Online Marketing, Retail

“Any business can do it”: How a bit of savvy market research won Beer Cartel an online retail award

Dominic Powell /

Beer Cartel

Beer Cartel founders Richard Kelsey and Geoff Huens. Source: Supplied.

An Aussie beer subscription service that was into craft beer before it was cool has nabbed an Australia Post Online Retail Industry Award (ORIAs) for best online marketing. And some clever market research was the key.

Beer Cartel co-founders Richard Kelsey and Geoff Huens established their business back in 2009, operating out of a tiny Kennards wine storage shed back when Australia’s craft beer industry was barely off the ground.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Kelsey says their humble shed beginnings were the “smallest of small”, but as a desire for fine local craft brews and subscription services picked up, so did the growth of Beer Cartel. In 2012, the two opened a bricks-and-mortar location and began to source international brews also.

“Our business just picked up from there. We’re both passionate about craft beers, and we’re basically a bottle shop that only sells craft beers. We’re like the Naked Wines of beer,” he says.

“We were doing subscription services before they were a thing, and online alcohol delivery too. The industry was just in its early stages back then too, with only 20 or so craft brewers. Now there’s upwards of 500.”

It was a desire to help this budding industry grow that helped Kelsey and Huens devise their award-winning online marketing campaign. Both coming from a background in market research, they quickly realised there was a lack of data on the industry, and a big desire from brewers to find out more about how consumers viewed their products.

So come 2016, Beer Cartel took the wraps off its first Australian Craft Beer Survey, which was designed to help the industry, both brewers and enthusiasts, better understand what people did and didn’t drink.

The business released the results publically, and also fed them back to the industry, striking deals with brewers to get them to send the survey to their fans in exchange for a special report on their beers and/or venue.

“It’s been massively important for people in the industry, and we had 17,000 craft beer drinkers take part in the last one. Consumers also learn about us through it, so it’s great from a content marketing perspective,” Kelsey says.

“Any business can do it”

At the ORIAs ceremony in Sydney on Thursday, Beer Cartel took home the best online retail marketing award for the survey, which Kelsey says is a “huge accolade” for the business and its mission.

“It confirms the concept we came up with is not only successful, but unique,” he says.

And it’s something other small and medium businesses can learn from.

“Any business can do market research, it’s relatively simple through SurveyMonkey, and its easily shared through social too,” says Kelsey.

“Consumers want to see what everyone thinks about the subject matter, and they like to talk to see if they’re similar or different to other people in the market.”

Other notable awards winners from the night included Showpo, which took home four awards, including one for the best ‘international conqueror’, and the overall award for online retailer of the year.

Sustainable product retailer Flora and Fauna, recently profiled in SmartCompany, also took home an award for best small independent retailer, while Kogan and Koh Australia won the people’s choice awards.

NOW READ: ATO spends nearly $1 million on market research, revealing 46% of Aussies believe its dispute processes are unfair

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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