Membership

Put a Cork in the Competition With an Online Marketplace

By / Sep 24, 2019 (Brycia James/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Many associations say they want to be like Amazon, but do they act like it? The Craft Wine Association recently stepped up to the e-commerce behemoth by creating an online marketplace where consumers can buy from CWA members.

When it’s time to buy something, where do you turn? If you’re like me, you probably use Amazon a lot (in my case, perhaps too much).

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. In a recent survey, Feedvisor found that nearly nine out of 10 U.S. consumers are more likely to buy from Amazon than from anywhere else online. But while Amazon’s access and ease are great when you’re a customer, the platform is a major pain point for many retail-based industries trying to compete in the e-commerce space.

Take the wine industry, for instance. These days, you might be just as likely to buy a bottle of cabernet or pinot online as at the grocery store or spirits shop. There’s even a boom in online wine membership clubs.

These trends are partly what caused the Craft Wine Association to launch a new online marketplace on Tuesday highlighting lesser-known labels from craft wine producers in the United States. The site, called Nxt Crush, enables CWA members to sell craft wine directly to consumers, using a third-party e-commerce partner who manages the sale, compliance, and shipping.

“From the consumer perspective, buying wine online looks easier than it is, but regulations and shipping state to state with alcohol can be tricky,” says Carole Lawson, CWA’s founder and CEO. “The truth is that our members can’t keep up. We’re living in a world where consumers expect the Amazon experience, but that generally is not the case unless you’re a major wine retailer.”

For the small craft wine producers that CWA serves, Nxt Crush is being touted as a way to better compete against much larger rivals in the marketplace.

“Many consumers don’t understand that there is a wine region literally an hour’s drive from every major city in the U.S.,” Lawson says. “From Anchorage to Honolulu to Omaha, it’s amazing how winemaking is spreading, and yet, the ability for craft winemakers to get their products recognized and shipped to market can be hampered simply by size.”

Unlike Amazon or other wine subscription services, Nxt Crush doesn’t charge a membership fee. Consumers also don’t have to deal with expensive price markups by an intermediary seller, which means greater access to craft wine. On Tuesday, the site had 116 bottles for sale from regions around the United States.

What’s in it for CWA? “We think it will help drive future membership growth,” says Lawson. She predicts Nxt Crush could also create nondues revenue streams, including sponsorships opportunities from industry partners.

It’s no coincidence that Nxt Crush was unveiled not long before the biggest shopping season of the year, including big retail days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“We’re expecting big things,” Lawson says. “Our ultimate goal here is to close the economies-of-scale gap and to truly be all-in for our members.”

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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