Thursday, February 26th, 2009
The wine industry gathered in Napa on Tuesday to share tips on how to sell more wine directly to wine-lovers. It was thought-provoking and worth the time and money. And today there are a hundred more wine marketers leveraging FaceBook and Twitter to attract the "Millennial Wine Lover".
One of the sponsors of this well-organized event was the venerable FedEx company, which has dedicated tons of resources to our industry. If you've ever ordered wine from me or any other online merchant, odds are good your package was delivered by FedEx. Along with UPS and Golden State Overnight, the three companies account for virtually 100% of the wine shipped directly to consumers.
So it was with great interest that I learned from a charming FedEx representative about an interesting and valuable test. She indicated FedEx has tapped a new technology that monitors the temperature of a package every few minutes as it travels from point A to point B, recording each update in a centralized computer. I presume the updates are sent via a wireless network, but I'm unclear on the communications technology.
Regardless of the inner workings, I was intrigued by the idea. My company has lost lots of potential profit on damaged wine, and since this is a thin-margin business I was very interested in whether the temperature monitor could tell me when to hold my wine for more weather-friendly days. I hoped FedEx would publish the results in real time, so our industry (and wine lovers) as a whole would know when it was safe to ship.
But the FedEx Rep believed the technology would prove it was safe to ship wine in all seasons, regardless of temperature. My skepticism was evident, apparently, as she asked if I was willing to bet dinner on the outcome. As I told her then...
...Yes I am!
But only if we can structure a meaningful test. I thought I'd open the discussion to those with a vested interest in its outcome - other retailers, wineries and the wine lovers we serve. I invite input to see if we can structure an unbiased test, and ask that you encourage FedEx to make the results public - preferably in real time. Here's what I suggest as a foundation.
To be tested - Can wine be shipped during periods of extreme temperatures without affecting the long-term life of the wine?
- The test should be conducted using packages sent via regular ground service as well as 2-day and overnight air.
- In each of these three service levels, both Styrofoam and recycled packaging materials should be tested.
- Both the outside temperature and the package temperature should be reported. Ideally, a monitor would be set up inside a re-corked bottle to measure the actual temperature of the wine and not just the termperature surrounding the cardboard package.
- We must agree on maximum and minimum temperatures at which the long-term life of the wine is affected.
- Anything Else? Please reply via comment or directly to me at the email address below.
The results of this test will impact millions of dollars worth of shipping, and even more in the value of wine being shipped. Let's give FedEx kudos for applying the technology and also encourage them to give transperancy to the real-time results via the internet and the wine blogosphere.
Dave the Wine Merchant
Quote of the Day:
"Accept challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory"
~ General George S. Patton