Mandated site age-gates for alcohol brands are both a hindrance and a help. On one hand, forcing users to enter personal information prior to accessing content deters some from going any farther. Whether those who abandon age-gated sites are concerned about privacy issues or simply too impatient to take an extra few seconds to type in their DOB, the result is the same for all beer, wine and spirits brands: significant traffic loss. On the other hand, for those users who do proceed past the prompt, these brands have a unique and valuable opportunity to collect customer data that their other-industry counterparts can only dream of.
Of the 50 brands in our Digital IQ Index: Beer study, released last Friday, an impressive 88 percent facilitate a cookie trail, meaning that these brands not only have access to the information users give them (birth date, etc.) but also digital information they may not realize they’ve leave behind, such as geographic location and IP address. These data may not seem like much on its own, but in aggregate, it can be enormously helpful in helping brands build their all-important targeted consumer profile.
Current U.S. law leaves digital age-gating up to the brands, but this freedom may not last much longer as rumors that the Federal Trade Commission may intervene have become more widespread. Among the beer brands we assessed, the average age-gate requires three clicks to enter the main page–approximately one click fewer than the age gates analyzed in our 2013 Digital IQ Index: Spirits study (this differential is largely due to many of the Spirits brands being global brands that include a “country of origin” prompt). In looking at the 50 brand sites included in the Index, there are a variety of age-gating tactics: the vast majority of brands only collect users’ DOB, but others, including six-clicks-required Yuengling (pictured above right) also collect ZIP code and state location. Two brands, Redhook and Widmer Brothers, offer simple — too simple, the FTC might say — one-click “Yes/No” entry.