Whiskey was first developed around 1000 AD, when Scottish and Irish monasteries started fermenting mashed grains. This method was originally used as a replacement for grapes, because northern Europe didn’t have access to traditional vineyards for winemaking. Despite this, whiskey has remained incredibly popular and is used in some of the most popular cocktails around the world.
As whiskey spread from European countries to other nations, many people have put their own twist on the fermentation and distillation process. Canadian, Japanese, and American whiskey all bring their own flavor profiles to the table. United States consumers love their whiskey, with bourbon and rye whiskey regularly topping favorite drink lists.
Learning how to sell whiskey online is a fantastic option for the fermentation enthusiast. Continue reading for all of the business-minded tips and branding methods you need to launch.
Sell My Whiskey Online
There is a lot of legal documentation and business infrastructure needed to sell whiskey online. You need to show the government that you’re lawfully selling alcohol online, in addition to reaching the public with business and marketing savvy. Here is how to get started.
Decide on a Type of Whiskey
Whiskey has remained one of the most popular alcoholic beverages throughout history. About four in 10 Americans drink at least one of the many types of liquor on a regular basis. Of that percentage, roughly one in four prefer whiskey. If you haven’t thought what style of whiskey you want to sell, consider four overall types and five American sub-types:
- Irish whiskey
- Scotch whiskey
- American whiskey (rye, bourbon, Tennessee, single malt, wheat)
- Japanese whiskey
As long as you’re passionate and knowledgeable about the type of whiskey you’re selling, you’ll be in good shape. Make sure to read up on the brands and flavors you’re selling to answer customers’ questions effectively.
Acquire Relevant Licensing
In order to protect the public, minors, and your company from unlawful business, there are multiple licenses the government requires. Make sure you have funding set aside specifically for licensure, as it’s a critical component of your business without which you won’t be able to sell.
Here are the legal documents you’ll need for your online whiskey business:
- A federal tax ID (FTID) or employer identification number (EIN). The government assigns and tracks taxes for your business and employees through your EIN. You still need an EIN even if you don’t have employees, because state and federal governments will determine how much is owed through this number.
- An eCommerce business license. This license demonstrates that you are legally prepared to conduct online commerce. Depending on the state you live in, an eCommerce license and online retail license may be the same, or different. It’s advisable to research your state’s laws to understand current requirements.
- An alcohol dealer’s registration (ADR). A dealer’s registration is similar to the BASSET certification for restaurants, grocers, and retail stores. It shows the public that you’re a law-abiding seller of alcoholic beverages and never knowingly sell to minors.
- A manufacturer’s license. If you run your own distillery for commercial use, you need documentation proving this to the government. This helps the government and other businesses track the source of whiskey at any given time.
- A retailer license. This license shows the government that you are equipped to lawfully sell alcohol to the public. Your state may require this license if you sell via retail, catering, bartending, pubs, and other commercial environments. Do your research on individual state laws before you accidentally get a double license or forgo a necessary one.
- A shipping license. Last but not least, your business needs an eCommerce shipping license for every state you intend to ship to. If you’re only shipping to residents in the same state, all you need is one. A shipping license acts as another form of protection in the unlikely event of a lawsuit.
Once the government has approved your licenses, you can think about branding ideas that customers will want to connect with.
Build a Persuasive Brand
Millions of people love and consume whiskey every day, but that doesn’t mean your business will be recognized immediately. There are over 2,000 whiskey distilleries in the US and thousands more distributors and retailers. You need a plan to get noticed through marketing, partnerships, and good ol’ fashioned quality products.
Here are some tips useful for brand-building:
- Have a firm grasp on the existing market. It’s difficult to make headway as a new company if you don’t know who your competitors are. Before you sell a single drink, you should have a list of your top three to five competitors and their biggest weaknesses. A great way to accomplish this is through a SWOT analysis for restaurant. You list out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your business to determine what you’re doing well and what needs immediate attention.
- Speak to customers’ pain points. In a market as saturated as food, it takes more than selling a great product for people to line up and buy. You need a competitive edge that will draw a key segment of buyers to your products. Do you have a unique fermentation process? Is your barley grown in an area that draws out a particular flavor? These are characteristics to include prominently throughout your site and branding materials.
- Always use professional visuals. Customers are increasingly scrupulous in today’s economy and this includes food. If your beverages come across as unsafe or unprofessional in any way, buyers will think twice. The visuals of your business include everything from Internet display ads down to the eCommerce packaging your products are shipped in. The ability to use rich images to highlight your products is one of the many great reasons to use BlueCart eCommerce to sell whiskey online.
- Understand that branding is more non-verbal than verbal. The rapid pace of today’s online marketplace means shoppers often make fast judgements about products. Businesses that speak to customers on an intuitive level are using branding correctly. When prospects are browsing, they’re more likely to seek an emotional connection to a product that they logically justify later. As long as your advertising is above-board, you’ll be in great shape.
