It’s no surprise that the craft beer industry has continued to gain popularity across the globe over the past year. According to the Brewers Association, the USA saw over one thousand new breweries open their doors last year. Canada is no exception, with a 21.8% increase in the number of brewing facilities in 2018. Turns out we like our craft beer, a lot.

The explosion in popularity of craft beverages and breweries translates to a cluttered brand environment to cut through. How can you leverage your website as a marketing tool to set your brand apart from the rest in a competitive landscape? You can’t build a solid website without having a strong brand foundation to build off of. So, let’s step back and take a strategic look at the elements that are essential for a successful online experience.

Your Brand

Your brand is your voice, identity, and values. Customers are seeking alignment with brands more and more as people are moving away from the bigger beer companies. This is because they don’t relate to them on the same level as a local company from the same city.

As a craft beverage company, you know what you’re trying to make people feel and connect with. You need to convey the experience you want your customers to have when they walk into your tasting room with the interaction with your brand they will have online. This is how you can make the most of your brand experience digitally for a product that is so much about experience in the real world. Take Kulshan Brewery in Bellingham, Washington for example. Their website showcases their Pacific Northwest roots and the first content section on their homepage cuts right to the chase with what they’re all about.

Kulshan brewing company craft beer homepage

Your brand needs to reflect your story and your beer. Focus on the why: Why you got into the industry; Why your company exists; Why people should drink your beer. This is where your brand authenticity comes from. This is what will resonate with people. Letting people know what is different and special about you is how you will connect with your future advocates. Your brand should reflect your process for how you do things. This all connects back to your brand experience.

Your Company Values

Your company’s values are the core of your brand. Choose a few meaningful and considerate values that your brand can use as a compass for anything: content strategy, social engagement, labels and packaging, merchandise, etc.

Values signify to your customers what is important to your brand and the people behind it, which is something that helps people feel connected to you. Having your values front and center for your brand will make it easier for people to relate to you. Customers want to align their values and beliefs with the brands they are engaging with.

Your Website

If you think about how you normally discover a new drink or craft beer, odds are that it will likely be from a recommendation of a friend or by word of mouth. This is because one of the great things about craft beer is that it’s a conversation starter. You need to utilize your website so that when your brand comes up during conversation at Karen’s barbeque on Sunday, people will be able to find out more about you online later on.

Brand cohesion

Brand cohesion through online platforms is very important. Your website should look consistent with the rest of your packaging material to help users instantly connect and recognize the brand. A website we feel does an amazing job of this is 2018’s winner of the best website at the BC Beer Creative Industry awards, Field House Brewing from Abbotsford, British Columbia. A quick scroll through their field log and we feel like we are almost in their cool tasting room drinking a hazy field IPA. Another great example of this (In our humble opinion) is Legend 7 Brewing hailing from Calgary, Alberta (which we created). Legend 7 totes beautiful and unique illustrations for all their craft beer labels, so naturally their website flaunts these for optimal user recognition.

Legend 7 Brewery craft beer website

Give the users what they want

The MISE principal (Make It Super Easy) is extremely applicable to craft beverage websites. You need to have the information people are looking for, and structure it in a way that can support search engine queries and rank is a huge bonus. Utilize schema markup for products, facilities, hours, and location to help your users connect with your brand in ways that matter to you. There’s even a schema.org page dedicated to highlighting properties that are relevant to breweries.

Having a straightforward list of the beer you make is a pretty obvious point but one that can’t be missed. A craft brewery site is most often task-based, people are coming to your site to find information. Because the people who care about craft beer care a lot. It’s useful for both user experience and search engine optimization to have information for each beer like IBU, flavor notes, alcohol percentage, categorization, and what makes the beer unique.

Grimm beers webpage

Grimm Ales from Brooklyn, New York is a great example of showing their whole beer inventory in a way that’s simple to navigate and easy to filter for a user. Even if you have never had their craft beers you can find the style and flavor profiles you’re interested in. Having each product on its own page will benefit SEO as well. That’s because it’s easy for search engines to distinguish what each page is about with the help of meta tags plus page title and descriptions. Collective Arts Brewing from Hamilton, Ontario also does a fantastic job of displaying their roster and categorizing their drinks, while providing a nice amount of detail about their products.

Collective Arts Brewing Craft Beer webpage

Collective Arts and Grimm both get bonus points for having a website with a complete beer inventory (beerography if you will) of any beer they’ve ever released with information to support it. It’s great for SEO and for people looking to recall something specific they may have tried in the past.

Accessibility/inclusivity

Last but not least, a great website should be accessible and easy to use for everyone. The inclusive practice of designing and developing a website so people with disabilities can also use them is becoming a much more standard consideration within the web industry (which is awesome). Roughly, one in five people are limited by a disability, which translates to one in five people of your audience. Ensure to communicate to your web team that accessibility is something that is important for your business and your website. There are web standards available like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Web Accessibility Standards (WAS) that inform how you can improve your site to help meet accessibility needs.

You have to be able to show your users what they need to know, then you can let your beer speak for itself. If you need some help with optimizing your website or drinking your delightful craft beverage, contact Major Tom.