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Sheri Hebbeln
August 6, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

What are the new trends in ecommerce for wineries?

A wine merchant should definitely be considering establishing a full online presence if they haven't done so already. What is meant by this is that they have a completely functional online store for customers to use on any device, whether it is a laptop or a smartphone, with a design that is specific to the needs of the customer. Ecommerce matters more than ever, as an increasing number of people are shopping online for various items, especially stuff that may not be available from their local stores. There are new trends that are pushing online shopping in different directions and wineries need to pay attention over these developments to greatly improve their presence and their sales.

It's all in your hands
According to Brandwatch, most of the latest trends concern devices that aren't computers. Of particular note is the rise of mobile devices as the primary form of using the Internet. As a consequence, online stores should be catering specifically to mobile devices as they continue to grow ubiquity. The main factor in all this is creating responsive design websites, which are built to the screen width of any given device. This can apply to smartphones and tablets, especially since their resolutions vary based on the way a person is holding it. Building an online wine store with this kind of function is now mandatory in order to survive as a business.

More intriguingly, there is an increased interest in wearable devices such as smart watches become more widely available. These new devices may seem like a novelty to the average merchant, but with a marketing plan in place specifically targeting them, such as quick promotions or offers on shipping for a case of wine, a store could stand to gain an advanced customer who is likely to spend more money.

Getting some information
Content will also play a major role in how ecommerce develops over the next several years. How varies from site to site, based on their needs and goals, according to a report from Econsultancy. In the case of wine shops, the main focus will likely be on short-form content. To give an example, short posts on new developments at the winery will be sufficient in keeping customers' attention and persuading them to buy new bottles based on a promotion for one of your newer vintages. There is also the potential for long-form content, however. This can include long pieces on how a winery picks grapes for use in production and what gets thrown out. Striking a balance for content in ecommerce can encourage customers by both bringing unique insights and special offers to the table.

Time Posted: Aug 6, 2014 at 5:30 AM
Sheri Hebbeln
August 5, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Why Email Marketing Remains Dominant Over Social Media

There is a belief that wine can be marketed over social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Being able to order wine online is increasingly becoming as simple as clicking on a tweet. However, is it an effective way to get your blends out there? At this point, the answer is no. It remains to be seen just how effective social media is as a marketing platform, simply because there is little in the way of converting views of a status update into direct sales. Meanwhile, email marketing maintains its strong position as a source of promoting goods such pinot noir or chardonnay. With this information, it's important to consider sticking with the latter for now.

Email still clicks with wine lovers
Advertising Age, in a recent white paper discussing the current developments of the advertising industry, went into great length on the use of email promotion and social media marketing as two separate entities. Their findings may come off as surprising to some who are more attuned to what is happening in social media. For one thing, more than 76 percent of all consumers who receive retail emails use them in some way for shopping online. In addition, at least 92 percent of those surveyed who receive messages from online shops will at least occasionally click through to the store site or visit it at a later time in response to the content or offers within. In comparison, 46 percent of all those who use social media never use it for shopping purposes.

There are various reasons for this. One is the different approaches from which you receive promotions from both channels. Email is mostly optional, yet pushed to the consumers' inbox. This allows a greater degree of flexibility in creating an offer that favors the needs of patrons. Also, even if the message fails to get across, you can still try again. These are not the case when dealing with social media. More importantly, though, there is a matter of email having a personal aspect that you cannot get across with Facebook, no matter how custom-tailored or targeted the advertising is, according to KISSmetrics. There is also the fact that ads on social media outlets tend to look more like banner ads than anything else, lending to their ineffectiveness.

Effective and efficient
Numbers also make the difference with email marketing in blatantly obvious ways. Twitter and Facebook, the two largest international social media networks, have more than 1.5 billion registered users. In comparison, there are more than 3 billion email addresses out there. On raw numbers, that translates to a far higher reach for most of your intended audience. More importantly though, consulting group McKinsey reported on online marketing efforts and while organic searches remained the top source of customer acquisition growth with just under 16 percent on an annual basis, email had a decent rate of growth at about 7 percent, while the two social media titans had under half a percent combined. Put into simple terms, marketers were 40 times more likely to acquire customers from the inbox than from the feed.

