Amazon.com recently announced that wine delivery is available to customers in South Carolina and Colorado. Officially launched in November, Amazon Wine helps customers in 15 states and Washington, DC, with their wine selections.
Peter Faricy, Vice President, Amazon Marketplace, had this to say in making the announcement: “We are thrilled to add Colorado and South Carolina to the list of states that wineries on Amazon can ship to. We are committed to helping wineries reach new customers across the country and offering our customers unprecedented access to buy wines directly from producers on Amazon Wine. We eagerly look forward to expanding our selection and customer reach in the near future."
Faricy will be a featured speaker during WiVi Central Coast 2013. Winebusiness.com caught up with him for a quick interview. Excerpts follow:
Q: When did Amazon Wine launch?
We launched the Amazon wine business on November 7, 2012. We’re excited. There are over 200 wineries and well over 1,000 wines available for consumer direct shipment. We launched right before the holiday season. It was a great time to build awareness of this for Amazon and to help wineries build their business direct-to-consumer. I was just in Napa and Sonoma and it was great to connect with some of our wineries that are on Amazon. So far we are very excited about the potential.
Q: Do you plan to be in all 40 legal direct shipping states?
Customers would love for us to ship to every one of the 50 states, so as regulations permit us to help wineries serve customers in other states we’d love to imagine we’d be able to help them do that. Stay tuned is the best answer I can give you on more states.
Q: How do you handle compliance?
Compliance is mission critical to us. It’s absolutely our number one priority. We have a very long-term view on this business. When you have a very long term view on the business and the ability to use technology, you figure out a way to do things like compliance right. So far, I can tell you that states are very pleased with the approach they’ve taken on compliance.
Q: How are sales?
We are very pleased so far. One of the parts that’s been the most exciting for the wineries is that a lot of the customers they’re getting are new customers for their wineries. Many wondered, would this be an overlap with their existing direct-to-consumer customers, or would these be new customers for their wineries that would help them grow their business? So far they’ve been very pleased. Many of the customers they’re getting from Amazon are new to their wineries and are getting a chance to discover their wines. We have 200 million active customer accounts and wineries are very excited about being able to reach millions of customers overnight. Having said all that, it’s early. This is going to be a journey for us. We’re going to support wineries like crazy and really build this. In the long term as we continue to build more awareness, the wineries will really have a chance to build their brands on our site.
Q: What can you do better?
I’m responsible for the Amazon Marketplace. That’s a couple million companies across the world. We’re using this same model to help wineries sell to consumers directly. Many wineries haven’t had as much experience in ecommerce. They’re learning about the unique demands of serving customers in an ecommerce world, and we haven’t had experience working with wineries in this space. We have a couple million sellers, but in all different product categories. The best way to describe our approach would be as a relentless path of continuous improvement. Wineries have made suggestions on how we can make the tools they use easier so they can list their products and share their rich data with customers. We’ve made suggestions of things we’d love for them to provide to serve consumers better. If you watch our site, you will continue to see great improvements on the customer-facing side and also with the way we interact with our wineries as sellers.
Q: Can all wineries participate?
We really encourage all wineries to consider joining the Amazon Marketplace. There are certain states in which wineries are actually not permitted to fulfill orders directly to consumers. So there are some states in the U.S. where wineries wouldn’t be permitted with the current regulations in their states. But we really have a very large and rich selection of wineries and are super excited.
Q: What’s surprised you working with wineries?
Many wineries love the idea of virtual shelf space. Their products in other channels may get presented without a full picture of who the winery is. The feedback I’ve heard that surprised me in a positive way - because I’m very excited about the opportunity going forward - is that they can really build their brand dynamically. Obviously we get an enormous amount of traffic on our site every day. The customer experience, as you probably noticed, is pretty different for wine than for other categories at Amazon, and that was purposeful. We knew this was a different category that had different customer needs and we’ve worked to make sure we provide an experience that allows sellers to tell their unique story and provide the equivalent of the tasting room experience online.
Q: What objections do you run into?
The wineries I’ve met so far are in different stages of sorting out their strategy for direct to consumer. Clearly, for those who want to have a direct to consumer business, the Amazon wine store offers a wonderful opportunity. It’s pretty amazing to be able to reach 200 million customers overnight. I also respect that for some wineries, this may not yet fit into their plans. We really have a very long term view.
Q: How can wineries best work with you?
The interest level prior to launch, during launch, and since launch, has been fantastic. We are still adding a fairly large number of wineries every week. Really, in the end, one of the wonderful things about ecommerce is we cater to wineries of all sizes. There’s room for wineries of all types, and we would love to have every winery in America sign up and become a seller on the Amazon wine store.
Customers in the end are going to be the ones who choose how much product sells. Some of the wineries I met with in the short term are a little less worried about how much they sell. They love the idea of being able to provide all this metadata about their different varietals and about their different wines. Obviously we would love to make this a really successful channel.
Submit your questions for Peter Faricy to email@example.com and stay tuned for answers during the WiVi Central Coast symposium and trade show.