Sales are the key to all business success and growth, but there are many sales channels you can use to get your products into the hands of consumers: ecommerce/club, taproom, wholesale distribution, and self-distribution. Ekos, a top business management software for craft beverage businesses, works with one in five U.S. breweries to manage inventory, production, sales, and accounting. With Ekos’s current features and integrations, breweries can sync taproom and ecommerce sales with their data in Ekos.
Today, the company is announcing a game-changing new product that will transform the way distribution sales data connects with Ekos. Now, you’ll be able to see vital business data at your fingertips — sales from all channels, available inventory, production schedules, and financial reports — all in one essential business management software.
Keep reading to learn about our biggest product launch in years: Ekos Order Hub, a digital order portal that simplifies the sales order process for both producers and distributors.
What is Ekos Order Hub?
With Ekos Order Hub, your distributor and customer accounts can see available inventory and production information in an easy-to-use platform. They can enter and manage orders and delivery dates at their own convenience, cutting down on the back-and-forth communication for sales teams. Inventory data, order information, and invoices sync automatically — with no manual uploads required — providing a streamlined, digital solution to a key pain point for sales teams. In other words, we’ve taken one of the most painful processes for craft brewers and simplified it, so you can put that saved time toward things that matter.
With Ekos Order Hub, producers can:
- Simplify the ordering experience for their distributor and retail customers
- Communicate directly with customer accounts about product availability and delivery dates
- Reduce time spent collecting orders and communicating back and forth, freeing up time to focus on increasing sales
- Prevent over- or under-selling by displaying available inventory in the portal, with the ability for allocations to protect inventory for other sales channels
- Connect sales orders with the core Ekos software — no manual uploads required
Ekos Order Hub is available to all Ekos customers and is the only ordering portal that connects directly with inventory, production, and financial data in your core Ekos instance.
Ekos helps you sell more
No matter which sales channels you utilize, there are universal challenges — primarily, time-consuming tasks and a lack of data and visibility.
Selling takes time; there’s no way around it. But one of the biggest wastes of time is communicating with customers about order details through multiple phone calls, texts, and emails. With Ekos Order Hub and sales capabilities within core Ekos, customer information is easily tracked and communication is a breeze. With access to real-time inventory, customers can only order what’s available, reducing over-selling or unfulfilled orders. Plus, there’s no need for your sales team to regularly call your brewer or production staff to check inventory levels — all of that information is available within Ekos. These improvements in efficiency enable your sales team to provide accurate information the first time and deliver the right amount of product at the right time. Happy customers equal repeat sales.
Another major pain point is lack of visibility into key business metrics, like COGS. Knowing your costs is crucial so that you can price your products to maximize margins. This is especially important if you sell in many channels, where the margins may vary drastically or where you may have to give up a portion of your sales to a distribution partner. With Ekos, producers can track raw ingredient costs and get accurate metrics that can help inform decisions about pricing or which products to make in the future, so that you can maximize sales and profit margins.
Increase sales across all channels
No matter which sales channels you utilize, there is always opportunity to refine your processes, enhance customer relationships, and sell more. We gathered the best insights and advice for increasing sales in our latest whitepaper, The Ultimate Sales Guide for Independent Alcohol Producers. We don’t want to give too much away, but below we’re sharing some of the best takeaways from this resource.
Self-distribution best practices
If your state allows for self-distribution, it is likely a channel you want to take advantage of. But while there are plenty of benefits of self-distribution, building an effective sales team to get your product into the market is no easy task. The first step to building your team is figuring out your sales projections. Nail down your goals for distribution and what’s actually achievable, then right-size your team and production planning to meet those objectives.
Once you have your team in place, you should consider tools to help you track customer information, sales information, invoices, and deliveries. Luckily, you don’t need a full-blown CRM when you’re first starting out, so take advantage of the sales module of your inventory management system. This should give you the functionality you need while your sales team is small, and then you can evaluate the need for a more robust tool later on.
Another thing to consider is sales order management and how you will manage the flow of orders. That is a huge pain point for many independent alcohol companies — breweries especially — and was the driving factor behind the creation of Ekos Order Hub. With our digital ordering system, your customer accounts can order products on their own time and request delivery dates. This prevents your sales team from wasting hours each week fielding phone calls and manually inputting orders. With the time saved, your reps can get out into the field, form new relationships, and sell even more.
Wholesale distribution best practices
While many breweries are forced into relationships with wholesale distributors out of necessity, there are benefits to handing off this complicated set of tasks to distribution experts. But you need to consider your distribution goals so you can choose the right partner and negotiate favorable contract terms. One of the downsides of working with a distributor is lower profit margins, so understanding your costs and determining the right pricing strategy is of the utmost importance.
Managing orders with your wholesalers may not be quite as complicated as with self-distribution — there are fewer people, tools, and processes to juggle. But the requests for orders can
still become overwhelming if you don’t have a system in place to manage them. One common pitfall with distributors that are making large orders is over-selling inventory.
A unique benefit of Ekos Order Hub is the ability to allocate inventory based on what you have available to sell in each channel. When your distributor logs into the order hub, they will only see the amount of inventory that you’ve allocated, preventing a miscommunication where they want 10 kegs but you only have six left. Or maybe you have 10 kegs in storage, but want to save four of them for your taproom. Either way, with easy allocations, you avoid those awkward phone calls where you have to tell your customer you don’t have enough of the product they are looking for. Integrating orders with your inventory management system means your inventory will always be up to date.
DTC best practices
While selling via distribution channels can help you reach new audiences and maximize your exposure and reach, many breweries today still heavily focus on direct-to-consumer sales. Whether in-person in your taproom or online through your ecommerce store, DTC sales are a way to reach your customers where they are and sell your products without a middleman. This allows you to control every aspect of the customer experience, while holding onto more margin.
Obviously, the customer experience and your marketing strategy are vital to DTC sales, but what happens behind the scenes to manage the process is just as important. With many moving pieces, you need to keep track of key activities in real time, including your production schedule, available inventory, and daily taproom and online sales. We recommend building a tech stack to manage your operations, which includes:
- A modern and user-friendly point-of-sale (POS) system
- An platform for managing ecommerce sales (which may be the same or separate from your POS system)
- Inventory and production management software
- Accounting software (QuickBooks, Xero, etc.)
We suggest finding solutions that can easily integrate to avoid spending hours on duplicate data entry. Ekos has existing integrations with Square, Arryved, and Commerce7, so you can sync daily sales to deplete inventory within Ekos and automatically create journal entries in your connected accounting system.
Get started with Ekos
Ekos helps craft beverage businesses drive efficiencies, power growth, streamline communication, and improve visibility. Now with the introduction of Ekos Order Hub, we are further connecting the disparate parts of the supply chain, with all critical information flowing through Ekos. If you’re interested in how we are powering — and empowering — craft producers to make more, get in touch with our team.