The WineDirect Blog

For the latest in Direct-to-Consumer sales.  Featuring posts on compliance, direct sales tips and trends in the wine industry.

  Subscribe to our Blog

Sheri Hebbeln
 
April 7, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Successful online wine marketing relies on a good call to action

Ecommerce is taking off for wine companies. Consumers are increasingly interested in finding ways to buy wine online. According to an article from Wine Searcher, the global online wine market is worth about $5 billion and is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 30 percent annually. On the other hand, these sales still only represent less than 5 percent of worldwide sales, which means that online wine sales are still a relatively untapped business strategy. However, to maximize product sales online, wine businesses need to make sure they are optimizing their e-stores to make more conversions.

While there are many elements to this, a good call to action is an important part of any ecommerce conversion strategy. The more refined CTAs are, the more sales wine businesses will make online. As an article from ContentVerve points out, the CTA is the point at which shoppers will either bounce or convert. In other words, perfecting just a small part of the website can have significant results.

Make CTA buttons stand out
To make online sales, businesses need to make sure their CTAs stand out from the rest of the material on the website. If a consumer is just browsing, a button that tells them to shop online may give them a reason to make a purchase. Once they are in the online store, it's vital they know where to click to add an item to the cart. It may sound obvious, but consumers are less inclined to perform these actions if the CTA is hard to see. According to content marketing company Copyblogger, making these buttons stand out in terms of color is a good way to ensure click-thrus. Make sure the text is big, and the button color stands out from the background. It's also smart to place them "above the fold," or in a location where visitors don't have to scroll down to see them.

Focus on results
Another element that can increase conversions is stating not just an action, but the result in a CTA. A video from ContentVerve suggests that focusing solely on process can have negative effects. Using just the word "order" implies a procedure that may be time-consuming or bothersome. Rather than using a word with such connotations, emphasize the result, for instance "get delicious wine in the mail!" To determine what copy to use, ask two questions: What is the prospect's motivation for clicking the button, and what will the prospect receive once they do?

Once wine stores optimize online stores, sales have the potential for serious growth.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
April 4, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Increase Online Wine Sales From Returning Shoppers

When trying to sell wine online, are you directing your efforts toward new customers or previous clients? Some online retailers devote all their attention to attracting first-time shoppers, but this approach may not pay off in the long run. Especially when it comes to ecommerce, new customers won't spend as much on their first orders because they want to ensure the quality of a retailer's service before committing more. Returning shoppers have already experienced your brand and trust your wine shipping capabilities. Because there is no acquisition cost for repeat customers, this segment may warrant more focus. While it's important to gain new clients, individuals who return to your online wine store may be more likely to make higher-value purchases.

These reasons are why some online retailers devote a great deal of their marketing efforts to boosting customer loyalty, but it's difficult to measure the results of these initiatives or tie them directly to revenue gains, according to Forbes. It can be more worthwhile to monitor customer engagement and identify ways to encourage repeat purchases. Engaged consumers are more likely to buy regularly and spend more per order. These potential revenue gains are why retailers create programs to foster loyalty and engagement. 

Customers have higher expectations than ever before, and it's more difficult to retain a client base over time. If consumers' desires aren't met, there isn't much to stop them from switching to a competitor. Proactively striving to boost loyalty can help retention efforts and lead to increased online revenue.

How to extend the customer lifecycle
Retailers have an assortment of tactics to encourage people to return to their websites. Loyalty programs and specialty discounts are among the most common, but there are other effective techniques, Practical Ecommerce stated. Here are some suggestions wineries can utilize to gain higher-value sales from returning customers:

1. Use a product-driven approach
This tip may be particularly beneficial for wineries because it often works best with items consumers have already purchased. For example, you can make suggestions for wine varieties consumers may like and offer them at a discount. To make this strategy work effectively, you can give customers the option to set up a profile of their preferences so they receive more relevant recommendations.

2. Rewards and discount opportunities
These programs are classics for building loyalty, but they are still highly effective. There are many different ways to structure reward and discount programs, such as accumulating points from purchasing that can then be used toward additional items, BusinessNewsDaily said. Clients will often feel motivated to shop more so they earn higher rewards. 

