At the beginning of the pandemic, with restaurants and entertainment venues shut down, New Jersey liquor distributor Allied Beverage saw an opportunity to transform its customer experience, service and e-commerce.
Transformation at scale
Allied Beverage is the largest liquor distributor in New Jersey, with annual sales well in excess of $1 billion. Their retail customers range from mom-and-pop liquor stores and restaurants to grocery stores and casinos. They have a portfolio of approximately 16,000 products.
The pandemic affected not only customers who sold liquor on- and off-premise, but also the company’s operations. Plus, customer demands were changing. They wanted more self-serve options. And Allied Beverage needed a more efficient way to handle all the service calls during a crisis.
“During the pandemic, the company realized just how far behind the alcoholic beverages industry is,” said Judah Zeigler, VP of digital and e-commerce at Allied Beverage. “We needed to update employee experience and introduce digital tools to enhance experience for customers.”
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New roles to implement change
Allied Beverage hired third-party consultant Shift7 Digital to lead the transformation. Shift7 determined that for e-commerce, sales and experience functions, Salesforce cloud services would work best.
The company decided it also needed more inhouse expertise and hired Zeigler, who handled B2B and B2C digital marketing at Panasonic.
One of the company’s concerns was making sure these changes were implemented across the entire organization. This required people from sales, product marketing, operations, finance and other departments to work on the transformation full-time. To free them up, the company hired additional staff to manage day-to-day tasks.
The new hires will have the opportunity to work in other roles once the transformation is completed, Zeigler said.
Improving customer experience and enabling self-service
A new digital customer experience is a challenge in the liquor industry, with a big payoff. That’s because the wide range of B2B customers require individualized service, but increasingly want to manage their supply with self-service.
“Over the course of meeting with internal stakeholders, we settled on three strategic areas,” said Zeigler. “First and foremost, we needed to deliver unparalleled customer experience. We also needed to enable sales service to be more self-serve. And we needed to transform the customer service organization to become an exceptions-based customer service. This would help the customer base as well as our salespeople.”
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Top priority was making sure the systems used to reach these goals could all work together in a seamless fashion.
To meet these goals, Zeigler, Shift7 and other stakeholders decided to implement three Salesforce systems. The Salesforce Commerce Cloud would replace an existing homegrown e-commerce system. Salesforce Sales Cloud would be installed as a CRM. Finally, the Salesforce Service Cloud would manage service case management.
“We were able to roll up our sleeves and build a best-in-class solution that will grow with Allied and their customers for the long haul, leveraging the multi-cloud capabilities of Salesforce,” said Brad Borman, managing director at Shift7.
Customer experience rollout
Many of the e-commerce and service capabilities will be fully live beginning in Q1 of next year. Allied Beverage wants to avoid implementing too many changes to their systems during the busy holiday season.
“The ‘service-to-sales’ portion of the transformation is live now and already making an impact,” said Zeigler.
Currently, when customers check in on order status or to ask other service questions, they receive a much more seamless experience.
The Service Cloud was implemented about a month ago, and already the company is beginning to pull insights and recommendations from data gathered in the CRM.
“A dramatic transformation in how a customer buys product is ahead in the next six months,” said Zeigler. “Allied’s desire to bring more new products to market every month and make those known to their customers, is in direct response to ultimate consumer demand for new wine and spirit offerings, and restaurants see this as a way to differentiate from other companies.”
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