What helps greatly is that email messages are useful in getting people's attention. A lot more marketing content can be placed in a single email, such as new variety developments and different ways of shipping wine, than can be done on a social media message. Even a Twitter feed won't have as much efficacy. In addition, despite mobile device supplanting computers as the dominant means of going online, more than 75 percent of them used it to check their email, while only 60 percent used it to look at Facebook. These statistics show that emails are still an effective solution to sell wine online.

Time Posted: Aug 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM
Jim Agger
August 1, 2014 | Jim Agger

Online Wine Sales Forecast to Explode

With recent word that Amazon is planning to become a destination point for online wine sales, the company is believed to be on the verge of an explosion in sales. Bram Duchovnay, a senior executive with the Internet giant told the online publication, Beverage Daily, that the company thinks they can generate huge sales revenues in the consumables market. Being relatively new in the beverage game - they've only been offering wine since the end of 2012 - Duchovnay admits there's a lot they don't know but research and projections point to wine as an untapped area of focus for Amazon.

Amazon a new wine merchant?
While a number of companies are conducting online wine sales following the passage of legislation in several states allowing Internet wine sales and shipping, Amazon is uniquely positioned, said industry experts, to conduct a full-scale on-line beverage operation. Already involved deeply in wine marketing and sales, the company has researched a number of markets across the world and will likely delve into the online sale of spirits in the near future as well.

Cross shopping brings advantages
Because Amazon offers customers a cross-shopping experience where they search multiple product options, Duchovnay told Beverage Daily they can draw from people who normally wouldn't think about purchasing wine or spirits online and that tasting the product as one can at a wine shop or liquor store is overrated.

In Chicago, The Daily Herald recently talked of how consumers in that city are rapidly becoming comfortable with online wine sales as an alternative to going to the store. Shopping online can be fun, said the article, and joining a wine club is even more beneficial than neighborhood discount outlets. Both sources advised that consumers triple check their online purchases for vintage, label distribution to ensure the correct size before clicking the purchase link. Being informed before surfing and buying is critical for customers to receive what they thought they were buying.

For those who are looking for a specific or special vintage the online market has something for them as well. Many wine clubs and vendors, said the Daily Herald, can find a special wine for clients and ship it in minimal time. Each winery and wine club has their information posted on the company website so there should be no confusion but it's, 'Buyer Beware' when it comes to online purchasing. Do the research so you don't get sour grapes instead of that much heralded Pinot Noir you thought you were getting.

Reputable wine clubs and winery operations are willing to bend over backwards to please their customers. Make sure that's what you find when looking for great online wine.

Time Posted: Aug 1, 2014 at 5:30 AM
Sheri Hebbeln
July 31, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Bringing Back Customers to Their Shopping Cart Through Email Marketing

The situation with online shopping carts has deteriorated significantly in recent years. According to a new survey by the e-tailing group, the number of sites reporting a greater than 50 percent shopping cart abandonment rate has increased by about 8 percent, covering about half the merchants who knew how many customers were leaving. It's turning into a crisis for online stores, including those that sell wine online. Several tactics are necessary to help bring shoppers back to their carts in order to complete their purchases, or at least purchase something else. One solution is to use email marketing in ingenious ways.

The cart recovery email pulls them back
If a consumer is registered with the store site, their information can be used to bring them back  to complete the transaction. The way this is done is through a personalized cart recovery email. This message is especially made to indicate that the customer still has items in his or her shopping cart and gently suggests that they should come back to the site to complete the order. Another form of email marketing that could be used are special product recommendations based on the customer's purchasing and browsing history.

The use of a cart recovery email has been shown to particularly successful in addressing abandonment. According to the e-tailing survey, 86 percent of merchants achieved at least some level of success in bringing back customers by triggering the recovery messages shortly after the user has left the site. Another 83 percent also saw some return on investment by sending product recommendations by email, which sometimes has the added benefit of completing the transaction with even more goods sold. Of those surveyed, the majority used an email to inform custoemrs that there were still items in their carts, while 35 percent added an incentive to make a purchase in the reminder.

