Having recently relaunched their website and partnered with the successful CatchOfTheDay group, we spoke to Vinomofo.com’s co-founder and CEO, Andre Eikmeier.
Known as ‘The Qwoff Boys’, entrepreneurial pair Justin Dry and Andre Eikmeier founded their current business Vinomofo.com on a passion for good wine and an established community that shared their enthusiasm. More recently, Vinomofo was acquired by CatchOfTheDay group, proving yet again the power of an engaged audience and how this can translate to retail success.
Vinomofo’s journey begins with Qwoff, the blog that Eikmeier and Dry have been running for several years. Over the course of turning out specialist news and information for wine enthusiasts, not only did they find out a whole lot about wine, they also picked up a lot of e-commerce trade practices along the way.
By developing an ever-growing subscriber base and social media following, as well as getting to know all the best wine dealers in Australia, the pair discovered they had the ideal foundation for a successful online retail venture.
The model they arrived at was a niche take on the popular daily deals model. Every day, Vinomofo offers a selection of handpicked wines and “wine-like things” at prices that are hard to pass up, according to Eikmeier.
“Unlike many other wine sites,” Eikmeier explains, “we’re not flogging the distressed inventory that wineries can’t move, nor are we simply moving boxes. We’re getting access to some of the best wines in the country at all price points, and sharing them with our members at up to 60 percent less than retail price.”
Thirsty Business: Leveraging an Existing Audience
The success of the business, as well as its ability to offer cut-rate prices on luxury beverages, hinges on the existing user data that Qwoff had initially developed. By listening to their customers and gauging their levels of interest, Eikmeier and Dry are able to project relatively accurate estimates on the volumes of stock they can move, as well as the rate at which they can move it. However, that doesn’t mean that getting Vinomofo to market was a simple job.
“It’s actually been a pretty fast and wild ride,” says Eikmeier. “The biggest challenge has been been building the business with what is really quite a small team (nine people currently and soon to be 12). All development is handled in-house, which, although it puts a strain on resources, has allowed us to have complete control from concept to market.”
Another major task the team faced was laying out enough cash in the first place to be able to buy initial inventory, which required a little sleight-of-hand and lateral thinking to overcome.
“We overcame this hurdle in the beginning with our buying model – we only bought stock once we had sold it!” Eikmeier admits. “But that’s changed now and we’re buying wines before the deals go up in order to speed up delivery times and improve our service generally.”
Delivering Wine Requires the Right Tech Blend
That service is predicated on Vinomofo’s ability to broadcast good deals to as many connected customers as effectively and inoffensively as possible, which requires the team to really understand their audience. It also means they’ve had to continually expand their digital offerings.
“We are big on social media,” Eikmeier says. “Through Qwoff, we have the largest Twitter and Facebook wine audience in the country, and we are known as ‘the social media wine guys’ in the industry. It’s all about communicating with your audience, not just to your audience. It’s about building relationships.”
However it’s not all about social media, and Eikmeier is quick to note that email marketing is also an integral part of their daily deals business.
“We’re also moving into other methods of notification to communicate with our customers via their mobile devices.”
Their mobile offering includes their current app development project, which they are producing in-house. In order to offer a unique digital experience, Vinomofo relies on its small team to deliver its front-end projects in-house, while other components remain instantly available and agile in the form of cloud-based solutions.
“Vinomofo’s servers are all cloud-based, as are the tools we use.” says Eikmeier. “Zendesk for customer service, Jira for development management, Salesforce for procurement and Gmail for emails, etc. Our apps are all custom-built in-house. We’re a Ruby on Rails developer.”
When it comes to getting customers’ selected bottles of Shiraz or Cab Sav to their doors, Vinomofo can’t afford to allow any cracks into the service, and this includes the time spent in storage previous to delivery.
“We ship anywhere in Australia, traditionally utilising Australia Post‘s wine service, while warehousing and fulfilment is handled by a third party,” Eikmeier explains. “We’re going to be combining this side of the business with CatchOfTheDay in the coming months, which should further increase our control over it, improving the time that it takes to get the wines to our customers.”
The Small Fish Scales Up
As the business grows, so too do Vinomofo’s headaches. While the enterprise was still small, it had the benefit of being an agile, niche venture, which could fly under the radar of potential competitors. Now the team is beginning to realise their organisation is something of a small fish swimming among sharks.
“Maintaining authenticity and a personal relationship with our customers as our customer base grows is a real focus for Vinomofo going forward,” Eikmeier says. “However, we’re setting ourselves up to compete head-to-head with Coles and Woolworths, which will no doubt present further challenges.”
For this reason, the deal struck between Vinomofo and CatchOfTheDay makes a lot of sense, and combining the two businesses’ subscriber base means a higher potential of conversions for both. At the same time, this means Eikmeier and Dry have to work even harder to ensure their audience doesn’t feel like the brand is losing its way under the umbrella of another organisation.
“We’ve tripled membership and sales since the partnership and launching the new site,” Eikmeier says. “We’ve got 100,000 subscribers and we’re growing nicely week-by-week. We’re all totally overworked, but enjoying the challenge!”
Gabby Leibovich, co-founder and CEO of CatchOfTheDay doesn’t believe maintaining their brand’s focus will be much of an issue for The Qwoff Boys, and expresses his confidence in their abilities.
“Andre and Justin not only have an incredible understanding of wine and the sector, they also understand the online world and what it takes to build a successful business in this space,” he says.
Seeking more information on how to get an online retail venture off to a flying start? See our complete A-Z guide, Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide.