Focusing on the Future - A Recap of UGM 2020

June 19, 2020

Focusing on the Future - A Recap of UGM 2020

732 attendees, 32 educational sessions, 19 hands-on labs, and 100 one-on-one meetings.

Last week, Encompass hosted its 12th annual User Group Meeting (UGM) in a virtual format for the very first time. Distributors from around the globe tuned in to learn about strategies for success.

Featured Guest Speaker: Harry Schuhmacher, Editor and Publisher of Beer Business Daily, Craft Business Daily, and Wine & Spirits Daily

Guest Speaker, Harry Schuhmacher, kicked off the conference with a presentation titled “Grokking the Beer Industry in 2020” by highlighting the last 85 days of the beer industry, taking a look at how the industry looked amidst a global health crisis, and where the industry is headed post-COVID-19. We essentially saw total closure of on-premise in most states while “takeout” beer and liquor laws were loosened. Now that states are beginning to open up, Harry predicted that those loose laws may be here to stay as consumers become accustomed to such. He also highlighted how online alcohol sales have exploded, so home delivery is likely here to stay. As we move into the summer, production shortages are likely when it comes to beer and even cans as consumers are eager to get back out. We’ve seen on-premise accounts get very creative - even setting up tents and tables in streets. Harry noted that wholesalers and suppliers should be “cautiously optimistic” about the future, mentioning that the beer industry has come through this crisis better than most other industries. To close out the presentation, Harry reminded wholesalers that the most important skillset for distributors to have right now is routing and re-routing, noting that it’ll be what differentiates distributors as we come out of this pandemic.

Big Picture: Technology Trends & Strategy

Jake Sampson, VP of Sales & Marketing and Bill Kraich, VP of E-Commerce at Encompass shared their insights on where the industry is heading, and how technology fits in. They started by highlighting how consumer behavior is shaping retailer expectations. With more and more consumers shopping online, retailers must meet consumers where they shop which means that retailer service expectations are shifting. Retailers need content to power digital platforms that connect with suppliers and distributors in order to maintain quick order to delivery speeds. More than ever, suppliers are requiring more analytical data to make business decisions, requiring all of the tiers to be digitally connected. Looking to the future, more stores will offer direct to consumer delivery which could mean changes for wholesalers. Jake and Bill reminded the audience that Encompass will work with distributors, suppliers, and retailers to stay in touch with modern technology and trends to ensure the success of the industry for the years to come.

NBWA: Providing Leadership and Guidance to Beer Distributors Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lester Jones, Chief Economist and Dave Christman, VP of State Affairs, joined Encompass to talk about the many resources that NBWA provides to beer distributors. Dave started by defining the four pillars of the association:

Advocate - At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, NBWA worked to make sure beer distributors were deemed essential as well as make sure beer distributors were able to stay in business during these challenging times. NBWA is always working to provide leadership that enhances the independent beer distribution industry; to advocate before government and the public; to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol; and to provide programs and services that will benefit its members.

Educate - The NBWA works to provide the industry with relevant resources which lately have been best practices and information regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Dave urged NBWA distributor members to take advantage of these valuable resources.

Communicate - Communication is key for an association like the NBWA. In today’s digital age, this comes in the form of email, website pages, social media, and more. NBWA keeps in close contact with its membership base to keep them informed and educated.

Congregate - NBWA is monitoring the situation closely, but they hope to hold their fall convention in-person. We hope to see you all there! The association holds many meetings and conventions throughout the year where members and partners come together to network and educate themselves.

Dave closed out his portion of the presentation by talking about accelerated e-commerce trends, and the desire for contactless orders, payment, and delivery. Consumer facing sites and apps are becoming the norm, so this is something the beer industry needs to pay attention to as well.

As Lester took the digital stage to talk about economic trends, he highlighted the fact that the beer industry has an economic impact of $328 billion, and it’s estimated that the industry will see $8 billion in economic losses in just four months. With that being said, Lester reminded us that the beer industry is resilient and it is time to start rebuilding. In an NBWA membership survey, two-thirds of respondents expect more than 30% of on-premise accounts to close permanently; however, 80% of on-premise retailers are “cautious, but ready to re-open”, which is good news. Lester talked about getting the beer industry back to work and “turning data into dollars”. He stressed the importance of freely flowing information that is accessible to the industry at large. Industry partners like Encompass, Fintech, iSellBeer, and more have stepped up to help with this project with the goal of sharing anonymized data to help the industry grow.

Supplier Sessions

Representatives from Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors also chimed in to share supplier-specific updates and engage in valuable conversations with wholesalers. Encompass has put a strong emphasis on Supplier relationships and connectivity this year as part of its ‘Digitally Connecting the Three-Tiers’ initiative. Together, we can move the industry forward by sharing information and working together.

PartnerLink Partners

This year, we had two of our PartnerLink partners join us as UGM Sponsors: Zebra & Wise Systems. Erich Wolters, VP of Solution Sales at Wise shared ‘Case Studies in Dynamic Routing’ and talked about automating delivery operations and transforming the entire delivery experience. Stacy Clay from Zebra joined Encompass Hardware Sales Manager, Kreston Barth to share the latest and greatest Zebra technologies. Sending thanks to our sponsors for their continued support.

Other Encompass “Featured Sessions”

Amongst all of the aforementioned sessions, Encompass took the time to educate distributors on current trends, and explain how Encompass solutions are evolving to address current and future distributor needs. The DSDLink team shared the many successes that Encompass distributors have experienced with the implementation of retailer ordering. Other sessions included topics such as reporting and data visualization, warehouse solutions and automation, fleet tracking, and more.

Although we missed seeing everyone’s faces at UGM this year, we are fortunate to have had such a successful virtual event. From our guest speakers and sponsors to our engaged audience of distributors, thank you to everyone who made this year’s event possible. We hope to see you all in Fort Collins next year!

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