The e-commerce industry in South Africa has experienced a boom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Black Friday was no exception….
In a nation that loves to braai and enjoy a good beer, cider or glass of wine, some consumers tend to make reckless decisions and get behind the wheel, especially when the party runs dry. A solution is available though, in the form of Bottles.
Bottles is an on-demand alcohol delivery app which delivers drinks to your door in under 60 minutes, saving you the trouble of leaving the party.
“Towards the beginning of 2015, we were at a braai in Durban with friends, and as fortune would have it, we ran out of drinks,” Vincent Viviers, the co-founder of Bottles, told Ventureburn in an interview.
“Since we had all been drinking, we could not drive to a bottle store and it was getting late and stores were closing shortly. So we went ‘imagine there was an app, which delivered drinks to your door in this time of need?’ I mean, who hasn’t wanted to press a button and have drinks magically appear? This is how the idea of Bottles came to life,” Viviers continued.
Why drive to the store?
Realising a gap in the market, they decided to pursue it, bootstrapping the entire venture themselves. The founders, Viviers, Enrico Ferigolli and Martina Mondelli have over two decades of marketing experience and business management between them. They’ve worked for companies such as Unilever, L’Oreal and Beiersdorf. More specifically, Viviers has worked at Google South Africa and Ferigolli has headed Johannesburg business units for Gorilla Creative Media. Currently, both Viviers and Ferigolli own 50% of the company.
The trio has fully bootstrapped their venture, keeping ownership between them, but things are soon to change.
“Up until now, we have been fully self-funded. However, now that the app has been in the market for four months and we have successfully proven our business model, we are seeking investors to help us scale the business quickly and make Bottles a nationwide service.” said Viviers. “We are currently meeting and negotiating with several potential investors, as well as entering startup incubator programmes to find the right partners to make Bottles a success.”
Starting in Johannesburg earlier this year, they’ve already branched out to Cape Town and are moving to launch in Durban by the end of this year.
How does it all work?
“For now, our strategy is local: we want to scale the business fast and make Bottles a nationwide service in South Africa. There are definitely plenty of opportunities for expanding Bottles into other countries, but this is not our priority for now,” Viviers explained.
The biggest rivals aren’t from another app though…
“Locally, our biggest competition is the old way of doing business – driving to the bottle store,” said Viviers. “Bottles aims to disrupt the market and revolutionise the way South Africans buy alcohol by using the latest technology combined with just-in-time delivery to provide the ultimate convenience to its users,” he continued.
International competition does come from apps though, as several US services follow the same business model. The most successful ones are Drizly and Saucey.
Bottles works in three simple steps. You’ll first need to set your location, connecting you to the closest bottle store in your area. The second step sees you choosing your drinks and adding them to your cart. Finally, you checkout and wait, with the app also letting you split the bill with friends via cashless checkout.
“Our prices are based on our partner retailers in your area, and thus vary based on your location,” the co-founder added.
Underage drinking and expansion plans
In a country which suffers from serious alcohol-related issues, it’s quite simple for minors to get their hands on alcohol, but Viviers is confident of their solution. “We have several measures to verify our users are of legal drinking age,” he said.
There’s an “age gate” when you open the app, and users are required to register their date of birth. Users also need to present a valid ID before the goods can be released. They reserve the right to refuse an order if the consumer is underage or if they cannot prove their age.
The team has taken steps in the event of goods getting damaged or going missing as well. “We will fully refund/resupply any damaged or missing goods to users, to ensure people get exactly what they ordered,” the co-founder said.
Along with future plans for expansion, they’re also looking at fostering better relationships with local and international breweries and wine farms.
“We have already been approached by several local and international manufacturers to discuss possible partnerships,” said Viviers. “There are several ways in which we can partner with them in order to mutually grow our businesses, and provide extra value to our users. This is something we will start to focus on soon.”
Aside from the usual startup challenges, one of the biggest issues they face is that they have problems delivering to estates and complexes – but have created a feature within the app to add delivery notes, such as more specific locations.
Much like any startup, they look to a future of sustainability and customer satisfaction, but also one where several revenue streams can be added, such as brand partnerships, B2B sales and complimentary products.
Featured Image: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr