Sunday, December 16, 2012

Some Thoughts For Online Wine Merchants - The Good, The Bad

Every so often I write about wine. Today is a good day to write about wine, because there's only one other thing to think about, one thing on the minds of all Americans, and I need a break from thinking about that for a few moments, even though I know there are over two-dozen families and a community in Connecticut that don't get the luxury of being able to take a break. 

I'm not in the wine business, I don't sell or market wine or have a business interest in a vineyard. I'm what's called "the consumer."

And I know, I'm not the average consumer. For the most part, wine merchants and wine marketers target those that get excited about things that make me laugh. As a sommelier myself and avid collector, I lament the person walking the aisles of the local wine shop just looking at price, label, and how many points, or the person who sends me an email about a wine and says it "looks good" because it's cheap and highly rated. 

I predict based on my unscientific observations that the best selling wine is "under $10 and 'smooth.'"

I want to talk to you - wine industry. I want to tell you some things about consumers like me.  Some good, some bad.

Do what you want with this. My prediction is that you will do nothing because things are good and I'm an outlier.

But here goes:

THE BAD

1. I don't care that the wine is made by "the famed winemaker from _________________." 

The grapes aren't the same. Wine starts with good grapes. I know that, and I know you know I know that, so stop emailing me that the wine is being made by the guy that made a good wine somewhere else. I don't care. Put it in a footnote, casually mention it, but stop using it as a headline.

2. Lot 18, stop emailing me whether I'm "sure I want to skip the (wine)?" It's stalky. If I want to buy it, I will. If you continue to stalk me, I won't, ever.

3. Please check cellartracker.com before telling me that Suckling gave it 96 points or that some unknown critic gave it 93 points. 

You all know that cellartracker.com is used by people like me to see how a group of different people liked the wine. When you say it's 96 points and 17 people who know wine say it's an average of 87.7, you're done. 

Would it kill you to note what cellartracker says, like CinderellaWine.com does?

4. Wines 'til Sold Out, I have no idea what the "WTSO Member Average" is. Sounds fishy.

5. Invino, your shipping costs are terrible.

6. Wine.com, you need to do more for your Steward Ship people. 

Do you not see we buy more wine based on the yearly fee we pay for free shipping? Do you think we need more weekly emails telling us free shipping folks that you're running a special "one cent shipping" deal?

7. All of you, stop discounting wine to the price for which it normally sells. 

Only idiots don't know that Caymus is about $60. When you sell it for $79 and discount it, you're being disingenuous.

8. Wine Cellarage, you get dumbest move of the year. 

You promoted free shipping to people within three surrounding states to those who bought $500 of wine? Everyone else gets nothing? Unsubscribe, goodbye.

9. Get your inventory together. 

Whatever it costs you, tell me immediately that you don't have the wine, or don't have a case. Don't call me three days later and give me the bad news. Additionally, and I'm talking to you Wine Exchange, another place I'm done with, don't promote a wine you don't have from a distributor you don't know, because when you don't get it and you have more excuses than answers, you lose a customer.

10. Winery notes are meaningless. 

Tell me what you think of the wine as a merchant. Tell me a story about the wine, how you got it, why I should buy it. I'm not buying it because it you tell me what the winery says about how the grapes were planted or the weather. Be more like Dan Posner or Jon Rimmerman (if anyone can write as much as Jon or Nicki).

11. Stop sending me a box of wine.

I will never understand why I receive boxes of wine with nothing but packing and bottles. Wineries are usually exempt from this stupidity as they will include tasting notes, and Wine.com goes as far as including a coupon for a future purchase.

But I do not understand why the rest of you include nothing? Would a handwritten note of "thanks" kill you? One time I got a note saying I looked you up and see you're a lawyer, my wife's a lawyer too." Silly little note, but it said something about the merchant. If I bought a Napa Cab don't you want to tell me that if I like it, you have another one that I may like as well? Do you not have a corkscrew with your company name on it, a hat, something? Sending boxes of wine with nothing in them is like saying "here." Silly customer retention policy. You're not the only wine retailer - you know that, right?

THE GOOD

1. Invino.com, as much as your shipping costs piss me off, I like you telling me that a wine I previously purchased is back in stock. Good move.

2. Wine.com, I noticed that very, very, very, late in the year you started offering specials to Steward Ship members - like an extra day of discounts. Nice gesture.

3. Totalwine.com, good program of buying and picking up wine at any store, but you need to promote it more as a gift idea.  It's a great gift to tell someone to go by their local Total Wine because there's a gift waiting for them. It gets someone in the store that may not have visited and gives the gift giver a way of getting a bottle of wine in the hands of someone on the same day.

4. Cellartracker.com, I love the new site design.

Love to hear any thoughts you have on the state of wine merchants.  Maybe I missed some good, or bad things, and maybe I need to know about some others out there that take care of their customers.

Anonymous comments are welcome as long as they say something relevant and half-way intelligent and aren't a vehicle for a coward to attack someone. I trust you understand.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint. Share/Save/Bookmark

3 comments:

Eric LeVine said...

Thanks Brian for the CellarTracker mentions, and I'm really glad to hear you enjoy the new site design!

-Eric

Brian Tannebaum said...

Appreciate hearing from you Eric.

Your site cellartracker is one of the greatest resources for wine consumers. It provides real commentary from real consumers, and is invaluable in making purchasing, drinking, and storage decisions.

Mark Aselstine said...

The state of online wine merchants? It's a mess, not enough consumers use Cellar Tracker, instead a ton of people are sold a bill of goods by a "trained Somm" or whatever.

Anyway, I appreciated having someone write an unbiased review of our industry, it was fun to see