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    February 27, 2023

    Joe Fisch of Wine Access: A Game Plan for How To Improve the Customer Shopping Experience

    Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
    “We always start off with ‘What are the points of differentiation and how do we do it?’ Because I think if you don't have that down, then the customer experience and everything else that follows kind of falls apart.”— Joe Fisch, CEO of Wine Access



    In business, it pays to pivot. Ecommerce leaders have learned this all too well over the last three years.

    Wine Access, a company that expertly curates wines for wine connoisseurs and beginners (oenophiles and neophytes, respectively) alike, has made its own successful pivot. The brand has shifted from advertising-driven performance marketing to strategic investments in compelling content and superior customer service to engage and expand its audience.

    Joe Fisch, CEO of Wine Access, joined a recent episode of the “Unpacking the Digital Shelf” podcast, “Reimagining the Customer Acquisition and Loyalty Journey,” to share his company’s four-pillar customer engagement and retention strategy and his advice for how to improve the customer shopping experience.

    How To Improve the Customer Shopping Experience: The 4 Key Pillars of Wine Access’s Business

    Wine Access has focused on four key pillars to deliver a best-in-class customer experience:

    1. Wine curation
    2. Content
    3. Perfect provenance
    4. Superior customer service

    Fisch says the company has honed in on its core value proposition and built its content and customer service ecosystem around these values. 

    “We always start off with ‘What are the points of differentiation and how do we do it?’ Because I think if you don't have that down, then the customer experience and everything else that follows kind of falls apart,” he says.

    1. Wine Curation Delivers Value

    Wine curation, the first component of the company’s strategy, focuses on delivering the best selection of highly coveted wines to customers. Wine Access’s expert team anchors this strategy. The team includes a master of wine, master sommelier, and prominent sake expert, among others. 

    “We have one of the best teams — I think the best team pound-for-pound in the industry — that's flying all over the world and finding the best wines in the world,” Fisch says. “It's this amazing team who have dedicated their lives [to wine]. They've probably tasted more wines and forgot about more wines than most people will experience in a lifetime. They are a core pillar of what we do and how we can derive amazing value to our consumer.”

    2. Stellar Content

    Wine Access also curates engaging content for its customers. The company has a podcast, web articles, a mobile app, exclusive videos for wine club members, subscriptions, community events, and even includes print inserts in every customer’s shipment that offer details on each wine’s profile — or, essentially, each wine’s unique story. 

    Fisch says changes in the larger ecommerce landscape accelerated the company’s pivot from performance marketing to brand marketing and strategic partnerships. 

    “We were heavily performance marketing, and really most of our focus was on growth marketing, the Facebooks of the world, paid search, and then we would supplement it with some brand marketing,” he says. “When the Apple OS X changed with a lot of the privacy settings [that] came about, we started to shift a little bit out of Facebook and paid search and moved our mix from, let's say, 99% or 100% performance marketing to more of these partnerships, and then a little bit of brand marketing, as well.”

    Wine Access has focused on cultivating different content touch points with its customer base to nurture its relationship with them. Partnerships are a critical part of this play. The company has forged partnerships with well-known companies in the wine industry, including Michelin Guide, Decanter, and Sunset, and does in-person events with different proprietors and brands. Fisch says all of these efforts drive customer loyalty.

    “With the larger brand partnerships, it takes time. But when they do hit, you get a really sticky customer.” — Joe Fisch, CEO of Wine Access

    3. Perfect Provenance Will Gain Customers’ Trust

    If you’re not a wine aficionado, you may be scratching your head at this term.

    However, perfect provenance is critical to earning wine consumers’ trust.

    “[It’s about] making sure the wine that you're drinking actually came from the winery that it was supposed to,” Fisch says. “But I think even beyond that, there's things like, from a shipping perspective, making sure every bottle is taken care of.”

    Wine Access understands that the shipping and delivery experience is a crucial part of its overall customer experience, so the company is very particular about how it takes care of the products it ships, including adopting climate-controlled shipping and delaying shipping if there’s potential for compromised quality.

    Trying to achieve perfect provenance also complements the company’s focus on superior customer service. 

    4. Superior Customer Service Is Paramount

    Wine Access has net promoter scores (NPS) that most companies would envy. Its scores are consistently in the high 70s or low 80s. 

    Stellar customer service has a lot to do with this. All of the previously outlined elements contribute to a positive overall impression of the company — from its wine club offerings and curated content based on a customer’s location to its private tasting events and focus on the end-to-end customer experience, including post-purchase. 

    “We’re really, really happy with where that's going,” Fisch says about the company’s NPS, “but obviously we keep looking at how can we continue to push that up?” 

    Growth Is in the Pivot

    The wine industry has its own complex rules of engagement for brands, but Wine Access has found a way to successfully navigate this by shifting its marketing and ecommerce strategy and by focusing on how to improve the customer shopping experience. Standing still is never a good idea for any brand. Growth often requires pivoting, and Wine Access has done this in a way that could serve as a model for brands inside and outside the wine industry.

    And that’s something everyone within ecommerce can raise their glass to.

    To hear more about how you can emulate Wine Access’ best-in-class experience, listen to the full episode.