28-05-2018 ~ 3 Comments

Wine buying in a vacuum: Winebuyers.com

“Disruptive” is a term that raises my hackles. This is due to it either used when referring to something like Uber who are outright breaking the law or then someone who is claiming to do something new that isn’t possible. Winebuyers.com appears to be the later.

I wasn’t even aware of this website until I read this interview where I could see that the big focus was on the age-old premise of “cutting out the middle man”. All well and good and as shown in the case of Amazon.com and book stores, it can indeed be “disruptive”. There are however several ideas that don’t fly in this concept.

For starters, I’ve seen many websites attempt this exact same premise of charging wineries for a listing to then sell directly to the consumer. In fact there were a great many of these that started up in Spain in the Post Crisis Era which were borderline scams as they did nothing except have a wine listing on a website in the ether of the internet. In fact, there was one that was specializing in Catalan products who asked me to list my books which I didn’t even bother responding to. Why? Search for “Priorat wine book” and you’ll see why I’d not want to pay for a listing somewhere when my book is the first result. If you don’t know that when propositioning someone with a sales opportunity, then you don’t know what you’re doing.

Books are one thing and wine is another however and all these sites that started don’t work for several reasons. The biggest one is shipping. This is one of the most aggravating aspects to ordering wine online is that the shipping costs can be more than the wine, especially when buying just a few bottles and they just keep going up. It works well for larger enterprises like wine.com, uvinum.com, vinissimus.com, vinexus.de, etc. because they entice you to order in batches of at least six to save on shipping. Thus they sell more wine, you get it for less shipping, and all are happy. But, they physically stock the wines, they aren’t pulling this “oh, we’re just a conduit” thing that winebuyers.com is claiming.

The second big issue is the legal one of bringing wine–which classified as a form of alcohol mind you–into a country. If the shipping costs don’t kill you, then that will as it’s an additional cost. Then you have to take into account that countries such as the US who have individual states that don’t allow shipping and for a wine to be imported, its label needs to be in the ATF’s database. And, as of mid-2017, you can’t even ship wine directly to yourself and you need to use an importer to forward it on to you. Yes, that “middle man” that was so desired to be cut out has a use it turns out. Somehow all this will be taking on by the wineries who are paying to be listed on this website.

This is the reality of sending wine and winebuyers.com attempt at being “disruptive” addresses none of it. Ben Revell claims that there has “…been great progress in the field of logistics and transport that has helped this business model to become a reality…” but those are just meaningless words like “revolving opportunities to drive synergy and positive outcomes” and if you know the wine trade, you know the cold hard truth. Sure, they may get some people signing up and they may get some wineries listing there, but there’s no way it will succeed in its current form as there is a heaving chasm of reality that’s not being bridged between winery and consumer.

The fact that they’ve raised £1 million in funding means nothing as there are impossibilities which have been conveniently ignored. Now, what they could be doing is something that isn’t what they claim to be doing at all and maybe they’re actually aware that this model won’t work. In the process, they’re potentially collecting a great amount of wine drinker data as well as winery data and that could potentially be worth a great deal. This is something to keep in mind if you sign up: “we’re collecting data from our users and developing a tool which will enable us to offer suggestions based on consumer preference”.

Would this data be worth more than all the data that wine-searcher.com has? Who knows but data about wine types is the only aspect of this that I see taking flight as this premise of being a conduit for wine sales is soooo 2008.