Andrew Kamphuis is the president of Commerce7, which specializes in eCommerce and POS solutions for the wine industry. Andrew himself has been an expert in the DTC technology development and fulfillment space for almost two decades. For our fifth Expert Series interview, our team sat down to talk with Andrew about DTC eCommerce and wine club/subscription modeling features, and how these can help a winery grow in a very competitive landscape.
[Read our past interviews with Sandra Hess, Jeff Carroll, Steve Gross, and Paul Mabry.]
CPL: Andrew, I can’t say enough how excited I am that you are back home in the wine industry and are taking your business to new heights. In preparing for this interview, I’ve read some other interviews you’ve given and have come away with a few follow-up questions.
First, can you tell our readers a little more about what transformational technologies are evolving in DTC?
Andrew: The biggest transformation we are seeing is this shift from product-centric to customer-centric. The customer experience is paramount. The customer wants control.
In terms of technology, the biggest shift has been the move from desktop devices to mobile, but this is now being followed by a move toward a big data, machine learning, “artificial intelligence” era. We as consumers are generating so much data with our behaviors on the internet that it is possible to tailor experiences, ads, offers, emails, media, anything to individual experiences.
CPL: Can you give us some examples of creating these customer-centric experiences?
Andrew: Let’s take a wine club. In the past, a winery shipped a preset number of wines three or four times a year. Everything was done on the winery’s schedule. They would schedule wine choices around releases, and shipments around heat and cold, etc.
Today the modern club is about giving the consumer control. The consumer should determine how many bottles of wine in a club, the frequency of shipments, and when to receive them, on their schedule.
CPL: OK, but other than price or “discounted” shipping, what will motivate the consumer to buy more online?
Andrew: The hierarchy is first they react to the experience, then the product, and finally the price.
Customers want their online experience to be fast, easy, and personalized. Executing on these three key needs in that order results in higher conversion, total order size, and revenue. All of our front-facing features revolve around delivering on these three key needs.
A good example of one of these features is our one-click club upsell feature. We directly stole this from Dollar Shave Club, which makes it easy for customers to add more products to their package, thus directly increasing the average order value.
CPL: So for the customer, it’s experience first, product second, and price third. With that in mind, how are you helping wineries grow their online presence?
Andrew: The online experience is interesting. In a tasting room, the customer is on vacation. They are relaxed, they want the ability to sit down and enjoy tasting some wine. The current trend is to create longer and longer experiences at a winery.
With online, it’s the opposite. Often the customer is on their phone, or they have a quick break at work. So the transaction has to be much quicker. A winery with an online presence has to anticipate what the customer wants, and make it as easy for them as possible.
At Commerce7 we are spending a lot of time collecting data. Why is the customer looking at this page right now? How can we make it faster and easier for them? How can we predict what the customer wants and serve that up to them? What can we do to make their entire online experience with the website better?
CPL: Before, you mentioned customer control. So what features are you offering to put the consumer in control during their purchasing journey?
Andrew: Today the purchasing process can happen over multiple channels and have multiple touch-points. Recognizing this, we’ve implemented a persistent cart on our platform. Customers can start a purchase on a mobile device, get distracted, and pick up where they left off days later on their desktop (or vice versa). It’s a seamless experience.
Another example: During checkout, we are allowing modern payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. We have a persistent login and magic links that make it easier for customers to check out.
CPL: That reminds me: I just read that you’ve launched your POS solution for tasting room purchases. Can you tell our readers about that tool?
Andrew: We see this as an extension of our commerce tools. The POS works on any modern device (desktop, iPad, Android tablet, iPhone), is chip and pin enabled by default, and allows for modern payments. It incorporates the same tools as the rest of our system, like smart flags, modern customer profiles, and international addresses.
One “cool” feature is the extensibility of the order, customer, and product record. With our system, you can have an unlimited number of custom fields. This allows a winery to collect information that is unique to them—and perfect for crafting custom communications and more personal touchpoints.
CPL: So what is your vision for the POS tool? How can it achieve its goals while taking into account the complexity of different needs of different types of winery tasting room sizes and experiences? Think VGS Chateau Potelle versus Flora Springs.
