How the Bottles app pivoted from alcohol to grocery deliveries

Picture: iStock

As e-commerce continues to boom during the coronavirus lockdown, the site is enjoying exponential growth.

Lockdown level 3 has kicked in and alcohol is back on the shelves, but that doesn’t mean having to run to the local bottle store and queue, thanks to online portal Bottles.

Bottles is the on-demand delivery app that’s revolutionised buying alcohol. The brains behind the venture – Vincent Viviers and Enrico Ferigolli – have since pivoted the business in response to changing market conditions in the post-coronavirus world.

The result? Bottles is now also South Africa’s fastest-growing grocery delivery app, in partnership with Pick n Pay.

In 2016, Viviers and Enrico forever altered South Africa’s alcohol retail landscape by launching the first on-demand alcohol delivery app and service.

Viviers, who graduated from the University of Cape Town with a business science honours degree in marketing, combined his retail and tech experience gained during stints at Unilever and Google to forge his own entrepreneurial path with his digital tech startup.

Ferigolli converted six “extremely formative and fun” years at Unilever in Italy and South Africa, and the digital and business acumen he gained at Gorilla Creative Media, to build and scale his platform-based business.

Enrico Ferigolli and Vincent Viviers.

A fortuitous pitch to business reality TV show Shark Tank enabled the co-founders to realise their ambitions and shake up a legacy industry where technology was virtually absent.

In mid-2018, the site partnered with Pick n Pay Liquor to scale up their beverage delivery business and cement their place as the leading on-demand alcohol delivery servicer in the country. It sourced from over 60 Pick n Pay Liquor stores nationwide.

Then came coronavirus. Things had to change, and change quickly.

Pre-empting the lockdown and government’s ban on alcohol, the site leveraged its existing relationship with Pick n Pay. The team pivoted its business to an on-demand grocery essentials app, offering same-day delivery, and business boomed.

According to the website, they have more than doubled their reach and trebled their volume of orders in two weeks. They are consistently ranked as the number one app in the food and drink category and are rated within the top 50 apps overall in South Africa.

The unprecedented pace and scale of Covid-19’s economic impact has forced both small and large businesses to adapt or die during the lockdown. And South Africa’s first and largest on-demand alcohol delivery app took a double hit as the government banned all alcohol sales.

Grocery Essentials with Bottles | Pick n Pay Online | Pick n Pay ...

Survival hinged on quick, innovative thinking. Viviers and Ferigolli applied their entrepreneurial mindsets to the problem, and with the help of Pick n Pay’s online team, devised a wise pivot that enabled them to survive and thrive.

Viviers and Ferigolli took their four years of experience in building and scaling an e-commerce company, leveraged their existing partnership with Pick n Pay Liquor to create an on-demand, same-day grocery essentials delivery service in a matter of days.

Four days into lockdown, Bottles and Pick n Pay’s online team leveraged the app’s existing integration into the retailer’s stock management, invoicing and reconciliation systems to pilot the grocery service

The proof of concept was small, using two stores to offer a limited basket of 150 items but the response from registered Bottles users was overwhelming.

This success prompted the team to rapidly scale up, expanding the new grocery essentials service offering across more than 90 Pick n Pay stores across Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and Bloemfontein. There are also plans to expand to many other cities in the next four weeks.

SA alcohol delivery app Bottles hits 50k user mark, launches range ...

The range was also extended to over 1,500 products and more continue to be added every week, based on customer demand. The service offers contactless same-day delivery, with an average delivery time of under 90 minutes.

As e-commerce continues to boom during the coronavirus lockdown, the site is enjoying exponential growth. It has more than doubled its reach and has trebled its order volume in a matter of weeks, while giving customers an efficient and safe way to stay home and top up their grocery essentials.

This innovative approach has ensured the site can retain its existing employees and contractors, while also creating more job opportunities at a time when many small businesses are mulling retrenchments and downsizing.

Viviers and Ferigolli are convinced that Covid-19 has in the space of a few weeks accelerated the e-commerce adoption curve by several years.

With relaxed lockdown restrictions expected to continue for some time, coupled with the need to keep people safe at home and falling data prices, they believe it’s boom time for e-commerce app platforms.

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