April 8, 2014, 1:30 PM

Germany’s Hawesko uncorks a B2B strategy for wine sales

Realizing its future business as well as retail customers will mostly buy its wine online, Germany-based Hawesko launched its first B2B web store in 2010. It then upgraded its B2B e-commerce site to triple web sales as a percentage of total sales.

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Founded in 1964 as a mail-order wine retailer, Germany-based Hawesko debuted its first retail e-commerce site in 1999, generating 8% of total sales online by 2006, the company says.

Meanwhile, Hawesko also started selling to businesses in the late ‘90s, amassing some 400 B2B customers. Initially, those sales were all closed offline. But growing interest in online ordering led Hawesko to launch its first B2B online shop in 2010 at Hawesko.de.

The B2B online store helped bring online sales to about 10% of total sales. But the company believed it could increase that percentage with a stronger focus on its business customers, e-commerce manager Kim Breckwoldt said at a recent Ariba Live conference hosted by Ariba, an SAP company that provides B2B Internet network services.

Hawesko started out by examining why businesses would want to buy wine online. Among the reasons it identified were deals provided though business contracts, strong customer support in placing and fulfilling orders, and ordering for customers and employees on special occasions like birthdays and holidays.

Hawesko then set out to make online buying easier for business customers. It was already exchanging documents with suppliers on the Ariba Network, a web portal for exchanging business documents and communications. And with its new B2B online store, it set up a “punchout” catalog through the Ariba Network, which enabled a business customers to click items in its online product catalog to create a purchase order in the customer’s financial system. A further development added an e-invoicing option on the network, which automated the sending of electronic invoices.

While those improvements contributed to an overall increase in online sales—which reached 30% of total sales in 2013, up from 10% in 2010—Hawesko continues to work on improving its B2B online sales, Breckwoldt said. The company keeps a close watch on metrics, including average order values and profit margins, and keeps employees and managers working as a team to improve service and online marketing campaigns, she added.

With companies becoming more comfortable ordering wine online, Breckwoldt said, Hawesko has a set a goal of increasing its online sales to 50% of total sales by 2016.

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