Technology has become essential to the alcohol retail business, allowing stores to reach and serve more customers than ever before. It can also help retailers streamline their operations by accurately tracking their inventory — leading to greater efficiency, improved customer experience and higher profit margins. Choosing the right POS or inventory management system can play a key role in growing a retailer’s business and keeping it running smoothly.

“By keeping your inventory up to date you can more accurately track depletion data and trending categories,” says Blaine Grinna, director of business development at Drizly. “This helps you make sure top-selling items are always in stock and that you’re able to keep up with today’s hottest trends. The more in tune you are with your inventory and sales insights, the more informed your purchasing decisions will be.”

An inventory management system can also help retailers increase their online inventory, thus attracting new customers. “If you can impress people with your product selection online, they will be more likely to visit your physical location for future occasions,” says Grinna. “Being diligent with your inventory management processes will result in increased selection and fewer substitutions, and help to set your store apart.”

Understanding the System Types

There are three types of inventory connections available for Drizly retail partners: automatic or cloud, partial, and fixed. As the name suggests, automatic or cloud systems automatically add new items to the store’s online selection, update pricing and quantities, and provide a real-time product feed from the retailer’s POS system. 

In a fixed system, the retailer must make updates and add new items manually. A partial system feeds inventory data into Drizly once the retailer uploads it to the store’s POS system.

With all of the features offered by auto and cloud management systems, many liquor retailers are moving away from fixed connections. Not only are the automatic connections more convenient, they can help boost sales by driving greater inventory selection and better accuracy.

According to Drizly data, 72 percent of the platform’s retail partners utilize an auto, cloud, or partial connection. The retailers using those systems drive 86 percent of Drizly’s orders, while the 28 percent on fixed systems account for less than 14 percent. Retailers using fixed systems also average far fewer items available per store: 1,700 items versus 6,300 for stores using an auto, cloud, or partial system.  

To help retailers seamlessly bring their in-store inventory online, Drizly works with more than 150 inventory management software and POS providers. The company’s preferred POS systems include Clover, Bindo, Square, Lightspeed, Revel, mPower, Liquor POS, Cash Register Express, PCAmerica, and POS Nation. 

Choosing a System

Jeff Ortiz, president of Da Liquor Store in Brooklyn, N.Y., started out using the ShopKeep iPad-based POS system when he first opened his business in 2013, but switched to Lightspeed’s cloud-based software a few years later when he became a Drizly partner.   

“ShopKeep’s system was very nice on the back end, but we felt it couldn’t handle what we were doing with our in-store business,” he says, especially with credit card processing. “When we went over to Lightspeed everything was just so basic and simple.”

Because Lightspeed connects directly to Drizly, Ortiz says, the new system saves him a lot of time. “With our previous system, there was always an issue with some items not matching up to the SKU, so we’d often get SKU errors,” he says. “With Lightspeed, it was able to match everything up with no problems. We can log in, click on an item and create our own receipts and labels, and that is much more expedient for us.” 

For retailers looking for a new system, Ortiz recommends opting for one that puts the user experience first. “You want to make everything simple for the customer,” he says. “Can they easily find your item? Is it labeled? Does it have a description?”

Rather than taking his in-store inventory and making certain items available on Drizly, Ortiz now takes a digital-first approach. “We changed everything to cater to online, so the store now becomes its online database,” he says. “Whatever we carry in the store is going to be sold online.” 

For Tariq Amin, owner of King Keg in Hawthorne, Calif., Lightspeed was a welcome upgrade from MicroBiz — his previous POS system — but after five years, he’s looking for something that’s better suited to his needs. 

Along with selling around 7,000 items online through Drizly — more than 77 percent of his in-store stock —, Amin does a large business in keg sales and deliveries for events, and offers shipping. 

“We do a great job of entering everything into Lightspeed when we receive new items, and Drizly has done a good job of posting all the products in a timely manner,” he says. “Lightspeed is built for ecommerce, but for my business there are a lot of functions that we have to do manually on our side. Now I’m trying to find a platform that can do all of the functions. We need something state-of-the-art.”

Amin is currently looking at Shopify, as well as other systems, to find one that will integrate seamlessly with Drizly while providing better automation for his store’s non-ecommerce functions. For other retailers who may be looking to make a switch, he recommends doing plenty of research to determine the right fit.  

“Retailers need to look at what the functionalities are that they use on a daily basis,” says Amin. “Are they going to be able to send their purchase orders from their system to the vendors? Because everything is automated now.”

Whichever POS system they choose, Drizly’s Grinna advises retailers to double check accuracy when uploading new items, and to do it in a timely manner. “It’s also a best practice to regularly audit your inventory,” he says. “That will help reduce out-of-stock situations and improve customer experience.”