Another day ends, and another beer (or in my case 3) goes right into my happy belly. This got me thinking about the alcoholic beverage industry, and not just the drinking part (although thats the best part). Booze distribution has gotten to be a saturated field as of late with the emergence of microbrews and micro distilleries, as well as the great influx of beers and spirits from all over the world due to the advent of globalism and relaxed US trade policies. Back in the day, microsites were unheard of in the alcohol space. It was a world of ledgers, purchase orders, and dropships that were facilitated by face to face transactions. Today, the alcohol industry has caught up with the times and distributors and wholesalers are now online with their own sites and microsites.
The face to face transactions are still a central part of the industry, but all the face to face ordering or faxing has come to an end in favor of online ordering. The store within a store experience has now become a proverbial piece to the purchasing puzzle. As in most places in the world, people need their booze. In this decade there are an abundance of places to get that booze.
This started me down the path on asking a few questions
- What is a regional liquor distributor to do, to standout in a flooded market place?
- How are they going to differentiate?
- Why should someone buy from the new kid on the block?
Websites in the alcohol industry were treated at one time like a business card rather than a commerce tool, and as a byproduct kept the industry in an antiquated way of thinking. When competition expanded so did the need for innovation and customer experience. Which leads us into the customer centric microsite experience. The big distributors have made the migration to modern platforms and design. Many medium and smaller distributors are still in a time warp stuck in the 1990s where business was face to face, a fax (now an email) and you get an order. The site experience is utilized as a business card. Dont get me wrong I get why a lot of them do this, if the system isnt broken dont fix it. This costs money vision, and proficiency to move over to a higher level of doing business and that takes getting out of a certain comfort zone many are still too happy to be in.
What I am starting to see though is the necessity for these medium and smaller distributors to make a change due to their territories being cannibalized by competitors. Your average liquor store, night club, restaurant, and retail outlet are looking for more individualized customer centric experiences when they have to place orders. They are also looking for customized purchasing, shipping, and administrative rules as well. This is why microsites and their look, feel, and user friendliness are of such a necessity for most small and medium distributors.
The call for updating is going on now all across the alcohol distribution industry and now many distributors must think of the idea of re-platforming and what creating a user-centric buying interest is and will look like. Distributors need to think of taking a commoditized industry and becoming unique among the commoditized competitors if they want to survive and be profitable. A flooded field means that microsites and their customer centricity will have to work well in the business model of alcohol distributors if they want to stay relevant in the years to come.