Caitlin Sykes

Your Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: E-commerce - Shannon Lawrence, Rewined

Shannon Lawrence is the operations manager of online wine retailer Rewined, which launched in late 2013.

Shannon Lawrence, operations manager of Rewined.
Shannon Lawrence, operations manager of Rewined.

What was the thinking behind selling only online and what were some of your considerations when setting up the site?

The online space is the fastest growing channel for wine sales in New Zealand. Being solely online we don't have the commitment to inventory or the overheads associated with having a bricks-and-mortar retail space, nor do we have to contend with the same geographic limitations. It allows us to keep things simple and be flexible.

Web design seems to be all about responsive design at the moment. I have heard numbers as high as 30% of all ecommerce transactions now take place on a mobile device. As each customer commonly has three or more touch points before they commit to a purchase, increasingly at least one of these is either a tablet or smartphone. So we are making sure our website meets their needs.

I think, though, there is still a lot of discussion about responsive design best practice, and certainly we've had a bit of a learning curve for what that means in terms of website content and page layout.

What are some of the strategies you've used as a small business to get people finding your store in the vast space that is the internet?

I am turning into a bit of a Google Analytics nut. We began with a very modest budget for Google Adwords and display ads, but it's really great to see how they drive traffic to the site. I love how quickly you can analyse the effectiveness of campaigns.

We are also communicating with our customers regularly via email. We want our customers to know about new offers, promotions and new wines as soon as we know about them and, where possible, personalise this communication to their preferences.

There's a lot of talk around the GST issue with consumers buying goods from offshore ecommerce sites. What's your take on the issue as an online retailer?

At this point, given the expense and complexity of shipping wine internationally, I haven't seen much in the way of international wine sites selling directly to New Zealand consumers. Also, as we are only serving New Zealand customers at present it's a minefield that thankfully we don't have to navigate ourselves.

What role does social media play in the business?

Honestly, I think there are a lot of people putting a lot of resource into social media because it's fun and trendy, with very little consideration of how it actually represents their brand and very little return on investment. There are also a few who are really smart about it and doing it really well.

We have a Facebook presence, which I am excited about. This seems to be the platform our target customers are most active on and also the one where they are most open and ready to engage with us. We are still learning what buttons to push and what they really want from us on social media. I want to focus on asking more questions and encouraging them to ask more questions of us.

What's the vision for the business?

I want Rewined to be our customer's go-to for wine because they trust we are offering them something they are going to enjoy and they feel confident taking it with them to a dinner party or barbeque.

As our customer base grows, I would love to see us diversify into other products that fit their lifestyle - maybe craft beer, fresh coffee or organic foods. They are similar to wine in that they are inherently fairly simple products with really rich stories, produced by passionate people and have little nuances that make each one unique.

Coming up in Small Business: Pacific Islanders need to rediscover their entrepreneurial spirit, said Pacific Island Affairs minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga when he was sworn into the job earlier this year. If you're a Pacific entrepreneur with a great story to tell, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com

- NZ Herald

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