Almost a year after the initiation of the project, and after many months of increasingly intense preparation WHISKYdotcoza is now up and running. Phew! Even as I’m breathing this sigh of relief I know that this is actually only the start of the journey. It’s a milestone nonetheless.
It all began back in 2002 when I secured the domain whisky.co.za, with what was then the very vague intention of creating a whisky e-tailer. The market simply wasn’t ready at the time (neither was I), but the dynamics have changed dramatically since. Firstly whisky consumption has grown steadily – in 2010 South Africa was effectively the 4th largest export market for Scotch whisky worldwide (Singapore was actually 4th but I reckon it’s just a thoroughfare, so doesn’t really count) buying £168 million worth. In 2005, never mind 2002, SA wasn’t even in the top 10. Secondly internet usage and the incidence of online shopping are in an exponential growth phase. An estimated 6 million South Africans have access, of which 51% are believed to be shopping online. We’re still well behind the first world, 10-15% of our population is online compared to 90%+ in a country like Denmark, but we’re catching up quickly. The e-commerce era has arrived, and I believe whisky is the type of product that’s ideally poised to get on board. It’s popular, it’s credibly branded, there are no sizing/fit issues, and it’s high value and compact so delivery is cost-effective.
Having said that, it’s going to be a slow burn. Although there are other online whisky shops operating in the local market, it’s by and large an unfamiliar format; people here are unaccustomed to using this channel to purchase their whisky. However, I’m confident that the benefits will speak for themselves, and that conversion will follow awareness.
There are two primary reasons why people are increasingly turning to e-commerce in general – because they can shop whenever they want (i.e. it’s convenient), and because they can make purchase decisions that are better thought-out than they would be in the bricks and mortar world. On the internet, you have an endless amount of information at your fingertips. You can quickly and easily compare pricing and specifications, and dig into product details – in short ensure that you get exactly what you want for the best possible price. Time is a valuable. Why would busy professionals want to spend 2 hours of their Saturday schlepping to Makro and back, when they can buy from us at similar prices, get some decent advice to guide their purchases, and have 3-4 bottles delivered for between R42 and R50 (in the major cities), the cost of their petrol alone? Well, that’s the theory anyhow.
We’ve set out to create an e-tailer that will be a benchmark not only locally but internationally. We can’t offer the same variety as international e-tailers such as Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt, that’s simply not possible here, but in aspects of functionality, usability, and relevance, we think we’ve on our way to matching, and in certain aspects exceeding, these titans.
Thanks for indulging my sales pitch. I’m not going to make a habit of it on this blog. As I recently mentioned to fellow local whisky blogger I’m 100% committed to offering an independent and impartial viewpoint on all things whisky, but when it comes to the retail aspect, well, I’m going to have to make an exception, declared upfront.
One last thing – I have a favour to ask. The site is complex, and despite the talent of our incredibly hardworking and dedicated web designers (Milk), it’s inevitable that there will be issues. I’d be grateful if you could give us your thoughts, feedback and suggestions.
Thanks again, enjoy the weekend, and may the dram be with you.