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The top 4 challenges Ontario alcoholic beverage sellers encounter with order management

The Ontario alcohol market is facing some new challenges with order management, check out this article to learn more about what you can do to overcome them.

Being in the Ontario alcohol industry right now is difficult. With the explosion of competition, every company needs to find new ways to put themselves at the top, and get the visibility they need to succeed. One of the core ways that we’ve found companies can solidify their position in the market is with strong order management and analytics capabilities. 

To help your company succeed, we’ve put together a list of the top issues that we’ve heard Ontario alcohol producers face with their order management and sales processes — and how you can take steps to put yourself ahead of your competition by removing these issues.

1. There’s no consistent way to manage processes.

Let’s face it, each and every one of your buyers has their own unique way that they want to submit their order. Your sales team might be receiving orders through phone, fax, or email from any one of their licensees on any given day. John the owner of “Generic Irish Pub” might casually ring up your sales people for a few kegs every week, while Cindy, the GM responsible for 10 chain locations of “Everyday Celebration Restaurant” has emailed your team a very corporate looking series of order requests.

Depending on your distribution model you may manage your deliveries via multiple methods such as direct delivery, utilizing a 3rd party such as The Beer Store, or TNG etc. With 3rd party companies involved the level of paperwork and communication increases as it’s another layer in your model.  

That’s not even to mention the pain that your order management team has to go through every time they touch the LCBO portals (GMS, DDVP and Consignment) to get your alcohol of choice into key stores and locations around Ontario. 

If there’s one thing that’s consistent across all of these different ways to order from you, it’s that it’s painful for your order desk and warehouse employees, and costly for you. We’ve noticed a trend in the Ontario alcohol industry where most order management is done manually. Orders get laboriously moved through different systems by hand, and the time it takes for an order to go from received to packed and ready to ship, there have been multiple touch points and the already low margins continue to get consumed by labour expenses.

Manual order management leads to mistakes. Orders get lost, shipments don’t make it in time, and sometimes your buyers don’t get exactly what they ordered. In an industry as newly competitive as Ontario’s alcohol market, these mistakes are noticed immediately by your customers and your competitors are always ready to grab your slice of the market. 

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to manage these orders, and to make sure that everything ordered from you gets to where you want it is to automate your order management system. Doing this simplifies how you complete orders into one easy to understand process and removes the mistakes that are made when copying data from one system to another. 

2. Staffing is tight. 

It’s happening in every industry, but we’ve heard it a lot from Ontario’s alcohol providers. You likely can’t get enough good people in the right roles, and the work that needs to get done is piling up on your existing employees.

While this is endemic across the industry in all kinds of positions, we’ve been hearing about it in terms of order management, and there are some horror stories. One brewing company in Southern Ontario couldn’t keep enough staff around to manage their orders, so their sales director needed to step in to keep the product flowing. This took him away from growing the business and stuck him in just maintaining the happiness of their existing customers. 

There’s a simple way to take the pressure off your existing employees and minimize the immediate need for a new hire (which can be a risk). The answer is to reduce the amount of person-hours that completing a full order management process takes. 

This is done by automating the processing of your orders from receiving a request for twelve cases of wine, to sending your final invoice once you’ve shipped it out the door. If you can reduce the time it takes to fill in the necessary paperwork and information from 20-30 minutes per order to just minutes, you’ll have opened up the door for your existing staff to complete more work with less stress. 

You’ll also have made sure that you won’t have to step in just to keep your company moving along. 

3. There have been recent challenges with shipping and logistics.

Shipping and logistics are quickly becoming a reasonably hard to find asset in Ontario. A few of the smaller alcohol focused shipping companies have shut their doors. While there are some new ones popping up here and there, the market is starting to focus on the big players in the alcohol logistics spaces, such as companies like TNG.

There aren’t many ways around this. This level of conglomeration is normal in a lot of industries and big players taking over usually doesn’t get reversed. We’ve heard some creative ideas from some breweries — including a few that were seriously considering buying their own warehouses and starting their own logistics companies to fill gaps when their own logistics providers folded. 

However it’s very likely in the future that you’ll have to start relying on one of the bigger players in the logistics space for deliveries outside of your own backyard. In the case of having to change logistics providers, you now have to trust another set of people to get your product into the right hands. Do you have guarantees that they’re responding to your emails to ship products to one place or another fast enough? Are they processing your orders quickly enough?

One of the best ways to work with a new shipping company, and especially the larger players, is to integrate your order management system and accounting system directly with them. To give an example, when using OrderEase integrated with a logistics partner such as The Beer Store your shipping gets managed automatically in a few steps.

  1. Your order comes in, and is accepted.

  2. If the order is from a channel where The Beer Store delivers for you, the order gets automatically sent to them, and is put in their system. No emails required.

  3. Once the logistics are figured out, the order is put back into your system with the confirmed quantities and ship date. 

  4. Your full cycle order is complete with no manual intervention and all integrated systems automatically updated throughout the process.

