December 8, 2010, 9:05 AM beefs up customer service over the holidays

The online wine retailer added 250 employees to fill warehouse and customer service roles.

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In the last three months, online wine retailer Inc. says it has experienced 30% growth in sales compared to the same time last year, although CEO Rich Bergsund declines to provide sales figures in dollars. The company is aiming to keep the momentum going through December, which typically comprises about 30% of its revenue, by focusing on customer service and some other initiatives.

To meet holiday demand, the company hired and trained 250 seasonal employees for warehouse and customer service duties. “We’ve made a bigger investment than ever before in customer service operations and personnel and we can hopefully rise to the occasion of the peak month,” Bergsund says. The company wants that customer service focus to carry over. “Once customers get through the gifting season, we hope they will think of us the other 11 months,” he says.’s customer service efforts feature several delivery options including one that lets customers pick delivery dates and even pick the hour when packages can be delivered.

The retailer also pays particular attention to packaging, says Bergsund. With each wine purchase,, No. 229 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, includes tags to hang from wine bottles with the date purchased and amount paid so customers can more easily organize their supplies. For gifts, purchase amounts are replaced by the giver’s and recipient’s names.

Also added this year is a loyalty program, called Steward-Ship, which sets a one-time standard delivery fee of $49 for unlimited deliveries throughout the year. “It’s a big-driver of growth that we’re seeing. About 30% of revenue is from people who are Steward-Ship members,” Bergsund says.

The online retailer is also getting a boost from its recently launched iPad app with those sales making up 80% of its revenue from mobile devices, according to Bergsund. has not disclosed its online sales for 2010 so far; Internet Retailer estimates 2009 online sales were $49 million.

This holiday season the company is also targeting the higher-end wine collectors with an increased assortment of expensive wines and special e-mail offers, Bergsund says.

For customers seeking bargains, the company last summer launched, a members-only daily flash-sale site for premium wines that is bringing in 10% of the company’s online sales, Bergsund notes.

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