One of the disciplines BAT has been developing expertise in is e-commerce. But first a bit of background. I’ve been involved in bev alc e-commerce since 2000 with a couple of startups including and Neither of them made it commercially, but I learned a lot about the who, what, when, where and most importantly HOW to make it work.

Like a lot of initiatives on the internet, e-commerce for spirits, wine and beer is a work in progress with the added complications of the U.S. regulatory environment where we’re dealing with 50 different states each with their own laws. (and multiply 50 by the often three different sets of regulations applying to spirits, wine and beer!) So the big quasi-national e-commerce players are still figuring out how to monetise the concept. That means there’s a window of opportunity right now to run in the slipstream of those who are making it work and provide value to them rather than building a new solution on your own (Note to…VC money and advertising dollars are not the answer, margin on sales is.)

So our strategy for clients is a simple one…be smart…find solutions that are out there that other people are developing, and find ways to work with them. We have two solutions that are working quite well for us.

Both are predicated on the idea of understanding what drives the economy of the web, and the needs of prospective partners. By trading things of high perceived value that don’t necessarily cost a lot of cash you can both win.

The “currency” of the web is traffic and links…it’s equivalent in the retail world to a great store location on a busy street. Retailers want customers in the store. Suppliers on the other hand need two equally critical things , which in the real world are for retailers to stock their products (shelf facings) and floor displays (“if it ain’t on the floor, it ain’t in the store”!)

Our office e-comm guru, Anthony King, is spearheading our program which generated a home page ad (think 10 case floor display as you walk into the virtual store) at one of the largest internet retailers in the Northeast, Shoppers Vineyard for our client Absinthe Mata Hari.

I’ll be talking more about this at our upcoming U.S. Drinks Conference in London in Oct. but stay tuned here for more insights in the weeks to come.