An open letter to On-line Wine Merchants

Here's some free advice from one of the growing number of regular and fairly prolific internet wine-buyers.  It may only be worth the price (nothing) or it may make a difference to your business if you really want to sell to us.  For example, I have been buying between $26,000 and $43,00 worth of mostly red wine in each of the past ten years (not all of it for me, I buy to share with other people at times).  The proportion bought from internet wine-merchants has varied from 26% to 44% over the past 3 years (with another 30% - 40% directly from wineries), the actual merchants vary as they come and go or they change their business models.  There are currently about 200 non-winery Australian retail internet wine sites and I buy mostly from about 10 of these.

More details of what I've been buying and where and what I think are the current bargains are here: RB Red Buyers Guide

Below are some of the do's and don'ts that determine whether you get the business or not. 

How to get my business

1.   Offer a wide range of wines, including numerous wines the chain stores don't stock, preferably offer some scarce wines and classy wines from smaller producers.  Show vintages on all vintage wines and keep the site up to date.
2.   Have competitive prices (when delivery is factored in), or at least some very competitive specials at good prices.
3.   Deliver quickly (with a reliable courier) and accurately (right wines, right vintage), let me know if there will be a delay in getting stock.  Be willing to hold delivery in hot weather.
4.   Have a good policy on corked/faulty wines.
5.   Have a reliable, secure online ordering system.  (I can live with otherwise simplistic or just plain ugly sites if the wines and prices are what I'm looking for, however ease of navigation, speed and good layout are bonuses).
6.   Offer prospective buyers incentives to be a regular customer, eg price matches, extra discounts for buys over a certain amount.
7.   Respond promptly to email enquiries.
8.   Be willing to chase up new vintages, scarce wines.

How to turn internet Wine-buyers away

1.   Claim to be have the "biggest range at the best prices" or something similar when it's patently obvious to anyone who has half a brain that the claim is ridiculously false.  If you are telling such blatant lies on your home page, why would any serious wine buyer continue?
2.   Fail to list vintages.  The price would have to be pretty special to get me to bother to even ask by email..
3.   Fail to keep the site updated.  Obviously out-dated vintages and lack of new releases makes me go elsewhere.
4.   Have all your prices at rrp or close or even over, with little discount for case purchases.  The regular buyers know about 'street' prices and 'best' prices (and communicate with each other regularly), why would we buy at un-competitive prices?
5.   Have little available on-line that can't be obtained (cheaper) at the local wine-store.  We are looking for wines we can't get easily elsewhere, or wines that are a good deal.
6.   Debit our credit cards immediately on order and then take 2 weeks or more to deliver (presumably as you get the wine in from the distributor).  If the wine isn't in stock, don't debit the card until it is confirmed available and ready to ship.
7.   Take days to respond to an email, or don't respond at all.  Ignore constructive criticisms and suggestions :-(
8.   Have pages of legalese in the background passing all responsibility to the purchaser once the wine leaves your shop, even if it's the wrong vintage!
9.   Over-hype wines, especially where it's well known to be a lesser vintage.
Now, if any of you want a detailed assessment of your web site according to the criteria above (and more), with suggestions for improvement, my rates are very reasonable, I'll take payment in red wine or good bubbly if you think the assessment is useful. :-)  Email Red Bigot

Red Bigot (Brian Handreck) 2004-2008