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For the latest in Direct-to-Consumer sales.  Featuring posts on compliance, direct sales tips and trends in the wine industry.

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WineDirect Admin
 
September 28, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Distilled Lessons in Shareable Branding for Wineries

There has been much conversation over the last couple of years related to a consumer phenomenon known as “trading up.”

Trading up is simply the practice of consumer buying where you selectively “trade-up” to purchase better products and trade down to pay for other purchases.

The best example of this in application is the person that drives a BMW to shop at Wal-Mart (and if you’ve been to the new Wal-Mart on 29 in American Canyon, you know what I mean). A premium vehicle is important (trading-up), while, perhaps, buying household cleaning products at the lowest possible price provider is “trading down.”

The notion behind this is that as consumers, we selectively isolate luxury items for ourselves, even if our income isn’t always in the affluent category.

Wine is very much a part of this “new luxury” consumer buying activity and you need look no further then the fact that Costco, the largest retailer of wine in the country, is also a retail discounter whose business model is predicated on premium luxury coupled with discounted staples. Think of a $35 bottle of wine and jumbo packs of canned green beans.

Tina Caputo has a nice summary article on this cultural aspect in a recent Wines & Vines article here. Highlighting a panel discussion called “Trading Up: The Sustainability of Luxury Brands” presented at the Wine Industry Financial Symposium on September 17th, Caputo notes one of the tenets of luxury wine marketing: authenticity.

This excerpt from the article explains:

Rather than choosing products for status reasons, “new luxury consumers” focus on pampering themselves with high-end experiences. “There has to be an intangible element of your brand” to connect with this consumer, Bryant said. It must make an emotional connection to the consumer, and have rational support to back it up.

This category of consumers doesn’t shop according to price, and is more likely to spread the world about a brand or experience via the Internet–a characteristic that makes them particularly influential. Consumers in the “new luxury” category are also enthusiastic wine drinkers–a recent survey showed that 24% of participants consumed 4-9 glasses within the previous week.

“New luxury consumers do a lot of homework before buying,” Bryant said. Therefore, your website should enhance the image of your wine.

For obvious reasons, your web site is important as the door to your brand, but a couple of other insights into branding might be valuable as well.

An incredibly insightful book called Brand Hijack offers the following 6 tenets for a “shareable brand,” one that fits into a “new luxury” model and one that incents people to make an emotional connection with your wine brand:

  1. It appears to be evolving
  2. It appears to be honest
  3. It appears to be innovative and creative
  4. It appears to have a strong moral character
  5. It appears to have a strong proactive orientation
  6. It appears to be altruistic in nature

I would add a 7th tenet, as well:

  1. It appears to be socially and environmentally responsible.

A good example of this in action is the wine brand Cameron Hughes, sold not so coincidentally at Costco.

  1. Cameron Hughes Wine number their wine in lots—each lot grows numerically, so that I can easily follow that I last bought “Lot 18, and “my gosh they are up to Lot 37 already.” The brand definitely evolves.
  2. Cameron Hughes Wine is completely transparent about his negociant business model. The brand is definitely honest.
  3. Cameron Hughes Wine has built their business off an entirely new business model, starting with a single customer. The brand is definitely innovative and creative.
  4. Cameron Hughes Wine doesn’t bottle just anything they run across, they are building a reputation for quality at price point and their repeat customers are bearing out a strong moral character.
  5. Cameron Hughes Wine is championing direct sales, good old fashioned hucksterism at Costco’s, aggressive sampling in the online wine community and aggressive PR. They definitely have a proactive orientation.
  6. Cameron Hughes Wine’ position to market is consumer advocacy—helping a customer get a quality, trusted bargain on wine. I would say this is definitely altruistic in nature
  7. Cameron Hughes Wine now has an “Evergreen” line of wine that has lead them into carbon offsets. They are the first American wine negociant company to be 100 percent carbon neutral. They definitely are socially and environmentally responsible.

