Inspiring Brand Stories: Glanzberg Passion Wein

Inspiring Brand Stories: Glanzberg Passion Wein

Over the past years, we’ve been a trusted technical partner of many brilliant Shopify entrepreneurs building their brands from the ground up. We want to share their cool stories to inspire other entrepreneurs getting started on their Shopify journey. Let’s roll!

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Hi Mario! So great to see you, we could pretend we are sitting somewhere in the nice and cozy cafe with a preferred type of coffee, but the reality is that we are chatting by video for talking about wine, though still having coffee 🙂

Why don’t you introduce yourself and your brand?

Hi! My name is Mario Werner, co-owner of Glanzberg Passion Wein, a German online wine shop for selected wines, currently from Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. For our customers, we also offer a professional sommelier service and regular online wine tastings. Our home base is Willich, in the larger Dusseldorf area.

The subject of wine is a “passion” for us, a passion that we found when we learned to enjoy life. It opens doors, it is sociable, it can tell many a story, whether of itself, about the winemaker or the vineyards.

In 2011 Monika Glanzberg started under the name Glanzberg Genusswerkstatt with an assortment of wines and everything that enriches the senses. At that time, Monika ran the business alone as a one-woman show. Personally, I joined the business about six years ago. Since the beginning of 2019, we have been focusing exclusively on wines under the name Glanzberg Passion Wein.

Monika is responsible for sales, purchasing, and managing all wine descriptions in our shop. I take care of our entire digitalization strategy, from managing the Shopify system and used theme, to ads and analytics to accounting. Together we pick the wines for our shop, manage our offered events, and regularly visit our winemakers and partners.

Together with our team, we want to give our customers the opportunity to be seduced by vinophile senses with the selected wines. We are constantly expanding our range, because you can always find impressive wines with fascinating stories behind them, both from established and well-known winemakers, as well as smaller, still unknown, and it is precisely this mixture that makes us, because we do not only go by rank and name but by the experience and taste – just for more passion in the glass.

It feels like there is a healthy balance as far as sharing responsibilities and that your efforts are complementing each other. Tell us how you’ve come to the idea of running your business on Shopify?

That was indeed quite a long way. Initially, the store ran on a very simple basic store system of an internet provider. It quickly became clear that this system was absolutely inflexible and not suitable for any individual adjustments.

In 2016, we then made the switch to a new platform. We deliberately chose a German system because we wanted to support this German startup. We had two dedicated contacts there who set up the system with us, made adjustments, and regularly inquired about our wishes and experiences. The cooperation was excellent but already in the following year, we received the info that the company, unfortunately, had to file for bankruptcy. So we had to start looking for a suitable shop platform again.

This time, we put an extended approach as we wanted it to be a professional system that would hopefully last for years to come.

At the end of our evaluation, Shopify had prevailed over other systems such as Gambio, Lightspeed, Versa, Woocommerce, eWoolution, and Shopware.

For the decision-making process, we had prepared a detailed specification and an evaluation matrix. In a good three-month evaluation phase and creation of a specification, we had illuminated different aspects e.g., basic costs, additional costs for themes and apps, hosting, range of themes and apps, availability of partner agencies, administration, flexible start pages (with images, text, videos, slideshows), creation and management of products and collections, strike prices, basic prices and much more.

We had taken enough time to evaluate and test different systems, checked their available extensions, interfaces to accounting software, and the overall expected costs in different business situations. It was also quickly obvious for us that ideally a partner agency would be needed to support us for the initial setup and first steps.

At the end of our evaluation, Shopify had prevailed over other systems such as Gambio, Lightspeed, Versa, Woocommerce, eWoolution, and Shopware. Then, in Spring 2018, we migrated to Shopify. And to date, we have not regretted this step and are very satisfied overall.

I love this holistic approach in terms of making important business decisions! And what is your main focus at Glanzberg?

As said, as of today Glanzberg Passion Wein is a pure online wine trade, which is continuously being developed. We do not produce any products ourselves and apart from our tasting events, we only have merchandise in our assortment. 

