When we were about eight years old, my friend Joel and I created a game. Played on a tennis court, with a basketball, it was kind of a hybrid tennis/basketball/foursquare scenario. Given we were eight, we came up with a name that still gives me a twang of embarrasment 25 years later. The name combined our two names to give us “JoLu”. As soon as the name was bestowed, the game was destined to fail.
Weirdly I was thinking about it last night, which is why I’m sharing it now. Anyway, let’s talk about something COMPLETELY unrelated to that.
This morning, it was announced that Lion have created an online retail space called “MoCu”. It stands for Modern Curations Gallery (they forgot the “G”…).
The store will showcase their Australian and New Zealand catalogue with an emphasis on their craft offerings. This means Panhead, Mac’s and Emerson’s; side by side with James Squire, Little Creatures, and a few odds and sods from the rest of their range.
Firstly, let’s talk about the name. I completely get it. They want to have a post-modern, non-cliche name to class up their new online beer offerings. I don’t hate that approach. However, Modern Curations Gallery couldn’t be a less inspiring name to do it with. It ticks boxes of pretension, un-relatability, being straight confusing, while already sounding a bit dated.
To pile on, they have done the same with the site. It doesn’t feel like a beer store. It feels like they got every current idea in UX and UI design and just clumped them into one place forgetting the user experience and focussing on the interface. The result being a clean, spectacular looking website that hurts your eyes. Every scroll comes with a movement and every movement comes with a shiny thing to look at.
Unfortunately the first shiny thing I clicked to buy, the Hoppy Hefe, gave me a “Product with code ‘3963’ not found!” message. According to today’s Brews News article, this was packaged specifically for the site. Not going to lie, this isn’t really off to an auspicious start.
In line with the name, they have put a heavy emphasis on “Curated Collections” with names like “Muso” and “Sun Seeker”. Clicking one gives you another whirlwind of moving images, dropping and sliding at every opportunity. You can almost feel the animations trembling off screen just waiting for your finger to approach the mouse before leaping into action. Like bats swooping on a convertible. There’s a slight terror in it all.
I’d put money on, at one point, someone wanted sound to go with each action too. And you just know someone high in the chain of command asked in a meeting; “what about background music?” and the design team were filled with dread. Thankfully, there are no sounds.
After a minute or so, I’m legit feeling a bit of motion sickness. Everything moves. EVERYTHING. Clicking a curated collection doesn’t list the bottles, you instead need to click and watch images swirl and fly before even getting close to finding out what’s in the collection.
Seriously if anyone from Lion reads this, please just dial it all back a notch. I’m not exaggerating when I say it makes me feel ill to simply browse. When I finally found the traditional grid of bottles, a calming sensation came over me.
Next, in my line of issues, is the price. A six pack of Dog Days, for example, is $24 before delivery. At Dan Murphy’s it’s $18.60 (with delivery, $25.80). I don’t know what the cost of delivery is with MoCu. It wanted me to create an account in two steps before even seeing the final price. Before that, you actually need to find the “Checkout” button… which I’m 99% sure they forgot to put in. The only way to access it, that I could find, was by adding something else to your cart. The confirmation slide-in-menu comes with a checkout button – then after removing what I just added, I can hit checkout. It’s possible that it appears once you create an account, but I shouldn’t need to just to check a price.
This is all very overwhelming.
Final whinge – there is nowhere on the site that ties it to Lion or explains what it really is. I find that a bit strange. They have a really good portfolio of craft brands and I don’t think people care that much who actually owns them. So why not say “this is a Lion marketplace for all of our awesomely curated brands because we have so many great beers”? The exclusion just seems unnecessarily deceptive.
Ok, bitching and moaning about the execution aside, I do genuinely like this move. Back in March I questioned how long it would be until Lion or CUB moved into the online retail space in a serious capacity:
Getting ads on TV is one thing, but getting a beer into the hands of the mass market either instantly, or by buying an online retail store, is still fairly new territory for breweries. With the slumbering giant waking up and beginning to throw cash around, it isn’t brewers who should be the only ones concerned about buyouts and innovation. Online retailers are also going to need to be on their toes.
Getting this done just before summer and Christmas time is great. Having Emerson’s and Panhead up there, along with the limited releases from James Squire and Little Creatures both reaffirms their commitment to unique beers, and will attract the geekier fans wanting to get their hands on a one off release.
It’s early days for the site and early days for breweries trying to vertically integrate, especially at this scale.
And once all my whinging is put aside, I do think it’s very a clever way to do it. No one is going to go to the site to buy a two pack of a limited release, instead the free delivery for over $50 becomes an appealing proposition. I imagine 99% of customers will think “may as well pick up some more curations and make a deal of it”. It’s also pretty useful for those there just to buy a gift.
Honestly, my opening stanza may imply that I think this will fail. I don’t really think that. I think it has potential to be really useful and a step forward for Lion to get their beer to customers spread around an expansive country. Lion are doing incredibly well in battening down hatches in order to weather a rapidly changing market. It just needs tweaking.
And even after shitting on it like I have, buying a four pack of those Emerson’s bottles is still appealing to me. Add in a side of the new Little Creatures release, and maybe I would battle the frustration. Maybe.