3. Have conversations with customers
Even though the Internet can feel like an impersonal place at times, customers want to have real-time interactions with the retailers they frequent. Whether this conversation occurs over social media, email or the phone, this dialog is an opportunity to learn more about client preferences and build the relationship, according to Practical Ecommerce. One of the most important considerations in this pursuit is to be as available as possible. A customer service email and phone number should be listed in an intuitive place on your winery's website to make it easy for shoppers to get in touch.

4. Offer shipping discounts to repeat clients
Shipping wine is a costly prospect, and it can be a major detractor - even for wine connoisseurs. However, you can use this to your advantage. Through your wine marketing, you can offer discounted rates for speedy shipping to loyal customers. This can often act as a purchase driver. 

Jim Agger
 
April 3, 2014 | Jim Agger

How will ecommerce change in 2014?

Several years ago, ecommerce was a practically unheard of phenomenon. Now an online store is all but mandatory to stay competitive. Online wine sales have changed a great deal since their introduction, and there are a number of new trends you need to be aware of to maintain consistent revenue. For example, a large number of consumers are shopping from their mobile devices, which adds to the challenge of creating a high-quality experience for many retailers. 

Citing data from Forrester, Venture Beat said the U.S. ecommerce market reached $230 billion in 2013 and experienced 13 percent year-over-year growth. As more retailers rush to offer customers an online experience, it may become even more difficult to stand out. Many industries are dealing with an oversaturation of brands, especially because ecommerce can eliminate many geographic boundaries. 

Not only are consumer behavior and technology rapidly evolving, but companies need to contend with shifting search engine models. For example, Google and Bing have moved away from the original model of displaying all the products in a certain category and switched to a completely paid model, meaning consumers will only see results from retailers that have paid to promote their goods, Venture Beat said. If customers are looking for niche items - such as specialty wines - it can be difficult for them to find what they want.

What do shoppers expect from retailers?
While ecommerce gives consumers to ability to readily shop for comparisons, price isn't the only factor influencing their decisions. Your online wine store won't necessarily succeed based on costs alone. Customers want to read user reviews, receive discounts, the choice of multiple ways to pay and the ability to get the most convenient, cost-effective options for shipping. Ecommerce fulfillment is a major influence when people order wine online. Retailers that don't offer all these features may be left behind competitors. Plus, it may be even more difficult to impress shoppers on mobile devices because of the limited space.

In particular, free or discounted shipping and accurate orders are becoming more important for retailers to maintain success. A few years ago, consumers had to wait several days for deliveries to arrive. As Amazon and eBay have ramped up their capabilities, patience is increasingly getting lower. This means you need to consider your inventory management and fulfillment operations to ensure demands are being met. 

Highlight wine shipping offerings for a marketplace advantage
Your fulfillment operations are critical for encouraging customers to buy wine online rather than in a store. Shoppers don't want to wait days or even weeks to receive their items. The retail industry as a whole has been under intense pressure to update shipping capabilities, and many are still struggling, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The 2013 holiday season is a time that will go down in infamy because of many retailers' and carriers' failures to deliver gifts on time through last-minute shopping and severe weather delays. Highlighting data from consultancy Kurt Salmon, the article said that even companies that had a deadline of December 20 for shipping before Christmas only managed an 80 percent success rate.

While some parts of the country were hit by winter storms, many of the issues were the result of employee errors. For example, workers didn't mark packages for rush shipping or didn't send them to FedEx or UPS until the day after they were processed. Another significant problem was single orders being filled from multiple warehouses, which adds to retailers' costs. It may be beneficial to consider your wine warehouse and determine if you're shipping in the most effective way possible. Wineries can learn a lot from the example of the most recent holiday season.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
April 2, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Are you missing the chance to convert customers with your product pages?

Winery websites may be able to convert a higher number of prospects based on how persuasive their product pages are. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't your home page that influences the decision to buy - it's your landing pages and product listings, according to ClickZ. If you want to encourage more customers to buy wine online, you may need to make adjustments that will help you convert shoppers on these pages.

Common Web design knowledge dictates that the home page is the first part of your website visitors will see, and it warrants the highest creative investment. While organic search through Google means any part of your site can act as a landing page depending on the search terms shoppers use, many visitors won't spend a lot of time on the home page. They will only look for navigation links to find what they want as quickly as possible. For many ecommerce websites, shoppers want to reach product pages, the article said. It may not be worthwhile to excessively highlight seasonal promotions, new releases and your blog in this location.