Remembering and changing what they bought
When establishing methods of bringing back customers, it's important to remember that there is a very good chance they will not buy something right away: According to SAP, an overwhelming 99 percent of online customers who visit a store for the first time don't purchase anything. However, 75 percent of those that abandon their carts do return. In fact, they'll keep visiting several times, possibly adding and removing items from their shopping carts, until they finally make a purchase. It is still useful to shoot out an email reminder, however. What matters is scheduling it right to avoid annoying the customer enough to stay away from their shopping cart, but to keep it fresh in their minds. Greg Wise of HubSpot suggests that retailers have had success with sending a single email within an hour of someone leaving the site.

At the same time, a quick message saying "Hey, you haven't finished your purchase at our winery yet!" isn't enough to bring people back to their shopping carts. You need to make sure the email provides enough of an incentive to inspire a return. It should, for example, display images of the items that are in the abandoned cart to remind and entice them of their planned purchases. Some recommendations for other items can help increase the value of the eventual transaction. Another thing you can do, especially if the user is a returning customer, is offer incentives with their purchase, such as including shipping into the cost of buying that case of merlot or a discount for a bottle of Riesling. You may also seek to promote a subscription-based wine club as well. Most importantly, though, you should probably gently persuade the consumer to come back, either through positive product reviews or through guarantees and other trust-building means, such as providing your support email or phone number. Eventually, they'll come back and complete the order.

Time Posted: Jul 31, 2014 at 3:24 PM
Jim Agger
July 30, 2014 | Jim Agger

Are wine clubs a good deal for consumers?

As more states allow online wine sales and the direct shipping from wineries to consumers many wine aficionados are just now becoming wine club savvy. So how does a discerning fan of the grape decide which club is best for them?

Not all wine clubs are the same
Online industry publication Best Wine Clubs discussed the advantages and pitfalls of wine clubs and offered some suggestions on what to look for in finding a reputable program. When selecting a wine club, a consumer should always go with one that's in the industry. If the sponsor or operator of a club is not known for being in the business, then the consumer may want to look elsewhere, the article said. A number of companies from outside the sector have jumped into online wine sales with both feet. There have been multiple reports of clubs with little to no inventory and poor quality product. As with everything joining a wine club is caveat emptor - buyer beware.

Good wine clubs are a great deal
One of the many good things about joining a club, explained Best Wine, is that many operators are people who love wine and the aura surrounding it. While local wine outlets generally charge full price for wine, the clubs offer bargains and many also have money-back guarantees if the consumer doesn't like the product. Customers also have more inventory to choose from. Having a warehouse full of product means a larger and better wine selection. Wine clubs also can pair consumers with a knowledgeable wine expert, something package stores and local liquor outlets don't offer.

Like a present in the mail
Another great aspect of online wine clubs is the shipping aspect of it. When a consumer's online purchase of their favorite vintage arrives at the home it's just like receiving a birthday or Christmas present through the mail - with all the excitement that entails. Wine shipping is generally a well thought out and planned operation with all the safeguards needed to ensure the product arrives undamaged, on-time and unspoiled. Many clubs offer discounts for frequent or bulk buyers, and Best Wine advised that buyers new to online wine buying and shipping to go with a club that has low introductory offers.

That way the club showcases its operation and selection and the consumer saves money in the long run.

Time Posted: Jul 30, 2014 at 2:45 PM
Courtney Copland
July 29, 2014 | Courtney Copland

QR Codes Help Keep Wines Authentic and In Reach

If you're a winery selling directly to customers, any form of wine marketing that can be done by the bottle rather than by standard marketing strategy can be a boon to you. Your bottles are the ones that promote you best, simply due to the word-of-mouth nature of most wine promoting. A good bottle can yield interest in your business very quickly. But in today's society, where everyone is wielding a smartphone, there is a way to get people to know about your product as fast as possible. Through mobile devices, you can help create a relationship with the consumer. This method is through QR codes, which can be scanned on a mobile device to direct people to more information on the product, or even to a page where they can order it to be shipped to their homes.

Fine marketing
If a sommelier decides to offer your wine to a restaurant patron, he or she can then scan the QR code on the label to immediately get information on the bottle and the winery. According to Inc. Magazine, this is probably the most ideal situation in regards to using the codes. A customer would probably like to know more about the winery that created the chardonnay they just drank and possibly save it for later. After scanning it, they could use that information to gain more insights on the vintage, what grapes and methods of production you use, what other wine varieties you may sell and how they can purchase them. With proper optimization, such a landing page that is specific to the QR code, you can get winos a good idea of what your product is like. You can take things a step further by offering a direct means to purchase the wine through your online wine store.

