May 2013
The Hidden Advantage of eCommerce
Distributor Sales Reps Leverage eCommerce
to Build Engagement with Accounts
here 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 immedi-
ate 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 cam-
paigns that link to a landing page that
seeks to convert interest into an eCom-
merce order. They keep in touch with
accounts on social media and where ap-
propriate 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 work-
ing 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 repur-
posing some of our eCommerce tools to
help distributors provide the foundation
on which their reps can build. The fol-
lowing 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 con-
sumer 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 eCom-
merce 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 prequali-
fied 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 pro-
motions 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 find-
ing and ordering products. While the
view from the front of the site is of the
full marketplace, we also offer distribu-
tors 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 sophisti-
cated 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.
To comment on this column or to learn more about how
Beverage Media can help with a website for your store,
visit BevSites.com, or contact Ian Griffith at 617-864-1677.
Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/bevsites.
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