Liquor pilot vs Shopify for liquor and wine stores

Choosing the Best Alcohol eCommerce Platform

Shopify® is a great all-purpose ecommerce platform but is it right for your liquor, wine, or beer store? We break it down with the key steps required to get you up and running.

You’re ready to grow your store and start taking advantage of the exponential growth in online alcohol sales. Finally offering your customers exactly what they demand — a straightforward way to browse and order from your store from their home, office or anywhere close by.

But what’s involved in getting this done? And more importantly, which platform is going to get you online as fast as possible and offer you and your customers everything that you need?

Bringing Your Liquor or Wine Store into the World of Digital.

Taking your liquor or wine store online is not something that is going to be a “done on Monday or Tuesday when it’s quiet”, type job. Compared to a typical eCommerce store that has anywhere from 10 to a few hundred products and still takes weeks to months to complete, most liquor and wine stores have, at minimum, 500 SKUs but can get into the thousands quickly with the plethora of alcoholic beverage choices available.

With this in mind, here are the key steps you’ll need to complete to get your store online.

  • Decide on the best eCommerce platform for alcohol (why you’re here!).
  • Choose a design or theme in the case of Shopify or other eCommerce tools. 
  • Build the online store yourself, or pay a web developer to integrate or build your theme or design.
  • Source and then upload your hundreds or thousands of products, including product titles, images and high quality product descriptions. 
  • Set up and connect your products to their categories, as well as meta (product tag) information that enables users the ability to search and filter your inventory.
  • Set up your local delivery and/or shipping zones. 
  • Find and apply for an alcohol friendly payment provider and set up within your site.
  • Set up a sync from your point of sale for up to date pricing and availability, or alternatively be prepared to do this manually. 
  • Thoroughly test your new site’s usability on desktop and mobile.
  • Add Google analytics and other marketing tools to the site.
  • Launch it to your customers. And then monitor closely to ensure everything was done correctly/nothing is prohibiting people from ordering.

Yet this only scratches the surface as overarching steps. You also need to consider the core functionality that your online store has to have to meet the specific requirements of an alcohol retailer and a customer. 

Core functionality of a highly effective liquor and wine online store.

Ability to Categorize Your Bottles, Deeply.
A single ‘white wine’ category won’t make finding a bottle of Organic Riesling from Italy, very easy. The easier it is for a user to find the product they want the less chance they back out and go elsewhere.
Flexible Pickup, Local Delivery and Shipping Options.
Now, more than ever, customers expect multiple options for shipping and pickup. Offer local delivery either with your own driver, or using a third party courier, shipping if you ship outside your locality and quick pickup for those that want to grab-and-go, but don’t want to spend time looking in-store browsing.
Quick Address Check Before Checkout.
The last thing customers want is to find out that you don’t offer local delivery to their address after they’ve spent time finding the bottles they want. By having an address check available anywhere through your site, expectations are set from the beginning of a purchasing flow. This avoids disappointment, and might just sway the customer to swing by to pick up instead of getting it delivered.
Instant Product Search.
Many customers are creatures of habit, ordering the same bottles again and again. Without a quick instant product search, you add friction to placing an order, and something that can make them go elsewhere. So ensure your eCommerce store helps people find what they want. Quickly.
Detailed Product Images and Descriptions.
Although repeating a point above, this is too important not to ignore. A bottle name and a default (blank) image, doesn’t help someone make a purchasing decision. Product images and descriptions can make or break an eCommerce store. So you need to have full product information for every bottle your store stocks.
A Store Made to Convert Over Grandeur Design.
It’s understandable that you want your eCommerce liquor or wine store to look amazing. Unfortunately what often happens is that design ends up being put before function (ie usability), which can impact just how well your online store converts. With more and more people using mobiles to shop online, your eCommerce store needs to be designed for simplicity of use, not something that just looks good. That is, if you want to maximize online conversions/sales.

Shopify® for liquor and wine stores.

So how does Shopify stack up for an eCommerce solution for liquor and wine stores and what features make it stand out?

