Club W: Oversimplified Recommendation Engines

The secret to advertising a product is to make lives better or easier. Or do the same thing cheaper. So when it comes to selling wine, Club W takes the approach of making it easier to pick out a wine you like. Their concept is pretty simple. They ask you a handful of questions about your food preferences, and match your answers up to types of wine. Of course, there is a timer counting down until your new customer discount expires, just for some extra urgency.

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I gave it a shot, as I know enough about wine to know which varietals I like and can generally pick out a good bottle in the store. But there’s far more I don’t know, and would love to explore new regions, grapes, etc.

Here’s some of their suggestions:

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By way of comparison, here’s what Wine.com recommends for me – based on my shopping habits:

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If you don’t know anything about wine, that’s okay. Essentially Club W suggested I get fruit punch and Wine.com suggested bourbon. Wine.com of course has it more accurate, as their suggestions are simply based on products that other customers viewed after viewing the same products I did. I really like big reds, so they suggested more of the same. I do not like sweet wines, fruity whites or light red blends. But apparently because I enjoy oranges and don’t eat mushrooms (it’s mostly texture), I must like bright and sweet wines.

Sorry Club W, you’ve got it wrong. Maybe the bulk of people will find this system to work to their benefit. But I’d guess not, as I’m already seeing this trend of curating products based on lifestyle or semi-related surveys dying off.

I’d love a compromise and maybe give people questions about basic types of wine to narrow down favorites. Most people know the major characteristics if you give quick definitions (e.g. acidity makes the side of your tongue tingle). Everyone knows red vs white and has a general idea of sweet vs dry. Maybe such a recommendation engine exists. I suspect it involves going back to my local wine shop and talking to the employees.