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Written by Nikitas Magel   

NM:  It sounds like Bottlenotes is in many ways is a one-stop shopping destination for wine — but shopping in the broadest sense of the term in that you're offering a collection of products and services oriented around wine.

AR:  I think that's right.  Our job in the market, as I see it, is serving as a wine marketing firm for wineries and importers, helping them to get access to consumers and building out their direct-to-consumer distribution channel, all while educating and entertaining consumers who will hopefully come back for more of that education and entertainment.

NM:  You mentioned that you've launched the very first of its kind, on a national level, the Bottlenotes Wine Registry™.  Tell me about that.

AR:  The Bottlenotes Wine Registry™ is integrated with WeddingChannel.  They are, as you probably know, the largest wedding registry aggregator online.  And we are really excited about the partnership — lots of other [retailers] came to them wanting to partner in a wine registry but they didn't have the technology that we have, which is one of the many reasons they partnered with us.  It was an idea that came about literally from a single customer: we'd created wish list functionality in the old site (which is nothing new), and one of our clients at one point said to us, "Well, I love my wish list, but I'd really like to use it as a registry."  So a light bulb went off.  We did a kludgy tech workaround to make it happen the first time.  But then we decided that an elegant idea really deserves an elegant solution, and we sought to find one.  And the result was the Wine Registry in its current form.

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NM:  Wow, to my knowledge, this concept and its execution is really unique!

AR:  It's one of the best ideas I think we've had.  We've really have gotten some great traction on WeddingChannel, and we've seen definitely seen some impressive numbers in terms what people register for — they're not small cellars.  We're seeing the average cellar size that people register for to be in the range of thousands of dollars!  And the code that we're trying to crack is that while the typical couple who registers is completely fired up about wine and wants to get it as a gift, the redemption rate of what's actually purchased off the registries is still pretty low.  Now, of course, Macy's and Bloomingdale's and all those guys end up with about a 30% redemption rate — that's what we're really gunning for, because the value of the goods that are being registered for is very high; if we could get 30% of those redeemed, we'd be quadrupling our revenue.  The purchasing intent is there; the bride and groom are registering for the wine.  The question is how we get their friends and family to buy the wine, versus going to other, more traditional registries for their gift-giving.

NM:  The Wine Registry is relatively new, but I understand that Bottlenotes has been around for a couple of years, and that you recently relaunched the website.  How long has Bottlenotes.com been in the mode that it's in right now?

"We're really going after a different consumer, the new-to-intermediate wine enthusiast, as opposed to the serious collector."

AR:  Since November [2008].  We'd been gearing up for this mode six months prior, before which we were primarily an e-commerce site for about two years.  We were still providing the personalized sommelier service, and had just created the registry and corporate gifts & events platform.  But the social side of what we were doing was really limited to what we had created and then rebuilt into the new site, a feature called My Wine Cellar™, which is our trademark name for the online wine journal that we have on our site and which allows users to store information about the wines they're trying.  Although you can use it as a proper cellar tracking service, it's different from CellarTracker (run by a friend of mine), which does an extraordinary job of serving that upper right quadrant of the consumer matrix — we're really going after a different consumer, the new-to-intermediate wine enthusiast, as opposed to the serious collector.  So the [Bottlenotes] online wine journal is a place where we originally intended to be used in a one-to-one way, where the customer would go into site after having a wine they'd purchased, and rate that wine or write a tasting note on it.  But the whole notion of connecting people and cruising other people's notes wasn't the original intention.

NM:  So, the My Wine Cellar™ feature has been around since early on, but has clearly evolved.  How would you say that it's helpful to customers, and how it might be different from other similar online tools?



 

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