This is part of a series on the Naked MarketPlace, a new initiative from my UK importer that allows any winemaker on earth to sell wine to members of their site. This first post will explain the basic premise of the MarketPlace. Future posts will explore how exactly the marketplace works and how it might affect the future of the wine business. I’ll specifically be looking at my first experience placing 100 cases of my Proprietor’s Reserve 2006 on sale through the Naked MarketPlace.
What is the MarketPlace?
MarketPlace is a platform like ebay or groupon that allows wine producers to “pitch” their wine to the UK market. It’s not EXACTLY like ebay or groupon, but it has a lot more in common with those style websites than with traditional wine importers. Traditional wine importers buy wine and resell it, assuming a large amount of risk, marketing costs, storage costs, and so on. The Marketplace puts producers in direct contact with a group of final consumers and wine doesn’t get shipped until its all presold.
The MarketPlace launched at the London International Wine Fair in May 2011.
Specifically, the site allows producers to put a wine on sale at any price and offer it to the UK market. If enough people buy the wine at that price, than Naked Wines (the importer) pays for the wine and brings it into the UK, sending it straight onto the consumer. Naturally, Naked will be charging a commission and some of their overhead (excise, transport, etc), but all that is made abundantly clear when the producer goes through the pitching process. If I pitch a wine at 2 euros per bottle, the site will tack on all the charges and commission and change the currency and display the final consumer price. So I’m paid the 2 euros I asked for and I see the final price offered to the customer.
If a wine fails to sell its minimum amount, then something else happens. Throughout the bidding process, customers at Naked Wines have two options: “Bid current price” or “Offer a lower price”. This second haggler’s option allows a person to speak up if they would have bought the wine at 1 pound less per bottle. If a pitch is unsuccessful, the producer can look at the lower offers. And hopefully, the producer will realize what price point the wines need to be in to make a splash in the UK market. I’ll look more at this specific aspect of the marketplace later on.
Who shops at the marketplace?
Naked Wines has a rather large customer base (175,000 drinkers). And we’re not talking one time buyers. Naked has customers who are paid members of the site. They pay 20 pounds per month and get that money in cash back on future purchases in addition to certain member-only discounts.
These members are all encouraged to take a look at the deals offered in the marketplace and they will hopefully all bid on the steals they find there.
I imagine that producers who already have a track record on the site will be eager to use this platform to move lots of wine at a smaller margin than what Naked Wines normally takes. Essentially, as Naked cuts its mark-up down to a 10% commission, it’s left to the customers and producers to haggle over the savings. That means a little more money for producers and a little less cost for the customer. Having a proven track record on the site guarantees a certain level of quality for wine on the marketplace.
On the other hand, producers who have absolutely no track record might also benefit from this. They’ll have to fight a little harder and maybe offer the wines at a lower price to get things started, but these producers will eventually build up a reputation. Alternatively, they can send a few dozen sample bottles which will be given to the most vocal members of the Naked Wines customer community in the hopes that this will start some buzz on the site. I’ll address this in more detail later too, as early experience make me slightly hesitant about the potential to build up a reputation.
No more whining
Essentially, the most important development regarding the Marketplace is that wine producers no longer need to depend on traditional importers. If you think you make great wine and all you need is a chance to be on the UK market (there are a lot of us in that boat saying “If only an importer would give me a chance”), you now have that chance. Pitch a wine on the marketplace. See how things go.
Of special interest to my readers, here is the winemaker section of the FAQ:
Q&As for winemakers Who are Naked Wines?
Naked Wines is an online wine retailer who supports independent winemakers from around the world – with over 150K customers. On average, we ship over 10,000 bottles of wine a day.
What’s Group Buying and who is it for?
Naked MarketPlace is an online farmer’s market where winemakers can pitch and sell their wines directly to UK wine drinkers – at a price which works for everyone. Winemakers name their price, based on selling a minimum number of cases – and wine drinkers can either accept the price and bid OR they can suggest a lower price (which the winemaker may or may not accept!).
What are the costs?
There is NO cost for pitching your wine to our 150,000 customers. Simply 20 minutes of your time to upload your product on our website! We charge 10% commission if the pitch ends successfully – and if the pitch falls through, we won’t charge you a thing.
What are the risks?
There are no risks. You set the price, you set the volume. If enough customers want to buy your wine, great – the deal is done. If not, you walk away.
Who decides on volumes and prices?