Set Up Your eCommerce Platform
Every online business from pool toys to alcoholic beverages needs a website. It’s your company’s hub of information, sales, products, content, and customer support. Setting up the technical side of your business can seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t need to be.
Today’s customers have short attention spans, especially when shopping online. As such, you need to give them an experience that’s engaging, simple, and fast. Research food eCommerce platforms to understand not only what’s available, but what you see yourself using. If you feel comfortable and familiar with your platform, it will be far easier to provide your customers the answers they’re looking for.
BlueCart is a DTC food and B2B eCommerce platform that provides all of the eCommerce marketing tools you need to excel. Learn more about how our platform can help you serve customers and make sales by booking a demo.
Develop an eCommerce Marketing Strategy
In addition to sales, marketing is the lifeblood of any business. You need to understand not only where your customers are and what they want, but how to persuade them. This is accomplished by being authentic, demonstrating legitimate expertise, and using relevant marketing channels.
Here are some worthwhile marketing strategies to leverage:
- Create content regularly. The Internet offers anyone with ambition and skill to attract the buyers they want. You can use eCommerce SEO to create useful, informative, and entertaining content that people will click on. The more you can answer your target audience’s questions, the more likely they are to purchase.
- Set a reasonable budget. The important question is not whether you have $500 or $50,000 for marketing, but how you’re using it. An eCommerce PPC campaign can be successful if you know how to structure your ads. Combined with excellent copywriting, you’ll be seen as an experienced business rather quickly. Prospects will see your ads in contextual spaces and take action based on your compelling calls-to-action (CTAs).
Where Can I Sell Whiskey Online?
With the basics of online whiskey sales covered, you’re probably wondering where you can list your drinks for sale. There are five primary methods for selling whiskey online:
- Selling direct to consumer. This can be one of the easiest methods to use, especially if you manufacture your own whiskey. It also allows you a greater degree of control over presentation, branding, packaging, and delivery times.
- Selling to retailers. If you want your products carried in stores, you’ll need to sell to retailers via online channels. You can start this process by developing relationships with retailers and researching what stores are interested in new partnerships.
- Selling via online auction. Auctioning is basically the same online as it is offline. Auctioneers list rare and desirable products and buyers compete to land the highest bid. Here’s a list of popular online whiskey auction sites:
- Acker Merrall & Condit
- Hart Davis Hart
- Whiskey Online Auctions
- Skinner Inc.
- Selling through a whiskey broker. A broker is the third-party platform or individual who facilitates transactions. Whiskey brokers are great options for both manufacturers and buyers who don’t prefer the auction route. Most brokers also offer speedy online whiskey evaluation, which makes it easier to select or list the drink you want.
- Selling through traditional auction houses. These are events where whiskey collectors from around the world gather to bid on rare and high value whiskies. Here are some of the most well-known auction houses:
- Skinner Inc.
- McTear’s Auctioneers
- Whisky Hammer
- Just Whisky
Do You Want Ice With That?
As your whiskey business grows, consider expanding your operations by selling liquor online or learning how to sell wine online. Customers that enjoy your existing products are likely to be interested in more.
Try your hand at selling cookies online or selling baked goods online, which--combined with beverage options--is a perfect subscription box business model. You can level up your customer service even more by providing custom subscription boxes or expand your catalog and learn how to sell products online.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Whiskey Sales
Do you have a passion for whiskey? It’s a great time to start an online whiskey sales business. The global whiskey industry is expected to reach $96 billion by 2026 with an annual growth rate of 6.5%. Learn more by reading our answers to these commonly asked questions:
Can I sell my bourbon online?
Yes, you can sell bourbon online. Just like other eCommerce alcoholic beverage businesses, you need an eCommerce license, a shipping license, and an employer identification number (EIN).
Make sure you double check all laws with your state’s tax or revenue office before selling. Some states have laws specific to types of alcohol and what is required to sell it as a business. Once the appropriate paperwork is filled out, you can start selling bourbon on your website.
Is it legal to sell whiskey?
Yes, it is legal to sell whiskey. It’s also essential to follow all laws and regulations pertinent to your place of business. Just like other alcoholic beverages in the United States, whiskey can only be sold to adults that are 21 or older.
Whiskey can only be produced by a licensed manufacturer and only sold by a licensed dealer, distributor, or retailer. When selling whiskey across state lines, you must have a shipping license that corresponds to every state you’re doing business in.
Can I sell a bottle of liquor on eBay?
No; eBay only allows wine sales from pre-approved sellers on their site. Liquor, whiskey, beer, vodka, and all other kinds of alcoholic beverages are expressly prohibited.
eBay holds this policy because alcoholic beverage sales are strongly regulated in the United States. It’s simpler to limit the type of products that are sold and who sells them than run the risk of liabilities with too many products.
Disclaimer: This information does not function or serve as a replacement to legal reference materials. It is intended for educational or informational purposes for personal use only. Conduct your own research or consult with a lawyer to make sure your business is in full compliance with every federal, state, and local law.