I must confess. I was in college before I saw my first computer. That means that my youth was spent in a reality that did not include computers, smart phones, or social media. Lately, I’ve been watching how we interact with the digital world and how it influences the choice to consume craft beer.
The Impact of the Digital World
You can’t overstate how the digital world has infiltrated the physical world. How many teenagers are on their phone during family time? How often do we look back at a Facebook post to see how many people have ‘liked it’. The digital world is now a big part of our everyday lives.
What if you grew up with the digital reality? Our youngest generation of 21+ have lived their lives spanning the digital and physical world. How they view the world is vastly different than the older generations. It is widely known that the alcohol market is driven by the choices of people in their 20’s. They have the ability to consume a larger quantity of alcohol. They also want to chart their own course and not do what their parents did. This helps to explain the swings from wine, to beer, to cocktails and, as it becomes legal, marijuana.
That generation also has to contend with smartphones and people posting pictures at any time. I’m struck by an American Consequences article titled ‘Digital Natives May Have Destroyed Drinking'. The author explains that how someone appears in the digital world is as important as the physical world. Young people are choosing to be in control over ‘letting loose’ because they understand all too well that a picture that could be posted on social media. Could that be a reason for the increase in non-alcoholic beers and cocktails? Or is it that people want various experiences including a sober experience?
Constant Choice is Expected
It used to be that you picked a favorite brand of beer and stuck with it. Or when going out to eat there were only so many choices for restaurants. Now, not only are many ethnic foods readily available, you can even have your meals delivered right to your door by people not even working for the restaurant. The internet has brought vast streams of knowledge, and choices, to our doorstep. We expect to try different things and to have different experiences.
Experience is the Name of the Game
As a brewery owner, ask yourself why does someone pick up your beer and drink it? They are not only drinking the beer, they are experiencing the brewery. That experience is shaped by the digital world (positive reviews on Yelp and Beer Advocate as well as the brewery’s social media presence). The consumer has expectations of what the beer is before they even drink it. With the constant flow of information, a digital native must process a lot, and quickly. If a brand is doing a good job of telling their story, consumers will remember it and continue to come back to it. Additionally, information goes out of date quickly, and trends fade. Which is true even in the craft beer world. This is why it’s important to change the brews on a regular basis. If the experience of drinking your beer doesn’t change, why should someone pick up a six-pack? Keeping the attention of the craft beer drinker is the name of the game in this digital world.