New Brew: The Beer Cartel Story | #087

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In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Richard Kelsey from Beer Cartel.  Started from a Kennard’s shed in 2009, Beer Cartel was one of the first […]

EP 87
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Richard is the co-founder of Beer Cartel, Australia's #1 Retailer of Craft Beer. Over the last 12 years they have forged their way in the market, providing access to over 1,000 of the world's best craft beers, through their Sydney store and website Beer Cartel helps thousands of customers Australia-wide, source hard to find beers and limited releases, as well as old favourites.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Richard Kelsey from Beer Cartel.  Started from a Kennard’s shed in 2009, Beer Cartel was one of the first online beer businesses in Australia. Today, they stock over 1,000 craft beers, have created a new tradition with their famous Advent Beer Calendar and just launched their equity crowdfunding where you can buy a share of the company.  But even if you’re not into beer – there’s so much that Beer Cartel do differently that you can draw inspiration from. In this chat, Richard shares how they have put a focus on creating unique gifts and gifting occasions, why they have continued down a subscription and membership model and why they commission and publish their own research to be perceived as industry leaders. 

They’re so instagrammable…there’s these amazing images that people are showing all the time

Richard Kelsey

Questions answered in this episode include
  • What trends in beer consumption have you seen since you started Beer Cartel?
  • What’s the secret to designing an award-winning online experience for eCommerce?
  • Why did you decide to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign?

What’s hot in the world of beer?

A very popular style is the hazy IPA or New England IPA. So it’s something that’s come on the scene in the last five years. It’s this beer that is very hazy, as the name suggests, quite opaque, like a bright yellow, bright golden color. Has lots of fruit notes to it, but it has a low level of bitterness. In the past, IPAs, which stand for Indian Pale Ales, have always been quite bitter, whereas now they’re making beers that are really drinkable and you don’t have that bitterness to them. That has really taken off. 

Particularly because they’re so Instagrammable and if you look up hazy IPA on Instagram, they’re everywhere. There’s these amazing images that people are showing all the time. That’s one that’s really taken off a lot.

I’ve started getting on an alcohol free called Heaps Normal.  It is very, very good. They started off in July last year and it has been amazing. For us, we didn’t sell alcohol free beer at all last year. All of a sudden, there’s this category that’s just accelerated at a huge rate. I don’t think it’s going to slow down at all. I think in part, it’s people moving to a more health conscious way of living and it’s also the fact that the beers that are being produced now are of such a good quality. What I’m finding is I struggle to have a night when I don’t have a beer, but I think it’s okay to have alcohol free beer.

The secret to UX success

I think you’ve always got to start with something but then you’ve got to evolve it over time. What you’ve got as your first iteration definitely shouldn’t be your last iteration. I think that’s core. 

The other thing is both myself and business partner, founder, Geoff Huens, we came from a market research background and so even before we got into e-commerce, we were used to taking people through a UX kind of design of different websites and getting them to give their feedback. 

It meant that when we created Beer Cartel, we kind of then imagined that for ourselves and imagined how people would be stepping through it. I guess we’ve always had that as the foundation and then it’s putting in the conversion rate optimization stuff over the top.

Industry research leader

So each year we have around about 20,000 people take part in the survey. We’ve been doing it for five years and the idea is that it’s done to help the industry. People know that they need to do research, but they don’t know how to do research and so we thought what we’d do is create this big report and then make it available for free on our website.  So we’ve been doing that for the last five years. 

It’s amazing the amount of attention it gets each year. You often find write-ups of different breweries and they’ll then reference the Beer Cartel survey, which is really nice.  It’s also won quite a few different awards. We won an aria a couple of years ago.  We won an award with BigCommerce as well.  I do like cash awards. They’re very good. We had a cash award from BigCommerce and we also had one from SurveyMonkey, which is the platform we did the survey on. They were pretty awesome. It’s something that we just love doing each year. It does take a lot of time and effort, but the rewards of doing it are pretty good as well.

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