About a yearish ago information came out about beer shelf sets. A shelf set is how any product, in this case beer, in a retail setting is arranged, organized, identified and merchandised in an off-sale setting (retail).

One version of this information has been sitting in my ‘write about it’ folder. Today’s the day.

The “Trends in Chain Shelf Sets” presented by a very adept and intelligent employee of a successfully growing brewery. This article is about the consumer, not brands or distributors. I found the presentation highly informative and engaging, primarily because the presenter did such a thorough job at creating a convincing argument. Yet it didn’t even touch on the one who should be predominantly factored in: The female consumer.

The info I have is from a power point presentation used to present at a national beer distributor convention. It’s got all kinds of Retailer Concerns, Why Do We Care, pictures of example shelf sets, and Distributor Concerns.

What I found myself thinking was: What about the consumer? Isn’t she the one they should ultimately be considering? Isn’t she the one who buys the beer and needs to be absolutely included in the conversation and development of beer shelf sets?

Are you including women in your beer shelf set strategy?

Are you including women in your beer shelf set strategy?

From our perspective the answer is easy: Of course. Women buy between 75  85% of all goods and services. Here’s one source, and another, and another…by the way, this third source is one everyone who wants to market to women needs to listen to.

Females as the primary buyers have long been supposed. The figures range yet unequivocably females are the dominant buyers. So let’s go back to beer shelf sets.

If she’s the one buying the beer, then she needs to be part of the decision-making. Yes, brands want to sell their own, of course. That’s a pretty acceptable and natural assumption. Yes, distributors want to sell the brands in their ‘house’, that again is a pretty normal conclusion.

What always makes me scratch my head is the fact that women consumers – the ones paying the bills for brewers and distributors – are not even discussed. Not a whimper of input, not a whiff of female buyer insight.

That’s unacceptable. Because to set product with only the manufacturer and distributor in mind misses a huge mark. The mark in fact that is critical to any shelf set working anywhere. Why make any product without the consumer and end buyer in mind?

Here’s what I suggest will vastly improve the situation and why:

1. In off sale settings, breweries, retailers and distributors need to invite savvy female buyers who will give them straight input in the design and purpose of beer displays of any sort. Why: Because she’s the one they want to respond to it so she should be part of the plan.

2. If these same off sale locations want to really have the shelf sets resonate with a great deal more of the female buyers, then they need to invite them en mass, in groups, in parties of 4 – 10, to evaluate different shelf set options. Why: These women will give voluminous and incredibly helpful insight directly from the wallets that buy the beer.

Market research exists for a very basic reason: To consult the market you’re trying to sell in. To include them means success, constant input that will change with the times and attitudes, habits and trends. To disclude them is arrogant, short-sighted and detrimental to any brand.

Beer is a unique and universal beverage. Available the world over, made by women the globe over and purchased by women everywhere. Always remember that the buyer isn’t always the end consumer either.

I challenge any beer brand and beer focused business to include women in planning beer shelf sets. All the static plan-o-grams and oft ill-conceived with no consumer input shelf set plans won’t hold a candle to the real deal: In person live direct honest feedback from the customer you should be trying to court.

The whole point is to test the market – with actual market participants. It’s not a good idea we can pat ourselves on the back about unless the end buyer relates, approves, and can use it easily as well.

Here’s the kicker – this kind of market research I am suggesting is high value, low dollar investment for the return any off-sale retailer would see at the cash register. It’s a wise investment that will pay big benefits in higher turns due to better education opportunities, lower frustration due to findability, and consumer focused organization – not brand focused.

Here’s another reason why this is important: Women are not universally invited to the beer table. Regardless of what anyone thinks about any brands, they are still grossly and inaccurately depicted in the vast majority of all advertising we see. TV, video, print, posters – all of it, no matter the size or reach of the brand. If anything they’re left out and that’s not progress either.

Women have not traditionally been invited and in many places they are still silently neglected. One key of this whole idea is to educate. Beer labels, like lots of labels, are a singular educational opportunity. Some brands are good at including helpful information on the label what a newer market share needs and wants to know, in this case women. Most are bad at it. Flat out. They don’t include ABV, non technical flavor descriptions, and food pairing suggestions. Why not? There is not good answer to this – as ever beer brand should be doing this, for all consumers.

There is no one way to set beer on shelves. It’s as subjective as the neighborhood the store is in and as varietal as the consumers that patronize it. Mix it up, get that input from her and then constantly adapt it to improve it.

Beginning consumers, which many women are in relation to beer, all need helpful basic product information. This information will encourage purchasing, trying, rebuying, recommendations, and a loyalty to the brands that help them help themselves.

Shelf set strategy must include the parties brands are trying to reach. In the case of beer, it should be women.

Categories: Assumptions & Myth Busting, Beer, Marketing, Women and Beer
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