Thursday, March 25, 2010

RueLaLa of the Wine Industry

Many shoppers are familiar with RueLaLa (www.ruelala.com) an online shopping experience offering large discounts on designer clothes, jewelry, bags etc. These sales are usually timed and only available for two days or until items are sold out. Launched this week was The Winery Insider, (www.wineryinsider.com). A similar concept to RueLaLa, which sells fine wine at discounted prices. Started by two wine industry entrepreneurs with access to hundreds of labels offering timed sales on highly sought after wines sold at a discounted prices.

At first, I thought this is just another way to buy wine but once I created my free log in, I started to look around at the sales. The discounts are significant, as much as 40%-80% off. Right away I recognized some of my favorite labels. I am not a huge online shopper, especially when it comes to wine. There is something about the experience of going into a wine shop, touching all the bottles and asking questions. However, this website is a great way to get deals on your favorite labels or even try something new without paying full price.

On the flip side, I've been thinking a lot about wineries who are having trouble moving inventory due to lower sales during the tough economic times. The Winery Insider provides a unique opportunity for wineries to connect with wine enthusiasts and devoted customers. For wineries this is another avenue to sell to customers who may be sticker sensitive and are spending less on the average bottle of wine. The great potential for wineries is the ability to discount their wines and stay connected to their customers. Take for example, a customer who is a devoted fan of a winery who sells their portfolio ranging from $40-$75 a bottle. This customer has recently started to spend less on the average bottle of wine in order to save money. They have changed their spending patterns to wineries with a portfolios priced between $25-$45 a bottle. The Winery Insider provides a platform which allows the more expensive winery to sell their wines and still be a part of this customer's life. With the discounted prices once again fitting into this customer's budget, the winery not only moves inventory but the label remains fresh in the customers mind and continues to establish brand loyalty with this customer. This customer remains loyal to their favorite winery during and after the recession because the winery took into account that they were spending less per bottle and accommodated. Once the economy turns around there may be fewer sales but this customer recognizes the winery accommodated to their lifestyle and stuck with them through tough times so they remain loyal throughout their lifetime.

As much as a "sale" may not sound attractive to wineries now, I think it is imperative to remain the featured label being poured at the dinner table. This is the time to be creating strong brand loyalty that will pay off later. The Winery Insider is a great platform for wine enthusiasts to have access to their favorite wine labels and for wineries to remain connected to their customers. The model for wine sales is changing and this is just one of the ways.

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