When Will Internet Wine Ordering Finally Happen? (Short Piece #2)

Someone asked me a question and I remembered when I used to place orders with the big wine and spirit distributors some had an online option for ordering. As a matter of fact, I did sign up and try to place orders myself but the system was not practical.

Buyers can have many problems with vendors unless a good system is in place. Buying wine and spirits can become quite a chore. One problem I have had with ordering is the salespeople servicing accounts. My experience of wine and spirit buying has been each individual salesperson had one’s own way of doing the orders. Since I placed many orders weekly, it was easy to get used to the many systems, by repetition, but the thought of trying other vendors was very discouraging. I remember I resorted to placing email orders to bypass the telephone. Telephone order changes and updates work but phone conversation takes a long time even for a small order. I figured email would make it possible to write down what I wanted or had changed and the salesperson would take the order from there. That was a big mistake. Some reps would not even read the emails or read them seldom. I had to return to in-person ordering until a new discovery was made.

Text messaging on cellular phones had been around forever but it had never occurred to me I could text my order changes the same way phone calls were made. The advantage, for a person on a busy restaurant floor, is I can take care of one ordering task in 15 to 20 seconds and it is done. A phone call or response to a call after my voicemail can take at least 2 to 3 minutes. That does not sound long but in front of the guests, it will be a big interruption. I can answer 5 or more phone questions on the restaurant phone in the time of that call or greet and seat dozens of guests. The restaurant action time is very small during busy times though most restaurant people never realize this by being busy. Text messaging was God’s answer to my many ordering problems. What happened next was a surprise and a shock. Most sales representatives did not know how to read a text message on the phone (only have to press a button to ‘read’) or how to type a response in. Some were downright rebellious and ignored them. Senior reps want their personal systems worked or one can expect hassles. That was the day I also realized big accounts, like mine, have senior and not-very-young representatives. They could not and would not learn new things on demand. What was the solution? I found out one distributor had the option to place orders online. I absolutely loved that. Now, I could erase all the little tasks of wine and spirits buying from my daily schedule and did them online at my own free time.

That was a bad idea. The online ordering system worked but placing orders with a person and with a computer are not the same. Any item I found online to order had dozens of options for the orders. The many sizes, the many packaging, the many bundles, the many promotions and the lists went on. I found it very hard to decipher the lists and decided my reps made enough mistakes on their own and placing the orders filled with my own mistakes was the worst move I could make. That was the end of my efforts to make wine and spirit buying as simple and time efficient as possible by using any possible means. What if the online systems actually worked? Is it possible to help the buyer set up an initial order form and let reorders done online or maybe have online chat as part of the ordering to answer quick questions? I believe online ordering will increase sales for the vendors and make the process efficient. The top 20% of salespeople will always be needed to visit and help with the accounts. They are by their knowledge and experience specialists who can be of great help but the bulk of ordering should be automated. The advantages are many: Less mistakes, reliable ordering system, better time management, and so on. The wine buyer also can handle many more vendors if smaller vendors have a combined online ordering system. This will aid many large and small vendors by getting consistent and clear orders on a regular basis. If an account is not active, the same salespeople can be let loose on the restaurant buyers but otherwise, salesperson experience is not the high point of most buyers days. Many qualified buyers prefer to eschew what is pushed by the salespeople and spend the time on pursuing the products of their own interest. Online ordering means more good products get fair exposure without the selective pushing of a visitor. I wonder how a reliable and practical system can be developed to improve ordering and make buyers look forward to placing orders?

*This post is from this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush


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