Just as connected POS and eCommerce solutions are changing brewery taproom sales and supporting ancillary channel growth, technology is evolving the distribution / retail relationship – to the benefit of smaller producers.
Sales reps for distributors and self-distributing craft breweries have long been bogged down by non-sales tasks, administrative work, and manual processes. The reimagining of a beer sales rep’s time, made possible by digitally connecting distributors to retailers to enable the live sharing of retail data and eCommerce capabilities, flips the script.
“We’ve been able to strategically align our people and technology to deliver a measurable impact on time to sell, retailer engagement, and win rates. This alignment has refocused approximately 75 percent of our reps’ time on selling instead of that time being taken by manual processes,” says Thomas Johnstone, VP of Sales Technology and Strategy, Eagle Rock Distributing Co.
Live Retail Sales and Inventory Insights. Historically, sales reps guide retailers to make purchase decisions based on week-to-week comparisons of product counts that the rep records with pen and paper. They’ve had no way to determine if the retailer sold out of a product on Monday or Saturday. As a result, sales to retailers aren’t informed by a complete picture of consumer buying habits, so money is left on the table for everyone up the supply chain.
Having access to live retail sales and inventory data, previously locked up in retail POS (Point-of-Sale) systems, provides insights into how products are moving from retailer to consumer. Reps gain knowledge about out of stocks, stagnant products, fast-moving products, and high-performing products.
Reps can cut out manual inventory taking and are able to repurpose their time to discuss new products, promotional opportunities, and business growth and expansion strategies with the retailer. According to data on distributors that use live retail insights from Encompass, reps are spending an average of 50 percent less time taking inventory on every sales call.
Equipping sales reps with timely and SKU-level detail on how products are moving at a specific retailer helps ensure that the retailer stocks its shelves with products that cater to consumers in their target market. Taking it a step further, algorithms can be used to systematically create recommended orders for each individual retail account. The sales rep can edit, cancel, or approve the order.
eCommerce Online Ordering. With online platforms sharing specific information about each and every product a brewery or distributor carries, retailers can educate themselves about products and place orders themselves, even when there is no sales rep physically on-site. Retailers can now browse what’s available, check pricing, view promotional opportunities, and look at ads.
Retailers utilizing eCommerce also democratizes selection, which could be huge for craft breweries. Products from small suppliers are given equal visibility, giving the retailer a broad array of choices. Similarly, at the retail level, mom-and-pop shops can gather the same knowledge about a brewery’s product catalog just as a large chain can. Retailers can place orders electronically whenever they want, and change and schedule orders as needed.
Data from DSDLink, an Encompass eCommerce online ordering platform, shows that distributors have seen an 18.3 percent increase in average order volume when retailers shop online.
- Up to 75% Reallocated sales rep time to sell
- 50% Less time taking inventory
- 18% Growth of retailer average order size
- 24×7 Marketing and selling machine
eCommerce Electronic Payments. Receiving payments on time from retailers has been a challenge. Checks are a favorite by some retailers because they can control the payment schedule to match their cash flow. But this means that distributors have to spend extra time and money collecting payments. As part of eCommerce, paperless or contactless payments solve these challenges while helping retailers still manage their cash flow.
With electronic payment options like credit cards, debit cards, and Automated Clearing House, distributors save time chasing payments and reconciling them manually. Distributors eliminate the cost and headache of bounced checks and hunting down buyers, missed payments, and missed deliveries.
In addition to distributors getting paid faster, electronic payments have sustainability benefits. With less driving to collect payments, distributors save on fuel and help reduce pollution. It also minimizes the health risks associated with handling cash and physical cards, and unnecessary in-person interactions, an important consideration during a pandemic or a virus season.
Taken together, we are at the next step in the three-tiered effort to ensure shelves are always consistently filled with desirable products, narrowing the gap between consumers, craft producers, convenience, and accessibility.
Bill Kraich is VP of eCommerce with Encompass. Encompass’ Retail Insights and PayLink solutions allow distributors and retailers to streamline how they operate and work together.