Oriel Wines Learns to Cultivate Customer Relationships Online

Understanding the importance of using the Internet to nurture long-lasting customer relationships, Oriel Wines relaunched its Web site this spring to make the site easier to navigate and serve as a platform for targeted promotions geared toward its growing customer base.

Oriel Wines, New York, offers a portfolio of wines created by a diverse group of winemakers and distributed under the Oriel label. The company partners with the winemakers, who make these particular wines exclusively for Oriel, which opened for business in January with 10 wines from five countries and now offers 24 wines from 22 regions in eight countries.

The company enlisted NetSuite, San Mateo, CA, to provide Web-based software that could manage its back-office functions such as financials, inventory management (of three bi-coastal warehouses) and wine production schedules.

Once that was achieved, Oriel went back to NetSuite to improve its customer service and marketing operations. The goal was to create a better online experience (at orielwines.com), one used for e-commerce as well as a brand-building vehicle targeting both customer segments the company serves: consumers and distributors, which include restaurants and wine retailers.

The old site was difficult to navigate. It took visitors too many clicks to find the information they sought.

“We actually had an approach where we had a Web site and then a separate site for the store. We have worked with NetSuite since then to ensure that the site could be one, so that it wasn't a disjointed experience,” said Kelly Ford, managing director of Oriel Wines. “We wanted to make sure we perfected that before we really started doing any online marketing in order to draw people to the site.”

At that point, she said, site traffic was generated by press the company had received. Using tagging technology, Oriel has made the Web experience more seamless and integrated.

“Everything is now in context,” she said. “If you're looking at a wine from Tuscany, you can also see there are a few other wines from Italy you may be interested in, and you can then just click and buy from there.”

The new site contains information about Oriel's products, its winemakers and the regions from which the wines originate. A food and wine section advises on food to serve with particular wine selections.

Armed with this much-improved site, Oriel began e-mailing its newsletters in the spring to a list of interested consumers the company continues to build. These include customers who have purchased Oriel products as well as people who requested — on the Web site — to be added to the company's mailing list.

Content ranges from information about a new product to features about a partner winemaker. The click-through rate on the first of two newsletters was 50 percent.

“We have so much to tell, and we can make these newsletters quite actionable for people,” Ford said. “We wouldn't have been as comfortable to have a focused effort on outbound consumer marketing had we not been able to present our Web site and the shopping experience in this way.”

Ford said Oriel is leveraging some content from the consumer newsletters to e-newsletters the company is sending to its retailer and restaurant customers. In August, the newsletters started publishing monthly. The next step is to communicate with customers via targeted offers based on trends and special occasions, such as holidays.

Ford said the new Web infrastructure, which launched in May, lets Oriel easily change information on the Web site, from adding products to updating pricing.

“It is quite intuitive and easy for anyone in the company to go in and check on the traffic, to assess what's going on with sales orders and the status of orders, who's buying and from where — all of the important Web data basics we need to have our finger on,” she said.

Oriel also can segment audiences for additional offers based on this information. Overall, the NetSuite system eliminated the need to hire at least two full-time employees.

Oriel has partnered with luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent to form a wine club. After enjoying Oriel wine at a particular A&K destination, customers can log onto the A&K site to buy the wine and are directed to Oriel's site. Ford said this brand-building venture will help Oriel test its capability of supporting its own wine club initiative.

“Most important for us right now is just building the brand, having this marketing tool that is our Web site, making it very easy for people to learn about the wines and understand the concept,” Ford said.

Marji McClure covers CRM and analytics for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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