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U.S. Wine And Spirits Wholesalers Dive Into E-Commerce

November 22, 2019

E-commerce now accounts for roughly 11% of all retail sales in the U.S., according to the Department of Commerce, and is growing at around 13% annually, far ahead of the broader market. In wine and spirits, retailers have joined the e-commerce trend through delivery providers like Instacart and Drizly, and suppliers have gotten in on the action as well, with wineries leveraging direct-to-consumer sales and major players—like Moët Hennessy with its Clos19 site—creating their own digital platforms. Now the wholesale tier is also undertaking bold initiatives to upgrade, streamline, and reinvent operations for the digital age.

“As an industry, we’ve been a little bit behind in terms of using e-commerce technology to service our customers and present our brands,” says Brad Vassar, COO and executive vice president of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, which is in the midst of an e-commerce push totaling tens of millions of dollars in investments. “This is a matter of us putting platforms in place to meet the necessities of today’s business world.”

Southern Glazer’s e-commerce effort has multiple components, all grouped under the umbrella of SG Proof. At its heart is a business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce site, which allows customers to browse the Southern Glazer’s portfolio, order products, understand pricing, and manage their account from any device 24 hours a day. It’s expected to be in place across all of Southern Glazer’s open markets by next March. SG Proof’s B2B site features product ratings and reviews from Wine Spectator and Whisky Advocate, customized product recommendations, and food pairings, among other content. “This is about ease of doing business with us so that retailers can operate on their own terms, and do it when it’s most convenient for them,” says Southern Glazer’s CEO Wayne Chaplin.

On the supplier side, SG Proof allows producers to directly market their brands to retailers and restaurateurs. “It’s a comprehensive platform that allows customers to see brands from all the suppliers that we represent, and it gives suppliers the opportunity to present their brands effectively to more than 300,000 customers,” Vassar says. Suppliers are able to provide brand information, videos, education, and other content as part of SG Proof’s marketing component.

At RNDC, a recent alliance with San Jose, California-based LibDib has accelerated the distribution behemoth’s e-commerce agenda. Launched in 2017, LibDib is a proprietary web platform that allows on- and off-premise accounts to efficiently purchase boutique wines, craft spirits, and beers through local wholesalers. “The combined force of RNDC and LibDib will offer new, fully three-tier compliant solutions at both ends of the distribution process,” said RNDC president and CEO Tom Cole when announcing the move.

The eRNDC platform encompasses new tools for both suppliers and customers, as well as the distributor’s own sales team. On the sales side, eRNDC will enable the company’s sales team to sharpen its focus on business development and product mix when calling on their accounts by streamlining the ordering process. “The idea is that the transactional part should be more self-service, taking place whenever the customer prefers, not only when their rep is visiting,” says RNDC chief information officer Darrell Riekena. “Another benefit is that the customer can go online and do product research and explore an entire portfolio, not just what’s being presented to them.” Market Watch has a full report on the middle tier’s e-commerce push on its website.Daniel Marsteller

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