What happens when a global virus pandemic redefines buyer behaviour? How did one nationwide network of retailers accelerate changes to ride out the storm and make it even easier for customers to continue purchasing local?
Social distancing restricts customer buying behaviour
They say necessity is the mother of all invention.
For Independent Brands Australia (part of the Metcash Group and the second largest network of liquor retail outlets in the country with over 2,700 stores), that proved to be the case when COVID-19 resulted in an almost overnight change in some customer behaviour. Sweeping effects were felt by almost every retailer within the IBA network as customers sought additional or alternative ways to purchase and receive goods, whilst at the same time supporting their local economy.
An online response to a purchasing evolution
Prior to the virus outbreak, less than three percent of the liquor network’s stores sold on the internet, despite 12 percent of Australian shoppers last year having purchased alcohol by this means. Motivated in part by this data, IBA had already identified an online marketplace as a new way to grow sales for six of its member brands – Cellarbrations, The Bottle-O, Thirsty Camel, IGA Liquor, Porters Liquor, and Big Bargain. As such they had already appointed Marketplacer to establish Shop MyLocal, a single online platform from which retailers across these six brands could list and sell their beverages.
COVID-19, however, effectively threw rocket fuel on the original timelines.
Pricing and stock challenges
Timeframes aside, the project presented its own set of novel challenges, including finding a solution to the fact each member and region within the IBA community maintains its own set of prices and stock levels. Such obstacles were cleverly tackled. For instance, listings have initially focused on a core range of 350 products across the retail banners. Prices for these beverages were set per member brand by the individual states and even in some cases pricing zones within states. Moreover, IBA made the decision to showcase a broader product range than stores would normally offer, therefore providing customers with an even greater range of choice.
The transition period
Marketplacer’s team played a fundamental role ensuring this new business direction was introduced with minimal friction and maximum ease.
However, the business itself was quick to implement internal changes. These decisions played a pivotal role in not only establishing the marketplace, but maintaining the smooth running of traditional operations. It was imperative this transition maintained ‘business as usual’.
Unprecedented timeframes and genuine teamwork
Shop MyLocal shaved a remarkable three months off its original time frame, boasting an initial 210 stores and selling 3,600+ products at launch, both of which are increasing weekly. The success is the result of a true partnership, and in particular the development of a project team comprising both IBA and Marketplacer experts. “With over 50 marketplaces successfully delivered globally, partnering with Marketplacer, was an important first step in our journey. Together we share the same belief of looking to give shoppers an easy way to add their favourite drinks to their lives in the manner that they want them,” says Raff Palermo, Head of Digital Commerce and Loyalty at IBA. Through this partnership, IBA tapped into the leading technical and online knowledge within Marketplacer. In contrast, Marketplacer relied on IBA’s in-depth insights into the liquor retail sector and customers, as well as instant and smooth communication with wider stakeholders such as State Managers. The free-flow sharing of knowledge, expertise, data and networks created an agile and efficient project team environment that surpassed all expectations.
Shop MyLocal – personalising and localising online liquor purchase
Shop MyLocal connects customers to their bottle shop without them having to leave home. In so doing, it eliminates any negative impact quarantine and/or social distancing measures might have had on its network. Customers visiting the marketplace will be cleverly guided to their local virtual store, which they can then select as a favourite and save to their profile. Click + Collect and no-contact home delivery are options provided by every retailer on the marketplace. IBA’s commitment to provide excellent product range, responsive customer service and fast and efficient distribution methods hasn’t been compromised, it’s been amplified.
IBA fulfills all paths to purchase
The platform is responding to and catering for new liquor buying behaviour that IBA believes might in fact become part of an emerging status quo, irrespective of coronavirus.
“Learning to work, live, connect and shop virtually and from a distance are behaviours that could remain well after the crisis passes,” says Palermo. “To create meaningful relationships, we see ourselves and the platform facilitating connections between shoppers and their favourite beverage brands from their favourite local store”.
Regardless, Shop MyLocal means customers can now access every possible path to purchase when shopping for their favourite brand within their favourite store. It may have solved what we all hope is a temporary issue. However, Shop MyLocal’s ultimate value will serve as a sustainable, ongoing, commercially astute proposition for IBA and its network of retailers, not to mention a wealth of options and convenience to customers nationwide.
Visit the Shop MyLocal marketplace here.
Adapting your business to ‘new normal’ buying behaviours
Does your business need to rapidly establish an eCommerce enabled presence? Is your centralised eComm site isolated from and managed separately to your retailer network? Have you not yet responded to changing buyer behaviour?
Our team is highly skilled in delivering fully-built online marketplaces. To date we are responsible for the full development of more than 60 online marketplaces representing 11,000 businesses across 11 countries, and servicing over 50-million customers. Get in touch with the Marketplacer team today.