Andrew: Our POS was designed first for Opus One—so that will give you an idea of where it started. Our vision is that the core functionality is there and then via the open APIs, webhooks, and customizable fields, our partners will customize the functionality to meet the unique demands of individual wineries.
This is something we’ve seen at Shopify. They have thousands of apps. Today we have seven—but over time it will grow.
CPL: All the data and stories I read are pointing at mobile commerce and have for some time. [Readers can find an example here.] How can a winery draw attention to their mobile experience leading to a purchase or a higher AOP?
Andrew: Mobile is 63% of all web traffic. Historically, purchasing on a mobile device was very tough. Entering your address and credit card in a form on a phone is often painful. Network connectivity can be painful, too.
We are focused on speed and finding ways to make that mobile checkout faster. Recently we introduced magic links (passwordless login). We have built Commerce7 to remember everything about the customers so we can have their addresses prefilled. We allow things like Facebook login (although Facebook is on a down trend), and we are testing new features to continue to make it better.
CPL: What about ease of use for the wine club manager? I’ve spoken with quite a few of them, and they say they spend a significant amount of time working at manipulating data, orders, addresses, and so on. They feel that this takes them away from growing their business, retaining existing customers, and adding new channels. So I want to ask a few crucial questions on their behalf. To start, what are some of the upcoming features that make your platform unique compared to others on the market? What’s your “competitive advantage”?
Andrew: We are still pretty quiet about our upcoming features. You can bet they are focused on our core principles and values.
As for competitive advantage…there are a lot of great platforms out there. The reason Opus One and Constellation moved to Commerce7 is because of our focus on the customer experience.
We certainly don’t have all the features our competitors have. In fact, we probably only have half of the features they have. But we are focused on a better experience for the customer, and we are giving the winery control.
CPL: OK, let’s talk control, then. A common pain-point I hear is that club managers are spending so much time making address changes that they don’t really have time to focus on potential sales, client engagement, and prospecting. Can you speak to that? Is it easy for a consumer to change their address on desktop or mobile, for example?
Andrew: Ideally, the UI should be so intuitive that the end customers can do it themselves. Customers don’t want to call for support. It doesn’t matter how friendly the winery is, a customer doesn’t want to call for support.
I mean, when’s the last time you thought it would be fun to call customer support? You only call if you can’t do something yourself.
At the Emetry data conference, I was talking about customer service and how a customer will go to their profile page on a website before they go to the “contact us” page when they have an issue. We are trying to surface the important and most likely reasons why a customer visits their profile when they go to the profile.
If you just sent your customer an email that a club is shipping, when the customer visits their profile, shouldn’t that be the thing that surfaces first? And shouldn’t they see their shipping address, credit card, and items in the package right there?
CPL: What about orders? Can Commerce7 allow for editing an order, adding to an order, or modifying an order, once the order has been charged?
Andrew: Technically this is easy—because it’s just a database record. In operation, it’s quite a bit harder. Your accounting team will hate you. You have integrations to compliance, fulfillment, etc. that all come into play. Thus, Commerce7 does not allow an order to be edited—but we do allow refunds and exchanges.
CPL: Can you tell the readers how you have improved your client-facing portal and your client services engagement, compared to other providers?
Andrew: Our client-facing portal is fast. It’s “cached first” loading. Our club processing is also fast. We can process 1,000 club orders in 90 seconds.
If you view an order or a customer record and then go offline, that data is still visible (so offline compatible). But besides some of the cool technology, we are trying to be customer-centric ourselves to our winery customers.
We are playing with some cool ideas. For instance, today when you visit the customer area, we take a good guess as to your search and show you the 12 most likely customers you are about to deal with rather than showing you an alphabetical list of customers (which often results with accounts with no name at the top).
Another example is our smart flags, which show up in the search before a winery employee even clicks on a customer record. So they can see issues before they click into a customer.
CPL: Those all sound like some handy and convenient features. How easy is it for a club manager to manage multiple clubs in the system?
