The future of online liquor retailing

December 2, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

In the midst of a global pandemic, eCommerce has become more vital than ever for consumers. With restrictions limiting choice, online buying and direct to consumer sales have surged in the liquor industry.

However, huge and impersonal marketplaces such as Amazon, Kogan and Catch can prove “an abyss of confusion and misused time and energy for brand managers looking to sell,” says Hayden Wood, Managing Director of Drinks Network.

At the onset of COVID in 2020, he set about creating a solution to: a one-stop ecommerce solution for liquor brands to list, sell and fulfil orders. It is far less rabbit-hole and lots more personal and bespoke.

“Amber Beverages handed their portfolio over to Drinks Network and sold more in two weeks than they sold in a year on Amazon,” said Mr Wood.

Drinks Network received a $40kMinimal Viable Product (MVP) Grant from the NSW Treasury and Mr Wood says $250k has been invested into technology to make it a ground-breaking technology platform.

“We conducted extensive research and learned from the fashion industry, such as The Iconic, that the liquor industry has a long way to go to engage on a more personal level digitally – so we’re leading that charge, helping shoppers to learn more and buy smarter,” says Mr Wood.  

He asserts that the liquor industry is lagging 5-10 years behind the fashion market when it comes to online trading.

“Our team strongly believes that there is a largely untapped market of shoppers wanting value-added, or, good times as we call it, and engage through story-selling, rather than lowest price wins,” he says.

The platform is user experience for learning: it tells stories, hosts auctions and aims to educate its audience on whisky, cocktails, gin, vodka as well as keeping them informed on the latest trends. Theirs is an audience that wants to be ‘the first to know’ and ‘to know the most’.

Users spend an average of 10-11 minutes on Drinks Network and, using the fashion industry as its inspiration, Mr Wood says it is the first female-centric liquor marketplace in Australia. It targets Gen Z millennials and 30-40 per cent of its users are of Asian descent.

Mr Wood describes Drinks Network’s users as a “high-net-worth demographic that the other guys have just forgotten about”.

The site has also partnered with afterpay which he says is critical to its success – a whopping 50 per cent of its orders are fulfilled by afterpay.

In addition to their own audience, Drinks Network offers serviced marketplace solutions for multi-channel, including product listing management and sales fulfilment across platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Google Shopping.

SaaS Platform

Drinks Network is both a retail marketplace and a SaaS (software as a service) platform for wholesalers. Mr Wood says that thanks to the significant upfront investment in technology, it helps suppliers to better understand their consumers.

Suppliers pay a subscription fee to be a part of Drinks Network and automatically have access to consumer data. The information about their consumers is not sold as an additional service, as is done by Woolworths, Coles and AC Nielsen.

“The bartender from New Zealand taking on AC Nielsen and Woolworths,” is the possibility Mr Wood sees for himself and his business over the next five years.

Additionally, Drinks Network’s technology enables it to be adaptive and collaborative when it comes to working with its partners.

For example, Black Tears Rum is currently running a ‘gift with purchase’ promotion on the site.

Its London-based digital marketing agency is driving traffic to the product on Drinks Network via a campaign running across Facebook and Instagram. The whole Black Tears Rum team receives notifications of sales from the site delivered to their phones in real time.

“Enabling multiple agencies to drive traffic for individual brands using campaigns and Retargeting by either google or Facebook pixels is groundbreaking. Agencies can now monitor their audience in different stages in their funnel and get real time notifications of actual sales and our analytics show them where in Australia their audience is engaging. Furthermore, we provide follow up reports on age and gender demographics post campaign.  All this and the marketers don’t even need to lift a finger on fulfilment either,” explains Mr Wood.

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