So, there you have it. “New luxury” marketing, “shareable branding” and an example of it in action … it’s a lot to chew on right at harvest, but the Inertia challenge to you is to use the time you have to brainstorm how you can make your brand a “new luxury” item while incorporating seven simple steps to a shareable brand. We’ll be happy to help you implement your ideas, or brainstorm other ideas, after harvest!

WineDirect Admin
 
September 28, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

A Flash in the Pan

A couple months ago I was cruising the Serramonte mall in Daly City when I spotted an iPod Vending Machine for the first time.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “That’s so convenient. You can buy an iPod, bottle of Gatorade and pack of gum and be right on your way. You don’t even have to deal with an overly attentive salesperson breathing down your neck following you around the store.”

And that is just the way I like to shop. I am a no frills, no nonsense kind of shopper. Give me what I want and don’t make too much small talk. I like to get in and get out.

The same principle applies to shopping online. I refuse to be forced to spend excessive amounts of my precious time waiting or searching a poorly constructed site. Based upon this commonly shared distaste for sluggish, messy, disorganized stores, an e-commerce site must have heightened awareness of their users’ shopping experience.

It’s for this reason that Flash is so heavily frowned upon when it comes to e-commerce. Who wants to stare at a blank screen while a movie you don’t even want to watch is loading?


Think about it. When you are out shopping would you rather:

A. Hang around a store while you watch a product demonstration. Wait politely as time tick-tocks by until the moment you can do what you initially came in to do. SHOP.

B. Zoom by a vending machine in you rollerblades, toss in some change to the machine and WHAM-O!

The former might be interesting the very first time you buy from that store. But it’s going to get old-real quick. And those feelings of awe are going to be replaced with aggravation and frustration.

If you need proof of this, simply browse through any popular e-commerce sites. At most there may be a banner or two including some light Flash, but it will most likely be relatively small and/or quick to load. Even www.adobe.com, home of Flash CS3, does not include a Flash splash page that you need to ‘click to enter’. They know.

There are numerous other reasons why Flash should be avoided for e-commerce sites.

Information embedded into Flash is virtually invisible to most search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and others. These search engines are your gateway to the outside world as an overwhelming and increasing number of users rely on search engines daily to find information.

Assuming that your site is found, Flash splash pages can deter users from entering your site. To elaborate, your homepage is your most important page within your entire site. It receives more hits than any other page. If you use a Flash splash page, it becomes a wall between your user and your homepage. If your user never makes it to your homepage, then your chance to make that sale will undoubtedly be flushed down the toilet. Not to mention all those purchases which would have inevitably followed. In addition to all of the other referred customers you could have gained through that one customer that “X”ed out of your Flash splash page.

Moreover, Flash breaks down the web’s most fundamental and powerful features. Web features are built to allow their users to sit in the drivers’ seat. We go where we want to go. But most importantly, we get to make the decision. Flash forces its users into the backseat at the mercy of whoever built the site.

Listed below are a few examples of this dilemma:
- The “back” button doesn’t work.
- The ability to highlight, copy and paste text doesn’t work.
- Link colors don’t work.
- The “Make bigger. Make smaller” function doesn’t work.
- The “Find in Page” feature doesn’t work.

These reasons only skim the surface as to why you should avoid Flash in your website. To prevent these issues from arising, I suggest two alternatives.

1. Rather than using Flash to grab the attention of your users, focus on the quality of your photography and illustration. Coca-Cola is an example of a company which uses its images to capture the attention of its users. Its simple, clean site with plenty of white space gives breathing room to its users allowing them to better focus on the information of the site.

2. If you absolutely must use Flash consider keeping it contained within a banner and be sure to keep it under control. By that I am suggesting that “just because it CAN move doesn’t mean that it necessarily SHOULD move.” While Flash can be useful with its ability to display a series of images all within a neat, contained box, be sure that it is not overly “flashy” and does not make a nuisance of itself. Moreover, if you opt to use some light Flash within your site, be sure that it does not include any critical information that could be better communicated in text which is scannable by a search engine. Apple is a good example of a site that utilizes Flash in this fashion.

