In 2003, a small group of former Southcorp colleagues banded together to begin a new experiment within Australia’s wine making industry. Under the stewardship of managing director, Julian Todd, they created BackVintage, an Internet-based retail winery. Headquartered in Northbridge, New South Wales, the company blends, bottles and labels a range of premium quality, value for money wines which are sold through the BackVintage website, call centre and direct from the warehouse.

In 2003, a small group of former Southcorp colleagues banded together to begin a new experiment within Australia’s wine making industry. Under the stewardship of managing director, Julian Todd, they created BackVintage, an Internet-based retail winery. Headquartered in Northbridge, New South Wales, the company blends, bottles and labels a range of premium quality, value for money wines which are sold through the BackVintage website, call centre and direct from the warehouse.

At first glance it sounds like a conventional Australian winery selling direct to the customer, but BackVintage is different. Firstly, it’s a winery that doesn’t grow any grapes. Instead the company purchases wines from vineyards throughout Australia, blending them to BackVintage’s own specifications. It may be an unfamiliar business model in Australia but internationally, it is a well-recognised approach to creating and developing a wine label. Purchasing the wines enables far greater freedom when it comes to selecting and blending quality wines, plus it reduces overheads resulting in a better price for customers.

The second difference is BackVintage’s independent advisor, Nick Bulleid. Bulleid is one of only 15 Masters of Wine in Australia. He’s an internationally recognised expert and it is his role to independently select and endorse all BackVintage wines. According to Julian Todd, “If the wine is not good enough for Nick, it’s not good enough for BackVintage. It’s that simple.”

The third differentiator for BackVintage is in its use of information technology. For the past few years the company has been using Business Management System (BMS) to help automate and manage everything from accounts to inventory; from distribution through to customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing. The software helped to streamline previous manual processes and has provided management with in-depth data about the organisation’s operations, creating a basis for more informed decision making.

Understanding the Customers

Todd believes two aspects of the system have been essential for BackVintage’s particular business model: inventory management and the CRM application. Knowing how much stock is in the warehouse and being able to immediately identify what bottles are available for sale is critical for any business, but it is especially so when taking online or phone orders from customers. Nothing frustrates a customer more than delivering late advice that a product has sold out and that an order cannot be fulfilled.

This concern to understand and fulfill customer drivers is at the heart of the company’s CRM activities. Using the data gathered from past orders and stated customer preferences, BackVintage staff create highly targeted email campaigns letting customers know when their preferred wines are on special or when stock may be running out. Call centre staff are always on hand to help match wines to dinner party menus. Close online and phone communication with customers is the mainstay of the business.

Todd explains, “BackVintage is about developing an annuity scheme as opposed to one off sales. Because we are a relatively small organisation, our level of customer service and care is a little bit higher than many others. We know that if the clients appreciate that they are being looked after, they will come back and buy more.”

When asked to quantify the benefits of the technology, Todd considers, “Our previous systems were terminal. They could not grow. Now we have a stable platform that manages the two most important assets of our business. By having integrated inventory and customer service systems we have better control of inventory so there is less wastage, more efficient movement of stock and we have a better relationship with our customers. Plus, I am spending less time on administration – to the tune of two or three days per month.”

In a little over five years BackVintage has developed a national business that is particularly well positioned for the economic climate. Its message of convenience, quality and value has gained added resonance as people look for new ways to make their dollar go further - without impacting the character of the wine.

The company’s technology platform has enabled the development of efficient processes while maintaining the emphasis on personalised, accurate customer service. Todd is confident that the software will help BackVintage to adapt quickly to whatever new retail and even wholesale business opportunities may arise.