Monday, August 13, 2007

Tasting spurns new ideas

From the depths of an in-store wine tasting, a new idea and company was born. Co-founders Chris Poulin and Rick Lane took one of those conversations that we all have from time to time about "wouldn't it be great if..." and have gone forward with their Walpole-based tech consulting company AxiomRTI and database software Enofile, a customer purchase tracking system. I got the chance to ask Rick Lane a few questions about their new venture.

Consumer's Corner: How did you and Chris really meet?
Rick Lane: Actually, we met at a wine tasting at the Medfield Wine Shoppe.

CC: Where did the names AxiomRTI and EnoFile originate?
RL: An axiom is a self evident truth and RTI stands for Real Time Information so we’re providing small and medium size retailers with a system that provides them the most current and accurate information about their business and their customers. For the software, the French word for wine lover is oenophile. The American version of oenophile is Enophile. We changed the phile to file given that we are working with computer files.

CC: Does the POS system utilize a barcode scanner like grocery stores do?
RL: Yes, we have a variety of different barcode scanners, single line, omni directional and auto activated (you don’t push a button, just wave the barcode underneath and it scans). The EnoFile system also uses a barcode scanner. If a customer likes a wine at the tasting in the store they simply hit “Wish List Quick Add”, scan their wine club card then scan the wine bottle. They can then add notes and a rating and save it to their account.

CC: What does the wish list feature do?
RL: This allows the customer to take notes on a wine they want to remember to purchase. They can add a wine at an in store tasting, add a wine they just had with dinner or tried at a friend’s house. Anywhere there is a connection to the web you have access to your wish list. It sure beats carrying around lots of little slips of paper with notes to remind you to buy a particular wine.

CC: How many customers are running the EnoFile system?
RL: We are in 6 stores in MA. There are several thousand subscribers to the EnoFile system through the stores.

CC: I noticed the Medfield Wine Shoppe has a top 10 listing of wine purchases, what other customizable features can you offer a potential client?
RL: Since the system is evolving we have a sort of wish list for the store owner. They request a feature, we prioritize them based on what it takes to implement it, applicability to other retailers and then add them to the system. It’s a constant learning process which is one of the reasons why we like this business.

CC: What future enhancements do you have planed for EnoFile?
RL: Imagine not having to rely on a single palate like Robert Parker or James Laube, to judge a wine but on the thousands of reviews from other wine drinkers to help you decide what wine you want to purchase. We will also provide tools to help customers learn more about wine. We have found that as a customer becomes more educated about wine they will try new types of wine and not just new varietals but they’ll buy the $15.99 bottle instead of the $9.99 bottle. We are also going to add food pairings.

Sounds like Rick and Chris have a good start on what could be the next big evolution for the in-store/at home web 2.0 wine purchasing system. I can't wait until one of my local merchants offer this type of service.

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