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Online Beer Retail Innovations Part 1

This will be the first in a 3 part series (Part 2, Part 3)detailing experiences with using new and innovative online beer retailers. Many physical retailers have sold beer via an online presence for years, but only recently has the model been updated and focused directly on online sales, and sometimes without an affiliated retail location.

First up: LetsPour.com  

Founded in Seattle in 2010 as a social wine site, and adding a retail model in 2011, LetsPour combines elements of a Groupon style deal site with a Foursquare style check-in service. The retail portion seems to have been started in an effort to provide good deals on wine (and later beer was added, as the two founders say little about beer in their bios). The retail site is focused on presenting new “deals” on a regular basis (several times a week). Once you signup on the site, you will starting getting daily emails featuring the latest beer deals. There are several ways to reduce the cost of your purchase as well (referrals, coupons, etc). The amount of each beer available seems to be fairly limited and more popular/rare beers listed recently are shown as sold out.

I first decided to place an order through LetsPour after noticing a well targeted ad on Facebook. I decided to order a mix of six different 22oz bombers mostly from Washington state that are difficult/impossible to get in Chicago, but aren’t really high end or rare. Shipping is free with 6 bottles and after a $10 coupon the average per bottle price worked out to be $6.38 – a pretty decent price I feel – but without the coupon it starts to get pricey . I placed the order late on Sunday night and while it was marked as “shipped” on Monday, it didn’t enter UPS’s system until Tuesday and didn’t leave Redmond, WA until Wednesday, and thus didn’t deliver to Chicago until the following Tuesday. If I order something online, I expect it to be shipped out the next business day at the latest.

When the beer did arrive, it was well packed in a proper horizontal bottle packer. The whole thing was wrapped in a large plastic bag (to contain possible leaks in case of a broken bottle?) and also contained a few disposable cold packs (though after a week in transit, were of little added value). The beers were all intact and in good shape. Upon tasting, all seemed to be fresh and proper tasting.

I subsequently placed a second order when they were offering a few beers that I was looking for not readily available in Chicago. This order was made on a Thursday and was shipped the same day. It was delivered the following Wednesday – appropriate processing time for this order.

The 3rd order I placed on a Friday, it didn’t ship until the following Wednesday for delivery the following Tuesday. Way too long a delay in shipping. So 2 of 3 orders were severely delayed in shipping, not a good sign for a place trying to run an innovative online operation to sell beer.

They send a daily email featuring the newest beers available. Occasionally they offer a very rare beer which is usually gone within a few hours (examples select Cigar City beers). However, there is usually a limit of 1 bottle on these beers, forcing you to buy 5 more bottles to fill the box and avoid the $20 shipping charge. I don’t care for this practice. If you are going to offer a single rare bottle, you need to make it easy to buy just that bottle, or maybe 2 bottles, and hope that this leads to an organic growth in sales.

Overall, a decent experience and I would probably continue buying from them if I am looking for specific or more rare beers that don’t come to Chicago easily. 4 of 5 stars.