Gmail filters: killing wine flash sales?

gmail_filtersGmail introduced some filters last month that pre-sort your email for you: if you’re not one of the half a billion users, emails that seem like bulkmail now get automatically sorted into a “promotions” tab out of the main inbox. I personally like it as it means fewer distractions. I check in once a day for 30% off skinny jeans coupons and discounts on backpacks at REI.

But I may be an anomaly since there’s an article in today’s Times that has a lot of hand wringing from email marketers. Apparently they feel that the “promotions” tab is tantamount to Siberia. The story didn’t have any actual data about a decline in open rates but it did mention that a few companies are clamoring to get dragged out of the promotions tab and waving special discounts to consumers to do so.

The wine industry has grown increasingly fond of email marketing in recent years, perhaps too fond as some retailers pummel inboxes several times a day with flash sales, special offers, and even just regular old offers. If anything, wine emails still seem a blunt instrument, spewing forth a barrage of offers, ranging from sweet to sparkling and every hue of wine. Wine emailers could take a lesson from Gmail and pre-filter offers higher up letting consumers just get pings about regions or styles of wine they are interested in and dropping other emails. There’s so much talk of mining consumer preferences, the one-size-fits-all model for email marketing seems from a bygone era. By maybe after the Gmail filters, email marketing itself may be taking a hit.

What do you think about wine sales emails today? If you’re a consumer, do you get too many? And if you send them, how has the Gmail filtering affected your open rate or sales? Oh, and if you subscribe to this blog’s posts using Gmail, be sure to drag them into your “primary” inbox. 😉

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15 Responses to “Gmail filters: killing wine flash sales?”

  1. I like the Gmail sorting. It doesn’t interfere with my wine shopping.

  2. While I recognize that this is an apparently eccentric opinion, I believe that internet sales of wine will prove devastating to the cause of fine wine for the same reason that the internet sales of books is detrimental to the cause of serious literature. Cookbooks and Best Sellers increasingly crowd out poetry and fine fiction, thereby discouraging young authors and poets. Just so, internet sellers of wine will quite naturally promote large production, high margin offerings since — as Willie Sutton said in a different context — that’s where the money is. This will work out well for consumers and sellers of a Silver Oak or a Kistler, but the small and innovative producers of great wine will inevitably be drowned out by the internet “noise”. Just as authors needed discerning publishers and capable small booksellers, so does fine wine require sophisticated and experienced wine merchants who can explain and guide consumers. If wine becomes a mere commodity, apparently fungible to the consumer, then bad wine will increasingly drive good wine out of the market

  3. We created WineNabber to give someone interested in buying wine online the opportunity to filter, according to their personal preferences, the email from over 25 online wine retailers. Most of our subscribers request one email a day from us that will contain just the wine offers that can be shipped to them, fall within the prices they are willing to pay, and so forth. It’s a very efficient way to reduce the noise level and still offers that are relevant.

  4. While interesting (read unusual / rare/ new finds) offers are welcome, I will say that some retailers are making the mistake of saturating us with multiple emails per day. No matter how fun the banter, the law of diminishing returns starts to set in. One a day is enough, at least in my book.

  5. I get substantial email from vendors; if I’m not in the mood to read it….delete. I disagree that these emails will leave the little guys in the dark; all those emails I get advertising large producers go in the trash. I purchase to my palate and look at new wines I have read about and wish to purchase because the tasting notes seem to line up with what I like. Back to subject….wine sales emails account for maybe 5% of my purchases; I rely on blogs like Wine Berserkers & Cellar Tracker plus other essential websites to find the wines I purchase on top of what I purchase from annual mailing lists.

  6. I’d comment on this subject if I weren’t, like you Dr. Vino, an anomaly.

    Having been on the production, wholesale, and retail end of the business I know that there is no such thing as a sale, no such thing as a bargain, and no such thing as a fair price.

    Plus, I have two legs and a brain. I like to use each to keep them functioning. That means going out and actively searching for the things I love.

    Finally, I am not on Gmail–wouldn’t think of it–and I don’t give my email address to retailers.

    See? I don’t just say it, I AM an anomaly.

  7. I use Yahoo as a main e-mail, so I’m generally not missing on any of the flash sale e-mail (I’m only using LastBottle and WTSO), but sometimes Yahoo can place those e-mail into the SPAM folder, which is not good.

    On Gmail, you still have a visibility into all the nee messages in all of the tabs, plus you can “teach” google what e-mails should go into what tab by moving them.

  8. Nearly every online wine brokerage offers the same value proposition, “This is the best price for the best wine in its category…limited availability..etc..etc..” in reality everyone is screaming “BUY FROM ME!”, but there is no real incentive to acquire a wine from any one source except if it is the actual best price in the world for the said bottle of wine. With wine prices so transparent, you can lose faith in a retailer quickly if the price is not the best price as emailed leading to unsubscribes.

    This said…we have developed a new shopping platform at that gives online wine buyers a real incentive to purchase from us rather than our competitors. We call this format Competitive shopping. It “gamifys” old school ecommerce, and merges auction theory with casual game mechanics, or more simply this is an auction game embedded into a group buying club, The Auction Club. The game has a jackpot that allows the winner to pay the reserve price of the auction at a huge discount. The more wine purchased from, the more great and rare wine goes into the Auction Game. We open private beta at the end of the month and invite everyone to join. More info on the game, and membership rules to follow in the next few days! Daily deals are dead…long live competitive shopping.

  9. Here is another article about the impact of the new Gmail for email marketers :

  10. I always wonder what the conversion rate is for retailers who send out email offers. Is it 2%, 0.2% or 0.02?

    Are retailers selling more wine online compared to their brick and mortar locations?

  11. Personall, I don’t know anyone who buys wine online. Portland may be a unique market, since we strongly support our local producers and local vendors. And it is possible that online wine sales may be the wave of the future, if not the wave of the present.
    As a buyer, seller, and producer of wine, I view the internet as a great way to learn more about the wines we drink, but I still purchase my wine the old-fashioned way.

  12. I read most of them and realiz most of these flash sales will come back with same or equal wine for around the same price, heck some of these flash sales prices looking at CT average price buy, shows its not really a sale so meh, and its really only worth buying if its free shipping IMO

  13. I think it says a bit about the state of the industry that a number of the responses here are about companies offering services like the one’s described in the original post, or piggybacking on those same services. Ugh.

    Josh-to answer your questions on premise still leads the way and it isn’t exactly close. On premise with a tasting permit is where you can do really well.

    As per conversion rates, email marketing typically converts better than search traffic, or traffic from social media. Of course, it depends on website design etc and I don’t think a ton of these places have given conversion rates for their website traffic much thought, although I won’t complain about that.

  14. I must say, some kind of OWC Wines game sounds like a completely atrocious way to buy wines. I would never ever buy wines that way.

    OTOH, I find flash sales interesting because they remind me of interesting wines and regions I haven’t thought about recently. Of which there are many. I assume the price will be somewhat fair, as that’s their job to offer the best price. If I did buy something and later found a lower price, a substantially lower price, I’d never shop with that merchant again. So, it’s in their best interest to offer a competitive price. Ergo, i find them interesting, those flash sales. But I almost never buy from them.

  15. The name of the game content is ladies and gentleman. If every wine you offer is “the perfect summer sipper….A Cabernet for the ages,” you will soon get lost in the noise. I try to be creative and really add a unique voice to the wine to let the customers know I care deeply about it. My conversion rate is around .5% on average. Could be better could be worse.


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