Welcome to the Vin65 blog. We are using this space to try and convey our little piece of insight into winery websites and best practices to sell more wine online.
If you haven't heard the news... WineDirect has acquired Vin65.
There is a lot of emotion when making a decision like this - and the decision certainly wasn't easy. Here is a look at why I sold and how it might affect you.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say money played a large role. The financial incentive was attractive. Having said that there is a lot I like about the current WineDirect team and I'm going to give 100% there. Yes, there have been some issues in the past with WineDirect, but the last couple of years the new management (under Joe Waechter's direction) has done a good job of turning that around.
I've spent a lot of time with Joe Waechter. From regular phone calls to having him as guest speaker at our employee retreat, his experience growing DHL and other companies has been instrumental in guiding me the last couple of years as Vin65 experienced some large growth.
Some may question why WineDirect and Vin65 should be together (and Vin65 will continue to work with all of the wine fulfillment houses). Joe and I both see a future in Direct-to-Consumer wine sales. We argue about some of it, but we both agree that DTC is growing in importance and we have the same vision for the future.
I’m excited about DTC and that is a large part of this deal.
If you’re a Vin65 customer, it doesn't really affect you immediately. WineDirect is committed to letting Vin65 operate independently. It’s like Amazon and Zappos or like WineDirect and Call For Wine today. I’ll continue to be the President of Vin65 and I am keeping our core values.
Over time there will be changes. Vin65 started off with a handful of winery clients. We've acquired some enterprise clients, we took on the licensing of the IBG (now WineDirect) customers, and a lot of smaller wineries have signed up with Vin65. With each new staff member and each new client, Vin65 changes a little. Today with over 700 sites Vin65 is not the same company it was 4 years ago. In the future it’s going to continue to change.
I'm personally committed to fighting for our core values (and while WineDirect has some great values, I'll be pushing to keep ours). I'm personally committed to pushing the Vin65 platform further. The incremental change you see weekly on the platform will continue in the future. I'm excited about the long time staff I've had and I've worked hard to include them into the acquisition. I'm also excited about a lot of the new employees at Vin65 (the team is just awesome!). While I no longer get involved in every site that launches on our platform, I am committed to staying the course, to being innovative, and putting out a product that pushes DTC sales forward.
We have no major plans to change pricing, contracts, etc. All of our contracts are month to month and if we aren't servicing you correctly I'd ask that you personally contact me.
At Vin65 we have a great relationship with Copper Peak and we enjoy good relationships with WineShipping, Amedeo, Pack n Ship, Safe Haven, and other fulfillment houses. (Too many to mention here but we love you all). We also have great relationships with other wine vendors like Ship Compliant, Napa Valley POS, Oztera, KLH, Elypsis, and others.
We are going to work hard to maintain those relationships. Not every client is a great client for Wine Direct fulfillment, and we believe in choice. We are going to continue to work with other fulfillment companies (and we are hoping that PK still invites us to his house parties :) ).
I know that WineDirect fulfillment is going to continue to work with our competitors. There are no family exclusives here.
As for ecommerce, I've enjoyed the competition with eWinery, Nexternal and others. It's great to have competition in the space (and it makes for a better product for everyone). I know they will have a lot of comments about this acquisition. I hope that we continue to provide great competition for you.
I recognize that an acquisition like this brings questions. Feel free to comment below (commenting is wide open and will not be deleted unless they are spam or vulgar). Feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my personal cell phone at 604.613.5343.
When consumers interact with your brand in any way, whether it be at the vineyard on a tour, in the tasting room, the vineyard restaurant, or in your retail store, you have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of customer service. These five points will challenge you to rethink how your customers perceive your brand and how you can improve your customer service.
Think about the experience your customers get when they purchase from you. What encourages them to keep coming back to your winery as opposed to trying the new winery next door? You might think it's the service, or the atmosphere, or the events that you hold. Perhaps it is, but do your customers know that they're appreciated? I suggest demonstrating this in the form of a promotion on your website, or an event geared as an appreciation night. Even the smallest initiatives can make the biggest differences in how your customers feel.
Think of the times you've been blown away by customer service. I can bet you that the underlying theme in most of those situations has been that the business has exceeded your expectations. When you throw in something extra and give more than what's expected, you leave your customers in awe. They're so excited by it that they'll remember your name, recommend you to their friends, and they'll keep coming back over, and over, and over. It can be something as simple as a coupon for a future discount with their purchase that you haven't advertised or maybe it's a sincere hand-written thank you note sent out to each club member for being such loyal customers. The question to ask yourself is, "what can I give my customers that they cannot get anywhere else?"
It's hard to think of a business I've called recently that doesn't have some sort of automated response - it's frustrating, isn't it? This doesn't just apply to phone calls. When someone enters your tasting room, the attendant should be personable, not an automated machine. Try to ensure that the tasting room attendant engages in conversation with your customers rather than just pour wine and swipe credit cards. As Andrew says, don’t forget the personal service. Learning your regular customer's first names and using them when you see them or talk to them on the phone will make them feel valued and important.