Along with sharing information, you can create a degree of personalization with each QR code. You can supply a landing page with food pairings for the bottle the customer purchased. If said wine drinker has a history of purchasing other wines from you, you can develop a specific page based on their tastes and provide special offers to them that assure their loyalty. On a larger scale, if you run a subscription service, you can make a batch of bottles specific to the club that will allow members to interact with each other and learn new developments at the winery.

Keeping it real
QR codes on the wine label help in another matter that may affect your winery: Counterfeiting. While fraudulent wines with copycat labels have been an issue with the wine industry for some time, it is becoming increasingly easier to make a fake and sell it to unwitting buyers. Counterfeits can really bring down sales and will undermine your brand. It is important to make sure that your business is not undercut by fraud.

QR codes help alleviate this situation. They are not just single purpose and can be checked in multiple ways so as to detect a fraud or not. For customers, merely scanning the code and being directed to a specific page may be enough to check for fraud. You can also collaborate with wine bars and restaurants by delivering a series of codes so that any stray bottles can be checked to confirm their authenticity. In a report from Wine-Searcher, many wineries are taking that step to ensure that their brand of wine is the real deal throughout the life of the product. It helps that adding a code is a very inexpensive process, even with consumer-oriented measures such as directing them to a mobile site. The uses of QR codes work well with wine bottles because their single use will engage the consumer just enough while protecting them and you from fraud.

Jim Agger
July 28, 2014 | Jim Agger

The Bay State Allows Wine Shipments for the First Time

After years of parochial wrangling, the Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill that will allow out-of-state winemakers and vintners to process online wine sales and ship it to the East Coast, but not without a cost. Not only does the taxing mentality of Beacon Hill lawmakers enter into the equation - winemakers must pay $300 just for a permit to do business in the Commonwealth - but a sales tax must be paid by the consumer. There's also an excise tax of 55 cents per gallon of wine that is paid by the wholesaler and passed on to the retail market.

Shipping protocols being established
According to the Boston Globe, wine shipping to the Bay State could face some difficult obstacles if the legislature and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission don't change some archaic fulfillment regulations that have been on the books since prohibition. Each truck that delivers wine is subject to a special permit and fee. In most states, said the Globe, one fee covers each shipping operation. In Massachusetts, shipping companies must pay the fee for each truck delivering alcohol, which could cause prospective shipping operations to opt out of delivering online purchased wine to customers. One lawmaker who sponsored the wine-shipping bill has now introduced legislation to eliminate the individual truck fee for a fleet-wide permit program. Current truck permitting fees, according to the source, are $200 dollars apiece and could push delivery charges very high.

Star-studded backing
Former New England Patriot quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, is a vineyard owner and winemaker from Washington State and he lobbied hard and effectively for the new law. He told Boston Magazine in a Tweet on social media that the news was gratifying.

"This is great news!" said Bledsoe. "[I'm] excited that we can start shipping in January."

January 1, 2015 is the first day wine shipping to Massachusetts can begin.

While the former gridiron star isn't taking any credit for the measure's passage, it is his lobbying effort last year that some have said was the final push. Bledsoe had testified that he couldn't ship samples of his product to friends and teammates, like Tom Brady, and he was hoping that would change.

"Tom actually bought the wine, and he shipped it to his dad's house (in California)," reported Bledsoe to the Associated Press, as quoted by NewsDaily. However, Brady never got to sample the wine. His father finished it off before the quarterback and his wife could arrive to taste it.

Legislature is pushing
Ted Speliotis is the state representative who authored the bill to allow shipping and is pursuing the measure to change the truck permitting. He told Boston Magazine that one license per shipping fleet as opposed to each truck is the way to go.

"I know there's some legislation here that I think is going to be coming to me out of the Ways and Means Committee. It would create a $3,500 fleet license rather than an individual license, and I am very supportive of that," explained Speliotis.

Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, signed off on the measure contained in the FY 2015 budget, bringing the Bay State - rated the fourth highest consumer state in the nation's wine drinking archives - to the forefront of a new, money-making venture.

