Wine Merchant Uncorks Web Analytics

The nation's leading online wine retailer employed business intelligence to better merchandize its product line, proving that even at No. 1, there's room for improvement.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 30, 2005

3 Min Read

Wine consumers have been known to ask a few questions before making a purchase. The type, region, winery, and, finally, the price, are all serious considerations. So with seemingly endless possibilities before them, consumers need a wine retailer to not only help them make a selection, but to point them to it. For, the question was how best to do this. The answer came in the form of business intelligence.

The company wanted to make sure the move was safe and that customers were getting what they wanted. However, there was no customer analysis in place to determine this. According to Jay Shaffer, VP of Customer Experience, any information they received came from log files generated by their IT division. The process was a tedious one.

"We simply needed better methods," he said. And with more than 14,000 bottles of wine and items like specialty chocolates, flowers, and gourmet gift baskets, it was necessary to find an effective way to evaluate where customers were clicking on the site, and to respond in a timely way. Moving in such a direction would allow the company to better market its diverse products and merchandize its Web site based on customer preference.

That move came in November of 2003 with the implementation of SiteCatalyst, a Web analytics-based BI technology developed by Omniture. The program works by having clients tag their site with simple JavaScript. Click data gathered by those tags is communicated directly to Omniture's servers, which report all results in real time. A company can, for example, see exactly where they're losing customers on their e-commerce function, or analyze how specific pages in a campaign are performing. And with the data being so actionable, changes can be made immediately.

For it was important to see where customers were clicking in order to get to the next stage in the buying process. Using the technology, they were able to understand customer activity and make determinations that weren't possible before. They learned, for example, that customers did not want to be directed to specific wines; they wanted to be provided with entire lists. And they found that their now popular "90+ Point Wines Under $20" feature was the most frequently clicked link on their site. With some tweaks on the marketing side they were able to boost overall sales on that line substantially, the company said.

If that wasn't enough, this past Valentine's Day the company sent out e-mails advertising all kinds of items from flowers to gift baskets, and the marketing team tagged everything on the site that had a good chance of selling over the holiday. The data they received from customers showed, to their surprise, that the most popular product was an adult-themed board game. This information prompted them to quickly re-merchandize their site to feature the game and the results were impressive -- more than one thousand units sold in five days.

According to Shaffer, the company couldn't have gotten this information through any other data source in time to make the necessary changes. "With SiteCatalyst you can find out how best to merchandise and sell to customers," he said.

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