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David Squires

Selling Online? Use the Human Element



If you’re looking to crack the mystery of online sales, don’t miss this New York Times article on Garagiste, the wine company that, through email onlly, sells more than $30 million in wine a year to 136,000 subscribers.

What is so remarkable about the company’s success, and most relevant to many of you out there, is how simple and low-tech Garagiste is. Launched in the early Internet era of 1996, the company sells no wine at all on its website. There is no product catalog online. The only way customers can purchase wine is through daily emails written by company CEO Jon Rimmerman. These emails are text-only (no photographs or graphics whatsoever) and often filled with typos. (Rimmerman is a big believer in the power of “the human element”.)

There’s no payment link. If you want to buy some wine, you have to reply to the email or send an email to Rimmerman’s assistant, Nicki.

For Garagiste, the story is the thing. Nicknamed “The J. Peterman of Wine”, Rimmerman writes passionate, rambling, casual, poetic, and sometimes nearly free-associative descriptions of a different wine every day. And his customers lap it up. One fan actually has to unsubscribe from the daily emails every so often because otherwise he spends too much money with Garagiste.

&#8220 There’s a really, really
outstanding opportunity
here for someone in the
jewelry business. &#8221


Rimmerman sees himself as a talent scout who “connect[s] old-school vintners to discriminating consumers”. He believes that his role is to travel the world, finding great, unknown wines. One vintner mentioned in the article lives right at the snow line on Sicily’s Mount Etna. He “takes a bunch of grapes, throws them in buckets, stomps them, comes back six months later and puts it in bottles. They are the most natural wines in the world.” You’ll even sometimes find sediment floating in the bottles. That’s pretty natural.

This is a service for aficianados only. If you’re after instant satisfaction. Garagiste is not for you. The company only ships wine twice a year – once in spring, once in fall – when wines will not be affected by extreme heat or cold during transit.

Takeaway? There’s a really, really outstanding opportunity here for someone in the jewelry business. And the only qualifications are: 1.) a passion for fine jewelry design, 2.) a desire to educate and inspire customers; and 3.) an ability to write energetically and well.

Afraid of the technical barriers? There are none. You don’t have to build a website. You don’t have to set up a payment system.

Fact is … you could start today. Let me repeat that. You could start today.

Why not?


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