There is no word to date on whether the shipping measure will make it to a vote before the first of the year, but the Governor has indicated he would sign the bill, as well, should it make it to his desk..

Courtney Copland
July 25, 2014 | Courtney Copland

Instagram Can Make Your Wines Attractive

A wine marketing campaign can be a tricky thing to do with oenophiles​ because they can be a finicky bunch and are very conscious of the wines they consume. Even casual wine drinkers have particular tastes when it comes to imbibing socially or at home watching a movie. Having a campaign that caters to all of them can be a game of fitting a round cork on top of a square bottle. Social media helps alleviate this problem by utilizing trends and discussions from consumers to turn into marketing and sales opportunities. Recent changes to the popular photo-sharing site Instagram in particular have made it possible for wine merchants to deliver a visually appealing campaign with a lot less effort and a lot more interaction with drinkers.

Instagram does things differently as a social media outlet in comparison to its parent company Facebook or even the likes of Pintrest and Twitter. For one, it's photo-centric. As Kate Harrison of Forbes notes, you can't really push any form of copy on the app, whether it's advertising or otherwise. Links are also particularly useless in photo posts. The main draw is the visuals: Really good photos with or without extra filters that can make even the most banal thing seem pretty. Interaction with these photos can increase a wine drinker's interest in your product. What helps businesses with garnering attention is the recent addition of web-based profiles which are similar in structure to Facebook profiles and gives consumers a single hub where they can learn more about products and the company in general.

In vino transparens
Because there are few direct ways to sell your wines on the app, the purpose of an Instagram account is to bolster your winery's image and reputation. That may seem a difficult task, but what makes using the site effective as a marketing tool is that you don't necessarily have to focus on your bottles of wine all the time. Instead, you can build the brand around what you are as a wine merchant and create a relationship with your customers that turns into a loyal source of revenue. Rather than images of just bottles of wine, there should be something else in the picture. For example, pairing a newly available vintage of pinot noir with some vegan stuffed mushrooms or pork tenderloin in a photo can entice customers and probably make them hungry.

In addition to putting your wines together with people and food, PracticalEcommerce suggest visually demonstrating a bit of the business, so to show users that you're more than just some faceless winery. This can include images of winemakers tasting the first batch of a vintage to be sold, grapes on the farm and/or the pressing process. By giving this sort of behind-the-scenes look, potential customers get a distinct impression that there are real people behind this business.

Social means interaction
Given that Instagram is a social media outlet, the emphasis with marketing on the site isn't enticing through visuals, but interacting with customers. Creating hashtags specific to your brand can enable wine drinkers to talk about your products in a manner that promotes it indirectly. With brand-specific hashtags, you can easily monitor consumers and even like or comment on their posts as a show of support. Monitoring the site can also let you seek out certain accounts that have an established audience and talking with them directly about promoting your varieties through posts and comments. Working with a foodie or oenophile account, for example, can grab people's attention simply because their notoriety will increase interest in your selection. Having your employees post photos of your bottles of wine can also boost your promotional value. After all, there are few things on the photo site shared more often than pictures of people's meals.

Jim Agger
July 24, 2014 | Jim Agger

Same-day delivery: The next frontier for online wine?

The one advantage that wine shops have over online stores is the sense of immediacy. If customers want to buy a specific bottle or case of a certain blend and/or vintage, they can get it at the store and go home with it. But when you buy wine online, you tend to have to wait at least a day or two before you see that chardonnay on your doorstep. Impulse buys are often guided by the sense of instant gratification gained from receiving a purchase, and that satisfaction isn't as strong if consumers have to wait more than a day for it. Online stores are now taking steps to address this particular problem through the use of same-day delivery. Wine merchants should take heed of this new development, for it may give them a leading edge and a place from which to build up customers.

Same-day delivery is not an entirely new phenomenon, but it has only recently taken hold as part of an ecommerce system. Even then, it is a very limited system. Same-day delivery is often only available for people living in large cities such as New York or Chicago, and the goods provided tend to be items that can easily be stocked. However, it is pretty inexpensive for consumers, especially when compared to one-day or two-day shipping options. To give an example, Amazon currently gives a minimum for same-day delivery at $9.98 for one item, with 99 cents tacked on for each additional item. Through their Amazon Prime subscription service, the cost is even lower at $5.99 per shipment with no limit on the number of items delivered. These prices are comparable with basic shipping, which tend to take at least a week to deliver its goods. It is little wonder that other companies such as Google are looking to expand into the field, with a focus on electronics and groceries, according to PYMNTS.

