Q&A: How a specialist liquor retailer has made the move to selling online

Camperdown Cellars is that increasingly rare beast – an independent Australian liquor retailer. While Camperdown Cellars has racked up a number of traditional retail awards, it continues to build its online offering – here, it shares its experience of going online and explains what it learnt about working with a web developer for the first time.

Alcohol consumption may be on the decline in Australia but a growing thirst for premium beverages is driving growth in the liquor retailing industry. Research company IBISWorld forecasts that Australian expenditure on alcohol will increase from $28.1 billion in 2013/14 to $32.3 billion by 2018/19. This is good news for liquor retailer Camperdown Cellars, which specialises in craft beer and boutique wine and sells via its network of bricks-and-mortar stores in Sydney, as well as online.

Camperdown Cellars’ bricks-and-mortar stores have attracted high-profile awards in the form of the 2014 National Liquor Store of the Year at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards, as well as Top NSW Liquor Store for its Parramatta Road store. Now, Camperdown Cellars, which uses a SecurePay payment gateway, aims to extend the success of its eight Sydney stores to its online offering. Danielle Kennedy, Camperdown Cellars’ sales and marketing manager, discusses how they plan to do it.

You’ve won a number of awards recently – what has made Camperdown Cellars stand out from its competitors?

We believe our knowledge and customer ethic are among the highest in the industry. We continue to build this business on the basic principle of being a community store.

How do you translate these qualities online?

By following the same customer-focused approach to business. We follow up every enquiry quickly, make every effort to meet our customers’ needs and ensure they receive great advice and the best value for money.

When did you begin selling online?

We launched a small store online several years ago; however, our focus remained our bricks-and-mortar stores. Our current online store went live in August 2014, and it continues to grow and evolve as we learn more about our online customers’ needs.

What challenges come with selling alcohol online?

Logistics are always the biggest challenge. We are pleased now to have a number of service providers who offer different cost / speed of delivery solutions while still ensuring our deliveries arrive without breakages.

What was the biggest challenge to starting an online sales strategy?

We found that one of the main challenges was finding the time to research and build the right solution without losing focus on our existing retail business. Pouring so many resources into a project that will take a considerable amount of time to return on your investment is a unique business mindset.

How do you structure your online team?

We have a small team that sits across multiple functions – strategy, merchandising, user experience and fulfilment. We have outsourced technical and specialist roles, such as our SEO [search engine optimisation] and PPC [pay per click] strategy, as this allows us to measure the benefits first, without investing in recruitment and training. All of our customer-centric roles are managed internally to ensure our online customers receive the same standard of service that we offer our in-store customers.

Did you face any challenges working with a web developer?

The challenges were endless! The key learning for us was to continually review each aspect of the project to uncover any incorrect assumptions and ensure the design of each feature would contain all the elements we needed. We found it was important to follow up every discussion with an email to confirm the outcomes, so that the project stayed on track and everybody’s expectations were managed.

What are the keys to success for your website?

I think it is ensuring your online presence is in line with your broader business model. Running separate customer value propositions is not only inefficient, it’s confusing for the customer and makes it harder to retain loyalty to your brand.

What are your goals for Camperdown Cellars’ website?

Our bricks-and-mortar stores will remain a key focus for the company, but we’re confident we can fill more of our customers’ needs by providing an online shopping solution. The number of independent liquor retail outlets is declining around the country, so our unique offer of excellence in range, price and service, with the convenience of delivery to your door, is a refreshing alternative to the limited and formulaic offer of supermarket stores.

What is your advice for other businesses moving online?

Be clear in your vision and considered in your execution. If you rush to get your website up and listen too much to what other companies – including your web developer – say, you can lose your competitive edge. Think carefully about who your customers are and who you want to attract. Trying to be all things to all people will dilute your offer, which can sabotage your business potential. And don’t stop learning, because the technology is constantly changing.

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