A toast to 40 and customer-led retail marketing

Not many brands reach 40 years old, particularly within the liquor category. However, last September, Liquorland celebrates four decades of retail, which it says wouldn’t be possible without always putting the customer first.

Having been in business since 1981, around five years ago Liquorland set out to step away from the traditional liquor market and benchmark themselves as a great retailer – not just within the sector, but full stop. 

“We had meetings to discuss what great retail looks like, regardless of what city you’re in,” says CEO Brendon Lawry. “After a whole bunch of discussions, it all came back to the experience that the customer has in store. The better we plan an experience that customers talk about positively, the better our future will be.”

Premium branding

Although reaching 40 is a significant milestone for any business, Liquorland continues to look ahead. Brendon says the chain is currently transforming its online and digital presence, while work is underway on the next phase of Liquorland in terms of its aesthetic, with development on store format coming the next 18 to 24 months. 

“We’ve coined it Liquorland 2.0, which is a store that delivers a more premium look and feel, with modern fixtures and fittings, attention to detail in lighting and a little less green than before,” says Brand & Customer Experience Manager Angela Hurst. “Liquorland has secured some sites in higher socioeconomic areas, which has given us the flexibility to premium-ise by increasing the selection of international wine and single-malt whisky. We also now have multiple bays of local and international gins, which are incredibly popular.”

Brendon Lawry.

A digital approach

Liquorland’s new online platform will allow customers to choose how they want to interact with the brand – either click and collect or delivery to door. Customers will soon be able to easily search for any item across Liquorland’s variety of stock, in 135 locations. The new website will also recommend similar products if an item is out of stock, and switch between stores without abandoning the customer’s basket. 

“These features will make the user experience incredibly seamless,” says Angela. “It means we can serve customers with better content, driven by their search and purchase history, new or popular products, or which categories or ranges are currently trending. From there, it’s making sure we continue to refine, serving the right communication to the right people at the right time.”

Brendon says customers won’t always be able to get to a store, so it’s important to be able to get goods to them at their place of home or business.

At 40 years old, Liquorland continues to listen to and build on its customer feedback. In recent years, the brand started using Customer Radar, which has significantly helped them understand consumer wants and needs. 

“Through Customer Radar, we get tens of thousands of pieces of feedback every year on our service, as well as ratings and a score,” says Brendon. “What’s most helpful, though, is the commentary we get when customers take the time to write a sentence or two about what they’ve enjoyed at Liquorland.”

New customers

Having already built a strong customer base, Liquorland continues to find ways to grow it. 

More recently, the brand’s digital approach has seen their online traffic increase steadily over the past year, with a growing database and brand impressions improving. Record numbers of people have been browsing the website and digital mailer, and there have been very high engagement rates with email communication. 

“Now our communication, and I guess what we do from day to day, is focused on what we can do in that digital space, because that’s where a lot of our customers are, and it’s where our future customers will be,” says Angela.

Liquorland are also naming rights sponsors of a number of industry events, such as moveable feast The Great Kiwi Beer Festival, Wellington’s Beervana and the Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival. “The brand recognition we get through these sponsorships is important, but what’s most valuable to us is to be able to interact and engage with our customers at these amazing events, and provide them with an awesome experience with their family and friends,” says Angela. “It’s also a great way of gathering feedback. Plus it helps us identify product trends, so we can continue being seen as the authority on what’s hot and what the next big thing or emerging brand could be.” 

Angela Hurst.

The full experience

The Liquorland experience doesn’t end when a customer leaves the store – the brand ensures they’re satisfied from the moment they walk into a store to the moment they’ve finished their drink. Through Liquorland’s Toast magazine, customers are taken care of in the comfort of their own home, with cocktail recipes, wine pairings and ‘how-to’ guides for those who want to add value to their occasions. 

“Whether that be a nice bottle of wine shared with a friend or a large gathering for a special anniversary, it’s about providing some inspiration so people can try something new, wow their guests or just change things up a little,” says Angela. “Part of being a bit more premium and at the top of our category is that it’s not just about product and price promotions. We’re giving value and giving customers inspiration about how they can use our products to enhance their social occasions.”

The Toast website is full of fantastic ideas and features the retailer’s brands, who use the channel to showcase their products and how customers can best use them.

Top people

Liquorland’s success revolves around its people. Brendon says those who’ve been part of Liquorland’s journey over the years have pioneered many changes, which has helped keep the brand relevant. 

“Without those sorts of people, and that level of energy invested in not only their own business but also the greater good of Liquorland across the country, I don’t think we’d been in the position we are now,” he says. 

As customers look for a better experience in store and online, there’s no doubt their expectations have increased. The customer experience helps Liquorland stay relevant to consumer needs, and keeps the brand modern and dynamic enough to move with the times.

“Ours is a very convenience-based category, so unless you’re pretty disciplined, you can fall off track when it comes to the needs of your customers,” says Brendon. “We need to be constantly thinking six months in front of where we’re at. For this reason, our people are what make our brand. Whether they’re our franchisees, staff or customers, they’re the reason Liquorland has stood the test of time for the past 40 years.”

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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