The Control States Best Practices Awards 2015 Winners

Best Technological Innovation (TIE)

Web Portal Modernizes Ordering

By Kyle Swartz

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) launched a new online purchasing portal, earning them recognition for embracing
innovative technology to improve partner relationships.

Here’s how it works: Suppliers upload information about their products — including photos — to the web portal. Retailers can then browse this digital database of products, and purchase items directly from the site. (The consuming public can also view the database to see what’s available at Iowa stores, but cannot access the business side of the platform.)

The portal launched in January of this year, after much testing and tweaking. Already, it has accounted for $78,849,591 in total sales, according to the Iowa ABD, with 981 retail customers signed up.

“Government needs to provide goods and services, and we wanted to do it live, online, 24/7 and in a way that’s customer friendly,” says Stephen Larson, Iowa ABD Administrator.

“I realized that we had to get more on the virtual highway,” he adds. “I wanted our model to be like Amazon – a place where licensees could order online with pictures and descriptions of all our products. We took that idea and we ran with it.”

Data Driven

Selling products online is a critical function for any modern business. Customers regularly make purchases using their computers or handheld devices.

However, the Iowa ABD portal is more than just a digitized store and shopping cart. It utilizes the power of digital technology to collect data and provide helpful business intelligence for customers — as well as for the division itself.

“We would get questions all the time out in the field 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 identify what items on-premise accounts order, versus what’s sitting on the backbar.

“This has value in helping us control the few bad apples out there,” Iversen says.

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