Industry Eye: Case Study - Turning Wine Into Sales
Problem: Woodland Hills Wine Co., a multichannel seller of vintage wines and spirits, lacked a sophisticated e-commerce site to complement its retail store.
Solution: Redesigned and relaunched its "antique" website.
Results: In the first six months of business following the site's relaunch, online transactions increased 11.4 percent. In the first half of 2009, online visits were up 39.8 percent, with conversion rates 1.5 percent greater than the same time last year.
Frustrated by poor flexibility, content and sales on its website launched during the Clinton administration, San Fernando Valley, Calif.-based Woodland Hills Wine Co. redesigned its old site. After 13 months of planning, the wines and spirits retailer launched a new e-commerce site last year, and the above numbers illustrate its success.
Woodland Hills' website didn't get better with age. It had an unprofessional look and feel, numerous difficulties in navigation, and a general lack of integration with its back-end inventory system. In essence, the site offered little more than a listing of products.
"Even customers that liked us when they came into the store … they just didn't trust our website," says Eric Smith, Woodland Hills' operations director. "And for new customers, that's a huge turnoff."
The merchant tapped SysIQ, a San Francisco-based e-commerce service provider, to redo the site.
With nearly 5,000 SKUs online, ease of navigation was central to help users locate and purchase products. Whereas the previous site offered no site search, the redesign includes robust search functionality powered by dynamic navigation that filters by country, region, price, popularity, rating, color, availability and vintage. Customers can control the number of products displayed in search results, and see a summary listing of description, price and availability.
Woodland Hills' redesign also incorporates customer feedback. A "new offerings" feature, for instance, is automated to display anything that came into inventory in the past 10 days. Other highlights include best buys — typically value-priced wines — staff picks, a clearance bin and best-sellers — another automated functionality.
"It was very hard to navigate the site, or even find things you were interested in," Smith says. "Now we have a print-friendly view of any sort of results page pretty much everywhere on the site. Not many of our competitors have that. We're trying to go to the opposite extreme."
Maintaining accurate inventory proved challenging for Woodland Hills' previous site. It contains thousands of SKUs, but in many cases, only a couple of bottles per SKU. What's more, a good portion of the inventory is prearrival, which the company doesn't have in stock but ships on arrival in the near future.
With its former website not synced to its inventory system, customers ordered bottles online only to be told later that the item wasn't in stock. This got so bad that 30 percent of all online orders had to be canceled or reduced.
"Woodland Hills' business is very unique," says Igor Gorin, CEO of SysIQ. "It has a small quantity of great wine, which goes very quickly. So issues with inventory updates prevented people from being able to know what they were ordering. It was creating problems with their customers, who felt its website didn't bring any value. They were better off calling the company directly on the phone rather than going online to place an order and then learning that the item was no longer available."
To address this issue, Woodland Hills customized its back-end inventory system to allocate a different SKU number to every vintage of the same wine. And now each SKU's inventory status is updated and posted online in real time. The solution seems to be working: Smith now estimates Woodland Hills' inventory accuracy at 97 percent.