Andrew: It’s easy. We’ve purposefully left out a lot of options in our system to keep it simple. This is something I got from studying Shopify. Make it fast and easy. The most features doesn’t win. The best experience wins.
CPL: Interesting. I’ve heard you say at other times that you’d like Commerce7 to be like Shopify. What does that mean?
Andrew: Shopify is the best example of focusing on one thing (commerce), doing it well, and then allowing an ecosystem of apps and partners to figure out how to customize and extend those core features and abilities. At Commerce7, we have a similar model: We want to be great in commerce and wine clubs and let our partners handle everything else.
CPL: So back to multiple clubs: Can you just copy and paste data to duplicate clubs? Is the processing automatic, or is it a manual process?
Andrew: Club processing is automated. It’s automated in most platforms out there. Our user-choice clubs are automated. Whatever the customer wanted, the customer gets during processing.
CPL: That all sounds like you are making life easier for wine club managers, too. But let me ask: What if a club manager has an issue using your software? What’s your response time like?
Andrew: Today we are small so it’s easy to be fast. All our early customers also have my cell number and Zach’s number and Jason’s number. As we grow, I’m sure we will put in some SLAs around client engagement, but today we are not there yet.
CPL: Speaking of size and growth, I’ve got to ask about international orders. International DTC is a hot topic and has a huge potential for growth. I heard you have built international shipping into the platform—can you explain that in more detail?
Andrew: If you’re looking for a large growth area, it’s international DTC. There is a huge number of international visitors that travel to American wine regions every year. These international visitors have a great experience—yet when they go back home, they can’t buy online.
We worked hard with Opus One to create a great buying experience for international customers. They were a key driver in the international checkout. Today we support 92 different countries with international address validation and international phone number validation. Through an integration we built with FedEx, we can serve duties upfront, creating a better buying experience. We worked with Opus One and Forter to provide great fraud protection.
We know that Gliding Eagle has really pushed the bar of international DTC and we are proud to partner with them. For a winery, this is an easy way to start opening up these markets. And Commerce7 technology is served from the cloud front—134 locations around the world. So it’s a great experience wherever you’re located.
CPL: This is amazing, Andrew. I really love how you’ve thought through the entire customer (and club manager) experience. Thank you so much for talking with me today, and good luck with Commerce7!
Top 10 Take-Aways
Based on Andrew’s insights and discussion, here are 10 steps to take when it comes to improving your customers’ purchasing experience online, or through your wine club.
- Customer experience is everything. Product and price are important, but if you don’t make ordering and handling an account easy, customers won’t engage.
- Ease of use is a big part of the online experience. Customers may relax and linger in the tasting room, but buying online, they want things to be quick, simple, and efficient.
- Control is part of the overall experience, too. Customers want to be able to control what is shipped, when it is shipped, and how frequently. Wine clubs especially need to think about building in this kind of flexibility.
- Control matters for wine club managers as well. The right tools should give wine club managers the freedom to build their channel (and not waste time on updating addresses, for example).
- Both ease-of-use and control can be made possible with data tools/AI. If you know enough about your customer, you anticipate what a customer (or internal user) wants, or wants to know. This makes it easier to find key information at the point of need.
- Data gathering should start right with your POS tool. Not only should a POS tool be convenient, but it is the first step toward building a customer profile. It is your first, best tool for gathering data to be used for future engagement.
- Mobile can be made easy too—and it should. So much engagement with customers is happening via mobile now. The experience should be easy on mobile platforms, too. Even something simple like pre-filling an address or making simple account changes can make or break the customer experience on mobile.
- The UI should be easy and intuitive. Whether selling online or through mobile, make the user interface simple and intuitive. Most things a customer would want to do, they should be able to do themselves (for example, change their address).
- A wine club solution doesn’t need to be “one size fits all.” In fact, the most successful solutions focus on doing just a few things well, and then let the business customize their solution through third-party apps.
- International sales are a huge growth opportunity—capitalize on it. Many international tourists visit America’s wine country. Let them recreate the experience too, by finding partners that can help with international shipping!
Interested in discussing DTC and wine club logistics for your winery, wine club, subscription service, or eCommerce store? Contact us.