marketing practices. And, this can be achieved for the micro brewer without the seven-figure price tag.
A beverage selling tech platform includes data driven tools providing real-time insight into key accounts, spend data, trade marketing activity, goals and objectives. These solutions enable suppliers with the visibility needed to boost brand awareness, heighten their public profiles and improve customer engagement and brand activation. A smart supplier using a world-class solution like GreatVines might even be able to leverage the same data A-B InBev gets from RateBeer.com which has promised to be offered to anyone through an open API — a step they’ve taken to assuage concerns about the ethics of their partnership.