The 175-year-old brewer originally founded in London, Ontario, recently launched BEES, a business-to-business e-commerce platform and one-stop shop that allows small- to medium-sized retailers to browse through products, place orders, arrange deliveries, and manage invoices—all in one place and right in the palm of their hand.
Originally piloted at the end of 2019, the BEES platform has been rolled out in twenty markets around the world over the last couple of years and now sees 3.1 million monthly active users processing 1.9 million orders weekly, with Quebec the latest region to benefit from its unique take on servicing retailers.
“We call it a business-to-business, e-commerce platform,” said Rob Legate, vice president of digital commerce for Labatt. “Through BEES, Labatt is building an ecosystem that transforms the traditional sales model by using technology to turn customer issues into growth opportunities.”
Labatt is the first to market with this kind of innovation, and this is the latest example of how its technology capabilities have unlocked new ways for Canada’s leading brewer to leverage its ecosystem, solve customer pain points, and create significant, additional value within those businesses.
“It’s about taking the user experience that we’ve all learned to expect from direct-to-consumer applications and applying it to the B2B space by putting our customers at the forefront of what we’re doing.”
The name BEES is a fun play on words when talking about a B2B platform and how Labatt is in the business of helping its customers better understand their business. The platform—created out of the different digital products devoted to taking care of Labatt’s customers—is similar to the multifunctionality and synergy of a beehive.
BEES is deeply customer-centric, designed to understand and address the pain points of small- to medium-sized retailers. For example, since it’s an app accessible on mobile devices, owners and managers can create and place orders according to their own schedules and from wherever they happen to be. Plus, it allows them to specify a delivery date that makes the most sense for their business—perhaps a shift when staff are typically less busy and available to handle product inflow—and then track the status of the delivery.
Imagine you’re a beverage retailer. You want to ensure you stock both traditional products and the new ones your customers want, that your promotions are competitive, and that you don’t run out of inventory. BEES is an integrated order and delivery platform empowering retailers with flexibility and insights by offering convenience to order any time, transparency on pricing and promotions, and simplicity in interacting with vendors—ultimately interacting in a meaningful manner and digitally transforming the sales model.
And, like many consumer-focused apps, BEES makes use of artificial intelligence-driven algorithms to suggest products that may be relevant to a specific retailer and offer alternatives should a product be out of stock.
Legate says, “it enhances the sales model by letting us shift away from the more transactional type of conversations that business development reps might have had with customers in the past in order to really focus their time on category management, business insights, and business development.”
by the numbers
Launched in Canada in March 2022, BEES is empowering Quebec retailers to not only grow their businesses but thrive.
The number of BEES users in Quebec.
The number of orders placed through BEES in Quebec.
The number of monthly active BEES users globally.
Labatt’s customers have benefited from lessons gleaned from the platform’s rollout in other markets, including South America, Mexico, the United Kingdom, South Africa, China, and South Korea. Some 55 percent of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s revenue is now generated digitally, enabled by the BEES system, according to Legate.
Of course, Canada is a unique market, and its retailers face distinctive challenges, which is why Quebec—a jurisdiction that plays host to a diverse array of small- and medium-sized retailers, from corner stores to small chain grocers—is serving as testing ground prior to the system’s launch in provinces and territories across the country. According to Legate, it’s been a huge success.
“We have over 6,400 users in Quebec, and we’ve now processed over 90,000 BEES orders in that market since launching in March,” he said. “About 90 percent of our company’s net revenue in Quebec is now coming through digital means enabled by BEES.”
“We want BEES to help bring solutions to customers that can help improve their business overall.”
Using Labatt’s vast footprint and distribution network allows the brewer to connect with business owners and ultimately uplift local economies by helping retailers do business smarter and better with technology.
According to Legate, BEES is creating an opportunity to transform what a beer and beverage company can be. By taking a tech-first, forward-thinking approach, Labatt wants to use the platform to evolve interactions with its partners and support their businesses in ways that haven’t been possible in the past.
“You don’t operate in this environment for 175 years if you’re not constantly innovating and iterating on what we can do,” says Legate. “BEES is the next step forward and demonstrates where we are headed as a total beverage company—propelling our marketing and sales into an exciting digital future.”