Therefore, it is important for us to have an interesting assortment of different wines, to focus on long-term customer relationships, and also to create added value in the area of wine descriptions and information offered, through our sommelier service (by email, phone, or chat) and also through tastings. At Glanzberg Passion Wein we offer you the opportunity to participate in our scheduled online tastings, which we hold at regular intervals on a variety of topics. You would much rather organize a tasting yourself? With friends or with your company and colleagues, or business partners? We are also happy to support our customers in this.

Nice marketing steps taken here, would you like to tell us more about the approach behind your brand’s assortment choice?

In the past, when we started to compose our assortment, we focused exclusively on wines that we ourselves like very much. As our business has grown, we have added more and more wines that we have selected in order to cater to the different tastes of our customers.

If we look at the wine market in Germany, wines from France, Italy, and Spain in particular play a major role for many customers and retailers. But this is precisely where we wanted to set ourselves apart. We didn’t want to offer all those typical wines that the customer can get on every corner. Rather, we wanted to be able to offer the customer something that is perhaps a little unusual, such as wines from Canada.

An assortment completely devoid of the Southern European classics is certainly not common, but it helps us to make a name for ourselves, especially for wines from the regions of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

In addition to those New World wines, however, German wines are also very close to our hearts. German white wines were once among some of the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world. Towards the end of the last century, it looked quite different. But especially in the last 10 to 20 years, so many new winemakers/generations have started and the quality of German wine has improved massively. Not only with the white wines, but also with the red wines. It is a very special pleasure for us to accompany these often young winemakers on their way and to make them better known.

We are very happy to work with winemakers who dare to do something new in the development of their wines, play with grape varieties that are rather untypical for Germany, or create exciting cuvees. It is equally important to us that we have direct contact and a cooperative partnership with all the German winemakers in our range. Even at our online tastings, the respective winemakers are always present in person.

It definitely looks like you’ve made a smart choice to uniquely position your brand on the market, which I am sure, helped you guys differentiate from other retailers. Tell us about building the brand on Shopify: How did that go? – ups and downs, main lessons

The migration to Shopify in 2018 went without any complications. The cooperation with an external partner agency was certainly helpful in the first place. The possibility to fall back on their know-how massively accelerated the entire migration process and thus simplified it for us.

The agency also took care of the mandatory theme code adjustments. This included, above all, adjustments to correctly reflect certain legal regulations in connection with the sale of alcoholic products, such as the specification of base prices (which did not yet exist in the Shopify standard at the time) or the necessary naming of certain features.

In my opinion, it is important that you have clarity for yourself before the launch, how your own site should look in terms of design or also in terms of features that are important for conversion optimization.

And I also recommend testing various themes before you decide on one. Here you should not only look at what features the theme currently offers. Rather, you should also check that there are regular theme updates by the provider, and that you may also find Shopify partners who are well versed in the desired theme and can thus make much faster around easier adjustments to the theme if this is desired.

There have been no real notable lows or setbacks since working with Shopify. Yes, of course, there are always a few little things here and there, or improvements that you want. Then, some points must be implemented by development partners.

Other points are addressed over time through theme extensions or even improvements to the Shopify system itself. The specific wishes certainly vary from business to business. For example, the official introduction of base prices, the possibilities of Shopify OS2.0 with its sections, and integrated metafield possibilities are great added values for us. 

In my opinion, it is important that you have clarity for yourself before the launch, how your own site should look in terms of design or also in terms of features that are important for conversion optimization. And I also recommend testing various themes before you decide on one.

Areas where we would still like to see improvements include bulk processing and export & import of metafields (can’t understand why Shopify doesn’t offer this out of the box) or also improved processes when updating themes including the adoption of individual customizations. Then I could maybe save half an hour of work when performing every theme update.

How do you balance priorities against the feedback you receive?

This is a permanent process. There are always moments when you think about changes to the design or structure. We are always very pleased when we receive feedback from customers about what they like about the information and products offered, as well as the navigation through the site. Our tasting events are always a welcome opportunity to engage in dialogue with customers and receive feedback. 

