Monday, October 21, 2013

LCBO OnLine Search

Auckland, NZ from Kelly Tarlton's, '03
Have you ever heard me complain about the LCBO website's  Search option? You must have. Every time I have to use it. In fact, I often go to the Outlet to browse shelves as it takes less time. I don't end up following my plan for the month but it avoids much of the keyboard exercise, lost time and agonizing frustration.

And a search is only as useful as the data being searched which in the case of the LCBO is often 'No store has stock of the item'. Even if stock is shown a call to the Outlet - if I search Online I seldom go directly to the Outlet without phoning - in many cases their inventory differs from that Online and for single/few bottles they're mysteriously not found.

Fig. 1 LCBO Search Results for 'merlot'
On the other hand the British Columbia Liquor Board website is much more flexible. Too numerous, it's not possible to 'count the ways'. In fact, it's fantastic! But I don't buy from a BCLB search so can't attest to in-store inventory, etc.

The example I'll use is one I intended in planning the November blog entry, ie. find the wines based on merlot, which countries are represented, size of bottle and if and where each wine is in stock in the Province.  (Click on figures to enlarge)

Fig. 1  shows the search result for the LCBO. Five hundred and fifteen wines including blended and varietal, all prices, all countries, all sizes, in stock or not and sequenced often by irrelevant label names. I don't want it but I got it!

Fig. 1a BCLB Search Results for 'merlot'
Fig. 1a shows the result for the BCLB, in this case it's not the quantity of wines but the options available for performing a search that's important.

A single search shows all merlots found. I now have the option of limiting the search by unblended or not, price, country, region, sub region, bottle size, etc.  The number of bottles in stock is shown along with the number of stores with stock and a 5 Star ranking.

Of course not everyone needs this much flexibility but the options are there and show a healthy respect for consumers in finding choices within available inventory. With 515 'merlots' to search I, as an Ontario consumer, couldn't start to sort then find them at an Outlet. Who cares? I do!
The LCBO budget is larger than the 3 elderly elephants (now in California). And, compared with the LCBO website, the LCBO/Vintages' Marketing glossies are amazingly polished, complete in every sense and delivered with my morning newspaper.
I don't want them but I get them! They go unread into recycle with the rest of the bulk ads. Why isn't some of the budget spent implementing a professional search system? I'd guess the difficulty of shaping a huge database and designing a user friendly interface is many magnitudes more challenging - even given an excellence model to follow - than taking some photos of yourself posing with colourful bottles and making up some exaggerated descriptions. If marketers were hired as city planners Toronto would be flooded with gawdy billboards.

Another example:

Fig. 3 LCBO Search for Yalumba 'Y Series'

Fig . 3a BCLB
Reviewing the Annual 2013/2014 Vines magazine (pg. 20) there's two wines belonging to the the Yalumba 'Y Series' advertised. Reviews for past vintages can be viewed at 'Y Series' Viognier 2011 and 'Y Series' Shiraz Viognier 2009

A search for 'Yalumba Y Series' resulted in Fig. 3 and 3a. A search of LCBO inventory (dated October 22nd) for 'All Cities' revealed limited stock for the Viognier (#624502) and the red blend is discontinued. Fig. 3a shows the result from the British Columbia Liquor Board for the same search. (click to enlarge)

Fig. 4 LCBO Search for 'yalumba'
Fig. 4a BCLB
A broader search for 'yalumba' showed 23 wines - Fig. 4 shows the ridiculous first page from the LCBO.  Fig. 4a shows the same search from the BCLB.

Both LCBO and BCLB are monopolies so what's the difference between the two? I'd guess there's an imbalance at the executive level in one organization  favoring marketing, the things that go into the recycle bin, over technical, the things that find wines to buy.


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