Wine E-commerce: Vines OS Review
By Courtney Holmes
This is the first in our series of reviews on e-commerce solutions for wineries and wine retailers. The process for choosing the right wine e-commerce provider for your wine business is hard; you have to know your business's needs and values, schedule demonstrations with sales reps and manage budget expectations as well. It's all very time consuming. With this review series, hopefully, we can make the decision easier.
Vines OS is managed by it's founder, Jules Robbins, who started the company almost 13 years ago. According to Greg Richtarek of Guglielmo Winery, Jules knows her stuff. She came from the development background, working at Yahoo and AOL. She has a small team of a few developers. However, the small staff doesn't seem to effect their level of customer service. Richtarek says that they always respond within an hour of having placed a software service call. I also spoke with Dave Muret, a wine marketing consultant who has worked with Jules on a number of projects. The main value he kept coming back to was that Vines OS is a great collaborative partner. Because they are small, they are willing to invest the time and resources for customizing their platform to conform to their clients' ideas.
Best Marketing Feature: Login Not Required
This feature should be a make it or break it for wine club software. I will not name names, but much of the wine e-commerce software out there requires wine club members and new buyers to login when buying online. Vines OS removes the barrier.
The term is "forced login" and research has shown people abandon their online shopping cart when they have to log in just to make a purchase. For Vines OS, they don't even have to login as a guest. They simply provide their email in the checkout process. If the buyer is a wine club member, the e-commerce software recognizes them as a wine club member and applies the discount that is associated with their level of membership.
What people don't realize, websites lose a lot of sales from abandoned shopping carts, I have seen numbers report anywhere from 50% to 78% abandonment rate on online shopping carts. That is a lot of wine not drunk!
Unique Feature: Content Management Made Easy
I think this functionality is really cool. I am a software geek and feel pretty comfortable figuring out the cloudware functionalities. But for the layperson, KISS - Keep it Simple, Stupid. Wordpress is our go-to content management system (CMS) for our clients that cannot afford a monthly service contract for an all-in-one software like Vines OS. But Wordpress can be tricky to figure out at first.
Basically, the user has to figure out what back-end components are connected to the front-end experience, i.e. the pages and sections of pages that they correlate to. So if you want to update a page, you need to find out where the content is located in the backend, as shown above.
But the Vines OS system allows the administrator to locate the content on the front end and just edit it there. Hopefully my screenshot below explains this well. Do you see the "edit" text under the web page sections. Only administrators who are logged into the site can see this.
Apparently their compliance functionality is so developed that wineries do not need an additional compliance software, like Ship Compliant, that can run from $300 - $500 a month. Jules said that the only functionality that it does not yet include is the ability to reject orders from states that have exceeded their volume limit. That is, if someone in Oregon wants to buy 3 cases of wine this month, but the volume restriction is only 2 cases per month. Well, in that case, Ship Compliant would catch the error and not process the order, while Vines OS would not catch it.
Since most wineries manually check for compliance before processing the orders, this rare circumstance would be caught before shipment, most likely. But call me out if you disagree - we love to see blog comments!
Integration with Other Software
It is really important that all your data is stored in one place. When you start using different software, Wordpress (CMS), Constant Contact (Email), Google Analytics (Analytics), Ship Compliant (Compliance), VinNow (POS) - your marketing tasks become less efficient and the data is less informative. We use a very robust all-in-one software for our marketing, it is has made a wealth of difference in our marketing strategy and return on investment. So it is very important that you use a software that integrates all your marketing software.
Vines OS is great because they will do custom integrations so if their platform doesn't offer a service, like email marketing, they will make sure their software integrates with it. This means that if a new person buys wine on your website, they will get their wine and also automatically be added to your Constant Contact email list. No manual uploading of contacts.
However, I am conflicted on integrations. I think they can be great, but sometimes having the functionality part of the software (All-in-One Software) instead of just integrating with other software, tends to lead to better use of tools and information. It might just depend on the level of integration. With my experience, integrations should be a backup rather than the preferred option.
However, many wineries don't choose all-in-one wine e-commerce software because they don't want to switch from one software to the other. That is, if they use a point-of-sale software like VinNow, they often prefer to use an e-commerce that integrates with VinNow rather than have to switch POS and migrate data. So even though an all-in-one solution like Vin65 may be the best software for their marketing goals, it can seem like too much work to switch systems for anything but their e-commerce software.
Food For Thought
I am a data junkie. I think it is imperative that for a marketing plan to be successful, you have to measure results, interpret the data and revise your plans based on this data. It is called Agile Marketing. If you don't have the data, decisions then become based on emotion. Google Analytics isn't enough. Vines OS integrates with Google Analytics, but it doesn't put the data into context. Vines OS just doesn't have the All-in-One capabilities that I would want if I was managing a marketing plan.
But that is just me. Technology comes easy for me because I am a digital native and a bit of a geek. Some wineries just don't operate that way and who am I to judge. If it is working for them, awesome.