Raise a glass to those who know how to sell online

Andrew Parker


As I write, everyone has Boo.com's demise on their lips. Some may see it as a victim of the stock market...

Andrew Parker


As I write, everyone has Boo.com's demise on their lips. Some may see it as a victim of the stock market downturn. But for me Boo was the last and greatest of Europe's Internet style victims.

It was dominated by a consumer proposition built from self-conscious gimmickry - bells and whistles - and selling to Internet junkies.

Most consumers, though, just want convenience, value and attractive pricing.

Boo's failure only offers a lesson in what not to do, although it did try to shift towards market demand more recently.

I find more interest in Web businesses that instruct by building a loyal following.

A case in point is Chateau Online. This French wine supplier was listed by Forrester Research as one of its top 10 consumer retail sites in Europe earlier this year.

So what makes Chateau Online worth aping?

The central point is a strong USP. Chateau focuses on wines that appeal to true wine buffs, while still making a play for the lower-end buyer.

I am a user myself, and I find it just as attractive to buy a prestige bottle for a birthday gift, as a case of drinkable Sancerre for everyday use.

No-one expects rock-bottom prices from this site, but quality and value seem to count for its users. Typical customers spend more than £100 per purchase - well over the online average.

Along the way, the site makes it as easy as possible for me to buy, offering different currency and payment methods and local delivery in a number of countries - a feature that many online ventures still fail to match.

And to keep me interested, the home page delivers multiple points of entry to a wide variety of wine selections.

Country, colour, price and sommelier's selections are just some of the listing categories available. Open-ended searching facilities start on the home page too.

Chateau Online represents the best of online retail. It is not perfect - service glitches happen, and its technology sometimes lets it down - but it genuinely sells, it delivers value, and it avoids focusing on frills and thrills.

Andrew Parker is an analyst with Forrester Research

Read more on E-commerce technology