Why I built the wine industries first fully integrated direct marketing solution.

October 1st, 2014 @ 06:18am Stephen Mutch Updates

I have been helping wineries with their websites and direct marketing efforts since 2006. I started at IBG and had the opportunity to work with all different types of wineries. From  small independent wineries to enterprise brands, and everything in between. This experience taught me a lot about the different ways wineries market and sell their wines direct.

I started Simply Platformed in 2011 to venture out on my own and get back to building great winery websites. Over the past 3 years, I have been fortunate to work with some great wineries and some super exciting projects.  It also has given me the opportunity to  learn and work on  many different winery direct to consumer platforms. Each have some unique and valuable features and benefits however I found that each also had its own set of drawbacks.

I struggled to find the right solution for my clients. Some were too big and offered too many features that overwhelmed our clients. Others had the tools that might work for now but clients would outgrow the solution and have to migrate to another platform. Smaller solutions constricted the wineries growth by not having the sophistication or feature set that enabled wineries and helped them grow their business. The larger ones where expensive, clunky and difficult to use and required a significant dedication of resources to get the site launched and then an ongoing effort to keep it up to date. Nothing seemed to be a good short term and long term solution.

So I decided to build my own.

I studied platforms and tools inside and outside the wine industry. I knew that I wanted to build an intuitive platform that helped our clients sell wine and help them grow their business.

A scalable platform - Features and technology

Some smaller wineries start with a regular website, eventually try to bolt on a 3rd party shopping cart and instantly run into the challenges that come along with trying to sell wine online with a cart that is not designed for wine. I wanted to offer a solution that enabled and grew with your business.

Apps

In comes our App Store. This allows you to select which tools you want to use. You can start with just a regular website. When you are ready, just a click of a button allows you to add ecommerce, clubs, compliance reporting or 3rd party marketing tools. Many of the apps are free while apps that enhance the platform with major functionality are added to your monthly hosting subscription automatically. Pay for the features you need.

Our Apps strategy also enables our clients with best in class integration. I decided early on that I didn't want to be in the business of replicating things like email marketing. There are services that do it really well and trying to manage it on your own is costly and risky for clients. So we create integrations that simplify working with those 3rd party tools using your own data.

 

Compliance

simplyCMS offers a fully integrated proprietary compliance system. It starts with basic compliance tools that allow you to control where your wine is shipped and up to date county based tax rates. Everything you need to get started with ecommerce. As your business grows, you will want to check orders real time for compliance, handle exceptions smoothly, reprocess orders and easily report your direct business to the states you ship wine to.

ONE platform. Not Multiple Systems patched together with APIs

All of our tools, ecommerce, compliance, clubs, customers and more, run directly in simplyCMS. They all use the same product, customer and order databases. There isn't another platform that grabs your data from your simplyCMS database and then pulls it into their database. You don’t have to worry about duplication of data, errors with transfer of data or connectivity issues. Your data lives in one system.

Secure

With recent data compromises with large retailers like Target and Home Depot, securing sensitive customer information was a big priority. We implemented the highest level of billing information security called tokenization. This basically means we replace extremely sensitive information such as credit card numbers with a non-sensitive token. This token allows us to connect directly to your payment processor and process transactions without any compromise of functionality but means that your customer’s information is protected and you have less risk.
Now days, this shouldn't be considered optional. This is a huge liability for you and this method removes a huge portion of the risk.  

Simple and intuitive

Technology is supposed to simplify complicated things and selling wine online is difficult. Simplicity is vital!

Big winery features - operational for the small guys

We have a lot of functionality baked into simplyCMS but that doesn't mean it has to be difficult to use. Everything from our user interface to the way your website works was designed to be simple. Now don’t confuse simple with basic. We have some very powerful functionality but even that should be simple. You shouldn't have to look at screens and ask yourself “Where do I  start?”

Built for wine.

simplyCMS was built for wine. So things like products and checkout processes are designed to work specifically for wine.

Compliance workflows work with your business processes.

Every winery has a slightly different compliance process. At the end of the day, the same thing needs to happen but each winery has a unique way of getting it done. Our tools give you the options you want and need. It's not one size fits all.

Wine products

Create a wine product once and then add your vintages. Specify the different bottle sizes associated with that particular vintage. This is how we all think about wine but most platforms make you recreate products year after year and don't have an elegant way to handle different bottle sizes. This is typically because they were built with regular products in mind. Not wine. But wine is different, especially when it comes to marketing it online.

Trade & media

Most wineries want a trade section. A place where trade members can download bottle shots, shelf talkers, tasting notes etc. This process has been difficult and time consuming in the past. You have to upload all your documents to the web server, create your content and then manually link the assets. It bugged me that this was the only way to do this. We already create the products, so why not make it easy to add assets to build a trade section. Add media and trade assets to a vintage and automatically update a beautiful trade section.

Clubs

Think about a typical club offering. A 3, 6 or 12 bottle club with Red, White or Mixed options. This becomes 9 different clubs in other systems. This becomes a mess to handle and typically the outputed content on the front end website looks awful. How about creating a club and then creating the different options the user has to choose from. Those options could be wine type, frequency and bottle count. Also, we will automatically create discounts for those different options.

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