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An Interview with Tom Wark of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR)

May 18, 2017

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WSJ: What's wrong with virtual inventory?

April 11, 2009

On Friday April 10th Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher turned their attention to all that is wrong with ecommerce wine websites with the following Article:

What's Wrong with Wine on the Web
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123939668806909355.html

Some stores have asked for my take on the complaints about "Phantom inventory". There has been a growing push back against virtual inventory recently, largely from a retailer in NYC who has been trying to get Wine-Searcher to remove competitive listings from their website. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that this retailer was listed in the WSJ article as one of the other sites that "do it right", even though I believe his website is cluttered and suffers from a dated design (2 of the wrongs Gaiter and Brecher list). It was also disingenuous not to mention that WSJwine.com is a competitor in this space and as one of the commentors points out is not immune to the problems listed.

That said, I don't disagree with the problem as described in the article. The worst offenders are stores who don't use our system; they attempt to recreate virtual inventory but are unable to maintain items as they become unavailable. To be sure there are some issues with the listings we provide and some of the stores on our system sometimes push the model too hard. But most of these issues can be addressed by filtering for only the core of wholesalers who provide daily updates, and flagging virtual items with the clock icon. As you know, on our system the retailer is in control of what is listed, and at what price.

What I find more worrying is stores who try to work around our system by listings wholesalers that are not published in the Journal as store inventory, but then cannot keep up with price and availability changes. When competing retailers notice problems that arise from this practice they assume the problem is with the Beverage Media system of virtual inventory and the reputation of our system is affected. My approach to combatting complaints about virtual inventory is to research the problems and if necessary fix them. This includes meeting with wholesalers to encourage them to send us availability updates and in some cases to convince them that they can benefit from being in our Journals.

Most of the other comments in this article about what's wrong with wine websites has less to do with the service Beverage Media provides than policy and design decisions made by a store. Certainly I hope your customers should never feel that you are guilty of "buying off-the-rack Web sites designed by people who have never shopped at a wine store."

It would be very interesting to hear other perspectives on this article. Please Sign In to Blogger with your Google account to submit a comment and let us know what you take away from this story.

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