Q&A Feature of Sonoma Market on DeliveryRank.
1: As the CEO of Sonoma Market, a wine and quality food marketplace, what led you to pursue a career in the industry, and how did your passion for wine and food develop?
My passion for wine started from a year studying abroad in Spain, during college. I fell in love with everything that was the Tempranillo grape.
After graduating, I worked at a hedge fund on Wall Street where a few of the senior traders made it a point to open some great bottles with a young buck who didn’t know much but very much did appreciate (myself).
I moved to Brazil in 2011 to participate in the second wave of internet companies in this country. After studying the wine market in great detail, and looking to solve my open problem as a customer, as well as that of many others (it was really hard to find great wine at good prices in this country), I founded a first wine company that became one of the leading importers and e-retailers at the time.
Sonoma Market is the second wine company in the space that I am a part of, as founder and CEO. As a marketplace platform we’re looking to connect not just vineyards, but also importers, distributors, artisanal food producers, specialized retailers and new brands to customers that are ever more looking for higher quality, organics, sustainably farmed and produced and simply better products than what can be found at local grocery stores.
2. How do you ensure that the wines and food products featured on your marketplace meet high quality standards?
Part of a successful specialized marketplace, especially in the early stages, is curation: of products and of Sellers. We have to built an experience that is relevant for the Buyer and that may mean limiting many products or Sellers. In the beginning we tasted or approved manually all products. As a Sommelier with 15 years of experience in the space and over 40k wines tasted over the last decade, I led the wine side. Our team of specialists also approved cheeses, risottos, pastas and a series of other items. As we began to expand to a point where it was no longer possible to approve all products manually, we began to rely on the reputations of sellers and help them select which of hte products are relevant in our platform, using machine learning algorithms that analyzed both public data as well as our own data, from customer search and customer purchases.
3. As a Sommelier, what factors do you consider when curating a wine list for your marketplace? How do you strike a balance between popular favorites and unique, lesser-known selections?
Great quesiton! Partly it’s based on data, from past customer search and purchasing, as well as Google Trends
Part of it’s insights form the market, connecting with over 100 importers and vineyards that are part of our network, as well as evaluating new wines that have been recently imported or produced and curating for quality based on personal evaluation.
4. Can you describe the most challenging aspect of managing a wine and quality food marketplace, and how do you navigate those challenges?
One of the most challenging aspects is being attentive to all of the details that are necessary in order to maintain the highest levels of customers engaged. Wine’s that are brand wines are easy to market, but really understanding how to market the 90% of other wines that are excellent, but without strong global brands, takes creativity, an attention to detail and a guarantee to the customer that the experience will be satisfactory. Building street credit as a curated marketplace takes time and patience.
5. Looking ahead, what exciting developments or expansions do you envision for your marketplace in terms of partnerships, offerings, or customer experiences?
Today Sonoma Market has 400 potential Sellers on a waiting list that are excited to enter the platform. We recently made a transition in the back end architecture of our platform, going from an adequate e-commerce solution that was ill equipped for marketplaces, to a much more robust technical solution that will allow us to onboard sellers in a much smoother way, offer them insights into their own sales and functionalities that will allow them to be more autonomous. We’ve just hired a fantastic new commercial team who is anxious to bring this list of Sellers into our fold and we are excited for what this enormous new product offering will certainly offer to our customers, as well as eager to see the results, the increased sales and growth that it will provide.