Loyalty has been key to the success of online retailer Naked Wines and the main driver of its growth.

Not just the loyalty of its customers but also of its winemakers and staff. “Our whole business is focused around loyalty,” Naked Wines Australia MD Greg Banbury told Inside Retail. “We have a very clear purpose for trying to revolutionise the way that wine is made and sold in Australia; we need that loyalty.”

The focus and loyalty are equally concentrated on customers, the winemaker and the Naked Wines (NW) team. “That’s one of our core beliefs – we talk about Naked Wines as a tripod,” Banbury explained.

Although quality product, website and service are all crucial, “having a clever business model or having just one of those things on its own isn’t going to be necessarily enough to keep that customer loyal to your company,” he observed.

“We’re a small company trying to make a big difference so we really focus in on providing the best quality wines that we can and with the best service.”

Over 50,000 ‘Angels’ – NW customers – are very engaged with the business, and the importance of service is emphasised. “We are, at the end of the day, in its purest form, an online retailer so our online retail experience has to be second to none.” Regular customer feedback highlights how – ‘The customer service is brilliant’, and ‘I’ve never had a bad bottle’. Little wonder that the business was awarded Best Online Customer Experience at the 2016 Retailer Awards.

A recent extension of this experience was holding what traditionally might be called a ‘wine-tasting’ – but more like a party in Sydney’s Paddington, to make the customer experience ‘more real’. “One of the big things we did this year that I’m most proud of – we actually took our online experience offline,” Banbury reported.

NW customers fund the winemakers through its online platform, where its social network platform allows winemakers and customers to interact. At this event, customers met all NW’s 37 winemakers from around Australia and New Zealand face-to-face. The event’s success means it will probably be extended to other cities.

Another initiative brought in this year was TasteBud Match to encourage relationships between customers by matching similar wine taste profiles, leading to recommendations. “That technology went live early this year and the take-up of that has been incredible to watch. Our angels create new connections.. [enabling them] to discover new wines.”

A Winemaking Fantasy project, whereby winemakers pitch their idea for an $80,000 prize and must win customer approval, has also proven to be highly successful – for customer and winemaker engagement as well as product uptake. “Because the customers get involved in the process from the very beginning; they’re waiting for that wine, beer or cider.”

Contributing to this recipe for success, NW keeps its staff happy too. “We try to provide a really awesome place to work … because we understand staff loyalty and having a low turnover of staff is ultimately going to be better for our customers and for our winemakers, Banbury concluded.