Retailers are increasingly using scoring systems from beer rating websites and apps as a way of promoting or selling beer.
One example is The Oak Barrel in Sydney where you’ll see stickers on imported beers showing a RateBeer score (this could from be the importer). On the Oak Barrel website, they include these scores along with the descriptions of new beers they get in.
“The more we can do to help drinkers with their purchase decision and simplify that decision the better,” says Richard Kelsey of Beer Cartel. “I think integrating the Untappd ratings into our site has been a great innovation for assisting this.”
The reasoning is clear, it’s to promote the beer. It’s social proof of the value of a product in the same way that you’re more likely to buy something online if it has hundreds of five star ratings.
The growth of beer rating sites has enabled retailers to use aggregated ratings from around the world. This is more likely to make people buy.
“It’s the same as anything that has been peer rated,” says Ian Chainey of The Oak Barrel, “it builds a degree of confidence when purchasing the product.
“Also from a purchasing point of view a high rating gives me confidence in the quality of the product.”
Richard makes similar comments when he says “it means drinkers aren’t judging a beer solely on its label and description, but also on its rating online (of which a standard beer normally has hundreds of ratings).”
Setting Customer’s Expectations
But what expectations does this set with customers?
I’ve written before about the rise of beer rating websites. While there are endless positives to the sense of community these sites promote, they can also skew our view of beer.
Certain styles are overrated, while others are underrated. There are also limitations on how strict a scoring criteria sites can enforce (this is pretty much non-existent in the case of Untappd).
The trend seems to be that barrel-aged stouts, imperial IPAs and sour beers garner very high ratings, in some cases disproportionately so. Meanwhile styles such as pilsners or pale ales go under appreciated even if they’re a shining example of what the style can deliver.
More and more people are starting to drink craft beer. Many are looking for where they should spend their dollars.
While not disastrous it would be a shame if these new consumers were to miss out on a variety of styles because of the scoring system of RateBeer or Untappd.
From a retailer’s perspective the main drawbacks are the effort or maintenance required. “You need to have someone who is skilled at doing these type of things to integrate this into your website,” says Richard, “if you have it manually entered then products are liable to change over time.”
Ultimately, if ratings help customers feel comfortable making a purchase it can only be good for craft beer.If ratings help customers feel comfortable making a purchase it can only be good for craft beer. Click To Tweet
Plus, we can have faith in consumers’ thirst for new beers. One way or another they’ll discover the joys of a clean and crisp pilsner once they’ve had their fill of 100/100-rated barrel-aged imperial stouts.
Beer Ratings Are Here To Stay
Beer rating websites and apps seem to be a permanent part of how we buy and consume beer. “In store you will find that customers will go to the rating web sites themselves,” says Ian Chainey.
Therefore, if this is something that consumers are engaged in anyway, it makes sense that retailers would incorporate it into the overall beer buying experience, particularly if it’s going to result in a more positive transaction for the customer.
“Alongside these ratings we also ask our customers to rate the beers they drink on Beer Cartel,” says Richard, “and we reward them for doing so. This further helps them evaluate the various beers we sell.”Beer rating websites and apps seem to be a permanent part of how we buy and consume beer. Click To Tweet
Retail Leading The Way
As in many industries, front-line retail seems to take the lead in finding new ways to engage customers. In this regard retailers are often ahead of producers or manufacturers.
It’s the same in beer. Ian at The Oak Barrel has “had no pushback from breweries or distributors to include scores” but how long is it until breweries or importers try to leverage retailers into including scores in order to shift their product?
The opposite side of this is whether we’d ever see breweries try to cover up lower scores. But in reality it doesn’t help anyone on the selling side to slap a 3/5 rating on a beer when the shelves are filled with highly rated beers.
A System That Works For All
All things considered, the current situation, while being inherently skewed, works pretty well for all involved.
Breweries and retailers sell beer, consumers feel good about their purchases and, generally speaking, bad beer loses out to good beer which surely strengthens the industry.
What do you think? Do you look at beer ratings when making a purchase? Leave a comment below.