Ecommerce landing pages
Compared to the importance of your wine shipping capabilities, inventory management protocols and point of sale system, website design may seem like an afterthought. Even your landing pages should be optimized to direct visitors to product pages and increase online wine sales. A conversion rate increase of a few percentage points can make a huge impact to revenue, a blog post from Wishpond stated. 

Because people are ultimately visiting your website to view your products, it can be beneficial to include images on your landing pages. Especially in a short landing page without a great deal of content, imagery will help to capture attention quickly. Less text can make it easier to get to the point of your call to action so customers are more likely to take the next step. Easy navigation to product pages or frequently asked questions can ensure potential customers stay on your page. If visitors arrive on your site through a search engine, they don't want to have to dig through each page of the website to find what they're looking for. When this information isn't immediately apparent, they could easily click the back button and return to the results page. 

Like nearly all wine marketing efforts, a call to action is essential to boosting conversions. In some cases, landing pages will be the first impression visitors receive from your website. It's up to you to direct them to the next step. Calls to action matter for product pages as well. 

What makes a successful product page?
Because this may be the last view of your product that customers get right before purchasing, it's important to avoid a cluttered look and feel, ClickZ said. Page structure could play a role here. Too much scrolling can be frustrating for shoppers. In fact, the majority of consumers are unlikely to ever see any product page content displayed below the fold. To increase conversions, you may want to include links to examples of products that other customers viewed or purchased, a technique Amazon has applied to great effect. This upsell can increase dollar amount and items per order. 

Some ecommerce websites include the top user reviews. Customers are placing more priority on the opinions of other shoppers to a greater extent than ever before. This can help establish trustworthiness. However, all of these approaches can benefit from testing to ensure conversion goals are being met. Design features that boost conversion are critical to the success of your online wine store

Karin Ballestrazze
 
April 1, 2014 | Karin Ballestrazze

Wineries Need to Prepare for the New Multichannel Norm

It's difficult to strike a balance between in-store and online wine sales. Customer satisfaction through every channel you offer is an important factor in overall success, a number of things can impact user experience - whether shoppers come into your winery or use your website. 

Surprisingly, customer satisfaction with U.S. retailers is at an all-time high after three consecutive years of increases, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. However, many large, traditional retailers suffered through decreases in satisfaction. In fact, these issues can both push customers to smaller retailers or improve client happiness. As disappointing in-store experiences continue to drive people to shop online, many consumers have been having better experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, Time magazine reported. Because of less overall traffic, shoppers often find better inventory availability, shorter lines and more helpful staff members to assist them. 

While some traditional retailers may be on the upswing, the online experience could be lagging, the article said. Part of the reason for this is because customers have unreasonably high expectations of what good ecommerce should look like. Because ecommerce has evolved in such a short space of time compared to traditional retail, expectations have changed just as quickly - in some cases, at a faster pace than online vendors can keep up with. 

Emphasize customer satisfaction and ecommerce fulfillment; improve scalability
While it can be a challenge, online and traditional retailers need to focus on meeting clients' needs to retain customers in the long run. It's crucial for you to remember that satisfaction is never permanent, Business 2 Community stated. You can't take engagement as a given. In many cases, satisfaction may not predict brand loyalty, or that customers will shop from you every time they want to purchase your products. There is a distinct difference between being happy with your products and clients enjoying the experience when they shop with you. It may be worthwhile to implement customer surveys to identify areas for improvement. Is your website easy to use and navigate? Are you offering the multiple, quality wine shipping options? 

Customer satisfaction may involve accounting for preferences. For example, it could be beneficial to give clients the choice to opt in to your wine marketing. This will help shoppers feel as though you're respecting their needs, which can translate into loyalty over time.

Dissatisfaction can be caused by not having the proper scale for your online wine store, according to Biz Report. Expectations are high, and shoppers expect to be able to acquire goods for a low cost with the most convenient shipping options. If shipping wine doesn't meet what clients want, you could risk them not buying from your again. Scalability can cause issues with inventory management and fulfillment operations, which are serious detriments to customer satisfaction. You need to ensure you maintain tightly controlled, accurate inventory management practices, order processing capabilities and timely shipping to meet and exceed shoppers' expectations. 

Sheri Hebbeln
 
March 31, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How can you gain conversions through winery websites?

