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Case Study: How an Online Retailer Grew Revenue 161% Year over Year

by Jennifer Natsu  |  
January 23, 2007

Company: Sideways Wine Club
Contact: Dave Chambers, Founder and wine merchant
Location: San Francisco, California
Industry: Internet, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 7

Quick Read:

The Sideways Wine Club, launched in April 2005, improved sales 161% year over year through July 2006, despite the fact that most online wine marketers experience an average visitor-to-buyer conversion rate of about 0.0085, or 0.85%, much lower than most other online retailers' conversion rates. The company's founder, Dave Chambers, knew he could improve sales even more dramatically, if he could improve those miserable conversion rates.

First he tried banner ads and keyword buys, to dismal results. Then, he launched...

  • A personality-filled blog
  • Shorter, "punchier" emails
  • A corporate gift-giving campaign

Now, little more than six months later, conversion rates on the site are at 0.011, or 1.1%.


Thanks to the huge success of the movie Sideways, the Sideways brand had excellent name recognition. But Chambers faced several tough challenges:

  1. The cost of the Sideways license was high, and new subscribers weren't coming in fast enough to offset it.

  2. Wine drinkers like to purchase from a variety of producers. They might purchase a dozen bottles of wine online each year but from a single club only once or twice.

  3. Wine is a "sensual" purchase—people typically want to taste and experience a wine before buying it.


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