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Wine.com’s larger wholesaler suppliers have access to an extranet site that that allows them to communicate some categories of product data to Wine.com, but individual winery suppliers send their data by e-mail, Osborn says. Winemaker notes-descriptions of wine used for marketing purposes-and information on the wine’s label (containing information on product attributes such as alcohol content-labels are regulated by law) are gathered in a central mailbox and then logged in manually to the database. “It’s really low-tech,” Osborn says.
The retailer has automated some functions that help keep the product database current. For example, because suppliers produce a new vintage at about the same time every year, Wine.com knows when new vintages are due to be released for sale, and if the product data from a supplier doesn’t arrive on schedule, that triggers an e-mail request for it.
When it comes to the scale of business of any e-retail operation, big volume generally equals big-and often pricey-technology solutions. But for many e-retailers that run successful businesses but don’t play in the same league as corporate giants, managing product information remains a job they prefer to tackle first by looking at what technology they’ve already got and building a process around it.
“We have a lot of dedicated people who are very intent on presenting accurate information to our customers and we go to great lengths to make sure we have a good accuracy record,” says Crutchfield’s Souder. “There is no magic, just a lot of effort around the basics.”