By Kent Knowlin, Vice President of Management and Operations with VineSpring
Ten years ago, integrating sophisticated digital tools into a brewery, winery or distillery website was a bear. Building a better mousetrap was the easy part. Allowing customers to buy the mousetrap on your website, from their phone or their computer, from the U.S. or abroad, and automatically transferring their purchase history into your database without the site crashing? Be prepared to hire an expensive team of software developers.
Flash forward to today. Online point-of-sale tools have advanced by light years. Integrating them into your web user experience is easier and less expensive. Knowing which tools to carry is the bigger challenge, and a few cloud-based software platforms stand above the rest.
ShipCompliant – As its name suggests, ShipCompliant’s core product addresses the need for craft alcohol producers to access current state regulations and tax rates for direct shipments to consumers. Its tracking tool helps distributors ensure compliance within a tangled web of regulations. ShipCompliant has been around since 2005, and has bolstered its reputation by adding a suite of secondary tools that address a wide range of needs, including helpful shipment management tools to ensure packages arrive at their destination without exception. Its user-friendly interface makes a complicated task seem fairly simple.
Avalara – Founded in 2004, Avalara is known for calculating taxes – their sales and use tax tables have become a standard for online businesses. They have expanded their tax offering to beverage alcohol, returning accurate state, county, and city tax amounts for craft producers. Combine that with their other tools for obtaining and renewing licenses, registering products with federal and state agencies, and generating shipment reports and tax returns on your behalf – you’ve got one powerful product.
Calendly ― For only $12 per month, Calendly offers a simple and straightforward appointment booking system. It’s an easy and inexpensive way for a craft producer to fill out their datebook, and an immeasurable upgrade over “call me and we’ll book you.” With Covid-19 necessitating producers to space out their appointment bookings, Calendly is more useful now than ever.
Google Analytics – Who is ordering from your website, where are they ordering from, and what time are they most likely to make a purchase? Google Analytics can deliver this data and more, helping you understand your customers and their purchasing habits in measurable ways. Its clean interface isn’t just user-friendly. It delivers a trove of industry-leading data without slowing down your site.
Facebook Pixel – Understanding the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook is what a Pixel does. It tracks actions customers take on your website, like clicking a button or completing a form, so you can drive more sales. What feature of your site is most useful for converting browsers into buyers? Least useful? Let Facebook Pixel remove the guesswork.
Mailchimp – This platform allows businesses to send customizable emails to any number of recipients – automatically. You can also use Mailchimp to create and manage mailing lists, newsletters, and collect leads, then engage with your contacts to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. The free version is perfect for small businesses with less than 2000 contacts, but MailChimp scales to any size list. Growing your business with automated messages that do the work for you is definitely worth the effort.
ShipStation – This shipment management software platform is a real time-saver for a variety of tasks. Generate labels for USPS, UPS, FedEx, and more. Track order fulfillments and returns and customize the communications your customers receive when a package ships, is delivered, or when an exception happens. Save money with plan prices that start at $9/month. Best of all, ShipStation integrates seamlessly with many cloud-based software platforms. Great bang for the buck!