So, while Flash may win a few initial “Oooo”s and “Ahhh”s, remember the purpose of your site. If your goal is to improve your users’ shopping experience and to bring them back again and again, I advise to make your site as simple and as easy-to-use as possible.
 

WineDirect Admin
 
September 27, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Bulletproof Fonts

One of the most difficult and crucial parts of a designer’s job is to choose a typeface that fits the overall appearance of the client’s corporate identity. To know how to make that decision, one of the very first things designers need to know is that there are two major categories that all typefaces belong to: serif or sans-serif. Serif fonts are fonts with a little “foot” or strokes on the ends of the characters. Sans-serif are fonts without these strokes.

Examples of serif fonts:
Times, Georgia

Examples of sans-serif fonts:
Verdana, Arial

Most of time, when the brand has a more classic, traditional look, you would usually go for a serif font (example: www.alistapart.com). When the brand is more modern, sleek and clean, you would usually go for the sans-serif look (example: www.apple.com).

Awhile ago I came upon this site that compiled a list of 80 ‘bulletproof’ fonts that professional designers like to use for their designs. It’s a great guide for those who needs a start on pick the right typeface to fit their corporate identity. You can see the list here.

Awhile ago, I came upon this site that compiled a list of 80 “bulletproof” fonts that professional designers like to use for their designs. It’s a great guide for those who need a start on picking the right typeface to fit their corporate identity. You can see the list here.

So next time, before you haste to choose that Comic sans for your design, look through the list and you just might find something better.

WineDirect Admin
 
September 25, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Wine and Food Matching

Just as wines that are tasted one after another, should not distract one from the other,neither should the wine consumed during the meal affect the taste of the various dishes accompanying it.The old saying, ‘red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat’, is certainly not set in concrete. If the old rule says; ‘You must drink Cabernet Sauvignon with char grilled beef’, what if you don’t like beef, or, for that matter, any red wine at all?

First of all, there are no rules; they are only time honored suggestions, ideas and opinions that have developed over the years. Wine is supposed to enhance the flavors and aromas of food, and certain varieties of wine styles have been shown to compliment certain types of food.
A good tool that I found to match food to wine and wine to food is available @ http://www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher/.

This tool is only a starting point. Different cooking techniques can change the taste and style of the same food. Asian food, in all its national flavors and styles, spice, sweet and sour in the same dish, can be quite difficult to find the ideal match. The thing about matching what food to what wine is only somebody’s opinion; and nobody is completely right, and nobody is completely wrong. The answer is, of course, education and experimentation. One fact is beyond dispute - if you can find a good combination, the wine will make the food taste better and the food will enhance the wine.

WineDirect Admin
 
September 24, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

The Importance of Domain Names

As a Launch Manager here at Inertia, I’m always recommending that our clients register more than just their main domain name. The goal of a domain name is to get as much relevant traffic to your website as possible. If you don’t register as many relevant domains as possible, you may find that your competition will gladly do so.

Domain names can be as long as 63 characters with alpha and numeric characters as well as dashes. The average number of domain name characters is 11. The following (7) .com domain strings are the ones that I recommend most often because of their relevance to the wine industry. (Just place your winery name before the string; i.e. Inertiawine.com):

1.…wine.com
2.…wines.com
3.…winery.com
4.…vineyard.com
5.…vineyards.com
6.…cellar.com
7.…cellars.com

Fact 1
According to VeriSign and Zooknic, as of July 2007, the total base of domain name registrations worldwide was 138 million across all of the Top Level Domain Names (TLDs). While there are other Top Level Domain (TLD) options to choose from (.net, .org, .biz, .info, .name), .com remains the largest TLD in terms of its total base of registrations, with .de (Germany), and .net following. (see chart below)

