Majestic Wine

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Posted on Dec 4, 2019

Earlier this year, the UK wine company Majestic agreed to sell off its retail stores to Fortress Investment Group for £95 million. The company is shifting its focus to its online subscription service Naked Wines, which it bought for £70 million in 2015. This sale, which is to be completed after Christmas 2019, will free up capital to be directed at Naked Wines and promote the evolution of Majestic towards online retail. Josh Lincoln, the managing director of Majestic, calls it a growing sector where wine sales in the £8 - £15 range are growing faster than cheaper wines. In light of Majestic's increasing focus on their online presence, I decided to scrape their website for data on pricing and customer satisfaction to see if I could glean anything from their business model.

Having scraped their website using Selenium, I found initial exploratory data analysis added weight to the managing director's statement about sales in the £8 - £15 range. This density plot shows that Majestic is clearly targeting that market. If we look at the average price of bottles grouped by wine type, rosé is cheaper than red and white wine and, unsurprisingly, dessert and fortified wine is the most expensive of them all. It is quite misleading to look at average pricing, though, as it's heavily skewed by a minority of very expensive wines; density plots are more reliable. The following density plot illustrates the price distribution of red and white wines. There is a sharper peak in the proportion of white wines around the £11 or £12 mark than red wines which are slightly more expensive.

Majestic offers its own descriptions of wine styles. As a result I was able to segment them into groups and compare prices to ratings. For example, red wines are split into three groups: Fruity Reds, Smooth Reds and Big Reds. If one judges on price, one would expect the most expensive wines to be reviewed best. Big Reds would then be top-ranked as the bottles are on average £5 more expensive than Smooth Reds. In reality, though, Smooth Reds are the most popular. 

Likewise, in the case of white wines, the most expensive Rich White is out-reviewed by the much cheaper Fruity White, suggesting that customers may not possess such sophisticated palettes as those at Majestic in charge of pricing!

One may have noticed, however, that the difference in the measure of customer approval is almost too small to see with the naked eye. This sheds light on Majestic's approach to reviewing which I believe to be a key aspect of their marketing. Instead of using traditional reviewing systems where one might give a rating out of five stars, they merely ask their customers whether or not they would buy the bottle again. Personally, I am not one to review products, but I'd consider it here because I wouldn't be thinking of it as reviewing for other people but rather leaving a note to myself for my next order. For your average customer, this is the only question they are interested in, and it encourages less fussy types to leave positive reviews rather than a higher proportion of more critical wine drinkers leaving 2 or 3 star reviews. A customer is far more likely to buy a bottle with over 80% of customers saying they would buy it again as compared to one with a mediocre 3 out of 5 stars.  As the star system encourages people to be more critical, Majestic's simpler review system is much better for sales.

Finally, perhaps the most interesting discovery was how much a cork increases the price. Majestic's target market isn't a customer looking for fine wines to store in a cellar for sixty years but looking for wines that are ready to be drunk. So there's no real need for a cork except to pander to those who expect one. But if it gives Majestic extra leeway to hike up prices, then it's a worthwhile pricing strategy.

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William Ponsonby

William Ponsonby is a data scientist currently studying at the NYC Data Science Academy. Prior to that he studied Russian, Czech and Slovak at Oxford University and did internships in Investment Analysis, Accounting, Advertising and Self-Storage in London,...
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Seeing stars: Acquiring More Reviews and Sales with Simpler Ratings - TOP WEBINARS January 1, 2020
[…] The solution to overthinking what’s good or not good enough is to adapt the same simple rule of thumb system to wine customers. That’s what the UK-based Majestic Wines did. Instead of assessing gradations of quality, customers merely have to indicate if they would or would not buy that particular variety again. That results in many more bottles receiving a large number of positive reviews. As William Ponsonby wrote in his blog on the site’s data: […]
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Seeing stars: Acquiring More Reviews and Sales with Simpler Ratings - eCommerceFastlane.com December 31, 2019
[…] The solution to overthinking what’s good or not good enough is to adapt the same simple rule of thumb system to wine customers. That’s what the UK-based Majestic Wines did. Instead of assessing gradations of quality, customers merely have to indicate if they would or would not buy that particular variety again. That results in many more bottles receiving a large number of positive reviews. As William Ponsonby wrote in his blog on the site’s data: […]
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Seeing stars: Acquiring More Reviews and Sales with Simpler Ratings | Post Funnel December 31, 2019
[…] The solution to overthinking what’s good or not good enough is to adapt the same simple rule of thumb system to wine customers. That’s what the UK-based Majestic Wines did. Instead of assessing gradations of quality, customers merely have to indicate if they would or would not buy that particular variety again. That results in many more bottles receiving a large number of positive reviews. As William Ponsonby wrote in his blog on the site’s data: […]

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