As above, you’re in control and you set the price and minimum and maximum volume. Customers can bid to pay a lower price, but it’s up to YOU whether you accept or not.
Once I’ve uploaded a product, can I change my mind and remove it?
No, once it’s live you cannot remove your pitch. BUT if you’ve made a mistake then please email us at email@example.com and we can help.
Can I change the price and volume once a pitch is live?
Customers can reject your price and suggest a lower price. IF you agree with their suggested price, you can accept their new price BUT you can’t change prices yourself once a pitch is live. You can’t increase or decrease volume either.
Does Naked Wines provide technical support and selling advice?
Yes. If you need any help or advice you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
How long does each pitch last for?
Seven days. It will end automatically after this time – whether you’ve reached your minimum number of orders or not.
Can my agent (or someone else) manage or set-up a pitch on my behalf?
Yes. Although this is NOT the place for agents to offload dodgy old stock that they can’t shift – as customers simply won’t buy it.
Can I set-up more than one pitch?
Yes, you can sell as many different wines as you like.
Can I mix up wines in a case?
No, your pitch is for 6x one type of wine.
Will it affect my brand and can I work with other retailers in the UK?
You can work with as many other retailers as you like – and charge whatever price you like elsewhere. Group Buying is NOT a traditional retail channel, so you’re not compromising your brand in any way. In the same way restaurant prices and retail prices differ for the same product, Naked MarketPlace prices differ to normal shop prices.
How can I drum up excitement about the product?
Make sure you upload interesting product information and a good picture! It’s also a good idea to chat to customers on the website. We will email you every time a customer asks you a question and explain how to reply. You can also ship our customers free samples if you want them to try it. We have a group of customers called Archangels who are a very powerful sales force – and will spread the word!
When will I get paid?
Once the deal has ended, you need to deliver your wine to and our hub in your country within FOUR weeks. Once delivered, we will get the wine chemically analysed to make sure it’s EU compliant. As soon as we’ve got the certificate, you will get paid within 10 days. If the wine doesn’t pass the test, we will return it to you and you won’t get paid. N.B. If you don’t stick to the deal and deliver the wine on time, we won’t want you pitching any more wines in the Naked MarketPlace – as we don’t want to let customers down.
One way of bringing traffic to the website or the vineyard is to be included in lots of regional directories.
Since the New York Times and Stephen Colbert announced the death of the white pages, it might be a good time to talk about the future of information directories and annuaires online.
So with companies refusing to deliver the white pages, let’s look at online alternatives.
Here are a few links to directories that list O’Vineyards. Notice that they’re all pretty specific. Deligogo only does food and wine. Languedoc Midi Info is obviously based on Languedoc and Midi listings. Best of Carcassonne gets ultra specific and only includes listings around Carcassonne. Some of these directories charge you to be included. Others allow anybody to sign up. I think specific directories like this are cool because (a) they fill the role of the yellow pages so people can find your business and (b) they give you content-specific backlinks which help search engines define and highlight your site.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at Paris Web 2010 in mid-October. We’ll be talking about my experiences with coming to the south of France as an outsider and how I simultaneously used the Internet to highlight that difference (separate myself intentionally from other winemakers) and also to integrate myself (truly becoming part of the winemaking community in the Languedoc).
On a related note, this presentation will also discuss the huge differences between how Parisians use the Internet and how country bumpkins like me use the Internet. This is related to a Palate Press article that will be published soon on how wineries have had trouble incorporating a lot of web 2.0 technology because of our rural settings.
After the recent france.fr fiasco, a lot of my winemaking peers have been teasing me for France’s total inability to get on with the 21st century. To summarize, France FINALLY got itself a national website (france.fr) and did a big launch party on Bastille Day. Maybe they should have picked a less volatile holiday that isn’t about shaking the foundations of well-structured hierarchies, because their servers immediately crashed.
While they initially claimed that the servers had just been overwhelmed by the huge numbers drawn in on the successful launch day, the site stayed down far longer than acceptable. And the message eventually changed to something like, “uh, sorry we’re experiencing technical difficulties and we have to like check a bunch of stuff…and stuff.” Their facebook page hasn’t been updated since July 14th when they assured us that the site would be back up in a couple of hours. And the site is still down as I write this post 2 weeks later.
So of course this feeds all my friends’ relentless teasing. Yes, France is SO behind on the Internet.
