Developing a Dynamic Website

Increasing Online Sales

I once heard an Alberta retail client describe liquor retailing in Alberta as the “Wild Wild West of Liquor Retailing.” What he meant is that the market is truly free and if someone wants to open a liquor store near you, they can simply apply for a license and move through the process. In contrast, neighbouring BC has a moratorium on liquor retail licenses and provincially legislates the distance around them. The relaxed rules within the province of Alberta create a hyper-competitive market and are forcing retailers to seek avenues to differentiate themselves from the competitor next door, literally!

One such avenue for Alberta retailers is the development of websites and the creation of an online business platform. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to increase online sales and ensure your business is going to create a great first impression.

Ease of Use

All of us have been to websites that take forever to load, don’t fit your screen properly, and are so cluttered that you have no idea where to look! When considering your layout, make sure your website home page is clean, well organized, and allows guests to find what they are looking for quickly.  The clean, clutter-free sites tend to use a white background with select images to make visitors take notice of the products and/or services the site is trying to sell.  Once you have your design concept created, consider ease of purchase for customers. Have your website developer build in a component that triggers suggested purchases to build basket size. Think about how your customer will obtain his purchase. Give guests either the option to pick up in-store or have their items delivered direct to their door. The easier it is for your customers to make a purchase, the more likely the transaction will complete and that the customer will shop with you again.


When deciding to develop your online presence, think big! You do not have to build everything at one time, as that can be extremely expensive. Have a discussion with your web developer to allow for future online growth in your liquor store or investigate well known software such as Revel Systems, ShopKeep or Bindo that offer services on a monthly subscription model with support.  Customized solutions will require the most resources and time while out of the box solutions may offer a more economical solution for your store. Consider how your site can be tied to inventory levels, can relate to your POS systems in the store, and can work with other logistical items required to run your operation. Even though the customer doesn’t see this aspect of the business, you will save time and money when you need to expand to keep up with your online sales demand.


Mobile Internet usage surpassed desktop Internet usage last year! Build your website to allow for mobility. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are common website technologies today that allow for small businesses to economically build a website built for mobile. Consider tying in an app! Industry trends are seeing retailers build their own apps to allow for convenient ordering, and ease of finding a location as well as providing real-time inventory updates. Customers want to discover new and innovative ways to use the products you are selling.

Create a Reason to Revisit

Organize your site in such a way that it encourages repeat visits. Guests are seeking to not only make a purchase, but to obtain fast knowledge. An educational component is a great way to keep them coming back. Highlight a different product each week and include tasting notes, recipes and videos on what to do with it. Visually show the customers how to mix the latest and greatest cocktails, FAST!  Hint: be sure to have all products available for sale including any mix and containers used in the recipes. This will build incremental purchases and add-ons at the checkout cart.  Another great way retailers are connecting with customers online is to highlight up-and-coming events that are occurring within the store and around the community. Drive traffic into your brick-and-mortar location and continue to showcase how you differentiate your business from your competitors.

Match Online Experience With Brick-and-Mortar

Don’t forget your core business is that of your physical liquor store. An online presence will further enhance your products and services and offer an additional revenue channel for your core business, however, it won’t replace where the majority of your sales are still going to come from. Retailers should take extra care to update and train in-store staff on any online additions and changes. Continue to cross-promote between the website and the brick-and-mortar location and make the experience for your customers easy and straightforward both in-store and online. When staff is given key tools, such as knowledge on how the website works, how purchases can be made or what products are being showcased, they can upsell to a client inside the store to further build basket size. One great example was a client in Alberta who had staff upsell cocktail ingredients at the checkout counter any time a customer was going to purchase a vodka that was showcased on the website. The client saw great success with guests adding onto their basket size while in the store, then going online to see the recipe.


In summary, developing a streamlined easy-to-use mobile website or app will further enhance your customer’s experience and will be sure to build an additional revenue channel. The online version of your business will showcase what your business is, why it’s different from the “guy next door”, and that your team is willing to do what it takes to earn a customer’s repeat business.  Don’t forget to follow up with staff training in your store! What you portray online should be mirrored in your location. First impressions are critical! Ensure your customers continue to come back time and time again by creating a dynamic and unique online customer experience to compete in this hyper-competitive market.

Rebecca Hardin, Vice President with Rising Tide Consultants, specializes in liquor license and operations consulting for the hospitality industry across BC, Alberta and Ontario.