I once read a story of a man who needed an extra set of keys for his apartment and, on his way to work, stopped at the locksmith around the corner to have keys cut. After going back to his apartment to check the new keys, one didn't work. He returned to the locksmith where a new copy was made and when he returned home it still didn't work. Now being 30 minutes late for work, he returns to the locksmith for a third time in a place of rage, ready to unleash his anger on the locksmith. After looking at the key again the locksmith says "ah. It's my fault,"; and the man's anger evaporated. Taking the blame when appropriate can make the difference between inspiring a customer and bad publicity via word-of-mouth. Keep in mind that word-of-mouth spreads much faster than it used to with the use of social media.
Having mystery shops conducted on your winery is a great way to measure your quality assurance because it's cost effective, unbiased, targeted, and the data is current and relevant. Mystery shopping is assessed by finding Customer Service Opportunities (CSO) and each industry has different areas for their CSO. For example, McDonald's has monthly mystery shops that measure speed of service, food quality, restaurant cleanliness, order accuracy, and friendliness. The luxury hotel industry is very serious about this as well and even has a company that provides comprehensive benchmarking data from conducting audits. Companies such as In Short Direct Marketing, WISE Academy, and TexaCali Wine Co. provide mystery shopping for wineries and are worth taking a look at for the services they offer.
As we careen through 2011 and the influence of social media continues to grow, it is important to remember the potential reach that your brand has. By finding ways to impress and inspire your current customers, you not only retain their business, but you gain new customers when these inspired customers share the experience with their friends.
Now that you have new insight on how to improve customer service, what will you consider changing?
I was recently travelling with one of our sales reps and was intrique by the line of question that wineries asked us. A number of people fell into one of two camps:
Inward Facing: This type of person asked operational type questions about how the website could make their operations easier. Questions like: Does our platform integrate with their POS system? How can they get UPS shipping labels out of our platform? Almost all of the questions centered around the operations at the winery and how we could make it easier.
Outward Facing: This type of person asked sales type questions about how the website could sell more, how customers interact with it, and how they could go to market better or more efficiently with a website.
I'm not arguing against either of these camps. There is a need for both. I was just really intrigued by how some people really tended to lean one way. For myself, when I look at personality types, I typically like to know where I fit in so I can realize that other people think different than me.
So are you inward or outward?
We would like to welcome Brian Zacharias to the Vin|65 team this morning. (We'll get his picture up someday)
Brian joins are team in a programming and development role. For the first few months he will be working on some custom development projects. Brian has a Bachelor of Computer Information Systems and has a strong background in webservices, C#, and database development.
If you end up talking to him, seeing him in the office, or seeing him at the gym with us make sure you say hi.
As a small winery owner you are expected to do it all. You are running the big show. You are on the hook for the results.
Here is a shortened list of responsibilities:
As a web service provider we also like to add some, because if you have a web site you should also be doing these things:
My guess is that all the things that go into making the most of your web site and making your web site great fall between the cracks. Unless you are a larger winery who can afford to have a dedicated staff or multiple staff in the web department most of those web tasks simply don't get thought about, much less accomplished.
At Vin | 65 we are passionate about the web and making your sure your customers have a great experience buying your wine. We also bring a lot of experience and a great tool set to our customers so that they don't have to stress out about a lot of this stuff because it is built right in. We know our winery and wine retail customers are busy enough already. Let us be the web experts in your corner, so that you can focus on making amazing wine.
Want to know more about what we offer, how we can make your life easier, what the heck a blog is...contact us.
Have you used your own website? Try completing an order on your site. Try ordering multiple products. Where does the 'continue shopping' button take you? Can you figure out the shipping easily?
What are the most common questions customers ask? Try finding the answers from the homepage on your website - can you?
Have you tried emailing customer service from your website? How many clicks till you found the customer service email address? How long till someone responds?
Thinking about starting a new winery or a new brand? Make sure you own the domain name.
Do you have an existing winery or brand, make sure you own your domain name. (If a friend, a web developer, or someone else assisted you in purchasing the domain name, make sure the ownership of the domain is in your control)
Also, make sure that you don't let your domain name expire.
Sometimes these things might seem obvious but you would be suprised how many times they are forgotten until too late. (Even large software companies like Microsoft have let their domain names lapse a couple times).
If you need assistance in figuring out who owns your domain name, feel free to call our office. Alternatively you can generally figure out who owns a domain and when a domain is expiring by doing a whois search.
I don't know where I saw it, or if it just came to me, but I have a little note written on my to-do list this past week that says 'you win by caring'.
Picking up the phone, responding to an email, and in general just adding emotion often is all it takes to win. The biggest mistake is to believe that features and appearance matter the most.
