No beer today: what Coles Online should learn from their pricing error

15 November, 2011 Online, Retail

Beer-lovers across the country, including some sneaky Appliances Online employees, thought they picked up the bargain of the summer last night: cases of Coopers and James Squire beer for $15 and $16 each, respectively, from Coles Online.

OzBargain, Twitter and many other forums kicked off with discussion about the deal and the two products were out of stock within a few hours.

Today, however, Coles has refused to honour the sales, instead offering a $15 voucher, and the real social kickback is just warming up.

Angry customers are now posting images, limericks and taunts on the Coles Facebook page every few minutes and some beer-less commenters are threatening to complain to the ACCC. #occupycoles has outranked #occupysydney volume on Twitter and replies to @ColesOnline have spiked by 400% today, while the Coles ‘No Beer’ Online page has 500 Likes and counting.

e-Commerce and social media are both booming in Australia and, admittedly, the rules are still very faint – particularly for some of the larger players who are still rooted in the old world traditional marketing thinking. Most companies aren’t quite sure how to handle incidents like this, or haven’t put in place the right infrastructure and processes to avoid them in the first place. All the same, marketing, PR and business in general, are about being reactive and innovative: finding ways to make things work with what’s at hand, with what’s topical. Always thinking about the customer. That shouldn’t change online.

Coles Online had an opportunity to turn 4,000 customers (many of which were probably new to their online channel) into advocates for a relatively minimal loss/cost – probably not much more than the company will spend on TV advertising this afternoon.

I’d suspect that 90% of the avid beer consumers would have told their mates about how they snagged $16 cases of James Squire from Coles Online. Instead they’re now creating Facebook pages and Twitter tags to attack the company.

They’ll potentially spend far more on PR in the coming months than they’ve just lost as they try to promote themselves as the top choice for Christmas Shopping. They might have had, instead, dozens of news articles, forums and social mentions heralding them for looking after their mistakes, and their customers. Not to mention, they’d have been funding 4,000 barbeques across the country this weekend. I certainly know which type of press I’d prefer.

Coles Online Beer

Edit: I earlier referred to “about 4,000” people purchasing the beer offer, based on a discussion on Facebook. I’ve now removed this as the figure can’t been verified.

12 Responses to “No beer today: what Coles Online should learn from their pricing error”

  1. Pete says:

    Let us never forget the great Coles day of shame 15/11/2011 . Shun the non beer delivers. Shun

  2. Jimmy says:

    Good read John,hopefully they have learnt a thing or two from this situation.

  3. BC says:

    Everyone is reporting about $15 credit but no one is reporting that you must have a minimum spend of $50 to use the credit… it’s a ploy for more online registrations, plain and simple.

  4. Simon says:

    Will be boycotting Coles this festive season and beyond. Will never shop online with them again either. Only thing is – now they have all my details including my banking details. Not happy.

  5. Sam says:

    Where did the number 4,000 come from?

  6. [...] “liking” a dedicated page to the error. Appliances Online chief executive John Winning has written an entire blog post on the incident, saying it was a missed [...]

  7. Mailette says:

    As an Aussie living in Germany, I’m shocked by the prices of beer in Aus now & would love to see a breakdown of costs on a carton of beer in the first place…was the listed prices the wholesale price?

    Yes i run a company and understand over heads, taxes etc but you can go down to your local supermarket here and buy beer brewed in the area for 25-50c per long neck (5 euro to 15 euro a create) without crap, preservatives etc in it. You then get money back for the bottle when you return it, everyone recycles because of this.

    Anyway no one will remember in a few months, if Coles is closest / most convenient they’ll get the sale…I know a few of those 4,000: )

    • John Winning says:

      Alcohol and tobacco are both very heavily taxed in Australia. The larger supermarkets (Aldi, for example) are going to start selling their own beer, which should stir things up a bit.

  8. [...] A lot’s changed since then – traditional retailers like Myer are now selling online and lending a lot of authority to the space, while businesses like Coles Online, who have been operating since 1999, are continually putting more effort into the channel (even if they are still having some teething issues). [...]

  9. [...] untamed beast that will turn on you if you give it even half a chance, as you can see above and as Coles Online and Qantas both recently found [...]

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