Alcohol eCommerce in 2020
Written by: Chris Deutchman, Sales Manager, Elite Brands

It is 2020 folks…we’ve got Artificial Intelligence, Gene-editing, Self-Driving Cars, Reusable Rockets, Wi-Fi Connected Thermostats and Refrigerators, Hoverboards, and even Online Ordering. Okay – online ordering might not be as impressive of a technological advancement as these others, but the evolution and where it will take the food & beverage industry in the next 10 years, heck the next 10 months, will be massive.

The internet boom and market leaders like Amazon and eBay created the idea that it was safe and okay to order online. And considering that these companies launched their first websites in the mid-90’s, it’s taken consumers some time to truly make it an everyday thing. Even Wal-Mart was slow to the game…it was not until 2007 that they introduced an online ordering portal and it took them nearly 5 years before they realized any positive gains from the web. Now…you will find online ordering in every industry, with businesses of all sizes, and with every kind of transaction. Whether B2C (business-to-consumer), B2B (business-to-business), and even C2C (consumer-to-consumer), the trend to transact online over our phones and computers has become as commonplace as fireworks on the 4th of July.

While our industry has been slower to adapt, we have seen a huge boost in recent years to get online. To breakdown what it looks like today, we’re digging into 2 key sides of online ordering: 1) B2C – how consumers’ online ordering habits for alcohol have evolved, and 2) B2B – how restaurants and liquor stores have adapted their weekly ordering around online platforms.

B2C – Online Ordering Habits of Consumers in the Alcohol Industry

The trend of purchasing alcohol online is very new and small in the US – though it is growing incredibly fast, especially considering consumer’s changing habits amidst Covid-19. According to Nielsen’s Global Connected Commerce Study from September 2016 – which surveyed more than 30,000 respondents with online access in 63 countries – the average percentage of consumers that bought alcohol online was only 8%. Just 4 years ago, this made online alcohol sales one of the least-shopped categories online.

Fast forward to 2020, the industry is witnessing record-breaking growth levels in the category and has quickly risen to be one of hottest emerging categories online. In April alone, eCommerce booze sales grew over 400%! For eCommerce platforms like Drizly, they are experiencing over 30% of their company’s total sales coming from NEW customers. According to a 2019 study by eMarketer, food & beverage eCommerce will grow by 18% in 2020 and online sales will make up 15-20% of the food and beverages industry’s overall sales.

Plus, with major influences to our global and national economies, like a pandemic, rippling effects in how we interact with our day-to-day experiences are bound to occur. While we all look forward to getting past the consequences of Covid-19, we do anticipate that effects like consumer ordering will have residual outcomes and speed up the changes of how consumers are ordering products like alcohol. As such, consumers getting used to and enjoying the ability of purchasing alcohol online (whether to pick up on the way home from work or have it delivered on-demand throughout the week) is sure to become more of a common practice.

While eCommerce platforms like Drizly, MiniBar, and others have built their model on urban environments, they are experiencing their incredible growth in suburban markets as consumers find trust and ease ordering their booze online – much like the trend we’ve witnessed with every other online category. As Nick Rellas, Co-Founder and CEO of Drizly explains: “as we continue to build up our marketplace shopping experience, we are broadening our view of who that target customer is. As an example, the consumer who wants a large whiskey selection that he/she can pick up on their walk home from work is very different from the suburban parent who wants to schedule a wine delivery for dinner after the kids go to bed.” While the remaining millennials generation turned 21 in the last couple of years, eCommerce platforms are expected to witness a greater boon across all other age segments.

The DNA of Colorado’s B2C eCommerce Platforms

While we expect more companies to join the Colorado market, Elite Brands is currently working with the top eCommerce players to ensure a more seamless experience for you and your customers. Our biggest goal is to ensure data integrity and accuracy of our content across all platforms. If you are working with an eCommerce platform and carry our products, we are working hard to make sure your entire Elite Brands based inventory is available and represented accurately. If there is a product on your shelf that is not showing on an eCommerce platform (or is showing with an incorrect image, description, or style), that is a wasted opportunity for both of us. As such, we have developed partnerships with the following platforms to manage all our product’s data / content and to support your efforts in working with each platform. If we can make it easier on you and a better experience for your customers, we see that as a huge win-win!

Here is a listing of the eCommerce platform partners that we have been working closely with to ensure our products are available and accurate. If you would like to learn more about any of these platforms and/or how we can help you manage them in your business, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager.

Drizly – an alcohol eCommerce platform operating in over 100 markets across the United States and Canada. Known as the “Amazon for liquor,” Drizly allows users to order a variety of beer, wine, and spirits directly from local retailers to their location through a mobile app or website.

Handoff – this Denver-based company is a chat-and voice-centered app that instantly recommends and delivers beer, wine, and spirits with the push of a button. Handoff serves as a personal alcohol assistant to help recommend products that fit any taste or budget, then has them delivered by local liquor stores in 60 minutes or less. In addition, Handoff is supported on Alexa and Google Home smart speaker devices with a first of its kind voice-driven order experience.

Beverage Media Group – dedicated to being the dominant business to business communications system in the promotion, distribution and marketing of beverage alcohol products. For the last 80 years, BMG has provided our industry with content and data management through different sites, publications, industry news, archives, and most recently, supporting liquor stores with an eCommerce platform to manage stores native online orders.

