It’s clear that internet commerce continues to grow at an astonishing rate and that entrepreneurs with online know-how are continuing to invade the economic landscape with virtual alternatives to just about any business. In fact, several websites have sprung up during the past few years allowing consumers to purchase wine, beer and spirits over the internet within the confines of individual state direct shipping laws.
Now a handful of new dotcom ventures are targeted at licensed beverage alcohol buyers (both on- and off-premise) and sellers, with the intention of simplifying the purchasing, sales and marketing tasks of this business relationship.
Two companies have already launched their services, with a handful of competitors right behind them, as the land rush to the ecommerce promised land has taken off.
Bevaccess.com has been active in the New York market since mid-October. A centralized online ordering system that allows buyers to consolidate their purchases from numerous distributors through one-site shopping, bevaccess.com allows buyers to benefit from real-time product and price info. The system, like others, has the potential to increase operational efficiencies for distributors and allow them to fulfill customer’s online demands quickly, while producers can market to buyers throughout the purchasing process with targeted promotions.
Bevaccess.com will be free to buyers for a limited time, while distributors will pay fees on orders received and suppliers will pay basic advertising rates. The company entered the market touting itself as the industry exchange site for the global beverage community, and launched with notable New York operations as Windows on the World, Keen’s Steakhouse, Montrachet, North Star Pub, Zachys Wine and Liquor and Towne Liquor Store, Inc. as early users.
Started by two young entrepreneurs, Greg Ahnert and Derek Bromley, with roots in the beverage buying business, the development of bevaccess.com has been helped by their experience. “Bevaccess.com is a product we wished we had as buyers. We have created a centralized platform to access product information and pioneered technology that can handle a new exchange medium,” they say. With a proprietary technology creating a “new exchange environment between buyer, seller and advertiser” bevaccess plans to base its growth not only on sales, but on creating a community of the beverage industry. Early advertisers include Seagram Americas and Robert Mondavi. The company plans to expand to top U.S. markets with additional products and service by the end of 2000.
ESkye in mid-December announced the launch of a similar B2B beverage business in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, after a pilot program proved successful in the midwest. Headed up by founder and ceo J. Smoke Wallin, who is also the secretary of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, eSkye has lined up its own version of a proprietary ecommerce system that will encompass the established three-tier beverage alcohol business.
Eskye provides retailers with a single and convenient ordering system that will allow for creation of a customized OrderGuide™ that will, the company says, reduce ordering mistakes and reduce duplication of effort.
They’ve already signed up Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the Palace of Auburn Hills, The Palm, Levy Restaurants and The Intercontinental Hotel as early clients. They also can boast of numerous industry veterans on their management team — including former Carlson’s Restaurants beverage development director David Commer and former senior sales exec at UDV David Stringfellow. And to serve on their advisory board, they’ve signed up such notables as James E. LaCrosse, chair and CEO of National Wine and Spirits, the sixth largest wine and spirits distributor by volume in the US.
Winebuyer.com touts itself as an e-business service designed to link licensed beverage alcohol buyers and sellers over the internet, according to Jill Glikbarg, co-founder of the company and vice president of marketing. Like bevaccess.com and eSkye, winebuyer.com does this, she said, by consolidating the transaction activities between buyers and sellers.
Buyers, who pay a nominal access fee, would benefit in several ways. First, they would have an efficient web-based service for placing and tracking product purchases as well as automatic reordering. They also have access to real-time inventory, pricing, allocation and availability information of products as well as customized buying history reports. Most importantly, she said, the service consolidates all the different elements of the supply chain, saving time for all concerned.
Sellers, who would pay a transaction fee on orders received, benefit by being freed from time-consuming order-taking so that sales reps can focus on selling and merchandising their products. She added that sellers can also connect with new buyers’ accounts, and she noted that winebuyer.com can create targeted marketing programs for its clients.
Winebuyer.com has announced a millennium member program which allowed the first 10 sellers and all buyers who signed up by Jan. 1, 2000 a free year of service. They expect to launch in early 2000, according to Glikbarg, beginning on the West Coast. Initial users have included Napa’s Mustard’s Grill and Tra Vigne and Boulevard in San Francisco.