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Talkin Tech: The Hidden Advantage of eCommerce

Posted on  | May 3, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Distributor sales reps leverage eCommerce to build engagement with accounts.

There have always been sales reps that have leveraged technology to reach their accounts with timely information and better service. It used to be the guys who sent several faxes a day when new releases and futures were hitting the market. More recently a younger generation of reps has taken to communicating by text message all day long, because it offers the most immediate way to reach accounts when they need help.

As more and more of the business of buying and selling alcoholic beverages moves online, some distributor sales reps find themselves learning a new set of skills that have much in common with how retailers build repeat business from their eCommerce customers. These early adopters are sending targeted email campaigns that link to a landing page that seeks to convert interest into an eCommerce order. They keep in touch with accounts on social media and where appropriate include a short-link back to a product listing. In short they are using the tool of eCommerce to add value and build engagement with their accounts.

Having spent the past 10 years working with retailers to help them master the evolving landscape of wine eCommerce, it’s gratifying to see the wholesale tier start to move in a similar direction. To meet this new demand we’ve been repurposing some of our eCommerce tools to help distributors provide the foundation on which their reps can build. The following are a few different directions that distributors have taken:

For several years we’ve made our retailer eCommerce platform available to wholesalers looking to present their products online. One popular approach is to publicly display items showing suggested retail pricing (MSRP). This shows the trade which items are currently available and helps build consumer interest in a brand. A site like this can be combined with a trade login that displays wholesale pricing.

More recently, some distributors have repurposed this leading eCommerce platform by placing the website behind a login so that all products and pricing are hidden from the public and in some cases are limited to prequalified accounts. As such, it has been used as a tool to promote limited offerings and pre-arrivals. The built-in email campaign tool can be used to segment accounts by on/off-premise and send targeted promotions based on order history. Emails point to products on the site and can convert interest into orders. Some limitations of this approach are that it offers limited discount levels and shows all accounts the same pricing. But for targeted promotions it can be a powerful tool.

Beverage Media has had a trade (B2B) eCommerce site in some markets for as long as 15 years. With thousands of active users every week and tens of thousands of orders placed every year, it is a popular tool for finding and ordering products. While the view from the front of the site is of the full marketplace, we also offer distributors a “sideways entry” for traffic that comes from their own website. This sideways view only shows the referring wholesaler’s inventory and allows a distributor to offer eCommerce at low cost and on a platform that much of the trade is already familiar with.

For distributors with experience online, we have a more sophisticated offering that brings together an integrated public and trade site. Built on a single platform, this approach identifies the correct product listings and pricing for an account based on their market, and in some states uses more detailed pricing rules. This site includes sell sheets, producer info and a recommendation engine that suggests similar products. Again, email marketing provides a vehicle for pushing targeting promotions that are converted on the site’s shopping cart.

If a salesperson can be freed from the task of visiting each account to collect orders, there is more time in the day to add value that grows market share. The best sales people will match their use of technology with the preferences of their accounts, whether that means sending them a fax or a tweet.


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