I attended the fall Okanagan Fall Wine Festival Medal Winner Tastings in Penticton, BC held at the Penticton Trade & Convention Center.
The tasting was in a small meeting room with approximately 25 tasters who were either lovers or industry members. Wine glasses were waiting for us with corresponding numbers on a paper underneath the glasses to remember which wine was which (it came in handy after you've tasted all 10 wines).
One of the judges from the festival led the tasting and explained why wines received gold, silver and bronze and the differences between the different medal levels.
The event started 15 minutes late because the organizers left the white wine outside to keep it chilled but someone walked away with it, all of the white wine was stolen! The delay was to quickly replace the missing wine.
The first wine that we tasted was the silver medal winning Dirty Laundry Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2007. This wine was very balanced, smooth from start to finish and a great toasting taste emerged on the finish, one of the best Chards I've had.
The second wine was the gold medal winning Lang Vineyards Riesling Farm Reserve 2007. This was by far my favourite wine of the tasting. Of the two typical Riesling types, this is more of the German style. It has a mineral and wet stone hints but is very fruit forward with a burst of sweetness that is perfected with a long finish that ends citrusy. The citrus finish creates the perfect balance that's not overly sweet because the acidity dries out the sweetness. This is a very versatile wine and can be paired with many dishes or enjoyed by itself. I went to the winery afterwards to buy several bottles but it wasn't released yet! I'm picking up a few of these the next time I'm in the area.
Next was a silver medal Cedar Creek Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2007. This is where my pallet disagreed with the silver medal rankings. I say this because Gewurztraminer is typically my go-to wine and I wasn't overly impressed with Cedar Creeks offering. It did have a long finish that left you wanting anther sip, but I've had better.
We had a surprise gold medal entry (because of the stolen wines) of Road 13 Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2007. There aren't too many wineries in the Okanagan experimenting with Chenin Blanc grapes because consumers haven't yet gravitated to this grape in the Okanagan, but Road 13 uses them admirably. This wine had a nice aroma and a consistent taste from start to finish and would be good for aging for 2 to 5 years.
The first red wine we tasted was the gold medal winning Church and State Estate Winery Merlot Coyote Bowl Vineyard 2006. Church and State is actually located on Vancouver Island, but they have vineyards in the Okanagan and right on their label they'll post where the wine came from (in this case it came from Coyote Bowl, located on Black Sage Bench, Oliver BC). The Merlot was the highest entered grape in the competition (and also received the fewest number of awards). This was a smooth Merlot with good tannins and I think it would age well for 4 to 5 years.
The second Red we tried was the gold medal Sandhill Wines Small Lots Syrah Phantom Creek Vineyard 2006. This Syrah was rated the best red wine from 6 out of the 8 judges. Hands down this was a suburb Syrah, good spice and smoky taste. If you like Syrah, definitely try this one. The bottle we tried in this tasting was corked but I tried another bottle afterwards was amazing.
We tried the Inniskillin Okanagan Malbec Discovery Series 2006. The Malbec is one of the 6 wines used in the making of the red Bordeaux wine blend. It had hints of coffee and chocolate as well as leather and mushroom. This wine is good for drinking right now with its clarity and consistency of fruit. The Malbec is another grape not typically used by itself in the Okanagan.
Gold medal winning Road 13 Vineyards 5th Element 2006 was the next wine we tired. 5 different grapes are used in this blend (hence the name 5th Element), 38% Merlot, 28% Cab Franc, 22% Cab Sauv, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. I would describe this wine as raw and aggressive, well crafted with lots of pepper. I seemed to pick up a hint of something new each time it tried it that made me want more.
The gold medal winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Gabriel Blanc de Blanc NV (no vintage means different years were used in this wine) was the only sparkling wine that we tried. This wine was dry and a great quote was "this wine has a suck the air out of you sort of dryness". It had a good length, very consistent, small bubbles (generally for bubbles, the smaller the better). Blanc de Blanc means that only Chardonnay was used in this sparkling wine. Summerhill sets the benchmark for sparkling wines from the Okanagan.
Jackson-Triggs Winery Proprietors' Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2007 won a gold medal. This wine had a great honey taste with just the right sweetness that wasn't overpowering. It has a silky finish with aromas of fresh fruit; I noticed apple and some tropical fruits.
Albeit his speech might be a bit all over the place in terms of topic but one thing stands out loud and clear, Gary Vaynerchuk is passionate about what he does.
In this 15 minute video, Gary gives his keynote speech at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York. He talks about building a personal brand through social media, a topic that he has a LOT of experience with and has used himself. If you can handle some foul language this video is definately worth watching.
Gary became famous from being the host of Wine Library TV (WLTV), a free daily video blog where he gives wine advice in an abrasively honest sort of way to his cult-like fan base. In a self quote Gary describes himself as having a “unique identity as both a wine expert and a "real person" that has reinvented the concept of wine tasting for a new generation.”
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