Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FLASH: Value Wine Driven?

Perhaps my quest for certification as a Wine Educator is just an excuse to amp up my life-long hobby of searching out the wine worlds quality values.  Regardless, over the last few years I have gotten great satisfaction in exploring and utilizing the new wave of the wine industry's flash marketing web sites. Combined with the increasing number of Tweets, blog pages and magazine articles that arrive on my desk top each day, I am absorbing more current wine information than ever before. Each of these tools helps to bring into focus the ever-evolving global wine market that consumers increasingly have unparalleled access to.

Lots of choices make it hard to focus!

Generally, flash wine marketing sites are professional and well-run, offering buyers a limited amount of time to select from a limited number of daily wine specials at very attractive markdowns. A flash site can focus on a number selections of one brand or a single wine selection, but either way the opportunity to buy at a discount may be gone in a flash. For these wine brokers and marketers, the results of their effort to create a irresistible offer is almost web immediate.  Consumers here can't procrastinate, and typically feel like if we move quickly we're getting a great deal. Plus, these sites usually don't share their proprietary customer information with the suppliers(winery/brand), so for these retail sites there's no relationship building with the winery, only the e-commerce discount sites.
Good retailers direct us to fewer choices.

In the last half decade, wineries have been dealing with a long, recessionary economy and the consolidation of many wine distributors that can restrict their channels of revenue. Yet, wine sales have remained solid and per-capita consumption(and dollars) continues to grow across the nation. The wineries don't generally want to be known as discounters because it is so hard to rebound from, and are always market building for sustainable perceived value for their brand(s). So why use another revenue flume, like flash marketing? With flash marketing sites, wineries can clear out slow moving inventory, and raise some quick cash, and extend their reach to a savy new customer base that otherwise they may not have accessed. Plus, these sites can be a launch pad for a new brand or an easy way for an established winery to hold its pricing and merchandise their second label wines to savvy consumers.
Each a Great Wine, but which one to choose?
Current Flash Marketing sites, Like Lot 18 or WTSO(WinesTillSoldOut) fall into one of two models: either they buy the wine from a wholesaler or directly from the winery and then fulfill the order themselves. Or they take and process the order, and leave the producing winery to fulfill their order and deal with the ever-changing shipping issues. Just four(4) years ago, 25 states only allowed direct shipping from wineries or brokers, with current thirsty voter and revenue-conscience state house legislative actions, today it's grown to 38 states! Back in April of 2011 the NY Times wrote that these new flash marketing sites quickly have gained sales ground, producing annual sales in excess of $100 million. And sales for flash marketing sites continue to grow as a viable revenue alternative, moving quality wines in a persistently sluggish economy.

As flash marketing sites evolve, perhaps we'll see their tracking(and marketing) of customer selection & price point preferences, or maybe the creation of buying clubs so that like customers can take advantage of group quantity discounts.  There surely will be new access apps developed, if they are not already in the works, so that you can use links to social media sites or mobile devices to have consumers are always connected to the latest deal.  Regardless, flash marketing companies will evolve and eventually learn how to sell. Over time, the best of these innovators will succeed and find inventive ways to connect us to the deal. "Customers using these sites are loyal to the deal, not the winery", says Patz & Hall President Russ Joy.

Regardless, as the pretenders will fall by a wayside of empty wine bottles, consumers will have one more way to search out the global ocean of quality value wines.  Ultimately, these sites provide consumers like me with a broader selection of fine wines that otherwise we would not have access to in our retail communities. And, because we are thirsty and want to explore the wine world, these sites are definitely not a flash in the pan!

My focus should really be on faults in wine.  Next month I'll test(once again) to see if I am able to identify correctly the faults in six(6) glasses of the same wine at the Society of Wine Educators national conference.  In the past, I have used the fault formulas found in The University Wine Course, or a Wine Tasters Essence Kit. But, I have not been able to improve my faults recognition on testing, so I ordered an expensive kit from the Society.  Anxiously, I opened the shipping box, only to find that the ethanol or another vial had leaked, and all the identification labels were washed.  But, I'll feel better if I order some more wine on-line!