While there are a handful of other pure-play non-alc sellers—Spirited Away in New York claims to be “America's first booze-free bottle shop”—Boisson, which means “beverage” in French, is trying to separate itself with sophisticated sales and marketing systems. Bodkins is calling on experience gained working in the marketing technology field, including a stint at Simon Data, which operates a customer data platform.
Boisson has assembled large quantities of first-party data tracking consumer preferences gathered both in-store and online that are used in one-to-one marketing, including emails and a soon-to-be-released app. (Seven in 10 in-store customers provide their email address, Bodkins said.) For instance, Boisson often knows if a consumer is pregnant or in addition recovery—and in those cases it will send recommendations for products that contain zero traces of alcohol. (In the U.S., drinks with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume can be labeled "non-alcohlic.")
In stores, the retailer is careful to promote a “no-judgment” atmosphere. “There are a million reasons why you may be choosing not to drink tonight…or this week, or this month. You are on your own personal journey. But we are not here to tell you you can’t drink anymore,” Bodkins said. “We are telling you…there are some really great cocktails and wines out there you can pair with dinner with your friends that…just happen to not have alcohol in them.”
He declined to disclose sales figures but said revenue is split about 50%-50% between its e-commerce site and in-store sales and that Boisson expects to finish the year with an eight-figure revenue total.
Boisson is also investing in a small but growing distribution business; it supplies non-alc products to about 30 venues, including the Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, Eleven Madison Park in NYC.
Boisson is using in-store consumer data to grow its wholesaling business, including sharing its intelligence on what the popular non-alc drinks are in a particular region. “I can walk into restaurant XYZ and I can say here are the taste preferences in this neighborhood of everything that I am selling,” Bodkins said. The forthcoming app will include a map feature allowing users to see which local bars and restaurants sell their favorite non-alc drinks; in-app integrations with reservation systems will allow users to make reservations in that moment.
Bodkins, now a father, says he and his wife continue to mix alcohol options with non-alcohol drinks, saving the booze occasions for about once a week.
“I don’t drink five bottles of $20 wine throughout the week. I only drink one night a week and I end up drinking a much better bottle of wine because it is a treat rather than something I just do out of habit,” he said, noting he now more often wakes up “feeling refreshed.”
“My daughter is 11 months old, she starts crying in the morning...whether I have a hangover or not,” he said.
~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Katy Parry is an investor in Boisson. That information was provided to Ad Age by a representative in error.