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Building A Relationship with Customers When You Can’t Access Them Directly

How to think creatively about accessing customer data and implementing innovative strategies around retail partnerships

Photo by Jantine Doornbos on Unsplash

What happens when you can’t own the direct relationship with your customer? In the ecommerce world, you would think that’s pretty rare, but companies in big and highly-regulated industries deal with this problem daily. Anheuser-Busch is one of those companies and its team has had to be innovative in the ways they gather insights and create relationships with customers. Arabella Watters leads Category Development and Insights for ecommerce at Anheuser-Busch, and she is helping bring creative solutions to understand exactly who AB’s customers are, how they shop, and what they’ll want in the future.

“Being actually faced with not having access to direct sales data and to actual onsite metrics because we’re working through the three-tiered system with retailers definitely has been a challenge,” she says. “Although I do think it’s really forced me to think creatively and think about how we can structure our research and our insights approach, and take directional insights that we have from in-store and take them to online and say what is similar here, what’s different? It’s pushed me to go above and beyond to think about how to approach the problem of who the shopper is.”

Watters has always been a bit ahead of the trends in the alcohol space, having previously founded MOTXO Wine, a lighter, more portable and accessible alcoholic beverage targeted to a millennial audience on the go. Although the drink was a bit ahead of its time, the trend she spotted was real, and shoppers around the world are now looking for that kind of beverage, and they are looking for more convenient ways to shop for their alcohol overall.

To understand those consumer trends, AB has had to work closely with its retail partners and to innovate internally in order to gain access to consumer data. One way AB has approached this is by launching sites that don’t sell alcohol, but do provide customers other value in other ways, be it through merchandise or by answering key search questions in one convenient spot.

Through these use cases, customers not only provide critical data by engaging with the site, they are presented with a positive experience with the AB brands they already know and love.

“The brands that are within AB have such strong brand voices and such legacy and such power in the market, so I think the merchandise, while it doesn’t directly relate to us selling beer on walmart.com, it does do some great work in furthering the brand awareness and people feeling like they’re connected to the brand and want it to be something that’s part of their day to day,” Watters said.

Another way that AB is engaging with customers is through creative partnerships with influencers. In March, the company launched a special partnership with Travis Scott, which Watters believes will be effective because it goes beyond some of the standard influencer content that tends to have less of an impact.

“There’s so much influencer marketing that can be so disingenuous… it doesn’t have any emotional resonance with me,” Watters says. “With Travis Scott… he was so in lock step with the creative process and the brand building and the actual liquid itself, that when it came time and we announced it about a month ago, he was incredibly invested in having it be successful, and it feels really authentic to actually who he is.”

To learn more about creative solutions to form direct relationships with customers, be sure to tune into Watters’ full interview on Up Next in Commerce.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

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