There’s a new kid on the e commerce block: a Johnny come lately who’s been probably the last of the major high street type retailers to turn his (or her) bricks and mortar into a virtual store front. The local wine shop, once the province of the town or village high street, is now successfully occupying a pretty lucrative niche in cyber space.
Why has the winery become so successful so quickly? There’s a sense in which the online wine supplier is almost more popular and better patronised than its high street equivalent – so what’s going on to make online vino easier to access than bottles in the real world?
First thing to look at is the ease with which a supplier, an online store, can source and retail a greater variety of styles and vintages. This is a simple matter of space – storage space and warehousing space. A bricks and mortar store has a limited quantity of space, which means it can only display a limited number of bottles. An online wine store (like the Colchester based The Wine Company offers), on the other hand, has no limits to its space: a web site can display every single bottle, every single crate and vintage, on its pages because it has no actual walls and no floor space. The whole warehouse of an online winery is visible to its visitors, which means, of course, that they can buy whatever they want, whenever they want.
An online winery can introduce its customers to new wines; new styles and flavours with immediacy that brick built shops can’t match. When a customer loads a web site, he or she is confronted by promotional items, special offers and intriguing flavours. The “store window” or front door of an online winery is inescapable – so every promotional bottle and case must be scrutinised by the visitor. Not only must it be scrutinised, but it can also be made to look hugely appealing, with compelling text and photographs guiding a customer towards the choice to buy.
The fact that a web site is built as much of text as it is of images allows an online wine store to impart information about its products. Buying wine in the high street is a somewhat information-free exercise – here, patrons are more or less expected to guess what new wines they might enjoy based on limited comparisons with their known palates. Online, on the other hand, a purchaser can be led to new vintages, styles and flavours using the comparative technology that generates “customers who bought x might also like y” that we are familiar with from major retail sites.
It seems that the Internet is the natural ground for wine selling to really flourish. Good news for all those people who like a nice drop of something.