Can Heineken’s ecommerce ambitions be realised?

The brewer is hoping its draft beer machine for the home will realise its direct ecommerce goals but worries around creating competition with existing commerce streams could stunt its ambitions.

It’s been two years since Heineken first unveiled the beer dispenser, dubbed the Sub, as a tentative step into creating a direct ecommerce stream for beers like Desperados, Birra Moretti and Affligem. But since its fanfare introduction the brewer has been relatively shy about marketing the Sub, despite its potential to create a steady flow of sales as home beer drinkers sip through its contents.

The main reason Heineken has avoided a heavy push for the dispenser is the fear of disturbing the equilibrium with its existing commerce partners such as Amazon, Tesco and Carrefour.

Speaking to The Drum, Soren Hagh, Heineken’s executive director of global marketing explained the brewer’s ecommerce strategy around the Sub and compared the route to its success with that of Nestle’s Nespresso coffee machine.

“Nespresso was not built from one day to another it’s something that over time materialised and consumers over time came to appreciate and I think it’s the same here,” he said. “We don’t have any ambition on pushing overly hard. We don’t want to create any competition with our existing customers but we believe that long term there is real value to consumers and we think that over time people will realise that.”

The machine itself retails at $340, while the refills – for sale on Heinekens ecommerce platform – will cost between £8 to $11. The Sub also forms part of Heineken’s strategy to achieve 6 per cent of sales each year from new products.

But Heineken’s slow burn approach could prove fruitful; Nespresso's first machine was launched in 1986 in office coffee sectors and has since grown to own global market share of over 19 per cent in the segment of espresso and filter portioned coffee machines. Whether Heineken’s softly, softly strategy will guarantee the success of its direct ecommerce remains to be seen, but Hagh is confident that the Sub can “be to beer what the kindle is to books”.

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