StateWays Nov/Dec 2015

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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31 StateWays ■ ■ November/December 2015 BEST PRACTICES AWARDS "We would get questions all the time out in the fi eld about the top 10 products, what's hot, what's trending," Larson says. The portal can arrange and display items based on certain criteria. Products can be ranked by their delivery totals, case sales and prior sales. Price point is another searchable category, helping retailers diversify their stock between low and high-cost SKUs. On the government side, the agency can collect and study analytics about product performance and retail orders. One goal, says Iowa ABD COO Tim Iversen, is to eventually offer direct on-premise orders through the portal as well. This would allow the state to better iden- tify what items on-premise ac- counts order, versus what's sit- ting on the backbar. "This has value in helping us control the few bad apples out there," Iversen says. ADJUST AFTER FEEDBACK Several ABD staff are trained to teach licensees about using the system, while a tutorial is avail- able through both the ABD main website and the web portal. As more retailers (which are privately owned in Iowa) have used the portal, the division has received customer feedback. The state has already utilized these suggestions to upgrade the website signifi cantly. The fi rst of these changes was to add a "shopping cart." This function allows customers to save products online that they were interested in purchasing, rather than losing that info ev- ery time they exit the website. Another feature added post- launch was a "will call" button. Some retailers travel to the division to pick up purchases. Even after the portal went live, they had to manually send in these orders. An online method to do so had not been included. Alerted to this fl aw, Iowa corrected it. Iowa also found that larger stores with the most SKUs were not properly utilizing the website. With such a large number of products, it was more work to type them all into the portal than to mail in the list as an Excel spreadsheet. So the division again adjusted their website, allowing it to accept and then process Excel fi les into high-volume orders. "If we can help retailers create better business models by increasing effi ciency, then they will see the advantage to using our portal," says Project Manager Anita Volk. THE MISSING PIECE Volk was brought in by the Iowa ABD during the por- tal's development to guide the project across the fi nish line. Complicating matters was the mandate to build the portal within tight fi nancial constraints. As a state de- partment in Iowa, the ABD was limited by a strict budget. The division had started the work, with the help of a third- party vendor. "We knew what we wanted, but we didn't know exactly how to go about it," Iversen remembers. Volk joined in October of 2013. "The shell of the website was there," she recalls, "but it was lacking the proper function- ality." She escalated the portal's growth, increased teamwork, and brought together a number of projects, Iversen says. EASING IN The results of all that work speak for themselves. And the fi - nal product fi ts Larson's original vision, directing more business onto the virtual highway. The state is gradually shift- ing more orders onto the por- tal. Any new licensees added after July 1 must use the portal, and the same goes for existing licensees renewing on or after September 1. This means that a licensee is not required to use the portal until it renews, which could be as late as August 31, 2016. "We wanted to make sure that we were not disrupting someone's business model," Larson says. Once a business does begin using the portal, they'll very likely see that it's no disruption, but a great source of effi ciency using modern technology.

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