eCommerce Feature Story

With alcohol eCommerce revenues skyrocketing worldwide to around $5.6 billion dollars in 2020 up from $3 billion in 2019, Heidelberg Distributing has thrown its hat into the ecommerce ring. The company has invested in an eCommerce platform utilizing VIP Retailer Portal, a way for Heidelberg’s retail partners to utilize this time saving and innovative technology. 

VIP has been a beverage industry leader since the company’s inception in 1972. In their close to 50 years in business they have partnered with beverage distributors, bottlers, breweries, wineries, distilleries and other beverage suppliers to help their businesses run better. Their retailer portal has helped distributors such as Heidelberg work with their retail partners to take their business to the next level. “VIP’s Retailer Portal is a way for our customers to view past orders, explore our portfolio and place new orders,” says Dave Potz, Heidelberg VP of Sales, eCommerce. “This is a process that will help to remove some of the tasks that currently happen during a sales call, so the sales professional and customer can focus on ways to increase their business.”   

Retailer Portal and eCommerce are more ways that technology has improved how sales professionals and the alcohol beverage industry does business. Like utilizing handheld devices for to how sales professionals are able to work, pick to pallet for loading of trucks and GPS to help route delivery drivers, the VIP Retailer is another tool that will help make the industry more productive and save time. “Like any technology it will take a little time for everyone to get used to,” says Dave. “But the possibilities of this platform coupled with the growth of eCommerce make this a great investment moving forward.”   

Data has shown that the future of the alcohol business and sales in general are trending towards eCommerce. The eCommerce market in the United States is the second largest in the world with a revenue of $432 billion in 2020. Only China did more revenue than the US in the last year. International Wine & Spirit Research now expects the total value of alcohol e-commerce across 10 global markets, including the U.S., to exceed $40 billion by 2024. The US is poised to overtake China to become the largest alcohol ecommerce market in the world by the end of 2021. 

With the Covid-19 Pandemic changing the way Heidelberg did business in 2020 and into 2021, the addition of the VIP Retailer Portal was a fortunate coincidence. “There had been exponential growth in eCommerce prior to the pandemic,” said Dave. “This was a program that was in development before Covid. Many other distributors in the country had been using similar platforms. VIP was working on this platform prior to the pandemic and with everything surrounding Covid, were able to start introducing this program to accounts.”       

Another development that Dave and his eCommerce team have been working on is adding product images and descriptions for retail partners through an app called Salsify. “Most of our larger customers have current content of our products,” says Dave. “Many of our regional chain partners don’t have access to, or the ability to keep their product catalogs up to date. That’s where Salsify comes in. Salsify allows us to store current images and product information and to be able to easily share it with our retail partners.  Having this is important to the consumer having a great shopping experience with our products.” Part of this process included getting more than 4000 product images to start with to build the data base of products and descriptions. 

This is just another example of how multiple departments across the company make the Heidelberg wheel spin and the business work efficiently. “We have been getting a lot of help from departments throughout Heidelberg,” Dave said. “Business System Analyst, Bryan Elgart has been tremendous with the VIP Retailer Portal, communicating between to VIP our needs and figuring out the best way for us to utilize the platform. Associate Director of Corporate Creative Services Dennis Cook, Graphic Designer, Patty Robisch and Graphic Designer Andy Thomas have handled the marketing portion such as banners, tiles and clickable images, which takes them to an area where they can order product. Corporate Beer Analyst Mike Piteo has been instrumental in getting us up and running with Salsify. This has truly been a team effort!”     

Heidelberg continues to embrace technology and new ways to continue to make us our customers’ #1 choice!