If we ourselves have ideas about what should be changed on the site, we first discuss it internally within the team and then get initial external feedback. We get this feedback from good regular customers, customers from our circle of friends, and even from people who are not interested in wine at all. 

Through the exchange with customers and other people, we quickly get a first impression of what is missing, what visitors to the site would like to see, and so on.

We almost never make a real prioritization. We try to adapt and implement small things immediately. Topics for which we need external support we usually just collect until we have a few tasks and then we assign them to an external development partner.

Yes, in the fast-paced eCommerce reality of today, the best strategy is likely to test, adapt and implement. Tell us more about the technologies you use to run your eCommerce business.

The right technical equipment, the so-called tech stack, can quickly determine the success or failure of an online retailer. A broad technology ecosystem must be considered for successful operation.

Let’s take a look at the most important aspects of our tech stack.

The e-commerce platform we use is Shopify. As for the theme used, we switched to Archetype Expanse last year. 

GDPR Legal Cookie by Beeclever is used as a cookie management tool.

Multichannel: The connection to an external wine marketplace that we use is done via XML feed; unfortunately, there is no API integration that can be used here. For another marketplace system, an XML feed will also be used soon.

For logistics, we chose DHL as our preferred partner and used their App for Shopify integration, printing labels, and tracking shipping. 

The main analytics tools to help us grow our business and increase sales are Google Analytics and Hotjar.

In order to offer our customers various payment options, we use Shopify Payments, Stripe and Paypal as payment providers.

For automated sending or the possibility to download invoices Order Printer Pro is used. 

The entire accounting is done with Lexoffice. For us as being a German company, an accounting solution approved and certified in Germany with a possible connection to the Shopify system was very important to us here. The biggest challenge here is still the simple and automated management/allocation of payments and fees of the payment providers to the individual orders/documents.

In the area of email marketing, we use the Rapidmail solution. 

We have just started with real customer reviews and use reviews.io.

For the synchronization of our products in the Google Shopping Feed we have used for a long time exclusively the Google App. For about two months we have been using Feed for Google Shopping from Simprosys InfoMedia, because we always had problems with syncing with the Google App and subsequently had warnings in the Google Merchant Center.

Also very important for our regular work are the tools Mixtable and the editor BBEdit. Mixtable helps us quickly and easily perform bulk operations on products, including meta fields. And BBEdit is used for every theme update. So far we haven’t found an easier way than using BBEdit to compare the code between two theme versions, see all the differences at a glance and manually transfer them to the actual productive theme to update it. Thus, each theme update is done in approx. 30 minutes. 

You’ve made a great point about how a broad technology ecosystem is essential to a brand’s success. How do you feel about using Shopify apps? Pros and cons? And what are the top 3 tools used on your online store?

Overall, we strive to keep the number of apps as low as possible and use them primarily for absolutely necessary extensions and to connect to essential external systems that are relevant to the overall workflow.

No question, there are a lot of great apps for all kinds of imaginable customizations/extensions / additional functions. However, such apps also mean a bit of dependency on the app developer and they always add to the complexity of the entire tech stack. Suddenly you are not only dependent on Shopify and its theme provider, but also on various app providers. I don’t like not always knowing exactly where in the code an app is nesting. Some apps can also have a negative impact on the performance of the site.

The three most essential apps are GDPR Legal Cookie, Reviews.io, and Lexoffice integration (accounting system).

We try to avoid apps that are rather designed for minor adjustments / added values in the store system, filter criteria, notice bar, visual design, etc. as far as possible. For such customizations, we prefer the code customization of the theme. This way we know exactly where in the code the entries are and what has to be considered for updates. In addition, functionality and layout can be aligned exactly to our wishes.

Finally, we can also reduce the amount of the monthly subscription fee. Every store operator should sensibly weigh up the costs of an app and its added value on the one hand and the costs and added value of an individual adaptation on the other.

And how did HeyCarson fit into your stack? What has your experience been like?

