Edrington UK is the sales, marketing and distribution business of internationally renowned spirits company, Edrington. The company’s portfolio includes beloved whiskies and cognacs such as The Macallan, The Famous Grouse and Jim Beam. When the pandemic disrupted consumer behavior and paths to purchase shifted more towards digital channels, Edrington needed a data-driven approach to understand the changes and help prioritize its marketing strategies.

How could Edrington adapt to new shopper journeys, and optimize marketing effectiveness to drive growth in traditional and digital channels?

At Quirk’s London, Edrington UK’s Senior Consumer Insights Manager, Rebecca Ramsay, shared the company’s challenges and outcomes from delving into the new path to purchase. Joining her on stage was Stephen Scales, Director, who led the project at SKIM. Stephen detailed the insights and activation approach used, including the decision journey methodology and how our team helped create impact on Edrington’s future marketing strategies.

If you’re facing similar shifts in consumer behavior and shopper journeys, Edrington’s success story is enlightening and inspiring. Here’s a recap of their talk.

Edrington UK’s omnichannel marketing challenges

Consumer decision journey - alcohol brands

Rebecca kicked off the session by sharing the situation Edrington UK faced as the world emerged from the pandemic. Like many brands, they saw major disruptions in consumer behavior in the dark spirits alcohol category. When people couldn’t buy cocktails in bars and pubs, they bought bottles in stores and online. New shopper journeys and consumption patterns emerged in an already complex category. 

“We knew we needed to adapt our marketing strategy to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message,” said Rebecca. She listed several key objectives:

  • Prioritize marketing strategies and spend to focus on the most valuable paths to purchase, channels and touchpoints
  • Optimize marketing effectiveness, particularly in digital channels
  • Uncover growth opportunities and strengthen retail partner relationships 
  • Empower business decision-making with a data-driven process

A plan to win in a disrupted market

“To achieve our objectives, we needed to ensure that our brands show up in the most influential parts of the path to purchase,” said Rebecca. “And we needed to understand what winning looks like at each touchpoint so we could optimize our omnichannel marketing strategy and tactics.”

“So that’s what led us to SKIM,” she said. 

Consumer decision journeys for alcohol brands

Stephen and our decision-journey experts helped design a four-step insights and activation plan for Rebecca and her team:

  • STEP 1: Uncover omnichannel path to purchase for the dark spirits category and Edrington brands specifically
  • STEP 2: Identify the highest value touchpoints to optimize and prioritize marketing efforts
  • STEP 3: Create a data-driven framework to guide marketing and business decisions
  • STEP 4: Inspire retail partners with engaging, channel-specific insights to help drive sales

Rigorous research to uncover changing shopper journeys

How did SKIM uncover the hidden nuggets Edrington UK needed to shift their omnichannel marketing and decision-making? Stephen Scales took the stage at this point to detail SKIM’s decision journey modeling approach, which combines qualitative and quantitative research techniques:

Online survey: A 15-minute sequencing survey about a specific, recent dark spirit purchase

Online ethnography: Whisky buyers completed an immersive week-long online forum

In-depth interviews: Forum participants participated in an immersive 90-minute interview, building on learnings from the ethnographic phase

The results: 7 prioritized paths to purchase for whisky buyers

From this robust research, 7 distinct paths to purchase emerged, including which ones the company should prioritize. And for each journey, Edrington UK discovered which touchpoints to prioritize.

Prioritize consumer decision journeys - sample outputs

Here are just a few of the key takeaways Edrington UK learned from the path to purchase research:

  • Which paths to purchase are most prevalent in the dark spirits category
  • Which pathways deliver the most category value
  • The rational and emotional drivers for consumers at each journey stage
  • The relative importance of online and offline touchpoints (including less-conscious ones) for triggering purchase decisions

For each individual path to purchase, SKIM provided deep-dive data packs. These packs provided a wealth of information for Rebecca, key stakeholders within Edrington, and also for their retail channel partners (more on that to come).

Activating the insights: a data-driven path forward

Rebecca and her team were delighted with the depth of the research findings. 

“The research provided a level of detailed and brand-specific insights about purchase behavior that the business had never seen before,” she shared, “and we were ready to apply the findings to our immediate marketing strategy. But we also wanted a lasting framework to guide ongoing decisions as well.”

Working with SKIM, Rebecca’s team conducted an Activation Workshop that included cross-functional stakeholders such as marketing, branding, and trade teams across two UK locations. In the session, they dove into the insights, the data and engaged key stakeholders. 

At the end of the day, they emerged with a valuable framework that now aligns everyone and improves strategic decisions. 

“The insights from this journey work not only guided our FY ‘23 brand, channel strategy and activation plans – it has become a fundamental part of the business intelligence that guides decision-making across the organization.”

The outcome: an optimized omnichannel marketing and sales strategy

Thanks to the journey research project, Edrington UK achieved their goals of optimizing marketing strategies and spend, and creating a decision framework for the future. But they also gained another significant benefit: a valuable tool for collaborating with channel partners and identifying revenue growth opportunities

The research data has proven quite intriguing to Edrington UK’s retail partners and has led to many influential conversations. In fact, after getting a glimpse of the research findings, a customer who was notoriously difficult to book time with asked Rebecca’s team for a second meeting. 

“I’m going to one of the biggest premium retailers next week, with my sales team, for a 3-hour workshop,” said Rebecca. “This project has brought the most interaction with retailers I’ve ever experienced in my career.”

At the close of the Quirk’s presentation, Rebecca shared a quote from Edrington’s Digital Commerce Director, that sums up the success of the project:

“The insights from this project are so tremendously powerful because of their simplicity: everyone who sees it can immediately grasp what needs to be done, knowing it’s backed up by an absolute load of Science. We’ve never seen our partners and customers so excited about category research…

This is what true thought leadership looks like.”

Are your brands aligned with shifting customer journeys?

With the explosive growth of online paths to purchase, many categories are experiencing unprecedented disruption. If you need to keep up with the changes and optimize your marketing with data-driven insights, schedule a consultation with one of our decision journey experts.