Well let me tell you, that French wine is NOT very far behind. We certainly started late. I remember that when Americans were switching from dialup to cable modems, France was just weening itself off the MiniTel and AOL had just launched in France. So it’s undeniable that France was very late to the game.
Also, I thought I’d do a directory of some of the people I met at VinoCamp Paris. This wine-tech unconference afforded me the opportunity to see a lot of people doing interesting things with wine online. And so here’s a chance to do some call outs while simultaneously proving that the French know how to use the Internet sometimes.
Starting with the sponsors, media partners and winemakers:
Regioneo – Delicious regional food merchants online, lots of gift baskets. Had a big array of riettes from different parts. Very yummy.
WineEverybody – Free wine 2.0 aggregator, incorporating twitters, hand-picked blogs, message boards, etc. into a unified and simple interface. I reviewed an earlier version of the beta a while back. I also made a query for Languedoc on WineEverybody my homepage so that my dad accidentally reads about the region on his way to espn.com and he really loves it. I think it’s a simple alternative to RSS feeds or an enormous influx of emails and it’s simple enough for my tech-illiterate dad to use it.
vinobest – Web merchant that uses team buying to get group discounts, snazzy video explaining that concept:
iDealwine – Site that links online wine sales and real-life wine auctions where you can buy, sell or estimate value of wines. I think they authenticate and stuff too. Lots of different services. An idealwine video that explains all the varied stuff they do.
Vins de Bordeaux – I was going to leave them off the list because I didn’t meet anybody from this group. I think they sponsored the event and sent wines, but they weren’t necessarily there in person. But I didn’t want people thinking that I have some axe to grind. So, in the spirit of wine regions not beating each other up, here they are on the list. (EDIT:) Benjamin Anseaume was there to talk up Bordeaux wines. He is their community manager. … I need to get sud de France to want one of these.
Vicky Wine – Vicky presented her remarkably robust gamay, a wine crafted at her family’s estate. But she’s not just a pretty blogger that pours her daddy’s wine. She is an epic event planner and the driving force in making get togethers like VinoCamp Paris a success.
Champagne Tarlant – While I had already met Benoit Tarlant on the wine circuit, it was a great pleasure to meet the other Tarlant, Melanie, as she poured a marvelous dry Champagne. Really up my alley. It made my dad jealous that he couldn’t be there to try it. Very strong web presence. Probably showcases the need for small Champagne producers to differentiate themselves. While Champagne is a huge share of the French wine business, almost all of that money goes to a few prestigious mass marketed houses. The rest of the indie producers have to work very hard to promote their personal brand despite the fact that the “Champagne brand” is so strong.
Champagne Dehu – Benoit Déhu (are all small Champagne dudes with online presences named Benoit?) poured a totally different style of Champagne with a light dosage and maybe a bit more approachable by the uninitiated. Lots of fun. This guy is still building his online presence and he’s going to events like this to study how exactly he should go about it. Not everybody should start a video blog and not everybody really has the mentality required to maintain a successful twitter profile. So Benoit Déhu is weighing his options and seeing how exactly to embark online.
O’Vineyards – This guy is a creep. ;D
La Cantine – While this isn’t strictly an example of French wine online, La Cantine is a business that clearly understands the importance of technology and they do a great job of bridging the gap between the eworld and the real world. It’s a joint workspace tucked away in a beautiful ruelle in the 9eme arrondissement de Paris. This has become a real hot spot for reunions, conferences, training camps, etc. And the place is full of high speed Internet, bean bag chairs, conference rooms, mixing boards, avi cables, and overhead projectors (it’s even got a bar). It’s like I designed the place. But I didn’t. Here is an interview of the man who I think is in charge of stuff over there. And there’s also some sort of relationship with Silicon Sentier.
European Wine Bloggers Conference – Coming up in Vienna, Austria this year on October 22nd-24th. Should be a blast. Totally different atmosphere than the American counterpart.
Bourgogne Live – Amazing duo who maintain a lively, fabulous blog focused on Bourgogne. I’d like to flatter myself by saying that what I do at Love That Languedoc, they do at Bourgogne Live. And there might be a short dissertation in the works about how the differences between our blogs sort of fit the character of our respective regions. Post pending.
I left one sponsor off the list and I don’t want them to be mad. But I honestly think that posting a link to their website would be sort of embarassing to them. But once the site is more complete, I will happily link to it. And I hope they don’t get upset with me.
The rest of the gang:
Grégoire Japiot – community manager and all around moving force. How awesome is it that his twitter handle is just like one of the most common names in France?
