How Sazerac is stirring up its customer experience with Adobe

Keeping up with consumers who rely on online shopping, Sazerac invests in a digital infrastructure to connect with their customers old and new.

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Liquor sales went on an upswing in 2020 as consumers stuck at home found new ways to imbibe, including going online to secure their favorite alcoholic beverages. To keep up with the changing tastes and preferences of consumers, and engage with a new cohort of shoppers who started to rely more on online shopping, alcohol manufacturers realized that they had to invest in a healthy digital infrastructure to connect with their customers, existing and new. Otherwise, another brand could – and would - quickly fill that void.

That was the challenge for Sazerac, the parent company of beloved spirits such as Southern Comfort, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, and more. While consumers were familiar with Sazerac’s 400-plus brands, many of the brands had a limited or outdated online presence, and Sazerac as a parent company lacked strong connection with its customers globally. Thus, positioning the overall Sazerac brand by updating its corporate website, and improving the online experience for its owned brands became a key initiative for 2020. Sazerac also wanted to closely tie its online with offline experiences at its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky and new Sazerac House brand showcase in New Orleans.

“One of our main priorities was the positioning of Sazerac as a company,” said Lewis Broadnax, vice president, global e-commerce at Sazerac. “Our vast product portfolio ranges from value brands that are budget friendly all the way up to The Last Drop Distillers, where a bottle may cost thousands of dollars. We needed a company-wide digital presence that would appeal to consumers across all categories, all segments, and all use cases.”

Prior to implementing Adobe Experience Cloud, the company’s portfolio of brands operated independently of one another and the Sazerac corporate website, which had not been updated since 2007, lacked basic features like site search, was not mobile-optimized and relied on outdated Flash technology. Content as basic as a recipe for the Sazerac — the company’s classic namesake cocktail — was difficult for consumers to find on the site.

“We were working with dozens of websites for the various brands under our portfolio — everything from Squarespace to WordPress, to Drupal and Shopify, you name it — we probably had a version of a website that was on those platforms,” said Broadnax. “It made content management, consolidation, and activation of campaigns very difficult and time-consuming.”

No more mixing it up.

Sazerac chose Adobe to power its customer experience because according to Broadnax, Adobe Experience Cloud boasts applications that easily scale globally thus helping the company rid the “mixed bar cart” in its tech stack. “We wanted to go with an established company that had a strong support team, and we were confident that Adobe’s solutions were best in class,” said Broadnax.

Sazerac’s new websites and e-commerce launches are the first stage in a multi-stage digital transformation that is starting in the U.S. and expected to expand globally. The company worked with Adobe Technology Partner Sagepath Reply to implement a slew of Adobe Experience Cloud applications including Magento Commerce hosted in the cloud and Adobe Experience Manager.

To start, Sazerac ran a sprint that took just six weeks to launch an e-commerce site built on Magento Commerce hosted in the cloud to complement the opening of the Sazerac House property in New Orleans in October 2019. Initially, Sazerac had not made plans for a related online storefront, but when it realized that the physical property did not have enough space to house all the branded products in their gift store, the decision was made to build a more capacious one online. “The online store has given the Sazerac House the opportunity to guide their visitors to offerings post visit and also attract new shoppers who may not be able to travel to New Orleans to visit in person at this time,” said Meredith Moody, global head of tourism and homeplaces for Sazerac.

The Sazerac House launch was followed by a new content-site launch for Buffalo Trace Distillery, Sazerac corporate site, and Fireball Whiskey using Adobe Experience Manager.

The brand’s Buffalo Trace Distillery had only just launched a new website in July 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak was forcing physical stores to shut down across the country. With in-person distillery tours severely limited, Sazerac leveraged Adobe Experience Manager to optimize the site for mobile and encouraged its visitors to take a virtual tour of the distillery as a way to creatively engage with the brand in the middle of a pandemic. The result? More than 50,000 visitors were able to enjoy a virtual tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

“Having the ability to engage with our visitors digitally during our peak tourism season allowed us to continue providing the world-class experience that we are known for,” said Moody. In early December, Sazerac added a Magento Commerce powered e-commerce gift shop to the Buffalo Distillery website by utilizing Adobe’s Commerce Integration Framework, which has seen online orders increase since launch.

Sazerac’s new corporate site on Adobe Experience Manager now showcases more brands, including a bigger focus on premium brands, and more relevant and timely content like a new positive review from critics or awards the brand has achieved. Having the proper digital tools to activate content efficiently in real-time and without reliance on external resources have been a significant benefit of Adobe Experience Manager, said Broadnax.

What is next for Sazerac?

As the world gradually re-emerges from the pandemic, Sazerac is looking to drive more meaningful engagement for its various liquor brands. Prior to using Adobe Experience Cloud, most of Sazerac’s customer interactions happened either in-person at the distilleries or across the brand’s social channels. With the company’s digital transformation well underway, Sazerac is now re-imagining how it approaches customer experience management on its web properties with an eye for marrying content and commerce — delivering relevant content to enrich the commerce experience at scale. As for its various e-commerce sites on Magento Commerce, Broadnax said the focus is refining the omnichannel retail capabilities to offer buy online, pick up at store or buy instore and ship to home, manage orders from various channels, and have a centralized inventory management, among other key initiatives.

Sazerac’s wide-ranging liquor brands may all have different long-term goals, such as reinvigorating a classic brand like Southern Comfort by bringing in new customer segments or driving brand advocacy for their already popular bourbon or whiskey brands like Fireball Whiskey. But the key to success is to have the digital tools to identity the audience, glean insights from analytics and deliver personalized experiences to drive conversions anywhere and at scale.

“We want engaging mobile-friendly, social-friendly, influencer-friendly activities and we also want our web properties to be an essential part of that mix,” Broadnax said. “We believe Adobe is the partner that’s going to allow us to see engagements across all of our channels, build the right audiences and then make sure that we’ve got the relevant content in front of them.”