Technology Tools to Help Liquor Retailers Succeed
From POS systems to delivery apps, today’s tech is tailored for retailer growth
In the not so distant past, operational tools for liquor retailers were limited to analog solutions. When store managers wanted to know what they had in stock, they came in after hours and catalogued every item in the store. They labeled each bottle with a price sticker and rang up purchases on an old fashioned cash register. When they wanted to reach new customers, they placed an ad in the local newspaper.
While those tactics worked well enough in their time, they’ve since been replaced by tech solutions that are not only more efficient, but can dramatically boost sales.
POS and Inventory Management
A well-designed POS system allows users to easily process orders and accept payments, as well as organize inventory. Many of today’s systems sync with the cloud to allow remote access to sales reports and other information.
When choosing a POS solution, it’s important to ensure that it works in tandem with the store’s existing technology, such as delivery apps. “While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, there are some providers that offer higher quality systems or simpler integration,” says Blaine Grinna, director of retail development at Drizly. “Our retailers tend to have a good experience using LiquorPOS, Clover, Lightspeed, and Atlantic Spirits.”
Jasmine Albhai, co-owner of Riviera Liquor Store in Edmonton, in the Canadian province of Alberta, is currently getting by with an older system that she inherited, but she knows which features she’ll look for when she’s ready to upgrade.
“I would definitely look for something that is capable of connecting my POS to SKU numbers that are available through Alberta’s centralized liquor ordering and payment systems,” says Albhai. “Being able to forecast or recommend inventory levels based on previous sales would be another feature that I would look for.”
Bottle Barn, in Santa Rosa, California, is preparing to deploy the store’s first-ever POS system after 30 years in business. The transition will be a welcome change for assistant manager Hannah Link, who oversees Bottle Barn’s marketing and e-commerce.
Link hopes to have the new mPower POS system in place by the time the store re-opens for walk-in business later this summer. “mPower is really well designed for our needs as a liquor store,” Link says. “It has a lot of functionality that’s really specific to the industry.”
The system includes features for inventory management, on-demand ordering, customizable reports, customer management, and integration with several delivery platforms.
For liquor retailers like Riviera Liquor Store, offering delivery service has been a game-changer — especially with store closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Albhai of Riviera signed on as a Drizly client just two months before the pandemic hit, and immediately realized the benefits. “When Covid happened, the store slowed down significantly,” Albhai says. “We just weren’t seeing the walk-in traffic that we would normally get. With Drizly, we were able to expand our reach and maintain our sales levels.”
The service also allowed her to avoid layoffs during the pandemic by converting the store’s cashiers into delivery drivers. “It’s been beneficial for all of us,” she says, “because I’ve been able to reach more customers and my staff gets to keep their jobs.”
Last summer, Bottle Barn began experimenting with Drizly and saw promising results. “It was there for people who needed something delivered the same day,” says Link, “and we saw some good traction with that.”
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In November 2018, Bottle Barn launched an online wine shop via Shopify. When the store began offering curbside pickup during the pandemic, online sales skyrocketed.
“We saw a 575% growth for the online business in May over our sales in May 2019,” Link says. Likewise, April sales were up nearly 500% over April 2019, and March saw 130% growth over the previous year.
Because in-store sales weren’t possible during the pandemic, she says, having that e-commerce presence was crucial.
Albhai is now in the process of revamping Riviera Liquor’s website, and instead of building in an e-commerce element, she’s linking the site to Drizly. “The online infrastructure would be an extra investment separate from building a website,” Albhai says. “For us to be spending that kind of money to set up an e-commerce site just didn’t make sense.”
With the time she saves not having to manage e-commerce, Albhai channels her efforts toward social media. “Our store is in an industrial area,” she says, “so there are lots of metal shops and mechanic shops around. Those guys are our customers every day. Social media allows us to reach a younger crowd.”
By posting promotions and featuring products on Instagram and Facebook, she’s able to connect with new customers. “We want to let the millennial demographic know that we are an independent, family owned business, and we have really cool products.”