It may seem like there are a huge number of factors at play in a customer's decision to order wine online. However, a great deal of the user experience is condensed in the checkout flow, according to ConversionXL. Improvements in checkout functionality typically have a direct result on online wine sales. You need to ensure you design your online wine store in a way that encourages conversions. 

What are the effects of the website user experience? Vouchercloud compiled the following statistics that could provide key considerations on how to make adjustments to your website: 

  • Wait time matters: 57 percent of customers will ditch your website after being forced to wait only three seconds for a page to load. Eighty percent of these shoppers will never return to your site.
  • Website visuals have a major influence: Nine in 10 shoppers report images play a significant role in driving purchasing decisions.
  • Not a long time to impress: Consumers form their initial decision after analyzing a product for 90 seconds.
  • Shoppers trust other customers: 85 percent of people consult online reviews before buying something. The majority of these individuals trust anonymous online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.​

Shopping cart abandonment plagues retailers
Combining data from several different studies, Vouchercloud found the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 67.4 percent. This means your website could be losing two-thirds of its potential revenue. The top reason was hidden fees at checkout, which was followed by requiring a registration to process the order. Nearly one-quarter of ecommerce websites force customers to sign up for the site. Many retailers are able to significantly cut shopping cart abandonment when they add a guest checkout option. Customers are also dissuaded by too-long checkout processes and unclear details about deliveries. According to the research, 5.08 steps is the average number for the top online retailers, and a high-quality experience should have a maximum of five steps.

To keep your online wine store successful, it may be time to reassess the experience to ensure there aren't any critical gaps that could lead to lost revenue. ConversionXL pointed out that the shopping experience starts with the cart because as soon as someone adds something, he or she isn't merely browsing. A small adjustment, like adding a confirmation that an item has been put in the cart can make an impact. This notification shouldn't take the shopper to another page because it can be distracting. However, directing individuals to the cart can give you the chance to upsell them on similar products if you include recommendations. Amazon takes this approach.

There needs to be a clear call to action when shoppers view their carts. In addition, you should be transparent about wine shipping charges. It may be helpful to add an estimate of these costs for your standard option as customers continue to add wine to their carts. This will prevent any unwanted surprises at the end of the transaction. 

Time Posted: Mar 31, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Tiffany Copland
 
March 28, 2014 | Tiffany Copland

Build loyalty with your wine club

The rapid growth of subscription services could be good news for your wine club. Monthly subscriptions of all kids - from beauty products to pet foods - are taking off around the country, and this follows the same basic principle as a wine club. For example, Birchbox is one of the most popular services because people can try new beauty products each month for a fairly minimal fee without committing to the purchase of the items, Pittsburgh-based CBS affiliate KDKA reported. The popularity of subscription services could be a way to engage millennial wine lovers. 

In the past, wine clubs didn't have much of a cool factor because true wine lovers typically have well-developed palates and didn't need the help, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, many wineries are finding that these clubs are becoming more desirable. In many of these newer services, bottles are carefully selected and are often highly allocated. Some wines come with tasting notes and recipes for pairing suggestions. Certain clubs will allow members to give their preferences, and they are sent wines based on those tastes. The article gave the example of one club that doesn't use pre-selected wines. It selects bottles for each individual member based on a budget. While this scenario may seem similar to going to a store to purchase wine, it does add convenience for members. 

Considerations for a wine club
If you're looking to start a wine subscription or make adjustments to your existing club, Practical Ecommerce stated it's important to think about customer preferences. Wine clubs create the opportunity for a steady stream of revenue, more predictability in inventory management and a chance to cut costs. Having a few different options built into your wine club may help entice increased membership. 

These subscriptions are mutually beneficial for customers and the wine merchant when designed well. However, getting consumers to join your wine club is only the first step. The goal needs to be long-term retention. This means you need to carefully assess your inventory management capabilities and ecommerce fulfillment operations. If deliveries arrive late or not at all, customers won't want to continue paying for the service. The first few months of membership are critical for the long-term success of your wine club. 

Because of the importance of the first few shipments, it may be beneficial to reward members to create a positive reinforcement. This could be a discount or an extra bottle of wine. If you exceed their expectations, it could significantly boost loyalty. Practical Ecommerce suggested another way to encourage customer satisfaction is to call members after their first delivery to ensure everything went as planned. Sending cards for holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day can help as well, especially if they include discounts. Excellent customer relations can be a selling point in addition to the features of your wine club.