By integrating directly with your logistics partner, you can make sure that your product is getting out without having to spend time emailing, or even wondering if they’re getting product out on time. Everything is automatically sent to your partner, you know exactly when it’s shipped and you can freely invoice without worry.

4. There isn’t enough information at your fingertips.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know at a glance what’s selling where. How about knowing which LCBO stores are seeing an uptick in product popularity? Not just your own but even general categories. Think about it, what if you had predicted the meteoric rise of RTD beverages by seeing the category consistently grow month over month? Would you have been able to get into that market earlier?

You’re getting a huge amount of information every day through your order management processes. You’re seeing what products are selling like hot cakes, which products are in a slump, and what the general demand is for what you’re producing.

Too often this data is lost in excel spreadsheets, siloed over years of employees joining and leaving, and usually untouched. By gathering all this data into a way that makes things easy to see, you’ll be able to understand what’s selling well on levels that you wouldn’t have imagined before. Understanding your sales by geography, by city, by neighbourhood, by individual store can help shape the way that you sell your product. 

Alcohol sales are very interpersonal, and everyone knows everyone. This is as true for you as it is for the brewery/winery/distillery down the street. So what do you have to compete on besides your branding and pure flavour? With specific product level data of the areas that your licensees are in, or with LCBO data you can use clear facts and figures on top of the social relationships that your sales team already has.

Imagine talking to a bar owner and trying to convince them to put in a new line for one of your new beers. Instead of just depending on your relationship with them, you could point out that other bars in their area have been ordering it and that it has been a good seller for them based on weekly volume. You could also point out that the LCBO in their neighbourhood is stocking your beer and selling X amount per week, and that their sales have only been growing. With the right information, you can turn a normal chummy sales conversation into something that presents immediate value.

Turn this around, what if you want to convince the LCBO to either carry your beer or put it in a more prominent location. You can turn and show that bars surrounding them are carrying it and that you’re selling very well. With this information, you can make the point that the community they serve are very interested in your product and would like to see more of it on the shelves of their local liquor store.

Information is power when it comes to sales, just as it is for order management. By finding a way to understand how your product is selling, and how general categories are moving at a store by store level, you can maximize your sales potential and grow your company in the face of stiff competition.

The future of the Ontario alcohol industry through digital transformation

In order to stay competitive in Ontario’s changing alcohol landscape, companies have been turning to digital solutions to make sure they are getting their products to the right places, and making sure that their ordering system is as smooth as possible for them and their customers.

There has been a wave of new competitive factors that have been driving digital transformation across the industry. Each of these alone are reason enough for any industry to start thinking about an overhaul of their systems, but these reasons combined provide pressing and immediate challenges for the Ontario alcohol industry.


  1. More players have been entering the scene, and the largest and most advanced players in the industry have already switched over to digital order management and advanced analytics platforms. In order to stay competitive, smaller producers need to be able to compete on an even playing field.

  2. In the current market, it’s difficult to find reliable long-term workers. While this applies in every sector, a lack of staff in order management can create a major bottleneck for your company. To combat this, alcohol producers have been investing in robust order management and data analysis systems that don’t stress their already difficult staffing issues.

Sales teams are starting to find that the tried and true method of heavily relationship based sales isn’t working as well as it used to. With new players on the market, you’re now fighting for turf in areas where you used to coexist with other brands. In other words, producers are now finding the need to prove the viability of their products to their buyers.These factors mark a sea change and are the reason why the industry is quickly modernizing and moving towards greater maturity in how they gain new sales, and manage their orders. Many are turning to all-in-one solutions which integrate directly into their currently existing systems to make this happen.

The OrderEase order management and integration software now embedded within Last Call Analytics’ robust analytics and CRM platform is a strong example of the kinds of technology that is helping to reshape the industry. We help to make alcohol producers more effective in managing their product, and giving them the insights to make sales pitches more effective. 

Through OrderEase and Last Call Analytics, you can greatly reduce the amount of manual touchpoints that go into each order, for any of your clients. Managing the orders of your licensees, LCBO, and other distributors can all be automatically processed and double checked all through one system, without having to log in to endless portals or track down pesky lost emails.

We also allow you to reduce your reliance on finding and keeping new staff, simplifying order management so your company can focus on what it does best — creating and selling delicious beverages. 

As for your sales team, we give them the data they need to really convince licensees to carry your products, or to get better shelf space at the LCBO, The Beer Store, or any grocery that carries your product. By giving them the understanding of how your product is moving, and providing a single source of truth for all the data that floods into your company every day, we make your salespeople more competitive by giving them an edge to help push their relationships over the edge into a complete sale.

Last, but not least — we provide a central location for your licensees to enter their orders, in a completely self-service manner. This allows your sales team to check their orders, upsell or provide deals, while still being able to focus on finding new customers for you.

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If you’d like to learn more about how this powerful combination of OrderEase and Last Call Analytics can help solve some of the order management issues facing the Ontario alcohol industry, reach out to us today.



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