Curious Wines is a specialist mixed-case wine merchant that was established just over 18 months ago after brothers Mike and Matt Kane saw a gap in the Irish market. The company is currently based in Bandon, County Cork, although it is about to move to Cork City.
It sells over 300 wine brands to consumers and businesses, primarily in Ireland, over the phone and via its website, with the latter being the most popular means of purchase.
“We decided that in such a competitive market, a low cost base is absolutely critical. That is how we started off and that has been the focus of a lot of our effort and a lot of our marketing,” says co-owner Mike Kane.
Curious Wines has invested a significant amount of resources developing its online presence and it uses Twitter, Facebook, a company blog and newsletters to support its website. At the 2009 Digital Media Awards the SME won accolades for Best e-Commerce/Services Website and Best Commercial Website. And at the 2010 Digital Media Awards the SME won a Silver Medal for Best in Blogging, something which Kane describes as “a huge shot in the arm for the business.”
Case study: Soft sell
Curious Wines outsourced the development of its website to freelance web designer Sabrina Dent, who had previously worked on virtual online world Second Life and WeddingDates.ie, among other projects. The SME gave Dent a very specific brief about what it expected from the website and Kane says his company was involved in every step of an eight-month development process.
“Website development is very specialised. While you can develop your own website, our ambition was to be best in class. We were very particular with the brief, what we wanted was very detailed,” says Kane.
The result is a colourful website based on an off-the-shelf template that Kane says was altered dramatically to incorporate images, text and video. Visitors can make orders, read a blog and enter a personalised area where they can create product wish-lists.
While Dent was responsible for the design, the staff at Curious Wines manage and upload all the site’s content from company laptops, using a software package that Dent supplied. The staff also use Google Adwords to advertise the site and Google Analytics and keep track of how surfers are accessing it. “[Google Adwords] has been very, very effective because it is so specific with what you want advertised and who you want to target and how much you have to spend,” says Kane.
Curious Wines also sends out newsletters to subscribers containing information about new products, alongside any offers the company might be running. The firm uses the software program CampaignMonitor to analyse how effective its email campaigns are. Kane also subscribes to newsletters from similar companies operating in different geographic regions to get an idea of what they are up to. “The newsletter obviously must be attractive, informative and entertaining,” he says. “The American model is a lot more sales-driven, a lot more pushy. We are closer to the UK model. We are a softer sell, an informed sell.”
Case study: Social side
One of the most important marketing tools Curious Wines currently uses is its blog. The blog is hosted on the SME’s website but it can be accessed through a variety of channels, ranging from Facebook to social bookmarking site Delicious. This is possible thanks to the AddThis tool, which allows surfers to share content with other users.
The blog posts use pictures, text and video to engage readers. Two recent entries discussed Gordon Ramsay’s house white wines and what makes the ultimate hamburger. The company has noted an increase in traffic to its website, particularly from surfers outside of Ireland, thanks to the blog. “The purpose of the blog is to sell our wine. Secondary to that is entertainment and education. We have a lot of new brands and products and the blog is a great way to promote those products and the wine makers, and to make customers more aware of what is behind the label,” says Kane.
Curious Wines uses Viddler and YouTube to post video content connected to the blog. The SME is also in the middle of setting up CuriousWines.tv, a video-only site that will serve as an extension of the blog. The content is currently being recorded on a budget flip-camera and the SME plans to post reviews and discussions on it. “As we are generating more and more video content, we made a decision to move it to a separate channel away from the blog. With wine there is so much to talk about, so we can extend that to discussions and comparative reviews,” says Kane.
The company also has a presence on social networking site Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter. It posts snippets from the blog on these sites alongside special offers for followers and friends. The firm has an active Facebook following and Kane notes that this social networking site is the one preferred by most Irish web surfers. “They are called social networks for a reason. A lot of companies, they come on Twitter and they go on Facebook but they completely ignore the social side of the social network. You have to engage with the consumers,” says Kane.
Curious Wines might appear to be a company that has figured out how to effectively use the sometimes bewildering array of internet tools available to businesses. However, as Kane points out, his company is just applying the rules of good marketing. “There is no secret way to doing it. The rules haven’t changed; it’s just that consumers are much more accessible and much more visible now. The message is the same.”
This article originally appeared in the eBusiness Live newsletter from Enterprise Ireland’s eMarketing Unit and was written by ENNclick.