A leaner, less fermented operation
Wineries, especially midsize operations that may only have a small line of grape varieties they sell in large numbers, can stand to benefit from this form of delivery. For one, it creates an on-demand basis from which consumers purchase and imbibe your wine. From this situation, it's very easy to build a customer base without having to work directly with wine stores or visible wine distributors, which can result in cost savings that are passed along.

Fulfillment expert Dave Piasecki also discusses particular benefits for same-day shipping in an article for In it, he suggests that same-day orders can boost the overall productivity of a distribution operation. When a shipping center is required to send out orders for delivery that day, it is likely that will encourage workers to push harder in getting other orders out as well, which improves fulfillment logistics for all orders, not just those expected at the customer's door by the end of the day. This can lead to a lower shipping time as well on all fronts.

More importantly, wineries will be able to spend less time focusing on making sure their wines get shipped out, according to Piasecki. This sounds counterintuitive, since adding a shipping option means more processes need to be put in place. However, that can also mean a shift in the way your wine orders are processed over the course of the day. Rather than running through a series of functions and decisions in order to ship wine, you would have to cut down the number of steps in order to ensure the item gets delivered in time. By reducing this bureaucratic process to prioritizing what needs to be sent today, you can become a leaner winery that is able to handle a sudden influx of orders, all the while maintaining satisfied customers.

Sheri Hebbeln
July 23, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Is your winery prepared for the future of ecommerce?

Ecommerce has been growing steadily more popular year after year. If online wine sales are becoming a greater focus for you, it's important to have the right ecommerce fulfillment capabilities in place. Omnichannel retailing is increasingly gaining attention because consumers expect companies to meet their needs and preferences at all times. This tactic aims to offer customers a consistent level of service through whichever channel they choose to utilize, which is why omnichannel is effective for brands that maintain a traditional brick-and-mortar store and an online presence.

However, it's still easy to run into issues with your online wine store. When left unchecked, these problems can seriously hurt your operation. Marketing publication Fourth Source highlighted some issues that should be avoided or resolved:

  • Making too many updates at once: If you've waited too long to update your winery's website, trying to do too much at once can overwhelm returning customers, and the site may not have the high level of functionality you wanted.
  • Focusing on short-term goals rather than the big picture: It may be tempting to make short-term fixes to your website for the sake of meeting current objectives. However, if major improvements are needed to achieve a better omnichannel strategy, it may be worth the investment, even if it takes a little time to implement.
  • Poor communication with customers: Omnichannel means being more accessible to consumers at all times. If shoppers run into problems with an online order, it may be easier for them to pick up the phone to deal with the issue rather than waiting for a response to email. Make sure contact information for your winery is easy to find.

How to establish an omnichannel retailing strategy
Omnichannel can put a lot of pressure on wineries because online offerings and ecommerce fulfillment typically need to improve to meet customer preferences. Here are tips for some upgrades you can make to ensure your winery is ready for the future:

  1. Better inventory visibility: Not only will this increase customer satisfaction, but it's good for you as well. Increased insight into stock levels ensures you aren't processing orders on your website for products that are out of stock, according to Supply Chain Management Review, citing data from Capgemini. Advanced wine inventory software can improve stock management.
  2. Offer the same products across all channels: While there are obviously some special exceptions, like exclusive promotions, in general you should advertise the same products across each customer channel. If visitors try a wine in your tasting room and decide to buy it online later, they will be frustrated if they can't purchase it from your website.
  3. Have the right wine shipping options: Omnichannel aims to give customers more choices for how they shop. Your ecommerce fulfillment strategy needs to be agile and flexible to meet these changing demands and provide a high-quality experience for shoppers around the country. Wineries need to find a way to reach customers more quickly and at a low cost. 

Contact a fulfillment specialist to learn more about how WineDirect's fulfillment solutions can accommodate the complex needs of your winery.