Beer, wine and other alcohol products will soon be arriving on Ontarians’ doorsteps. An item in the 2016 provincial budget said the LCBO was “moving forward by creating a best-in-class ecommerce open marketplace.”
“It will provide consumers with access to a wider variety of products, as well as the flexibility to order online and pick up products in store or have them delivered to their home.” The ecommerce platform is expected to be up and running by mid-2016.
In a statement emailed to Canadian Grocer‘s sister publication Marketing, an LCBO spokesperson said: “The program is currently in the development and testing stage, and as such it is premature to discuss details of the program.”
While the LCBO isn’t discussing the program with the media, a trade symposium briefing on the LCBO’s website does have details on the program. A test phase begins in April with around 4,500 SKUs, with more products and “flash offers” coming in July. Phase two begins in 2017, with the number of SKUs reaching more than 13,000.
The document says products can be delivered free to store (four-12 days) or delivery to home (two to three days), with charges applying. From the looks of it, products can be order on the website or via mobile app.
The document also states the LCBO’s aim is to “deliver an online and ecommerce beverage alcohol experience like no other and to be recognized amongst the best online retailers in the world.”
The document also lists elements of a paid, earned and owned campaign set to launch in July. It includes radio, digital ads, communications to Air Miles members, PR, social media, in-store communications and placement in the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine.
Kenneth Wong, professor of marketing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said the LCBO’s move into ecommerce is “almost begging for more of their classic problem: damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
“If they do anything that seems to promote drinking, they’re accused of promoting consumption of alcohol, and of course, if they don’t do it, they get left behind in the dust and their business falls off.”
Wong believes home delivery of booze was going to happen regardless of whether or not the LCBO got into the business. For instance, Longo’s Grocery Gateway already delivers beer, wine and spirits to its customers in the Greater Toronto Area.
“I don’t believe there are any grounds for anyone to stop anyone, for example, an Uber, from offering the service because they are not technically selling alcohol, just picking it up and delivering it,” Wong said. “So I think this is something the LCBO had to get into one way or the other.”