How retailers are making the most of ecommerce

In th­e first of a new technology-focused series, Drinks Retailing takes a closer look at ecommerce. Four-strong London operator The Good Wine Shop is ramping up online sales, while newcomer Mother Vine in Chelsea has recently launched its ecommerce service. Here, the operators share their experiences and expertise.

Mark Wrigglesworth, owner of The Good Wine Shop, has been reaping the rewards of ongoing investment in ecommerce.

 HOW HAS ECOMMERCE CHANGED FOR YOU OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS?

Dramatically. We invested in a completely new site and platform in late 2019, and dedicated ecommerce personnel as well. We were lucky and it paid off when the pandemic hit and helped us cope with the explosion in this side of the business, as we traded at 800% above our normal levels online for many months, just like many others. It is now an area where we have a dedicated team and are looking to really continue to try and invest and grow this area of the business.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE BUSINESS IS COMMERCE NOW?

It has gone from 4% of business in 2019 to 21% in 2020 and settled back to 13% in 2021. However, it should be noted that the business is twice the size now, in terms of turnover, than in 2019, having expanded from two shops to four shops in late 2019/early 2020.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES WITH UPSCALING ECOMMERCE OPERATIONS?

Logistics systems and stock management based around pick, pack and despatch. And the need for in-house ecommerce and digital expertise when we are really a wine business with passionate wine people.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER RETAILERS THAT WANT TO OPEN AN ONLINE SHOP?

If you are going to invest and really grow this area then you have to commit to it and dedicate yourself to learning new skills and specialisms and hiring people who have them to help you on the journey. Like all entrepreneurship, you need to be bold and determined to succeed while not being frightened of some painful and occasionally costly bumps along the way, particularly if you have limited knowledge and experience in ecommerce.

HOW DO YOU USE THE DATA YOU GET?

We use data to help drive our logistics planning and resources, particularly with the split over click & collect, local, national and international deliveries. In addition, we use it to target segmented customer groups, so we are sending them things that are relevant to them. For example, sending an email regarding our shop opening hours over Christmas is utterly irrelevant to our website customers who are not local and live around the UK. Ensuring we don’t send this to them is important, as otherwise people disengage.

 Nik Darlington’s new venture, Mother Vine in Chelsea, launched its ecommerce operations in December. Darlington tells us how it works and what he has learned

 DID YOU ALWAYS PLAN TO LAUNCH AN ONLINE SHOP AS WELL AS A PHYSICAL ONE?

Yes we did. First, because the shop will act as a complementary window for people to browse and get a feel for what Mother Vine offers as a merchant, even if they’re not buying online there and then. Second, it is increasingly in people’s MO to buy from their local wine merchant online, even if only some of the time.

DO YOU MANAGE STOCK FOR ONLINE SALES?

We carry a lot of rarer, mature wines at Mother Vine that don’t exist in large quantities and can’t be restocked, so there is a lot in the shop itself that people can’t buy online. There is that added reason to visit us. Stock for online sales is essentially what’s available at that particular point in time in the shop, but we try to ensure they’re wines that we can get in and out to people very quickly.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE DELIVERY?

We have worked with the APC network for several years to manage B2C sales and this has served us well. It is a next day service to most of the UK and the network is attuned to delivering wine.

IN TERMS OF BUILDING A WEBSITE FOR ECOMMERCE, WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS TO REMEMBER?

The user experience is key. That can work in two ways, depending on your outcome. You don’t have to have the most expensive site architecture, or to have it stuffed full of content. It can be very simple. Some people and some scenarios want and need all the technological bells and whistles. And other times the aesthetic, how you communicate your brand, and a “less is more” approach is what you need. Too often sites fall between those two stools.

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