Sydney liquor store BottlO’Briens is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Paul and Kate O’Brien, who met through the industry in the early 2000s.
Kate was a wine rep and Paul was a retailer at his family’s store, then called Cronulla Liquor Supply. It was this store in which they first met, and then later bought in 2007, renaming, rebranding and refocusing it to become BottlO’Briens.
Since then, liquor retail in Australia has of course changed a lot, and it’s always been a goal of BottlO’Briens to be able to successfully adapt to shifting trends and market evolution.
This goal drove one of the most recent changes for BottlO’Briens – its new website. Kate O’Brien told National Liquor News a bit about their online history, which shows why the new website launch was an important milestone for the business.
She said: “We originally created a website years ago because we felt it was the thing to do. We didn’t know enough about online retail back then, we thought less was more as far as product, and ended up creating a website that we didn’t love and actually didn’t quite understand how it worked… so how were our customers expected to be able to navigate it? It was high maintenance, and as a result, we didn’t invest the time or attention that it needed, and we put it on the back burner.”
O’Brien said that this bugged her over the years, but it wasn’t until they started looking into expanding the business that the opportunity for change came.
“When we weighed up the potential investment of [opening another store], it suddenly made sense that if we just put a fraction of that investment into online, not only would it be a more financially prudent decision, but it would allow us to test the waters regarding our capabilities, time management and ‘man power’. However, more importantly, it would expand our brand far beyond the immediate reach of a physical bricks and mortar store,” she explained.
The O’Briens have three children, and Kate described the website as their fourth. The couple are proud of not only the way it looks, but also the fact that it’s functional, easy to navigate and also easy to maintain. This kind of functionality is extremely important for BottlO’Briens, as this is what was missing from their last website.
The new site launched two weeks ago, but early hopes are high. As O’Brien said, it’s an investment intended to expand the business as a whole.
“Naturally we are hoping it will provide a significant contribution to turnover, mainly due to expanding our brand awareness outside of our immediate physical location. We would ideally like to be recognised as a revered liquor retailer across Sydney (and eventually Australia, but one step at a time!),” O’Brien said.
Outside of a store functionality, the website also houses the BottlO’Briens blog called The Sip, designed to be an entertaining yet informative collection of articles that will help their online community connect to their story and brand, while also learning about products on offer.
All parts of the website in this way build on a greater digital strategy, where BottlO’Briens values its strong virtual presence. O’Brien said the current pandemic has revealed just how important this is for businesses of today, allowing physical stores to build and maintain awareness about their offering, even when people can’t actually visit them.
She said: “It allows a brand to build a personality and with that comes followers and subsequently, a community. This community, I believe, is the key to a successful business.
“It’s about working together with your tribe, collaborating with fellow like-minded businesses, educating customers… it all leads to a mutual respect and a certain credibility of your brand. This is what will drive sales.
“It’s not always about who has the cheapest price. Build your tribe, nurture them, listen to them, go out of your way to help them, and they will build trust.”
This became even more clear for BottlO’Briens during the first peak of the pandemic in Sydney, and is a silver lining moment for the business in one of the most challenging periods our country has faced. With more people staying local, they could nurture their shopper community with a base of customers they might not have reached before, and since then, there’s been positive effects in-store.
“It was a ‘now or never’ moment where we had a captive audience and therefore had the opportunity to prove that although we are independent, and physically small, those preconceived weaknesses are actually our biggest strengths,” O’Brien said
“We gained many new customers, who we have managed to retain. There is a really energetic vibe in-store since COVID, we are building a wonderful community, and it is this that we would like to replicate online.”
Images by James Ryrie.