CityHive – an all in one eCommerce platform for liquor stores to manage their entire online ordering and customer experience. From integrations to any POS system, real-time inventory updates, rewards program management, sales data, and third-party integrations (e.g. wine searcher, add-ons, and more), CityHive provides stores with everything needed to drive customer experience and sales opportunities.

The DNA of Colorado’s B2C eCommerce Platforms

While we expect more companies to join the Colorado market, Elite Brands is currently working with the top eCommerce players to ensure a more seamless experience for you and your customers. Our biggest goal is to ensure data integrity and accuracy of our content across all platforms. If you are working with an eCommerce platform and carry our products, we are working hard to make sure your entire Elite Brands based inventory is available and represented accurately. If there is a product on your shelf that is not showing on an eCommerce platform (or is showing with an incorrect image, description, or style), that is a wasted opportunity for both of us. As such, we have developed partnerships with the following platforms to manage all our product’s data / content and to support your efforts in working with each platform. If we can make it easier on you and a better experience for your customers, we see that as a huge win-win!

Here is a listing of the eCommerce platform partners that we have been working closely with to ensure our products are available and accurate. If you would like to learn more about any of these platforms and/or how we can help you manage them in your business, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager.

Drizly – an alcohol eCommerce platform operating in over 100 markets across the United States and Canada. Known as the “Amazon for liquor,” Drizly allows users to order a variety of beer, wine, and spirits directly from local retailers to their location through a mobile app or website.

Handoff – this Denver-based company is a chat-and voice-centered app that instantly recommends and delivers beer, wine, and spirits with the push of a button. Handoff serves as a personal alcohol assistant to help recommend products that fit any taste or budget, then has them delivered by local liquor stores in 60 minutes or less. In addition, Handoff is supported on Alexa and Google Home smart speaker devices with a first of its kind voice-driven order experience.

Beverage Media Group – dedicated to being the dominant business to business communications system in the promotion, distribution and marketing of beverage alcohol products. For the last 80 years, BMG has provided our industry with content and data management through different sites, publications, industry news, archives, and most recently, supporting liquor stores with an eCommerce platform to manage stores native online orders.

CityHive – an all in one eCommerce platform for liquor stores to manage their entire online ordering and customer experience. From integrations to any POS system, real-time inventory updates, rewards program management, sales data, and third-party integrations (e.g. wine searcher, add-ons, and more), CityHive provides stores with everything needed to drive customer experience and sales opportunities.

B2B – How Restaurants & Liquor Stores Have Adapted their Weekly Ordering with our Teams

At least for Elite Brands – our customer service standards and consultative approach to our customers will remain consistent and vital. As we continue to focus our intention and efforts on our deep account relationships and providing industry best sales knowledge and support, we understand that the in-person contact we have with our customers is paramount. With that being said, we see online ordering as a benefit, not a substitution, to our relationships and customer service platform. We believe the key benefits for our customers to utilize online ordering are:

1)     Our sales team spends 40%+ of their time just punching orders. Instead, we want to use that time to focus on consulting your business needs, tasting products, working through sales programming, and providing in-account services like hand-selling, retail tastings, staff product trainings, customer goodwill programs, and more.

2)     For many of our customers, the time we spend in your account may not align with the time that you are ready to order. Whether you are a restaurant that orders at 10pm on a Sunday night, a liquor store that orders only when needed, or any other scenario, we want to provide a 24/7 platform that makes it effective and efficient for you order the products you need without hassles, mistakes, or missed communications.

3)     As we grow, so does our portfolio. As a sales team, it can be increasingly difficult to ensure you are given real-time information and product updates needed to run your business. From live inventory, full catalog access, applicable pricing and deals, and search & find capabilities, online ordering gives you the ability to navigate our portfolio quickly, accurately, and easily.

An Omni-Channel Approach

Just like you often hear, “find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” we believe it is vital to provide the right channels for you to be able to order our products easily and seamlessly on the platform that best fits your needs and goals. As such, we have developed an omni-channel across the key platforms available in Colorado. We are here to support and guide you on the platform works best for you and your teams. We have developed key partnerships and integrations with the following platforms to ensure you have the tools needed for success.

DSDLink – our native online ordering platform that allows you to tap into the same system our account managers use for easy ordering, live inventory, accurate pricing and quantity discounts, access to your existing orders, to view regularly purchased products, and to search and discover our entire portfolio.

Provi – an online ordering and rep communication platform that allows you to access every distributor relationship for ordering under one account. Provi makes it easy to access our entire portfolio, including full integration with our live inventory, pricing, search & discover of our products, ability to create & manage ordering lists, take inventory, track order status and rep communications, and more.

SevenFifty – an online marketplace and communications platform that helps importers, producers, distributors, and retail buyers connect with each other and do business in a modern world. Access our entire portfolio, including pricing and content with a full live integration of inventory and prices, and order easily with direct rep access.

Taking the Next Steps with eCommerce & Online Ordering

We are here to support your adventures in eCommerce and Online Ordering. Please reach out to your Account Managers for more details or our main contact and Sales Manager, Chris Deutschman – cdeutschman@elite-brands.com  |  (970) 977-0607 cell.