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Got Beer? Get E-Commerce

By Amy M Litt, Senior Strategist at FATFREE
Got Beer? Get E-Commerce

It’s no secret people have been drinking more as they’re confined to their homes with travel restrictions due to COVID-19. As we head into the holidays, expect an increase in demand for beer, spirits and wine.

Whether you’re operating a brick-and-mortar bottle shop, growler station, brewery, or pub, it’s time to take a look at selling your suds online. Even if you’re already dipping your toes into the world of e-commerce, the holidays may provide a whole new opportunity and challenge to your business. 

Make It Easy

There’s plenty of ways to set up an online store. You can use plug-and-play templates like Squarespace Commerce, Wix or Shopify to get your store off the ground quickly and easily. If your business has an in-house developer or you’re looking to hire a freelancer, you can customize the website further, starting from the ground up or customizing already existing templates using services like Magneto and WooCommerce.

Whatever path you decide, make the road from first glance to checkout easy. We’re talking no-more-than-four-steps easy. Choose the product, add delivery or pickup address, billing information, and you should be at the end. Don’t ask your customer to check out product descriptions on another page or BeerMenus. It’s also easy to lose a customer by asking them to sign up for your email or to create an account before they even buy an item.

Upgrade Your Server Capacity

We’ve all been there. You go through all the steps to grab your favorite on-sale item, get to the checkout screen, but are then hit with an error message. It’s not uncommon these days for websites to collapse under increased demand. Some customers may try a second or third time, but many will give up after the first. Check with your website host and see if there’s other tiers you can upgrade your service to. Often you can pay more to accommodate increased data usage and processing power, and you can quickly cover that cost by creating a shopping experience your customers are happy to repeat.

Check Your Inventory

Maybe you’re just planning for customers to pick up their beer in store, or maybe you’re doing a combination of shipping and delivery. However you’re getting your product to people, make sure you actually have it in stock. It’s easy to start listing your brew online without doing the numbers. If orders start rolling in quicker than expected, you may have to refund or cancel customer orders if you’ve oversold. Most ecommerce options will help you track inventory, but that’s only so helpful if you’re not also tracking walk-up sales. Payment processors like Stripe and PayPal can make it easy to track and refund orders across the board, but their information is only as good as the numbers you provide.

Consider A Subscription Service

Everything from household goods to whiskey flights have adopted the subscription-based model. Monster brands like Amazon rely heavily on committed monthly refills of goods like toilet paper and soap, while smaller companies like coffee and pet food providers are starting to see the benefits of subscribed customers. Not only can it lower the costs for both you and your customers and help you predict future income, it can give your business valuable insight into your own inventory needs. Additionally, if you offer a bottle, growler or can subscription service as a gift option, you’ll gain customers beyond just the holiday rush.

Get Social, Get Creative

To avoid getting bogged down in the details, let’s just assume you can’t advertise alcohol sales on Facebook or Instagram. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring customers to your store. A great way to drive online traffic to your shop is through engaging content and social media management. Write posts about your brand’s history for Facebook, Instagram and your personal blog. Show behind-the-scenes activities, customer and employee spotlights and new releases on the horizon. Start an account for the brewery’s cat. Create videos about the brewing process or even how to order online. The more content you can offer, the more your customers will engage with your brand and store.

Check the Laws

It’s a brave new world out there. Alcohol laws which were once unthinkable have since been changed to allow for booze to-go from restaurants and pubs, in addition to delivery, takeout and mail order from breweries and bottle shops. While some states require food to be served with said purchases, others have taken a more “wild west” approach. Check your local laws as they may have changed since you last looked into it. 

Provide Support

OK, so you’ve made sure your warehouse is stocked, upgraded your server and provided a seamless checkout process for your customers. No matter how much work you put in, something will eventually go wrong. Be sure to provide access to customer service for your customers, whether that’s an easy-to-find phone number, a designated chat bot on the website, or contact information provided with the order confirmation email. Even if something goes wrong, a helpful and eager solution can actually enhance the customer’s perception of your business. 

Amy M Litt is Senior Strategist at FATFREE, with previous clients including New York Craft Beer Week and Five Napkin Burger. FATFREE is a full-service digital marketing agency providing lean solutions for businesses of all sizes.