MySocialWinery – Pierrick is a savvy business kid who wants to help get more French winemakers online. He’s focusing on winemakers who are present in the US, where he has some work experience. He just visited O’Vineyards the other day and I can’t wait to see his various projects around France.
Emmanuel Delmas [link edited]- Sommelier and blogger are two titles that often carry a lot of pejorative baggage, but Emmanuel is downright awesome. A nice, charming guy who is approachable and easy to talk to despite the intimidating amount of wine knowledge he has.
Vineolia – Benoit and Marc’s new wine tasting notes site.
Monogramme Marketing – This guy was nice and I had no idea that he was heading up some projects in Beaune until I came back home and checked out the site.
Christophe Ducamp – I have no idea what xtof means. Might be an xkcd joke. ;D No but I think I recognize this guy. He spoke up in panels if I recall correctly.
MarcWines – I’m not sure what Marc does but we were in all the same sessions so I remember him! 😀 Based out of Geneva, he seems to be a swiss army knife of wine websites offering tours, wine clubs, retail(?), and anything else you might need.
Mandarine – Translates between French and Mandarin, specifically focused on wine marketing.
Augmented Reality blog – Olivier and Gregory were around to share insight about how augmented reality and other stuff can be applied to wine.
So this list shows that there are lots of interesting wine-related tech start ups. And stop telling me that France is allergic to the Internet. There is a generation of people bringing French wine online. And once there’s wine, the rest of France will follow.
Oh and maybe a small post script. Please don’t get upset, but this needs to be said. Vinogusto, vinblog, vindicateur, vineolia, vinternet, vinobest, vindiesel and vinanybodyelse: it is super hard to remember which of you is which. Actually, vinternet and vindicateur make a lot of sense to me thematically, and they’re both puns. So I remember them. But the rest of you and anybody out there thinking about starting a French wine site… consider that there are a lot of vinsuffixes out there already.
I really hate manifestos. I think that most of my favorite movements start to die the day they write down what they’re really trying to do… like defining the movement is overly restrictive and dogmatic. But I was busy writing up a general presentation of Love That Languedoc, and I found myself falling into this militant prose that sounds a ton like a manifesto. Well, if I go around saying “no manifesto” all the time, then I’m still being just as dogmatic and restrictive as if I had written down my goals. OH WELL. Here it is:
I refuse to leave our fate in the hands of the global press who are, at best, mildly curious about our region. And, at worst, totally oblivious to it. Aside from a few rare examples, the world’s largest wine producer is also the world’s most ignored beauty.
Well this is the part of the movie where the downtrodden Languedoc takes off her horn-rimmed glasses and lets her hair down and the popular kid (or Henry Higgins, depending on what age you are) suddenly realizes that the coolest girl he knows was there under his nose all along.
Love That Languedoc is my personal project to show the world what it’s missing and now it’s developing a new branch. I want to teach our winemakers how to communicate (without relying on journalists or critics or ME) to a world that is ready to hear them.
I guess I’m thankful that the region needs me. But the day I’m unnecessary will be a great day indeed. We have an amazing advantage in sheer number of winemakers. And our wines are distributed globally as both prestigious cult winesand large volume convenience store wines. So people are already talking about us and our wines.
The next step is responding to that conversation. We need to start training our winemakers to check email and set up a google alert for every estate in the Languedoc-Roussillon. If only 1% of our winemakers spoke up every time somebody mentions their wines online, we would flood the Internet with our voices. We could show our consumers that we appreciate their drinking habits.
And once winemakers start communicating successfully with the consumer, it’s much more likely that they will be willing to adopt more advanced online tools like a blog or a twitter. And they’ll be much more likely to “get it” because it’s part of an authentic foray into communication and not some contrived business effort with no ROI.
And on that day, I’ll just be a happy little winemaker who runs a video blog for the fun of it. And who will laugh about the old days when he would accidentally write a manifesto while trying to explain why he blogs.
There. So I guess the conclusion is nice because it points out why this manifesto is silly. I only blog because it’s fun. I’m happy that it’s increasing my exposure and wine sales and I’m definitely finding ways to maximize the synergy between my blog and my website. But ultimately, the blog is for fun. And sometimes I get these lofty goals to sign everybody up for Google Alerts or whatever. But ultimately, even those initiatives are an attempt to make my blog redundant. One day, when everybody does their own online promotion, I’ll be useless. And it’ll just be for fun again.
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.
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