Rubber-Stamped Web-Page or Community Profile?

If you’re a winery, there’s about a 50% chance that you have a website. If you have one, the odds are probably much greater that the majority of your site visitors come because they have either 1) had the wine or 2) it was recommended. Point being… if someone has never heard of you, they probably aren’t going to be stumbling onto your site. And if they do, is the webpage enough to make them feel like they are missing out on something if they don’t try the wines?

Your wine is your brand, and the worst thing for a brand is to not have a point of difference. So next time your strolling through the online world, and looking at all of the wineries’ webpages, pay attention, and one thing will become very apparent. Most winery websites follow the same template. It really does look like the winery sent in a few pictures and a paragraph description to the web-design company, and they just stamped the site right out. Granted this doesn’t apply to all wineries… many take the time to find a designer and pay them $1000’s to develop a site that is unique to their image. Unfortunately, the majority of wineries don’t have this budget, and resort to the ever looming “default” home page. This could be because godaddy.com gives you the template for free, or you put out a website simply because you felt you had to.

Every winery is different, every wine and its vintage is different, every wine maker unique and lovable in their own ways… How do you share that with an audience? How do you attract the audience? The solution isn’t for a winery to work intensely at themselves, but to do what they do best… be unique. One of the most recent internet phenomenons is myspace.com. As the name portrays, its MY space… unique to that individual, created however they would like. Granted there are almost always similarities in basic design, but every page has a personality to interact with… not to mention the page is plugged into a community of millions of people. How easy is it to stumble on a myspace profile… too easy almost… browsing through the site, clicking on friends’ friends, and their most popular friend, looking at the comments that have been made, going to a bands page, reading what the artists are experiencing, and even talking with them on their wall. Some wineries are even taking advantage of this already…Bellview Winery, (a small winery in New Jersey, they are only sold locally in the state, and they have over 500 Myspace friends) The one drawback is that Myspace pages give samples of the musicians work, whereas wineries will obviously not be able to give tastes of their wines.

The two “profiles” on this page, one for Estancia, and one for Dromos (picked simply because they’re a couple of the favorites here – click to enlarge) were quickly designed to give an idea of how a winery could have a community profile page that not only complements their website, but also allows interaction with the fans. It gives some basic information, and gives the ability to have an open discussion right on the page. They would need to be somewhat similar for ease of navigation, but the main point of difference being a combination of the functionality and the ability to interact with the viewers. Furthermore, it could serve a really cool function of providing a virtual tour of the winery. This is the type of feature that could actually had value to the consumer’s buying experience and even entice them to travel to that location, which could even be arranged through the profile page. Estancia’s website is rather advanced for winery websites and should not be discarded. Instead, there should just be an RSS feed on the profile page that brings in content from the website. Dromos, on the other hand, has practically no website presence and could greatly benefit from a profile.

The problem of rubber-stamped websites can be solved, but two very important things have to take place for the benefit of these personality profiles to realize itself. First, wineries have to be willing to update their profile with new content on somewhat of a regular basis… this applies to their websites as well. Second, and more importantly, in order for these profile pages to really serve their purpose, they have to exist within an established online community of wine consumers or within an online community of wineries, in which consumers go to check out their options. WineWeb and RadCru are doing some very interesting things, creating online marketplaces for wineries. However, they have a minimalist presence for the winery, especially their personality. This is probably because, as previously mentioned, it will be very difficult to get wineries to consistently add content and update their profiles. Ultimately, it’s going to take the attention of the consumer before the wineries start putting in the effort.

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