Fact 2
The number of new registrations hit an all time high in the second quarter of 2007 with 14.5 million new domain name registrations. Country Code (cc) TLDs were a major factor driving the continued growth in new registrations with China (.cn) showing the most growth. There are more than 240 ccTLD extensions globally but the top ten ccTLDs contribute 66% of the total. Below are the top 10 ccTLDs from a domain name base of 51.5 million

Fact 3
According to VeriSign, July 2007, 88% of all .com and .net domain names resolve to a website, whether live or parked. Live websites are multi-page websites being used by an organization or an individual and parked websites are defined as one-page websites.

In terms of e-commerce, domain name selection should be just as important as the type of wine you choose to offer your customers. Without a good domain name, your website may never receive the traffic it deserves. And if you choose not to register all the relevant domain names, you may be giving away customers to your competition.

 

 

 

WineDirect Admin
 
September 21, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Rethink Wine Blog on Twitter

There’s an addition to our feed links over at the bottom of the sidebar: Twitter. If an RSS feed wasn’t good enough for you now you can see Rethink Wine Blog updates via twitter at twitter.com/RethinkWineBlog or on your phone, or IM or 3rd party app or however you roll in Twitterspace. This is all thanks to twitterfeed which lets you create tweets from any RSS feed.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter…..well it’s hard to explain. It’s sort of like micro-blogging meets public instant messaging. It’s become extremely popular with everybody from the New York Times to Darth Vader getting involved. Find out more at the Twitter FAQ.
 

WineDirect Admin
 
September 20, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

The Importance of Requirements Gathering

Requirements gathering can be a monster of a process – ideas, comments, must-haves, criticisms, nice to haves and just one mores coming from all directions. So take a deep breath and try to relax…
Preparation, organization, a great facilitator, and accessibility are key to emerging from this jungle with the most effective, user-friendly system satisfying all client needs and more. Preparation allows us to lay a basic foundation of the information and resources we have, list the information and resources we need, figure out where to obtain them, adjust budgets if necessary, create documentation templates, and clear our minds for what’s to come. Organization should be present throughout the entire process, and this is probably one of the hardest parts. Particularly with a large project, it’s important to group your general requirements accordingly, schedule brainstorming sessions, and involve the right people. Too few attendees may result in an unproductive session while too many may result in an even more unproductive session. This leads to the need for one or more solid facilitators. The role is a very difficult one to play. No matter how intelligent we all are or how much we know, the overwhelming yet precious amount of information gleaned in meetings may be useless unless it’s constantly manipulated in the right manner. Don’t forget that pushing, poking, and bothering is encouraged – this could mean playing devil’s advocate, playing dumb, or asking the most basic of questions – do we really need this? Are we missing the point?

And finally we come to accessibility, or the ability to access the knowledgebase available to you. Everyone here welcomes constant poking and prodding, so it comes down to asking the right questions, getting the right information, and analyzing it.

These are just some of the ways to best leverage the incredibly talented team we have here.

The requirements process has a very high, if never-ending learning curve. Something can always be done better and it can always be bigger in the right way. This is a challenging task, and the process to get there should continuously build on lessons learned.

WineDirect Admin
 
September 19, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Why reinvent the wheel

I’ve been getting these same questions from day to day and I don’t blame anyone for asking them. It’s like hearing your friends talk about iPhone and all of a sudden you have to have one yourself. Or learning about Bluetooth for the first time, and the next thing you know, your oven talks to your computer over Bluetooth. New technology is exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to build one from the ground up.

So what’re the questions I keep getting time and time again?

  1. “Can you build me a blog?”
  2. “Can you build me a social network?”
  3. “Can you build a video player for my website?”

etc. etc. etc.

My answer is always the same. If the purpose of these new “toys” is to drive traffic back to your website, then “if you build it and they will come” is nothing but daydreaming. Use tools, great tools, that already exist out there for everything you can think of under the sun. These tools not only give you more features than you could possible dream to use, they also provide you entry to something bigger, a bigger audience, a bigger pool of potential visitors to your websites.

