From Pop-Up Shops to Online Success – Sansorium’s Inspiring Story

Sansorium's inspiring journey

What are the marketing strategies behind an alcohol-free beverage marketplace

Recently, Fiona Hepher was a guest at the Two Ecomm Experts Podcast (a podcast hosted by the founder of Markademics, Viktor Stoilov, you can check the episode here), where she told the story of her brand Sansoruim.

As a CEO and co-founder, Fiona Hepher, explains how her idea came across. Not feeling good after drinking alcohol, she and her mother decided to look for non-alcoholic wines in Canada.

By searching, they realized that there was a gap in the market in that aspect.
Although there were a few brands in that niche, they didn’t have what they wanted to see.

After doing more research she found that the non-alcohol industry in Australia, Europe and even the USA was blossoming. Fiona Hepher and her mother took a chance and decided to fill the gap in the industry in Canada.

In the fall of 2021, they built their marketplace platform and soon after hosted their first full scale pop-up shop in Western Canada. It was dedicated to almost 200 different alcohol-free products. By seeing hundreds of people coming through, they experienced their biggest sales day.


What were the mistakes starting out

The Sansorium team started reaching out to brands that weren’t in Canada in order to represent them there and have partnerships with. Starting out they encountered some problems.

The first mistake that they made: Investing a lot of money in product early, in order to test different types of beverages.

Second mistake: Not taking into account the cold weather.
Ordering a high amount of product and not taking into account the weather was one of their big mistakes. Shipping non-alcoholic products in the winter has a high probability of freezing, because there’s no alcohol in them. Not taking into account the weather, they lost thousands of dollars.

Third mistake: “Shorter” expiry dates
By having a one year expiry date and adding transportation time you are left with just 6 months to sell the products. You really have to think if you can move the products fast.

Despite the struggles, from the start people saw the value in the brand and the variety of their products.

By creating a bond between the brand and the customer you are settling yourself for success. People are more drawn to understand hard situations, when you first show them care.


Viktor (the host) asks: “How should someone thinking of opening a marketplace should be doing their numbers and what are the traps?

Fiona explains that taking into account your environment is a vital consideration.

  • What products are you shipping?
  • How are you shipping it?
  • What is their weight?
  • What type of warehouse do you need?


Transportation is the biggest trap you have to be aware of.

Search how long your product might stay at ports and what is the process there. Decide whether you are going to sell locally or not and adapt from there.

The big emphasis she puts is to sell what you know how to sell and be genuinely interested in people’s desires in products.

Fiona, learning that she had a bigger expertise in wine, decided to focus solely on it.


What was the marketing strategy behind selling the first bottles

Studying social entrepreneurship she learned to connect people to a concept.

By hosting the first alcohol-free wine testing in Canada she explained into detail the processes of the production, the idea and feelings she would like to leave on people. Educating them, while testing was a big part of the events.

Customers going to such events had an arising questions of what alcohol-free wine would taste and how it would make them feel. By doing such events, Fiona minimized every objection her buyers could have, as well as building a sincere community.

With this strategy they hit a milestone of 100 pop up events in 2022. That trascent into drawing them into a marketplace of people where they had a 30% return rate online.

Viktor asks: “What was the issue with Facebook policies and how did you turn the advertising process into a mission possible?”

Sansorium had issues with running Facebook ads firstly because the platform didn’t understand the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.

Although, for a short period of time they found a way of workarounds with pixels to at least push some ads.

Even though they were selling non-alcoholic beverages, Facebook wasn’t prepared to actually read non-alcoholic wine in the labels. She tried to tell stories about the brand in the ads and avoid words such as “non-alcoholic” or “beverage”. This strategy was working to a certain extent and had allowed her to sell on Facebook However, not being that worth it, they decided to stop.


How do they compensate for the absence of Facebook

Having the ability to connect people in person, as well as with the help of email marketing they stabilized the situation.

Also, because of the pop-up events many people were coming from organic traffic and making subscriptions.

Fiona explains that it was a trending category, so PR was actually easy for them. They got some segments on TV, radio, other podcasts, editorials. So, they got really good coverage by Google in that way.

“If you are moving to Ecomm, definitely do something on trend”

She emphasizes that the benefit of the alcohol-free industry would always be on trend. Unlike in many niches, here they won’t experience the reverse effect.

“We sell to bars, restaurants, hotels, golf clubs and venues”

Purchasing their products on distribution rates gives way more value and builds connections.

The host asks: “What did you learn from not being able to be in the business for a few months?”

Fiona explains that she had a really bad concussion for a few months.
Not being able to be in front of a screen, she saw how the business is working and the power of brand.

Building useful practices from the start of the company, she saw how they were paying in that moment.

She explains that the most important thing when founding a company is “the power of your brand”. Putting a part of your character in it, paves the way of always having a piece of you in it no matter what.
It’s not always about the logo, the colors or the fonts you choose. Mostly, it is the feeling people get when they experience your company, it even lasts more than the product itself.

She explains that the second pattern she saw, starting the company, was the words describing the alcohol-free niche. Such as dry, non, zero, etc.
She wanted people to fully experience the alcohol-free side of life and break the chain.

She infused her personality in all touch points of the Sensorium experience. Crafting it as fun, creative, beautiful, has its personality. But also, has a touch of well being and mental health and also a touch of light and forgiving.

Communicating the face behind the brand, she explains that founders don’t have to be scared of reaching out to their customers if an unpleasant situation arises.

Seeing something unique in the way of branding, people have remained loyal.

In summary, Sansorium’s journey emphasizes the transformative potential of marketing strategies centered on community-building and genuine connections.
By prioritizing education, authenticity, and personal engagement, they didn’t just sell products – they created a movement that resonated with their audience on a profound level.

To discover more inspiring stories and insights from industry experts, check “Two Ecomm experts” podcast on YouTube and Spotify.

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