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 isn’t the only wholesaler with ambitious plans for the online space. While the company has opted to build its own e-commerce platform from the ground up, others have aligned with third-party providers to offer online ordering and other digital tools to their customers. And some, like Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) and Breakthru Beverage Group, have used elements of both approaches.
“We’re seeing an evolution of the industry,” says Darrell Riekena, chief information officer at RNDC. “Our eRNDC platform will streamline how business is done for our customers, our suppliers, and our own sales team. We plan to roll it out across all our markets very soon.”