I’ve spent a bit of time talking about several Wine 2.0 sites here but really haven’t covered what might make for the most successful business model: the wine club. There are some wine social networking sites that include online stores but there is nothing like WineQ, which launches their public beta today.
I’ve been using the site for about a week while it was in private beta and am impressed by it’s performance and ease of use. A familiar tabbed user interface makes it easy to navigate the site to find wines and share them with friends, but it’s the Queue that is really their unique proposition to wine lovers. Just like Netflix revolutionized the DVD rental business with with a personal movie queue, WineQ does this for wine clubs. But they take this concept one step further by giving users the ability to choose their own mix of wines for regular shipment. This might appear on the surface to be a minor point but this has been a deal breaker for me after joining some wine clubs and not being 100% satisfied with the selection mailed to me.
Other interesting features include filtering selections by states so I don’t put wines in my queue that can’t be legally shipped to me and a wine recommendation engine that promises to be somewhat like a similar feature in both Netflix and Amazon. These recommendations will improve once more people buy and rate the wines they receive. But it’s the queue that is really where the most benefits are found. Not only can I determine when the shipments are sent (always on Monday, so I get the wines by the end of the week), how many bottles are sent in each shipment and the order of wines selected. That last feature is implemented in Ajax which provides an easy to use drag and drop interface.
WineQ’s business model is based upon a $9.95 monthly service fee (or $99.95 annually) that entitles the customer to free shipping on orders over $35. This is a huge benefit, as many times shipping 2 or 3 bottles will cost you over $20; I’d rather pay for more wine than shipping any day. I know why the folks at WineQ have chosen this monthly fee model, from my previous experience at a dot-com start-up a few years back, but as a customer I’d rather have it be a free membership and perhaps a slightly higher minimum order for free shipping, but this is not a deal-breaker by any means. Should you not reach that $35 order size, you will be charged a very reasonable $5 per shipment.
Currently, there are only nine wineries in their portfolio with each offering an average of 2 or 3 wines (the exception being Peterson Winery with 5 wines but not my personal favorite Bradford Mountain Syrah). I’m sure this selection will continue to grow as time goes on. All the current wineries are limited production, artisan producers that are somewhat difficult to find outside of California, another benefit for those of us living out of state.
I’m really glad to see WineQ startup and hope they carve out a successful niche in the Wine 2.0 community. As part of their launch, they have offered a special coupon code for Winecast readers and listeners good for $10 off your first order. Just enter the coupon code “WINECAST” when you sign up. Think of it as a one month risk-free trial of this unique service.
I’ll blog some more after receiving my first shipment later this month. Check it out here.