I had the first contact with HeyCarson last year in spring. At that time, we had just decided to switch to the Expanse theme from Archetype. Right from the start, a few adjustments and extensions should be made. As I had to find out, it was not easy at all to find a partner. The agency with which we had done the initial Shopify project in 2018 told us that they are so busy that they have no time at all for smaller projects. And I heard similar statements from various other Shopify partners in Germany and Europe.

During my further search, I stumbled across HeyCarson. And what can I say – I liked the website, the information on the page, and the many examples of already implemented tasks. The know-how seemed to be there, the pricing seemed fair and after a friendly first conversation via chat, I decided to give it a try. I decided to go for the PRO plan for the first 5 tasks. Several times in the last 9 months I have used the support of HeyCarson and I am completely satisfied.

Many enhancements and customizations have been implemented for us. These include for example:

  • New additional cart icon & Total Cart Value next to cart icon
  • Showing Compare at Price in the cart
  • Sticky add to cart button for mobile view
  • Customizable free shipping bar
  • Information shown on collection tiles
  • Adding a section to show a table with certain wine details to be taken from metafield values
  • Several formatting / CSS changes

Super friendly helpful staff in customer support and development team. All tasks are completed within 24 to 48 hours. The specifications are implemented reasonably. In the code, changes are sensibly commented and there are clear statements about which files have been changed or added. I regularly update the theme versions myself and so far I have never experienced any problems due to the code adjustments.

A few times I also received suggestions on how to deviate from our task description, perhaps change something and facilitate/improve it.

I like to remember that in the context of an active task I simply asked the developer whether a certain wish could be implemented so that I could address it in the next task. No sooner had I asked my question than I got the answer that it was a simple, quick thing to do and that he had just included it. 

For my last task, which I assumed was a minor thing, I was explained in great detail why this task was quite complex, what all would need to be changed, etc. Such a reasonable execution helps me very well to understand the complexity. 

I really enjoy working with HeyCarson because it feels like a real multi-value partnership collaboration and not just someone doing a job quickly. 

It’s very mutual! Our team is happy to support you and we feel that our catalog of project ideas can really fuel the continual improvement and growth of your store. How do you evaluate your business at this stage? What makes it successful?

We are constantly striving to develop and expand our business. The past two years have been very exciting. At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, we were worried that the business would develop negatively. But in fact, in 2020, we had a growth of 100% compared to the previous year. And we continued to grow our business significantly last year.

The competitive situation with all the big wine retailers, some of which are financed by investors, is not always easy for a smaller store like us. On top of that, in the last year or two, almost all wineries have also started offering their wines through their own online stores.

In the last two years, we have also been able to gain many business customers. Companies that in the special Corona times, with all the given restrictions, have been looking for alternative programs and events for employees and customers. Especially in this area, we have achieved very strong growth with virtual online tastings.

The focus on selected quality wines, the mix of well-known winemakers, and the rock stars of tomorrow is very well received by our customers. The same goes for the advice from the sommelier by phone or chat. We are an online store, but we are really there and approachable for customers.

The growth over the past years and the steadily increasing number of regular customers make us very positive and confirm us on our way. 

One last question to wrap up our interview: what makes you optimistic about the outlook of your business?

We have very specific ideas and plans for the future. In the next two months in March and April 2022, we will participate in a project of the city of Willich and present ourselves to the public with a local pop-up store. During that time, the wines on offer will also be available to buy locally in the store and there will also be a series of tasting evenings. All in all, a perfect opportunity for us to build even more personal relationships with our customers, wine lovers, prospective customers, and those who want to become one.

Currently, we are already looking around for business premises, as it is firmly planned to have a permanent local store. This was already planned for 2020, but we had stopped our search for our own premises when Corona took off.

Expanding our product range is also on the agenda and perhaps a wine bar.

Our goal is to be an established brand in the wine trade in our local German target market that most wine lovers and regular wine runners know.

Thank you Mario, we’ll be on stand-by to support you with the next steps for improving your brand!