Educating Sommeliers Worldwide.
By Beverage Trade Network
As Beverage Trade Network expands into different demographics and geographies, we couldn’t be more excited to bring Sid here who can help us understand how BTN is moving into the direct to consumer channels.
To get to know to Sid’s vision better, here are ten questions we asked him:
We were a 100% B2B company. Beverage Trade Network does 20 events around 6 countries every year. Some of our events include the International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show in San Francisco, London, Shanghai, the Cannabis Drinks Expo, USA Trade Tasting in New York, London Spirits Competition, Sommeliers Choice Awards in the USA. We always had plans to start B2C as we wanted to complete the loop by giving brands more exposure to our community and customers. Due to Covid-19, we had to pause 80% of our events and all of our events had to be postponed. That allowed us to focus on our direct to consumer business planning and fast-tracked what we have in planning. In the last 2 months, we were able to roll out our 2 major platforms that we had been planning for almost a year. The first one is Get Drinks Delivered which has a huge scope and the second one is London Drinks Guide.
Direct to the consumer includes the word ‘consumer’ which is THE play. As we move more and more in the amazon’s of the world and total wines of the world, small and medium-sized brands need to start thinking of building their end consumers. Wineries have been doing this via their clubs and cellar doors, but those channels were not mixed with how that traffic can buy from the stores you sell your wine into and vice versa. You were also limited to state and delivery laws.
I am a firm believer of this line…” for someone to go into a retail store shelf, someone has to come out” as the shelf has limited space. Then the other problem is half of the shelf is the Budweiser, Bacardi, Smirnoff of the world. So you technically have very less space to work for.
Brands must win on creating inbound traffic for their traditional retailers and distributors, as they are no more taking brands that dont have ‘pull in them’. Brands will need data to show retailers and distributors that they can influence consumers to come and help them buy which we can call in our terms ‘deplete the stock’.
So my point here is not only do you need end consumer models to build your direct business, but you need them to help deplete your products via your distribution channels and retailers.
At Beverage Trade Network, what we wanted to do is connect the dots. With all our direct to consumer initiatives, we want to keep the old distribution in mind and how we can include that so even your retailers and distributors see stock movement.
Online buying, getting drinks delivered will stay. Curbside pick up, I am not sure, maybe that will slow down. In-store and restaurant channels will be back to normal and stay. Taking your product to market via an importer and distributor will change. Product packaging will evolve and more designs will come into play that supports delivery costs and models. Smart business operators will NOT cut down the new channels they have started like curbside, cocktail deliveries and packaging that some bars are doing etc. Not all products and sales are going to be measured on sales per unit, but we may see measures like new customers per unit generated. When you start looking from that angle, you will understand the business differently and then you can do dollar generated from that new customer as the second ask. Some channels will also act as insurance. For example for wineries and distilleries that have finally figured out a delivery model, should not stop that, you can increase your minimum orders to sustain but I would strongly advise keeping all new channels you developed in COVID-19 and grow them as you can. Most of the businesses will start planning Omni channels.
All of our exhibitors, competition entrants will soon be able to display their products on these consumer platforms we are making. To our competition winners, we will also focus on how we can not only give consumer impressions but how can we actually turn that attention into orders. For trade shows, we are thinking of models that will keep the trade show open 365 days on each trade show website where our visitors and exhibitors can engage all year round. One example is the London Drinks Guide. We are integrating this platform with our London Wine Competition, London Beer Competition and London Spirits Competitions.
The winners of the competitions will be displayed on the London Drink Guide and the merchants will also be able to create storefronts where they will be able to take orders. Those same products will also be listed on the Get Drinks Delivered platform where merchants will be able to list their delivery zones so consumers in those zones can discover their products.
The magic will soon start happening for our customers once we are able to connect our consumer and business ecosystem.
We often read about words like diversification, conglomerates, ecosystems. I learned that those theories came into play. The ecosystem that we had in the Beverage Trade Network of media assets, competitions, platforms, different countries, trade shows helped us. We just had to let go of just about 10% of our workforce despite the fact that 70% of our revenue got affected (due to events).
The second lesson we learned was how our people reacted to this. I was amazed to see the culture and the spirit we had. From March 10 to March 25, in those 15 days, we postponed almost all our events. We understood that this year was going to be bad. For most businesses out there, they had to worry about just the lockdown period, but for us, it was the year. Now to take that shock in just over 2 weeks required a different kind of character. Our culture was always pivoting, changing, what's new...that came into play. Our people never get comfortable as I don't allow them to be comfortable. This helped us take on the tasks without complaining. Right now, 70% of our people are doing some different things than what they were hired for.
The last lesson was always keep your attention assets. My theory was, if you have attention, you can do anything. We have 4 media assets which include portals like BartenderBusiness.com, SommelierBusiness.com, BevRoute and BTN. We were able to advertise our own new platform in our own assets along with all our podcasts, social media and the youtube channels to quickly build our new business assets.
To sum up, people, ecosystem and attention helped. These things are hard to measure but in moments like this, you can see it play.
I normally read 2 books at a time as its very hard for me to stay focused on one subject. Normally I will pick different subjects to keep me engaged. Right now I am reading ‘the hard Things about the hard things’ by Ben Horowitz and Bruce Lee’s philosophy book ‘Striking thoughts’. One keeps me pushing and one tells me to relax.
I change quotes as per my phases...right now I like ‘patience is concentrated strength’ as i am trying to practice that so i can work more instead of worrying about big goals.
Remember that this is work in progress. First we wanted to do something immediately for our merchants, so we decided to launch a basic listing which generates awareness for them that they are delivering and have pick up. We are giving this for FREE for the first year. The second phase will be each merchant will be able to set up their storefront where they can list their products and get completed orders for delivery or pick up. The third will be to develop app and go full scale in building user features. The fourth will be to develop GDD infrastructure services where we will have network of warehouses and delivery companies that our merchants can rely upon to do the logistic work while they can focus on making the product.
We did think about that model and looked at it. After analyzing we personally don't think it will work for the drinks industry. Drinks industry is really a people's business where we like seeing each other, we want to taste the product which is also the key before you confirm a new supplier. We also found it hard to manage a virtual show where we would make an exhibitor introduce 100 buyers each. As for BTN shows, we think all our shows are better done in person and will bring more value to the buyers and sellers in-person rather than off-line.
I was thinking we would until I saw last week's US job numbers which surprised the world. US added jobs instead of layoffs last week and in that Leisure and hospitality represented almost half the jobs gained. The reason I mentioned that when you see leisure and hospitality spending going back up, you can say it's a good sign. I think this is a timing game as well, if we are able to hold our breath and not go further down until a vaccine comes, we will see a v-shaped recovery. I am very surprised that people have chosen their mental health over COVID and thus started socializing again and going outdoors again. So my answer is if we get a vaccine by early next year, no else yes as no company is prepared for an indefinite period of instability.