Trying to find a flexible winery eCommerce solution?
Finding a flexible winery eCommerce solution can be a daunting task. The number of winery eCommerce solutions available today can literally make your head spin. It’s no wonder though, since there are over 400 wineries in Napa County and just about that many more in Sonoma. Multiply that across the rest of the wine growing regions in the world and you end up with a lot of wineries trying to figure out the best way to sell online.
Speaking with people in the industry, and I was in the industry as well, I have discovered that aside from finding a system that handles all of their needs, they want a system that is flexible and gives them room to grow and change. That’s why we partnered with Nexternal, to provide our clients with the enterprise grade and flexible Tummel.Me + Nexternal winery eCommerce solution.
I like to think I’m pretty special because I get to live in the beautiful Napa Valley and we, I say we in the same way the fly that sits on the ox’s ear says “look at us plowing this field,” make some pretty spectacular wines; as do our neighbors to the west in Sonoma. However, I’m going to say something here that will ruffle some feathers and it may take some convincing to get my partner to let me publish this post.
Wine is sexy, and Napa and Sonoma wines are some of the sexiest in the world, but when it comes to eCommerce your just not that special. In the 4th quarter of 2011, total estimated US eCommerce sales were over 50 Billion dollars. If you like to geek out with numbers, here’s the US Census report link. The point is, winery eCommerce is a small fraction of the eCommerce industry (we all want to change that of course).
What I’m getting at, is there is a lot of time and money being spent by industry giants to build better eCommerce systems and the only real unique part for the wine industry is that it’s a controlled substance with interstate shipping restrictions and compliance rules. If you think for a moment that online retail giants like Amazon don’t have CRM systems that do the same things we label as wine clubs, you’re very wrong. If you think a winery is the only business that needs to integrate online sales with on premise sales I invite you to order something from Office Depot and select in store pick up as your fulfillment method. What I’ve seen happen in the wine business is some very clever people package broad market tools into a proprietary all-in-one system and label it for the wine business. This results in eCommerce and content management systems (CMS) that are narrowly supported, inflexible and overpriced.
When you buy into any proprietary system, you better make sure it’s everything you want now and can possibly dream about in the future because you’re gonna be stuck with it for a while. In the last month I have had 4 clients come to me distraught over the fact they had bought into a proprietary system and were unable to change the look and feel of their site and they were unable to make a change without starting from scratch. Another 2 had issues with lack of development support on the proprietary (CMS) they were married to. I want to clarify that only 2 of these were winery clients, the others were businesses in different industries but faced the same issues.
The Flexible Winery eCommerce Solution
When looking for a flexible winery eCommerce system, I suggest looking over the hills that border your vineyards to see what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace. If you look past some of the giants mentioned above that have huge in-house development groups you’ll find scores of really clever people utilizing broad market powerhouses to handle their content management and commerce needs at a price that isn’t skewed by being industry specific.
As a base, we suggest using one of two open source content management systems (open source means free and generally widely supported), we use WordPress and Joomla. An analysis of the top 1 million websites in the world shows that almost 65% of those run either WordPress (54%) or Joomla (10%). Aside from being able to accomplish just about anything you could dream of doing on your website with one of these two systems, they are easy to operate for the end user; hence the broad use of them. Also, since these systems are so widely deployed your web designer and developer is replaceable without scraping what’s already in place. At Tummel.Me, we love our clients and endeavor to make sure they love us too, but one of the best things we can do for them is provide the opportunity to grow and change, even if this means changing to a new web developer, without starting over. You may be asking yourself if these are powerful enough for you to use and grow with since the core system is free. I suggest you follow this WordPress link and see some of the folks using it.
Next, put in place an eCommerce system that is a chameleon, able to skin itself to match your website and brand seamlessly while stealthily moving about the marketplace just doing its job. The system should not be so rigidly tied to your CMS that you are prevented from changing your website hosting environment or web designer. You should also be looking for an eCommerce platform that is experienced in the broad market not just in the wine business. These are just some of the reasons we recommend using the Nexternal eCommerce Platform. They have some amazing tools for the wine industry, but the wine industry only represents 1/3 of their client base (that means lots of cutting edge development). Although they integrate seamlessly with your website, their system is portable and you are free to have complete ownership of your web presence. They are powerful and have a great track record both in and out of the wine business. You can see some of their featured clients by following this Nexternal link. Lastly, they have an office in Napa staffed by Pamela who has spent most of her professional life in the wine business.
This post is already far longer than I anticipated it would be when I started writing it so I will wrap it up. Maybe I’ll get a bit deeper in an upcoming post but before that I think I need to do a piece on winery website design. It seems that too often winery sites focus only on visual design and ignore usability. But that’s a topic for a different day… Until then, if you are looking for a flexible winery eCommerce solution you should check out what Tummel.Me + Nexternal can do for you.Tummel.Me + Nexternal eCommerce