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Internet Retailing 2011 Interview: Richard Weaver, Majestic Wine

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In our latest preview of our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, we asked Richard Weaver, ecommerce director at Majestic Wine Warehouses , how the decision to give Majestic’s local stores the ability to create and develop their own social media presence has worked in practice.

Internet Retailing: Locally-based social media has been key for Majestic Wine’s ecommerce strategy – how did you decide this was the most appropriate way of going of going forward?

Richard Weaver, Majestic Wines: Multi-channel is fundamental to how Majestic works. Most online orders are delivered direct from Majestic stores by Majestic staff, and interacting with local store teams is what sets Majestic’s online service apart. I try very hard to encourage a sense that what’s good for store sales must, by extension, be good for online sales too.

What we identified in social media was a way in which we can help us showcase the personality and knowledge of our staff. Over time, as follower numbers and levels of interaction grow, we can take this out of the store and project it to a bigger – but still local – audience. That localism is something our online-only competitors can’t do, and it’s something that supermarkets struggle to do well, so it’s good natural territory for Majestic.

IR: What have been the rewards – and the challenges?

RW: The biggest reward has been watching how, as a company, we’ve “grown” into the tools over the past 10 months. I still grin when I see that a store has done something innovative on their web page, or read a clever tweet they’ve sent. And the numbers are accelerating. Twitter follows, for example, are like a snowball – it takes ages to get your first 10, but many of our stores are now up in the hundreds, which given that we have 170 stores is impressive.

There have also been some specific examples where having a local presence online has really helped, such as last December where stores could use their web page to keep customers up-to-date on how their delivery schedules were faring given the snow we had to endure.

The challenge is in introducing social media and the web to company culture. We have around 900 Majestic staff working for Majestic, and they all know a lot about wine, and customer service. They are not all, however, experienced or in some cases even enthusiastic adopters of the web. We’ve worked hard to educate and enthuse – it’s been as much about internal marketing as external.

There’s also a challenge in striking the right balance; although we’re proud to be a bricks-and-clicks retailer, we also need to remember the importance of the online channel to top line sales, and ensure we optimise for online conversion at the same.

IR: Has it worked out the way you expected?

RW: At the outset, I had a rough theory that about a third of our stores to do a great job with the new web tools we gave them; a third to do the bare minimum; and a third would be a struggle. In reality I’d say we’re performing much better than that expectation.

IR: What surprising things have come out of doing this?

RW: Firstly, that geographical stereotypes in social media use don’t seem to apply to Majestic staff. You might imagine that enthusiasm for social media increases the closer you get to Hoxton, but actually central London has been the area we’ve struggled the most to generate enthusiasm, whilst stores in areas that wouldn’t perhaps immediately spring to mind have done fantastic jobs with their pages. Stratford-upon-Avon were our Twitter trailblazers, and I’m regularly impressed with Market Harborough’s web page.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with how innovative some of the things being posted have been. We’ve seen A-Zs of wine, entire series of recipes, and even ‘Around the World in 80 Wines’.

IR: If you did this again, what would you do differently?

RW: I’d have gone live a month or two earlier – we introduced new format store pages and Twitter feeds at the start of November, when in reality our staff are focused on gearing up for the Christmas peak. This meant that we really only started seeing the more creative content being generated in the new year.

Richard Weaver, ecommerce director at Majestic Wine Warehouses, is speaking at our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, to be held at the Novotel Hammersmith on October 4. His presentation, Keeping it local with store-generated content and social media, will be in track 2 at 2pm.

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