Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been dramatic shifts in consumer buying behavior in the spirits sector – most notably, the sharp increase in consumers buying spirits online. Additionally, services such as Drizly and Instacart introduced spirits to home delivery, while enabling independent liquor stores to expand their market reach. And, in 2020, Heaven Hill experienced 170% growth in digital sales. As online sales channels continue to grow, the company wanted to make sure its marketing strategy was keeping up with changing buyer behavior and market dynamics.
Search plays such a significant factor in ecommerce, so brands need to implement strategies adapted to the algorithms not only of Google but also their retail and distribution partner sites. Being on the first page is critical. As an added challenge, legal issues around the marketing of spirits preclude vendors like Heaven Hill from paying for sponsored placements that bump products up to the top.
Against this backdrop of digital growth and declining in-store traffic, Heaven Hill knew the time was right to level up and establish a formal ratings & reviews program.
PowerReviews and Heaven Hill: A Perfect Blend
When Heaven Hill implemented PowerReviews platform in early 2021, the first challenge was to develop review collection methods that were in line with the guardrails placed on the spirits industry.
Sampling is a great option for many brands to improve their review footprint, particularly ahead of a new product launch. But these types of campaigns aren’t suitable for alcoholic products.
Towards the end of 2021, PowerReviews launched “Receipt. Review. Collect.” a fast and highly cost-effective new approach to review collection. The solution establishes a rapid and regular flow of fresh review content by tapping into a network of existing purchasers – which means there are no legal concerns for participating brands.
“Receipt.Review.Collect. was key for Heaven Hill, because it allowed us to target purchasers of our products to support review collection from verified consumers quickly and easily,” said Michelle Brown, Associate Brand Manager for Heaven Hill. “This was especially critical at a time when in-store sampling was on hold due to Covid-19.”
Cheers To That: A 2,432-Percent Average Reviews Volume Increase Across the Board
Heaven Hill achieved incredible speed-to-value from its Receipt.Review.Collect. program. Some highlights included:
- First reviews posted within 72 hours of program launch.
- Review collection for Heaven Hill’s Evan William Honey Whiskey increased by 1,450% with an average star rating of 4.8.
- Black Velvet Canadian Honey reviews volumes increased by 11,900% with an average star review rating of 4.7.
- In total, Heaven Hill achieved a 2,432% increase in review volumes across the eight products featured in the program.
While these statistics sound astounding, they represent the fact that Heaven Hill had a very small base of reviews at the start of the program. But that is no longer the case! What’s more, these reviews are now syndicated to key distributors such as Drizly – a key customer acquisition channel. As an example, Heaven Hill’s Larceny Small Batch Bourbon product listing gained 147 reviews with an average 4.7-star rating on Drizly.com after having none previously.
“Heaven Hill will continue to grow digital sales and a high volume of positive reviews as part of our content really helps in how our products are listed with retailers and distributors online,” said Brown.
Consuming the Vital Voice of Customer Insights
Heaven Hill has integrated consumer review content into a variety of marketing efforts both in-store, on-premise, and on social media. “Product reviews act as a new way to encourage consumers to try a new brand or a new flavor with social proof from verified purchasers on products and flavors they might not have thought to purchase previously,” said Brown.
Heaven Hill is also leveraging the content within the reviews collected as a form of Voice of Customer insights. “We now can dive deeper into how our products are being consumed, how often, by what type of consumers, and what future product optimizations or new opportunities are out there for our brands.”
“We love the ease of exporting and filtering reviews. PowerReviews’ easy-to-use platform allows us to quickly understand and prioritize actions we need to take, such as – in particular – potential customer service issues that PowerReviews quality control has flagged,” said Brown. “The analytics tab is a great resource to look collectively at the reviews to identify any similarities, trends, or concerns. And the ‘At A Glance’ view gives you a quick look at any trends or spikes in reviews along with some high-level statistics for the past 30 days.”
Reaching the Digital "Top Shelf"
Zinkel says the PowerReviews partnership has been key to helping the company adapt as the digital landscape for spirits advances and grows.
“Moving forward, we will continue to update and expand our digital content, including reviews, on all digital commerce platforms to have our products show up on the first page or at the top of search rankings. Our goal is to add more reviews and syndicate these reviews with as many platforms as possible, and with PowerReviews, I know we’ll be successful.”