Power Retail sits down with Nitesh Bhatia, the CEO and founder of online wine retailer, Just Wines, to learn more about how the company grew from a simple idea to one of the country’s largest wine sellers.
After a friend suggested he start a wine distribution business back in 2012, Bhatia received a small investment from his family and leapt into the world of wine. In these early days, the business was nothing more than a laptop in the corner of a warehouse, but Bhatia was quick to use the skills he had gained while selling imported goods on eBay while he was at Uni, to drive the Just Wines brand forward.
“It’s been a process and I’ve learned through both successes and mistakes but in that short amount of time, we have achieved a lot,” Bhatia says.
Some of the accomplishments Bhatia cites includes doubling the businesses product offering within 12-months, growing its customer-base to 70,000, and increasing sales from 100 bottles of wine per month to 150,000 bottles per month, to name a few.
Operating with a B2C model, wines are sold directly to consumers. However, according to Bhatia, the Just Wines model is a bit more complex than it seems due to its position as an online marketplace.
“It’s a slightly hybrid model because we store and ship to customers, and also maintain our website as a marketplace where hundreds of wineries sell and drop ship wines directly to customers,” he says.
There are reportedly 2,000 plus wines available on the site, which has made finding the right technology providers a key factor in the brand’s success.
“Selecting the right technology is critical to any online business, especially in terms of hosting a server and the technology that’s used to build the website,” Bhatia says. “We had to go through trials and errors with both of these, plus, as we grew, a number of scalability issues arose with these providers.”
While the company has a number of plugins and features added to its website, Bhatia says that the content management system (CMS), Magento has been a ”complicated, but good solution” for the businesses unique needs.
Marketing the Just Wines Brand
According to Bhatia, organic traffic plays a big role in the brand’s success, as its focus on SEO has seen a large portion of its wine listings jump up to the top of search queries.
“Recently, we had over 492 unique Australian wines, where we were the first listing [on search engines]. Furthermore, we also have another 1,042 products that sit at the second or third listings,” he says.
“SEO – hands down – has helped us the most. Word of mouth, and by association, our loyalty program, have also contributed significantly to our success.”
Just Wines’ loyalty program is one of the initiatives that Bhatia identifies as “differentiating” his business from some of his competitors.
“We reward our customers through our loyalty program, Trophy Club, which I believe is one of the best loyalty programs, “ Bhatia says. “We put a lot into listening to what our customers want, and studying other programs to come up with a winning rewards program.”
As part of the loyalty system, Bhatia says that club members will never be sent the same wines twice – which he believes no other wine club does. The program has a number of subscription offers to choose from, starting from $99, with members gaining access to free shipping, exclusive deals, and a new wine shipped to their door every month, second month, or quarter, depending on the membership option chosen during the sign-up process.
Social Media and Mobile Shopping
For Just Wines, social media is a key outlet for interacting with and engaging, existing customers.
“Social media isn’t really a profitable channel for us to acquire new customers, but we look at it as a tool to connect with our engaged, loyal customers,” Bhatia says.
Through its social channels, which include Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and YouTube, Just Wines endeavours to follow up on customer feedback, answer questions, and to get content in front of its loyal customer-base.
An effective mobile strategy is also important to Bhatia, as he claims a lot of the company’s customers search and browse on their mobile devices, but usually check out on their desktops. As such, Just Wines has a good user-experience implemented on both its mobile and desktop sites, is mobile responsive, and has implemented Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on its mobile site.
Overcoming Logistics and Customer-Centric Challenges
Like many online retailers, Bhatia believes one of the trickier areas of the Just Wines business is logistics.
“I think logistics is one of the biggest setbacks for e-commerce companies in Australia. Customers in Australia have always been able to purchase from other countries via companies like eBay and ASOS. The cost of shipping and the speed of shipping here really lag in comparison with other countries.
“For the e-commerce industry to have a bigger share of the retail spend, [shipping] speed for customers really needs to improve,” Bhatia says.
Customer retention is also something Bhatia wishes he knew more about when he was first entering the e-commerce sphere.
“Looking at current trends and analysing the cost to acquire each customer is something I never really considered early on. I think it’s really important to deep dive and analyse your data from all perspectives – in addition to keeping an eye on expenses,” he says.
Bhatia’s final words of wisdom are to seriously consider implementing a multi-channel strategy, as “selling in more than one place really helps attract customers”.