Fast, cheap and tepid

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Wine clubs are showing up all over my radar. Services like Club W and Tasting Room curate selections to your taste, promising the excitement of discovery within the confines of your own comfort zone. It’s billed as a sort of moderated learning experience that shows up at your doorstep, on a convenient schedule. I’ve personally subscribed to Blue Apron’s service, which is an extension of their meal delivery, and I’ve found the product to be pleasing, the collateral thought provoking.

These clubs are an attempt to disrupt the local wine merchants, an adaptation to consumer expectations in a more modern, service oriented life. But often, with change, comes complication, and in this case the war is won or lost primarily because of logistics (Eisenhower).

We worked with a wine merchant last year that was looking into starting a subscription club, and we quickly discovered that shipping would be the greatest challenge to success. A few variables:

1) The product is heavy, and therefore expensive to ship in individual cases, but charging more than the total cost at the corner store would be perceived as cost prohibitive to customers. We needed to stick to simple, slow ground shipments.
2) The product is perishable in extreme conditions such as high heat, but again, specialized packaging and/or temperature controlled trucks added too much to the bottom line.
3) One warehouse.

The scenario that we had to contend with was an order that originated in California, to be shipped to Florida, in August. The product would spend a day rolling through Texas where it’s often 100 degrees in the shade at this time of year and the interior of a truck could exceed 130. In these conditions, a Chateau Margaux would emerge in the form of vinegar, the inventory would be a write-off and the customer would likely be lost.

However, timing wasn’t as much an issue. Since this is a leisure buy, it’s generally OK if the shipment shows up a bit late, as long as there’s some visibility on the customer end. So we developed an approach that added a shipping calendar to the subscription that the site admins would be able to apply rules to, according to weather patterns. If it was going to be a hot day in Texas, you’d get your case next week. A good compromise, and one that the customers would understand.

Logistics is often a significant consideration in our engagements, whether we are contending with multiple warehouses, shipping markup or multi-channel inventory controls. But who really wants to worry about this when you’re fighting to build a brand? That’s what we’re here for.