The Control States Best Practices Awards 2015 Winners

Best Technological Innovation (TIE)

Wine App is a Winner

By Kyle Swartz

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission (NHLC) has long been at the forefront of incorporating new technologies. The agency  recently created a new web ordering application. With this app, the commission can now do business with customers at the speed of the internet, and with the convenience of mobile devices.

Problem Solved

The idea for the app came from seeking a solution for a growing problem.

Wine Week is an annual celebration put on by the NHLC that features a lineup of tasting and educational events, and culminates in the Winter Wine Spectacular. This festival is the largest of its kind north of Boston, attracting crowds of more than 1,000. Guests have opportunity to sample and then buy wine from some of the top wineries in the world.

It is illegal to buy bottles onsite, however. To purchase product requires filling out an order form and then filing it with the NHLC. Customers pick up the alcohol later on at a New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet location (The NHLC was a pioneer of on-site ordering at tastings).

Despite this delay in physically obtaining purchases, sales at the Winter Wine Spectacular have grown from $30,000 at the inaugural event in 2005, to more than $125,000 this year.

NHLC employees are happy to see increasing sales. But more orders create a greater potential for headaches. Before launching the app, the commission had manually processed orders through a system of stickers and forms.

It grew to be too much strain on staff. A new system was needed. The capabilities of modern technology made for an appealing fix.

“I wanted to make this easier on my staff,” recalls Nichole Jordan, NHLC wine marketing specialist. “It had been a whole lot of paperwork. It needed to be easier for both the consumers and us.”

Modern Functionality

Jordan knew that there had to be a better way to accept and fulfill orders. Working with the Manchester-based digital marketing agency wedü, the NHLC began to design a new e-commerce platform. The app went live just before the 2014 Winter Wine Spectacular.

Customers can download the app, which allows them to find wines they liked from within a database of products. These wines can be added to a digital shopping cart before users checkout online. Picking up purchases is a matter of selecting a convenient location from among the 78 New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet stores.

“You don’t have to wait in line for an order anymore,” Jordan says.

The app also allows users to take notes, which they can email to themselves. “We added this function to
encourage customers to place orders after the fact,” Jordan explains. “Perhaps they’re not ready to buy in the moment. But later, they want to look back and see what they had liked and then consider making a purchase.”

“We believe this aspect of the app increased sales by 10 percent,” she adds.

To encourage guests at the 2014 Winter Wine Spectacular to download the app, the NHLC marketed their new platform several ways. The commission utilized email-blast marketing, posted graphics onto the NHLC’s various social media channels and put up physical advertising at the event.

A Successful Beginning

The app’s launch at the 2014 Winter Wine Spectacular was a considerable success. It accounted for 21% of sales at the event, far exceeding initial expectations.

In less than a year of use, the app has had 335 sessions and 1,756 page views, with an impressive average session time of 11 minutes and 30 seconds. Even better, these numbers are certain to climb. “As our customer base grows — and we already have about 11 million customers a year — many of those millions will use tech to make their lives easier and more convenient,” Jordan says.

The response from the industry at the Winter Wine Spectacular was similarly positive. “They thought it was wonderful,” Jordan recalls. “Michael Mondavi in particular was blown away by how easy it worked and how much everyone was ordering.”

Future Expansion

After the success at the Winter Wine Spectacular, the web app has already expanded into other NHLC events.

In total, the app has already accounted for $61,000 in sales, with Wine Week seeing a 15% increase in sales compared to the previous year. With those eye-catching numbers, the web ordering application seems poised for a bright future, as the commission continues to modernize operations with state-of-the-art technology.

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