In Store Point of Sale
If you absolutely must have your eCommerce and in-store point of sales completely ‘shelf ready’ integrated as one, Shopify offers both. This also assumes you’re starting from scratch and don’t have an existing POS.
Customization Potential
If you want to control every aspect of your store’s design, layout and more because you want complete flexibility, Shopify allows you to do this. You’ll be able to get a designer, or a theme that’s ‘personal’. Note that unless you’re on Shopify plus ($2,000+ per month), there’s still some limitations.
Unique Images & Product Descriptions
Because you need to upload every product in your store, you have the flexibility (as it’s required) to write your own product descriptions and take your own product photos. It’s a lot of work, but if you absolutely must have these unique, you can do it.
Low Plan ‘Cost’
Shopify’s basic plan is extremely affordable (as you have a blank slate platform), the downside is the work involved in setting everything up. Also if you want complete control over your store (and some functionality that isn’t available on their basic or premium plans) you need Shopify plus, which starts at $2,000 a month. So it can also get pricey.

Liquor Pilot for liquor and wine stores.

Liquor Pilot is a purpose built alcohol eCommerce platform, so it’s obviously made for liquor and wine retailers specifically. But what benefits does it give you over an all-purpose eCommerce plaform?

Ready To-Go Listings
No need to manually create products. Liquor Pilot already has 54,000+ ready to go listings including images and full descriptions.
Complete Bottle Data
Detailed search filters and bottle parameters. Filters, tags and categories (meta information) for easy to search products including grape varieties, country of origin and more (4,560 data points).
Mobile Optimized For Alcohol Ordering & Customers
Conversion focused design/usability. Liquor Pilot was made for ordering simplicity and maximizing conversions. We’ve done the user testing to make sure everything works.
Alcohol Specific Checkout Options
Local delivery and pickup ready. Many liquor and wine stores offer local delivery which isn’t available state or nation wide. Define a precise delivery zone that covers the streets and locales you deliver too.
No Need to Lift A Finger
Nothing about getting started with Liquor Pilot is do-it-yourself. Everything is done-for-you (minus a few small things) so you don’t havbe to take time away from looking after your store.
Faster Launch (Get Orders Sooner)
With no custom design and not having to ‘reinvent the wheel’, you’ll be online in days to a week, not months. Liquor Pilot is also a done-for-you platform in setup, so you don’t need to find someone else to get it done.
Pricing Reflective of Your Store.
No one sized fits all pricing. Designed to be a valuable investment for your store, Liquor Pilot’s pricing is based on your store’s inventory size.

Quick comparison — Key benefits overview.

Like an easy to compare table? Here's how Liquor Pilot and Shopify compare in core alcohol eCommerce related functions.

Shopify® Liquor Pilot
Applicability to Alcohol General all purpose eCommerce 100% dedicated to alcohol eCommerce. All the functionality is already built-in.
In-store POS Shopify offers a standalone POS to install in store. Not available. Slated for future development.
Value & Pricing Shopify plus starts at $2,000 per month and requires custom development. No upfront fees or development costs. Pay as you sell (retailers) or high value monthly flat fees (brands).
Customization Potential With Shopify and especially Shopify Plus, you can completely customize your storefront but requires time & money. Customizations on request, although 'base setup' has been tested and optimized for online alcohol sales.
Catalog & Inventory Manually upload and create all products. 54,000+ products ready-to-go. All matched automatically to your inventory.
Time to Launch Months of custom development time. Usually completely live within 1-2 weeks.
Delivery Ready Supports pickup and standard shipping options. Supports pickup, shipping, local delivery and integrated ready Postmates last mile couriers.

Conclusion

Choosing an eCommerce platform for your liquor or wine store isn’t an easy decision. And one that will have you loving your new online store or wondering why it isn’t driving the sales that you hoped for.

You ultimately have to weigh up the cost and time investment of a completely customizable platform such as Shopify, with a purpose built and tested, faster to launch, but less customizable platform, like the one we’ve built with Liquor Pilot.  

For many wine and liquor retailers the goal of moving online is to offer customers more flexibility and choice that helps drive additional revenue and growth. For other’s it’s a combination of this and having a unique storefront that is all theirs.


When Shopify is the better choice. 

When you absolutely must have your eCommerce store and POS 'one', pixel perfect control over the final design and are willing to invest the time and money into building something that is uniquely yours.

When Liquor Pilot is a better choice.

When you're a retailer that wants to launch (or upgrade) their website store and have it powered by a platform dedicated to alcohol eCommerce. Everything is ready and nearly done-for-you. You'll get access to ready-to-go product listings and get online within 1-2 weeks.

Shopify® is a registered trademark of Shopify Inc and not associated with Liquor Pilot in any way, shape or form. Use of any trademarked terms is simply for discussion and comparison of Shopify’s platform for informational purposes only.

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