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The Long Tail Wine New Venture

In a previous post about my Long Tail Wine Marketing Plan I wrote about a particular market segment called the Experimenter. This keen group of wine drinkers love to try different wines and find out more about varietals and wine regions.

The venture I planned to set up would connect this group of wine drinkers with specialist fine wine stores in the States (and around the world).

The Long Tail Wine New Venture

Many fine wines stores have particular niches that the store owners love. This expertise comes through in the knowledge they have when speaking to customers and the depth of range in a particular wine niche. It may be Sonoma Valley Merlot or Burgundy Côte de Nuits, Australian Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir or Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

That has got to be one of my favorite words – montepulciano – just rolls off the tongue. Anyhow back to the venture…

These fine wine stores not only stock a great range but the fine wine store owners can wax lyrically about there particular passion for hours to customers. That they are unwilling to write this down is a tragedy for all those Experimentor wine drinkers I outlined in the previous post. They love and want this information, and would love to explore the 100s of different wine niches from around the world.

My new venture would have connected these wine experts to those wine lovers.

Connecting Wine Retailers to Wine Lovers

Although fine wine store owners are experts at wine, no one expects them to be experts at selling wine online. My venture would have helped them create a wine eCommerce website or preferably taken information from (known as a ‘feed’) their existing websites and put this into a database through using the internet.

Then, using my skills in wine internet marketing, I would have found those Experimenters in the middle of their (fruitless) search for wine niche information. I would have directed them to a wine portal of fine wine stores so they could purchase the niche wine online effortlessly.

So that’s the gist of the idea. If you want to see it in play check out snooth.com . Nice work by Philip and his team. They have nicely handled the shipping compliance issue that was causing me a few headaches.

Let’s go into the long tail of wine and you can see why it’s so attractive.

All the wine niches and the long tail

The problem of the long tail is that you have to start at the short head.

Let’s use songs as an illustration. If you click on the image it should open a larger version. Rhapsody (sort of an iTunes) gave Chris Anderson all its data on music purchase. The long tail is the yellow section, the short head is the red/yellow dotted section.

Long tail songs

Long tail of songs

You can see that the most popular music quickly tapers off to unpopular music. The music on the left is the mainstream hits. The music to the right becomes increasingly niche and unavailable from regular bricks and mortar stores such as Wall Mart.

Now let’s look at Britney Spears – click on the image below if you need to.

If you like Britney you will love these long tail songs

It tells us that Britney Spears fans use internet sites “recommendation engines” to explore music that is similar to Britney. They go from the the 340th most popular song, to the 1010th to the 5153rd, to the 32,195th most popular song (by a group call “The Selecter”). Who knows and cares who they are. Well, actually some Britney fans do. And they appreciate this service to work their way from the short head of Britney type music to the long tail of music similar to Britney.

(Diagrams above: From Chris Anderson in his thelongtail.com blog post Microstructure in the long tail.)

So in our industry’s case they might start with Yellow Tail pinot noir. Realize what a really bad choice this is and check out a Napa Robert Modavi, then move to an Oregon Erath Estate before choosing to purchase a Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007. The Experimenter wine drinkers read that: it was a new winery, had had a remarkable first few years, won 3 trophies, numerous gold medals, 5 star ratings, and praise from wine writers worldwide. It also came from the end of the earth (well, Cromwell actually).

The Experimenter may do this on one website, as in the Britney case above, or many, using Google to light the way through the wine advocate, wine spectator, wine blogs, wine.com, your store …

It may also happen in a slightly different way. The Experimentor may start with Pinot Noir then move to New Zealand Pinot Noir, then Central Otago Pinot Noir before choosing Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007. This concept is known as the Search Continuim where the search term gets more exact until it reads something like “buy Brand X Region Y Varietal Z Year”. Which is also referred to in internet marketing circles as a ‘buy word’ because it will convert well and is worth bidding on in Adwords.

Here’s how Chris puts it about music,

“It’s possible, for example, to be the most popular drum-and-bass artist at the very head of the drum-and-bass popularity curve, but that doesn’t mean that you’re about to knock 50 Cent off his top-ten perch. Music is made up of thousands of niche micromarkets, miniature ecosystems that, when smooshed together into an overall ranking, look like one Long Tail. But look closer and each has its own head and tail.”

Here’s a graphical representation of this. Note all the niche markets in the long tail – each it’s own short head and long tail.

mini-tails make up a long tail

(Diagram above and quote from the same post Microstructure in the long tail)

The Plan

In effect I was aiming to aggregate all these long tails of niche wines and offer them to this particular wine drinker segment. The sale would still go to the wine retailer so I didn’t have to carry stock, worry about shipping compliance law or customer service. I would get a commission on this purchase.

The Test and the Issues

I launched a JV business with a local wine retailer to test the concept. It used a niche I know well – Central Otago Pinot Noir.

But I ran into some serious issues. The good news is that I started MyLocalWineStore.com as a result of those issues, the bad news is I don’t see a good business case for national internet “pure play” wine retailers.

More of that in my next post.

Have you had success with the long tail of wine? I’m truly interested, please comment below.

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