Take youTube for example. Why host your videos on your own site, and pray that someday, someone is going to stumble across your videos when you can upload them to youTube, and instantly, you have millions of viewers doing all kinds of keyword searches, and might just be looking for video clips on wineries, wine tasting, or what have you? Same goes for your blog. Being a part of a blog community is great. Most blogs will let you be part and sign up for different communities, groups of people who are blogging about the same topic, with feeds flying all over the Internet.

So don’t reinvent the wheel. It defeats the purpose (driving traffic back to your site), and you’re spending money on building a tool that will never stand up to what’s already out there (youTube, Flickr, Word Press, the list goes on and on).

WineDirect Admin
 
September 18, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Free Marketing

Most of the businesses are always looking for cheap and effective marketing services and tools. They pay a lot to advertise and market their products. A lot of the businesses either underestimate the power of the free marketing provided by the Search Engines or do not put enough effort.

Getting traffic from search engines is like finding a gold mine. Search engines help you introduce your products to the Internet users who are interested in your products. Good Search Engine ranking will continue to bring a steady stream of new users to your website which helps in increasing the customer base and your selling acumen.

Ranking high on Search Engines may not be that difficult. One of the important things you need to concentrate on is CONTENT. Rich and unique content will help you to take the first step in Search Engine Marketing. Just think what words would you as a user use to find a particular product, then make sure you use those words to describe the product. Do not try to cheat Search Engines by repeating words without any reason or hiding certain words on the page, you might end up being removed from the SEs.

I see Search Engine Optimization as a way to help the Search Engine users find what they are looking for. I would encourage all our winery partners to make the best use of the free marketing provided by the Search Engines and help find the world one of the rarest and best Wines!

WineDirect Admin
 
September 17, 2007 | WineDirect Admin

Competition and Consolidation

In 2006, it has been estimated that the top 10 wine producers (who control about 82% of the market) introduced 41 new brands - for a total of 157 new SKUs - all to a network of distributors and retail chains that is consolidating and shrinking at an unprecedented rate.

Think about that - 157 new SKUs from the most powerful players in the wine business in one year! And that doesn’t even take into consideration all of the new wineries and brands from the other 18% of the market, or what’s been released so far in 2007. Those are truly amazing numbers… but think about the implications.

If you are a 3-50K case wine brand without guaranteed placement at retail, it means that it’s getting tougher and tougher for the average consumer to find to your brand at a brick and mortar wine store.

It reminds me of the music business in the early 90’s: a shrinking number of distributors and retail chains, with the major labels releasing new records at an astonishing rate. If you were an independent record label then with a new release looking for placement at retail, it was like concocting a new granola recipe in your kitchen and calling on Safeway for shelf space.

So what’s a winery to do? Well, for starters, be happy that your customers can’t download a bottle of wine over the internet.

They can, however, easily find you - and all that makes you you - with a couple clicks of their mouse. They can also buy your wine on-line. It just stands to reason that with available brands at an all time high and available SKU space at traditional distribution/retail getting smaller and smaller, consumers will be looking for choice wherever they can find it. And the internet is such a beautiful place for choice.

If you’re a winery wondering how in the world people are supposed to find your life’s passion, consider this: at Inertia, we’re the industry-leading experts in providing you with the tools and resources to help you manage all of your Direct sales- to both Consumer and Trade.

You’d be amazed at how quickly you can grow your Direct to Consumer business with dedicated planning and execution.

And our exclusive and patent-pending Direct to Trade program helps you sell Direct to retailers and restaurants in 11 States (and growing), without having to line up traditional distribution, all within compliance of local and federal laws. Talk about choice…

Breaking down the barriers between you and your customer is why we started, where we excel, and how we can help you grow your business in an increasingly competitive landscape.