Why This Beverage Brand Is Opening a Cashierless Store in New York

Customers will text their purchase

No cash? No problem.

As cashierless technology ramps up with Amazon soon bringing its third Amazon Go store to New York, more companies are testing the waters. The newest one: Dirty Lemon, a beverage brand that only sells its products via text, is opening up what it calls “The Drug Store” in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Unlike Amazon Go, where customers need to use an Amazon Go app to enter the store, anyone can walk into the store, pick up a beverage, and walk right out. Customers then text Dirty Lemon which beverage they grabbed and in five minutes, a 24-hour customer representative charges their credit card (new customers are prompted to open up an account). A few safety precautions include cameras monitoring the space, a heat map tracker to see how many people are visiting the store and a RFID tracker to see what products are taken out of the refrigerator (which holds 1,000 bottles).

“We think this is a really great controlled way of ultimately providing a really valuable experience to our customers,” said Zak Normandin, founder and CEO, DirtyLemon. “It’s a relatively low risk for us to be able to do something innovative and unique for the brand and with our customers.”

To bring people into this new space, Dirty Lemon is reaching out to its 25,000-member customer database, inviting them in and offering up the first bottle for free. The company’s VIP members—customers who order a Dirty Lemon case at least once a month—will get an extra perk: a 1,300 square foot cocktail bar, where the brand plans on hosting events and screenings and use the area as a lab to try new flavors, according to Normandin. (The company’s previous pop-up in Nolita last summer tested out two flavors, +Matcha and +Rose, that became best sellers and were eventually bottled.)

“It’s going to be a SoHo house type of programming schedule,” Normandin said. “We want this to be a place where people can come, have a drink after work, or take friends on the weekend.”

Normandin is betting on getting more out of the storefront than just sales. He thinks of the brand as more of a technology company than a beverage company, and he plans on proving that concept with the store. With Dirty Lemon’s recent acquisition of Poncho, a former weather chatbot service, Normandin said Dirty Lemon has “incorporated” all of Poncho’s technology around a conversational bot experience into its own platform. The new technology is less automated than Poncho, but it’s allowed Dirty Lemon to automatically process different types of orders, like a two cases of one flavor for one day and another flavor for another day. Before, Normandin said, it had to be done manually.

The storefront is also Dirty Lemon’s next bet to attract new customers, as the price to serve ads to a consumer continues to climb and is “too expensive” for the company to acquire a consumer at a certain price. Normandin explained that it’s not just beverage companies who are going after their customer (a millennial femal that’s “educated and has a high discretionary income”), but all types of companies.

“We believe in the power of experience and building community, and this achieves that in a big way,” Normandin said. “By creating a physical experience and community around a location, I think we’re able to build much more longevity with consumers.”

The company, which has more than 100,000 customers across the United States, plans on taking its “The Drug Store” concept to three more locations in 2019: another in New York, Chicago, and Miami.

“Shifting our advertising spend from digital acquisition to these physical experiences is, we think, a much more effective way of connecting with consumers,” Normandin said.

The number of Dirty Lemon customers has been updated per the company’s own internal numbers.