Over the history of online wine sales, retailers have been buffeted by the policy shifts of web giants that control much of traffic from US consumers. Amazon, Google and eBay in particular have all embraced alcohol sales at some point, only to back away and ban it from their websites. Since a ban on beer and spirits sales in 2012, eBay has quietly been selling wine from licensed retailers, but treating it as a non-specific category that didn’t require any specialized navigation.
A few weeks ago eBay announced to the world that it was ready to champion online wine sales with eBay Wine, a structured storefront that aims to become a shopper’s destination for wine purchases. By embracing licensed retailers, through a partnership with the mobile app Drync, eBay looks to be countering Amazon’s listings from domestic wineries. Drync is managing the inventory feed from the retailer to eBay and making sure products display a compelling image.
The appeal to the retailer is being on a platform that attracts 162 million active buyers globally, with 300 million searches every day. Over time eBay intends to increase marketing of the wine storefront to its audience, driving more traffic to retailers. Retailers pay eBay 10% of each completed sale, and a monthly service fee to Drync which includes participating in their app’s marketplace listings.
“The number of retail partners is continuously growing but with the current retailers, eBay shoppers are able to access a huge selection of wine and have that wine shipped to the majority of the US (up to 45 states),” says Alyssa Steele, Divisional Merchandizing Manager for Home & Garden at eBay.
So far the feedback from participating retailers is that the sales are coming through and that business is good, however the system is not so efficient for managing customers and processing orders. Stores are selling everything from Arbor Mist Moscato to bottles of The Prisoner and Silver Oak; and picking up local customers who research the eBay retailer and chose to visit the store.
The biggest setback eBay retailers report is the inability to block sales from customers in states where they can’t ship. “Each individual wine seller on eBay is required to include in each product listing the states to which they are legally able to ship”, says Steele. But customers are ignoring this fine print leaving stores with no choice but to cancel these orders. Fortunately, since eBay is also the payment gateway for the credit card transaction, they can waive all fees for a cancellation. But eBay needs to come up with a better solution that blocks orders from do-not-ship states. They also need to help retailers target customers in states where they can sell, so retailers in MA and other states where they can only deliver locally can participate.
“eBay does have some geo-targeting capabilities that will come into play once they deploy the BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) capabilities. We have several MA BOPIS retailers ready and waiting to be put up on eBay,” according to Drync CEO Brad Rosen
Drync has recently pivoted from offering a consumer-facing app to becoming an app solution for retailers, including a white-label app that will place a retailer’s logo on their customer’s homescreen. The addition of the eBay feed service is a strong compliment to an app offering that helps build loyalty among a store’s core customers but doesn’t promise to deliver new customers. The eBay feed can satisfy that demand from stores, and Drync should be able to convert satisfied eBay retailers into new app customers.
eBay sees the wine category as a huge opportunity and will likely expand to include winery listings. “We’re absolutely looking to grow this category and like our other categories, eBay is a partner – not a competitor – to our sellers”, says eBay’s Steele. Stores have reason to be nervous about this remembering how Amazon abandoned them a few years ago. For now the opportunity is with retailers and hopefully this giant of consumer traffic will remain a reliable source of wine consumers.
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