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By High-Proof Creative On January 22, 2021

How to Incorporate E-commerce into your Distillery’s Marketing Plan

In 2020, we learned that consumers are open to buying nearly anything  online — including liquor. For so long, distilleries and spirits manufacturers were forced to deny the cross-country consumers’ requests to get their products. As you likely know, shipping liquor can be a challenging legal task. That is still the case in many ways, but thanks to e-commerce platforms such as Drizly, Caskers, Reserve Bar, and SpeakEasy, distilleries can reach customers nationwide. Consumers visit these websites (sometimes as a subdomain of the distillery website), place their order, and receive spirits directly at their doorstep within 7-10 days. Needless to say, these e-commerce platforms have changed the face of liquor sales as we know it. Here are a few things you need to know so that your distillery can begin to utilize e-commerce. Know what to expect, begin to build it into your social platforms, and you’ll be reaching more consumers across the country in no time.

IRON OUT THE DETAILS | 

This is the most time consuming, but important step. Some e-commerce platforms operate locally, such as Drizly, and some operate nationwide, such as SpeakEasy. Each has pros and cons, but can help grow your consumer base significantly. Most distilleries and spirit producers have the option of pursuing both types of e-commerce:

LOCAL | 

Typically, local platforms partner with local liquor stores to fulfill orders. You can reach out directly to that e-commerce platform, enter your information, and find out which liquor stores are partnered with their program. Typically, platforms require you to provide UPC codes, spirit information (ABV, volume, type of spirit), product images, and product descriptions. The next step? Ensuring that at least one of their partnered liquor stores carry your product. Once your product is on the proper shelves, consumers can begin purchasing your spirit (and most importantly, drinking it!) All you have to do is make sure the liquor store is stocked, just like you normally would. The rest is handled by the platform. This type of e-commerce platform is perfect for self-distributed and commercially distributed spirits alike.

NATIONAL | 

Where local platforms are fairly simple, national platforms can get a bit trickier. Many small distilleries rely on self-distribution in their home state, but when we’re talking about national shipping, it’s important to note that each state has different liquor regulations. Some states allow certain types of alcohol to be shipped or received, some allow absolutely no spirits to cross their borders, and as of today, only 31 states allow all forms of liquor to be shipped/received. We’re not going to lie — this causes a few bumps in the road to e-commerce freedom, but one’s that aren’t worth stopping for.

STATE LICENSING | 

The only way to “hack” this caveat is to find a distributor in the e-commerce platform’s home state. As you begin to do research, you’ll notice that many of these platforms operate out of California, as they are known for having the loosest liquor distribution regulations. To move forward with really any e-commerce platform, you will have to get licensed to distribute in your platform’s home state. 

DISTRIBUTOR | 

Once you’ve got the state’s seal of approval, you will need to find a distributor. Self-distributors, I hear you — National Distributors can be expensive, stressful, and difficult to work with since they aren’t as incentivized to push the small, craft distilleries. If you have any intention of moving product into your state of choice, try picking a small, boutique style distributor. They are known for their unique, craft spirits and can help push your spirit in liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. If you’re simply looking to get into e-commerce, shop around for the cheapest distributor. Once you have picked your distributor and they have your spirit(s) on site, the e-commerce platform can place an order, have it delivered, store it in their warehouse, and begin selling and shipping your product. 

PICK YOUR PLATFORM |

Once you have those two minor (just kidding, I know they’re significant) details ironed out, you can pick your e-commerce vendor! Shop around between different platforms. Some will require a sample of your spirit(s), to make sure they align with their portfolio before they begin discussions with you. Some are open to all spirits, but require down payments. Just note, all of them will be taking a percentage of each bottle sold, plus additional monthly fees. Find what works best with your brand and move forward from there. 

TELL YOUR CONSUMERS | 

Once you have your e-commerce platform set up, inform your followers! Start selling! Deservingly so, this is a big deal. You can ship to your cross-country followers, their friends, their colleagues — this opens up a whole new way to market your spirit! Consider utilizing Paid Ads across some (or all) social media platforms to reach new consumers and convince them to try out your spirit(s).

BEGIN TRACKING YOUR SUCCESS |
You’ve spent all of this time, energy, and money to sell on your e-commerce platform. It’s time to see the results. Oftentimes, the e-commerce platform is a separate entity from your distillery’s website, which can make it difficult to track sales and where they’re coming from. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to make your e-commerce platform and Facebook talk to each other. Most platforms will send you a monthly report that covers how many purchases were made, but not necessarily which social media platform the sale came from, which specific ad was clicked to encourage the purchase, or how many people visited your online store. The easiest way to do that? Build it into your Facebook Ads Manager. By doing that, you can track how your social media posts (across Facebook and Instagram) are converting to e-commerce sales. 

Once your Facebook Business Page is set up, your distillery’s Social Media Manager can generate a Facebook Pixel. Pixels are tiny snippets of code that allow you to gather valuable information about your website visitors and what actions they took. In most cases, you can request that your e-commerce platform add your Facebook Pixel to your online store’s check-out page. Once this is set up, you can track how many people visited your online store, if they added your spirit(s) to their shopping cart, and if they made a purchase. It’s a one-stop-shop – just go to your Facebook Ads Manager and you will be able to directly see how your followers are engaging with your e-commerce platform. 

Of course, not every consumer is going to be ready to charge their card when they see your product. But don’t worry, that potential consumer is not lost forever! You can set up various forms of social media ads to re-target those consumers who visited your site, but chose not to make the purchase at the time. Your distillery and spirits will stay relevant to that consumer until a purchase is made. 

Distilleries of all sizes are beginning to make the transition to online sales. e-commerce is the future of liquor sales, but keep in mind, it’s still relatively new. It’s normal for your e-commerce product to sit on the “shelf” a little bit longer – you’re reaching an entirely new market after all! As a nation, this is the first time many of us have started purchasing liquor online. Give it some time. Based on 2020 consumer behavior, adopting an early e-commerce strategy will put you ahead of the rest of the market as online shopping trends continue to evolve. There are a lot of steps, but we are here to help. When you’re ready to promote your new e-commerce platform, reach out to us! We can help you develop content, set up relevant social media ads, and integrate your distillery’s unique e-commerce pixel into your social media platforms. 

Got questions about e-commerce for the spirits industry? Ask an alcohol marketing agency like High-Proof Creative! Email us at highproofcreative@gmail.com for assistance today.

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