How Warm Beer & Ice Cold Skepticism Sparked a Multimillion Dollar Enterprise Guaranteed to Frost Your Brew

How Warm Beer & Ice Cold Skepticism Sparked a Multimillion Dollar Enterprise Guaranteed to Frost Your Brew

It’s a gizmo that would go on to earn millions.

But Adam Callinan, co-founder and Chief Beer Digester of BottleKeeper, a three piece neoprene lined bottle designed to keep an enclosed beer bottle cold, safe, and protected, didn’t have much hope for it initially.

“I wasn’t in love with the product right away,” Callinan says. “I just wasn’t convinced that someone would pay a large enough amount of money to create a viable business model.”

You can’t blame Callinan for his skepticism.

The idea for BottleKeeper was born on a beach where Callinan’s cousin and partner, Matt Campbell, found himself downing warm beer out of a red solo cup and knew there had to be a better way. Initially, Callinan feared that the idea for BottleKeeper was too much of a novelty to justify a realistic sale price, so would end up on a shelf somewhere.

What might change Callinan’s mind?

“What I think doesn’t matter ,” he says. “What matters is whether someone other than your mother will pull out their wallet and pay for what you’re selling -- that’s proof of concept.”

One landing page and a crowdfunding campaign later provided the proof Callinan needed. Warm beer haters in six countries had pre-ordered over one thousand BottleKeepers.

It was a success by any measure.

That is until a third-party fulfillment disaster resulted in hundreds of units being lost and hundreds more being shipped to the wrong customers. It was a roller coaster of an entrepreneurial ride that left Callinan and Campbell in a difficult position.

“We have had so many of those near disaster moments,” he says.

Fortunately, Callinan is a master at putting puzzles together.

The Right Pieces

Callinan is a serial entrepreneur whose last company had dozens of employees.

With BottleKeeper, he wanted to create an automated enterprise that could be operated from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, without employees. “We are really lean,” Callinan says. “We were completely bootstrapped, didn’t take any money from investors, paid for everything in cash as we went and grew as we could afford to grow.”

That included the third-party fulfillment partner that nearly crushed BottleKeeper after losing three hundred units and incorrectly shipping nearly two hundred more. “It was a disaster,” Callinan says. “I plugged the wrong piece into the puzzle and gave up control of our fulfillment far too early.”

Lessons may be learned in better understanding Callinan’s perspective on business.

“I’ve always been good at puzzles,” Callinan notes. “Startups are a big puzzle that you can tweak, measure the outcomes, and adjust.”

Once Callinan and Campbell had identified the right puzzle piece for fulfillment, they set out to identify the other pieces necessary to take BottleKeeper to the next level.

As always though, there was a problem.

Sure, the company was selling a couple thousand dollars worth of BottleKeepers every month. But the PPC ads the company was running, which contained static images of the product, weren’t effective in differentiating the BottleKeeper from products that were shaped similarly.

“Still images didn’t work for us,” Callinan says. “BottleKeeper looks too much like a water bottle rather than a new category of product designed to keep an enclosed beer bottle cold and protected.”

That all changed though when Facebook launched its video advertising platform and positioned Callinan to better showcase BottleKeeper’s value proposition. “It was a game changer,” he says. “Video ads completely changed everything for us.”

Something else would have to change as well.

Like the slow loading ecommerce site Callinan had hacked together with 28 plug-ins that’d never be able to handle the explosion in growth BottleKeeper was about to experience.

Trusted Partners

In September 2014, before Callinan launched the video ad campaign, monthly sales were approximately three thousand dollars. But once beer lovers were able to see video of BottleKeeper in action, sales accelerated:

  • $10,000 in October
  • $30,000 in November
  • $50,000 in December

“In December we completely sold out in the first ten days,” Callinan adds.

To scale quickly and meet demand, BottleKeeper replatformed with Shopify Plus in 2015, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants. “It would not have been possible for us to 10x our sales without Shopify,” Callinan says. “With Shopify we are able to scale as fast as we wanted to without having to worry about the backend.”

BottleKeeper also credits Growth Spark, an award-winning boutique design agency that uses creativity and data to help Shopify merchants make more money. Besides customizing a landing page that’s seemingly coining cash, Growth Spark is also responsible for the site’s interactive features that immerse visitors and illustrate exactly how BottleKeeper works.

“We are almost completely direct-to-consumer and the custom Shopify site that Growth Spark created helped us more than 10x our sales for a second straight year,” Callinan says. “They are a huge piece of the puzzle, and we rely heavily on them.”

Since partnering with Growth Spark, BottleKeeper has also experienced:

  • A 2.5x lift in conversions
  • Improved CTRs
  • An increase in the time visitors spend on site

“They’re an ideal client,” says Madeleine McGregor, a project manager at Growth Spark. “It can be difficult trying to help a client conceptualize interactive design with two-dimensional wireframes but BottleKeeper really collaborated with and trusted us to bring their site to life.”

Besides winning awards, the BottleKeeper site is also increasing its customer lifetime value (CLV) thanks to the innovative rewards program created by another trusted partner, Sweet Tooth, which helps merchants create customized points-based loyalty programs that drive repeat sales.

In addition to nearly eliminating the fraud that often occurred when visitors would “refer” themselves via email to receive a free BottleKeeper, Sweet Tooth designed a loyalty program that ties a visitor’s behavior to a profitable action before a reward is earned.

“A lot of programs reward people for simply providing their email,” says Alex McEachern, a loyalty marketing specialist at Sweet Tooth. “But you really have to get more value out of existing customers today because it costs so much more to acquire new customers. BottleKeeper understands how important it is to increase CLV which is why we tie rewards to profitable actions rather than just email capture.”

The program’s results include a 300% increase in repeat purchases and a 32% improvement in bounce rates.

“The proof is in the customer response,” Callinan says. “We built an eight-figure company without a full team thanks to great partners.”

Beyond Bottles

Quickly, who is BottleKeeper’s target market?

“Another great opportunity to throw your assumptions out the window,” Callinan advises.

Women between the ages of 35-60 are the highest converting audience for BottleKeeper.

Those customers have plenty to look forward to; the ability to personalize BottleKeepers, new product launches, and a BottleKeeper rollout in Australia are in the works. But maybe the most compelling reason to purchase a BottleKeeper, according to Callinan, is the 100% satisfaction guarantee that has no expiration date.

“You could tell us your dog ate your homework and we’d count that as a valid reason to execute a return for a full refund,” Callinan says in all seriousness. “If someone’s not happy, regardless of when they purchased a Bottlekeeper, we would much rather offer them a full refund so they’ve had a good experience with our brand and might consider purchasing a future product that’s a better fit.”

Turns out though, the BottleKeeper is a keeper.

Just 0.5% of the BottleKeeper orders are returned.

Expect this kind of bend-over-backward customer service to evolve as BottleKeeper extends its line of products and its geographic footprint.

“If you take care of customers in a way they’ve never been taken care of before, they’ll come back and buy from you over and over,” Callinan says. “We want our customers to feel like they’re getting something much more from the BottleKeeper experience than just a product.”

It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling..

That comes free with a product that strives to keep your cold beer cold.

About the Author

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog and founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best-known brands, businesses, and marketers. Get more from Nick here.