Editor’s Note: The following post is part of our series on the Third Party Providers
In the quickly evolving world of third party wine marketing, it’s important that marketers and licensed sellers work together in such a way that puts the licensed seller in full control of all aspects of each transaction. One of the most important elements of control is the concept of acceptance.
The fundamental concepts behind third party marketing are quite simple on the surface: A third party provider (TPP) places and merchandises products from licensed wineries on its website, mobile application or platform, then solicits requests from consumers who would like to purchase the products, and passes the request on to the licensee for final sale and fulfillment.
Below the surface, the process can be much more complex. Technology has advanced to a point where almost all aspects of third party sales can be completely automated. For example, all of the following functions can be completed in real-time within seconds of the consumer actually clicking the button to complete/submit their order:
- Third Party Providers (TPPs) can dynamically display product information that licensed sellers have authorized for placement
- Inventory levels can be fully synchronized and reserved
- Sales tax can be calculated precisely based on the licensed seller’s tax preferences
- A comprehensive compliance check can be run against the licensed seller’s permits and volume from other channels
- Consumer age can be affirmed and validated
- Credit card funds can be authorized and reserved
- Orders can be released to the licensed seller’s preferred fulfillment location
In the past, many of these steps were typically carried out through some combination of phone, fax, snail mail, carrier pigeons, smoke, and mirrors. But today, as TPPs increasingly look for a world-class quality of service for their customers, automation and efficiency are paramount.
At the core of compliant third party marketing is the notion that licensed sellers are always fully in control of all aspects of each transaction. Although one could probably argue that the order-acceptance process could also be established contractually, we believe that it’s important for the licensed seller to always have an option to interrupt the automated flow so that they have every confidence in the orders that are fulfilled on their behalf, prior to payment capture and fulfillment.
Another significant consideration is that regulatory agencies place tremendous importance on this step. In its October 2011 Advisory on the issue of Third Party Providers the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control wrote, “The licensee responsible for the sale must be clearly identified and must ultimately control the transaction, including any decisions concerning acceptance or rejection of such orders.” It makes sense that regulators want to ensure that there is a licensee involved that they know is in control and that they can hold accountable for orders that are shipped into their state.
The Nuts and Bolts
An easy way to implement an acceptance mechanism is for the TPP to send an email with the order requests to the licensee for their review. Licensed sellers can then review the order details, and will likely consider the following when evaluating whether or not they would like to accept or reject the order:
- Compliance: Has this order request been checked for compliance, and aggregated against my other order sources (my winery website, wine club, tasting room, and phone orders)? Has the consumer’s age been affirmed and/or validated using an online age verification service.
- Pricing: Are the prices for the requested items within the predetermined ranges I established with this TPP?
- Inventory: Do I have sufficient inventory for these items to fulfill this request?
- Advertising Fee: Is the advertising/customer acquisition fee (if applicable) for this order request within the predetermined range that I established with this TPP?
- Sales Tax: Has the appropriate amount of sales tax been collected based on my tax preferences in the destination state?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then the licensee should have no reason to reject the order requests, and can therefore feel comfortable accepting them. Once the requests are accepted by the licensee, the orders can be released to the designated fulfillment location, and payment can be captured (note: payment should ideally be authorized at the time of transaction, but captured after acceptance and fulfillment).
The acceptance email can be implemented in a way that batches order requests over set periods of time (daily, twice/daily, every 4 hours, etc.). Each licensee may have different preferences about both the timing of the emails (during local business hours, for example), and the review period (4 hours, 8 hours, etc.), based on their desired level of control. This preferences-based method of acceptance is what we implemented into ShipCompliant’s MarketPlace platform, as we believe it provides a good amount of flexibility for licensed sellers.
In summary, the relatively straightforward process of creating an acceptance mechanism can really go a long way towards establishing the most important regulatory requirement for working with TPPs — licensee control. As wineries more and more look to work with TPPs that complement their brand and their direct to consumer strategy, relying on a robust and consistent acceptance mechanism becomes increasingly important.