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Wine Society to launch online community

The Wine Society is set to launch an online wine community as part of an ongoing boost to its digital services.

The move comes shortly after Tesco wound up its popular online community, but head of buying Tim Sykes told the drinks business it was not going to go after the Tesco wine community.

“Because we are a membership organisation, there is a desire among our members for a element that allows members to commune with each other, so we are putting together the platforms to do that and setting up the forums,” he said.  “We are looking closely at it so that our members fell part of a community.”

The UK mail order merchant, which has around 130k active members, has invested heavily in its online offering over the last year, concentrating initially on optimising the site for tablet and smartphone as it sees a shift towards a more digital-savvy audience.

Telephone sales still form a “significant” proportion of orders, Sykes said, but this has shrunk from around 50% to 30% in the last three years, and increasing numbers of its members order online. He said there had been “steady growth” of the membership  but that for the business to be sustainable in the long term, it needed to keep growing. “Younger members were key, but our key goal is membership satisfaction and giving members the best possible service,” he said.

The second phase will involve ensuring members have a “seamless experience” by making the experience “more intuitive”.

“Over the next six months you will see some innovation,” he said. “We’ve been thinking about the presentation of the site and making it more use-friendly by changing the format on information to make it more intuitive. So there will be more details on the regions, the winemaker, the vintages and the wines, as well as new ratings.”

This will make the large amount of  information already available on the site easier and more logical to find and move away from presenting wines with just a brief tasting note.  It is set to roll out from next month, with interactive maps being trialled next year.

“People have a voracious appetite for wine information,” Sykes explained. “But the information needs to be nicely set out in a digestible and more user friendly format.”

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