A large majority of breweries in the U.S. are small businesses that focus on providing a great experience and product for local customers in their taprooms. As the onset of the pandemic rattled customer confidence and closed the doors on indoor dining experiences, many breweries that had never sold their beer online were faced with the decision to either halt their sales or to open online storefronts that allowed for contactless payment and delivery for consumers.
North Carolina’s Cabarrus Brewing is one such brewery that quickly tried to pivot and saw some interesting results.
“The only retail growth we saw in 2020 was with our can releases and retail sales,” says Corey Sloop, chief financial officer at Cabarrus Brewing Co. “In March, our point-of-service provider Arryved launched the ability for us to open an online store, and we thought, ‘Why not give our specialty beers a pre-order release online and see how it goes?”
Before COVID and the March lockdown, Cabarrus had never sold product online, mostly because there wasn’t a need to prioritize it.
“We had done a few, maybe only 3-5 cases total,” Sloop says. Cut to March and its first product in the online store sold out in two days, which is an interesting contrast to pre-pandemic times when specialty releases sat on the shelf for anywhere between two weeks and a month.
“Our second release took 2 hours to sell out, and our latest (and largest specialty release ever) sold out within 18 minutes,” says Sloop. Its largest release through Arryved was over 250 case which generated over $21,000 in revenue (again, in 18 minutes).
The online store, which made it possible for beer lovers to order safely and prevented lines forming during the day of the release, was a success for Cabarrus and for its fans.
But was this a short-time fix of a growing trend?
Since last March, after launching Arryved Online, as much as 40% of monthly revenue generated through Arryved has been attributed to online orders and to-go or curbside pickup sales, marking a huge change year-over-year, as pre-orders from manufacturing taprooms were negligible prior to COVID. Although mobile payments in breweries are still far from the normal procedure for customers, Arryved’s data, pulled from more than 800 craft breweries nationwide, shows that its consumer app downloads have doubled month-over-month in 2020 and that more than 1000,000 unique customers have paid for their craft beverages using the app on their phone.
“The revenue we projected to do in a month, we did in the first two days of lockdown,” says Sloop. “During our lockdown, we utilized the Arryved store and app was our only way of providing revenue. Arryved made it possible for us to sell just about as much product as we possibly could during this time and make it safe for both our staff and our customers.”
Do they see online sales now as a replacement of their prior path to market, or is it just another additional sales channel?
“I believe that during the lockdown last year, we viewed the online releases as ‘just a way to help move inventory,’ Sloop says. “After seeing the consumer feedback, we decided to really focus on our releases and now that we’re fully operational again, we certainly view these releases as another sales channel rather than a substitution.”
Plus, selling product online is generally more profitable by keeping overhead down, he notes. “The only labor needed is during the order fulfillment. Many times we have a salaried employee or owner volunteer to help which doesn’t raise our overhead at all.”
During 2021, Sloop says they plan on getting a lot more tactical with their specialty releases.
“Understanding the seasonality of our business really helps us decide how large our releases should be,” he says. “As a team, we really work hard to get creative with our products and create something our customers would really love. From discussing the product, label design, batch size, etc. we all work together to solidify an outstanding product months in advance.”
For a fuller view, here is a snapshot of a the online sales / beer delivery platforms in the market.
Arryved Online features
Fully branded store: Optimized for mobile and desktop, Arryved Online is a branded and customizable platform that allows businesses to present online ordering as a seamless feature of their web experience. Businesses are encouraged to use their logos, colors, and imagery throughout their store to highlight their carefully crafted brand.
Minimal overhead fees: By integrating with Arryved POS, merchants can access all sales data and reporting, manage inventory, and track and print orders in the same place as their on-premise operations. Because the ecommerce platform is an added product that works directly with Arryved POS, there are no additional charges. Merchants pay only for credit card processing fees.
Safer and smarter ordering: Featuring multiple ordering modalities, Arryved Online allows customers to order online for curbside pickup, to-go pickup, home delivery, or on-premise table service. Customers can order from their own mobile devices while on-premise, and merchants access the orders from POS tablets and/or directly from their printers.