The fluidity of the world wide web is only surpassed, perhaps, by that of wine. OK, I’m reaching, here. It just sounded good.
Yet, there is something true to that idea. Things can move fast, and in sometimes suprising ways, on the Web.
For instance, thanks to a timely Tweet from Tim at Winecast, I found out that Amazon is supposed to add wine to its expanding catalogue of goods within weeks. We’ve come a long way from the world’s largest online bookstore.
Tim points out that, interestingly enough, Amazon seems to be aiming at medium-sized wineries, rather than concentrating on huge brands. Seems to fit the pattern they used for books, CDs, etc.: providing a wide range of choices from all sorts of small, medium and large publishers, labels, studios and all.
Beyond that, there are very strong features that should make things interesting: all these tools that have made Amazon a leader in online retailing can be put to use here – and not just free shipping. One of the things I’m imagining, right off the bat, is how impressive Amazon’s Recommendations features could work in cross-referencing wines. Buying suggestions saying “people who bought this also bought…”, matching styles and appreciations… Big potential to that approach. You might just find yourself with a community of like-minded wine lovers pointing each other (more or less directly) to wines they all like.
On a different scale and with a different perspective, it’s that meeting of social and commercial networks that Vinoshipper is looking towards, by selling wines from nearly 200 small wineries (many from less-known wine-producing areas) that have little access to online distribution, and also building a community (a tribe) on Vinoshipper Social, with video primers, forum discussions, etc. Vinoshipper Social has about 100 members for the moment (compared to the Open Wine Consortium, which is heading towards 2000 members), but it certainly has potential. If it can figure out more precisely how to tie in both sides of the equation.
Clear business models have yet to emerge from the Wine 2.0 world of bloggers and online forums, aggregators and other social and commercial wine sites. How is the market going to be influenced by all this? It’s going to be interesting to watch.
For instance, look at this alliance between Global Wine and Spirits and Snooth.com, which will allow wineries that are part of the GWS network to have their products automatically featured on Snooth.
Global Wine and Spirits is perhaps not the best-known name in the online world of wine, but it plays a significant role on the market – and even a central role on the Quebec market. You see, GWS provides the back office for all of the Société des alcools du Québec, the state monopoly that is one of the largest buyers in North America, if not in the world. All agents and suppliers that work with SAQ go through the online system to conclude transactions, submit calls for tender, etc. Quite the business.
Beyond Quebec, GWS provides a marketplace for sellers and buyers from all over the world: over 3000 buyers and 1200 sellers are part of that marketplace, putting up and responding to calls for tender or offers for products on the Spot Market Place. Anything from bulk wine to small-scale artisan wines to WS91-scoring wines to organic vodka (I’m not kidding). Hong Kong wine distributors looking for Spanish wines, Thai merchants looking for small-size bottles of French wines. And so on.
Global Wine and Spirits members get extra exposure from this partnership. But what does Snooth get? “Rich data”, they say, as wineries provide a great range of information on their products on the GWS platform, info that can now get transferred to Snooth. That way, entries get more interesting for Snooth users: too often, the wines featured on that site have just the most basic facts on their page. For someone looking for a wine, that’s a turn-off. If you’re surfing the web about a wine, it’s to find out more about it. Not just its name and origin.
So again, GWS members get an advantage. And so do Snooth members. But what about Global Wine and Spirits itself? A little more capacity to attract wine producers on their marketplace, perhaps. But beyond that, I can’t see how the partnership will attract traffic back to GWS. Like I said, the business models aren’t clearly established yet. The Internet is a very fluid place…