Beverage Distribution and Digital Technology

Chris Layne
October 12, 2016

Technological innovations are causing far-reaching changes in beverage distribution. These shifts are relevant to all those involved in the global supply chain. Whether you’re responsible for running a small vineyard in the south of France or are the CEO of a multinational chain of retail stores, advancements in digital technology are equally applicable to you and your company. When industry-wide technological changes are coupled with a burgeoning culture of informed consumers—made possible by the free and ready access to data from previously hidden parts of the supply chain—the need to establish flexible, up-to-date company processes becomes clear. Doing so will allow suppliers and distributors to foster greater efficiency, limit waste, and build high levels of customer engagement.

5 Ways Digital Technology Is Shaping Beverage Distribution

In this post, we will look at five ways that digital technology is shaping the beverage industry. Knowledge of these key trends will allow you toadapt your own internal processes to current best practices in beverage distribution.

1. eCommerce is streamlining the order process.

eCommerce is particularly relevant for the food and beverage industry. Though initially defined by their B2C counterparts, B2B eCommerce platforms are now evolving to meet the specific demands of corporate buyers. This gives suppliers new opportunities, including the ability to quickly and inexpensively communicate with customers. It’s now possible for buyers to make snap decisions on the shop floor and order through mobile-ready eCommerce platforms. When you consider the high degree of integration that is also possible between company-specific eCommerce platforms and third-party services, such as mobile bar scanners and online wallets, the potential for situation-specific buying opportunities only increases.

2. Data sharing is fueling efficiency along the supply chain.

One of the historic problems with data sharing between food and beverage companies has been an over-reliance on legacy systems. The absence of a standardized technological framework used to hinder the free flow of data. With the introduction of widely-adopted information-sharing systems and the integration of software across entire enterprises, this is no longer the case. It’s now possible for logistics networks to supply their customers with real-time information about the movement of goods. Retail buyers can also check wholesale stock levels with the click of a button. The use of cloud-based technology related to data-generating software also means that companies can drastically reduce the costs usually associated with running and maintaining a complex digital infrastructure.

3. Globalization is removing barriers to entry.

Given the ease of access to new suppliers, both B2B and B2C companies can now assess the costs of goods on a global basis. This is a particularly vital point for those working in beverage distribution, because it is an industry that traditionally relies on a multinational supply chain, sourcing and buying from suppliers located in different parts of the world. While the prevalence of eCommerce and information available online has significantly contributed to this change, multifaceted consumer demand and the standardization of food safety guidelines are have also influenced globalization.

4. Analytics is forming the basis of decision making.

Big data and advanced analytics are fast becoming a crucialpart of decision-making processes across entire enterprises. The most relevant area for suppliers and retailers is typically analyzing customer demand and behavior. It’s becoming easier for analysts to draw actionable data insights, particularly when these are coupled with modern buying technology like eCommerce platforms. A recent report by KMPG stated that “...more than half of survey respondents say that their company has high, or is rapidly moving towards high, data and analytics literacy.” Analytics is also driving increased efficiency within companies. One example is the advent of “smart” factories, which make it possible to target areas of waste, while data from suppliers and manufacturers can allow retailers to quickly adapt to expected changes or problems with the flow of goods.

5. Social media is gaining prominence in the B2B sphere.

The use of social media by B2C companies is nothing new. What’s different is the growing number of sales reps and corporate buyers that use platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn as a tool for informing their purchasing decisions. A recent article in Fortune  has outlined the increasing use of social media amongst executives. Many buyers are also starting to use social media as an alternative to traditional methods of communication. It’s not unusual for customers to expect queries to be answered through social media or to keep track of important updates about product changes and promotions through platforms like Facebook or Twitter. What are your thoughts about the way beverage distribution is changing? Let us know in the comments section below.