With the growing popularity of subscription services, you have a chance to increase your wine club membership and secure a steady stream of revenue. It can also give you loyal customers for life.

Time Posted: Mar 28, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Jim Agger
 
March 27, 2014 | Jim Agger

Are you offering the best wine shipping options?

Don't overlook the importance of wine shipping. Your fulfillment options can attract new customers, increase order size and build lasting loyalty. However, if you don't offer the right choices, customers may not buy from you at all, according to a 2013 holiday study from Pitney Bowes and reported in Multichannel Merchant.

In the past three years, consumers have paid an increasingly amount of attention to shipping when they buy products online. Cost played a major role in purchasing decisions. In fact, 77 percent of customers would take free or discounted deliveries over speedy shipping. Consumers are increasingly expecting free shipping or discounts, such as qualifying for a special offer if they reach a certain price threshold. The study found that fulfillment expenses mattered so much to shoppers than nearly half of the respondents said they had abandoned a shopping cart when confronted with high shipping fees at checkout. 

Among these consumers who admitted to scrapping a purchase at the last minute, the average shipping expense was $20. Depending on the size of the order winery customers could easily be required to pay more. You need to offer an innovative way to ship wine without running into exorbitant fees.

It isn't just based on cost and convenience. Customers want to have access to real-time package tracking to ensure that their deliveries will arrive on schedule. Pitney Bowes found that approximately one-third of customers check shipments once or twice before delivery. Thirty percent of shoppers reported monitoring the status of shipments six times between placing their order and receiving items. And it doesn't end with delivery. Many consumers reported making returns or exchanges for goods they purchased online, and they want this to be as easy as possible. 

Take a lesson from Amazon
Amazon Prime has been hailed as the premier shipping membership service. Introduced in 2005, Prime subscribers would pay an annual fee of $79 and have access to free, two-day shipping on thousands of goods. For the first time since its introduction, Amazon recently increased the fee to $99. Although Amazon introduced more services to Prime subscribers such as video streaming and eBook lending, the price never went up. Millions of customers subscribe to Amazon Prime and benefit from all the services it has to offer.

Whether your winery utilizes a subscription-based service or other shipping discounts, you need to ensure you are providing value to your customers when they buy wine online. Offering the same prices on your website that you would in your winery will encourage customer loyalty. It also may be helpful to show customers how much they are saving from their orders with a shipping subscription. 

Time Posted: Mar 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM
Karin Ballestrazze
 
March 26, 2014 | Karin Ballestrazze

Retail Undergoing Significant Changes

From your point of sale system to ecommerce fulfillment, the nature of retail is changing rapidly. While you may not think you need to concern yourself with trends in the industry, you could miss out on online wine sales if you aren't prepared for the modern challenges in retail. You need to get ready for the continued shift to multichannel commerce.

Stealing Share, a rebranding company, released the results of its study, "The Retail Space: An in-depth study of where the industry stands now," and found companies need to make significant changes to the ways they approach customers. The company analyzed luxury, discount and specialty markets in its report. 

"This is a market that's struggling to find any importance with a model that will soon be extinct," said Tom Dougherty, president and CEO of Stealing Share. "That's one reason why you're seeing so many retailers closing stores. Even if the model was working, the retailers' messages are just noise, all blended together to create a cacophony that consumers are deaf to."

While this may apply to large retailers, wineries can still take lessons from the shortcomings of these major outlets to gain a competitive advantage in a niche market. 

Examples to take from large stores
When it comes to necessities, shopping can be extremely time-consuming, and customers prefer to do it on their own time from their computers or mobile devices, according to Forbes. Even though the retail experience is still fun for many shoppers, integration may be the way to accommodate varying preferences. Customers want the option to shop online as easily as they could in a store. A high-quality online experience is especially important to reach customers in markets outside your direct geographic region.

However, it's important not to underestimate the power of ecommerce. Forbes cited comScore statistics that found online sales increased by 10 percent during the 2013 holiday season. While brick-and-mortar sales are relatively flat, many retailers are seeing growth on their websites. Although this channel has a lot of potential for growth, you can't neglect shoppers who prefer the in-store experience. A major mistake that large retailers made was bulking up their online presence without reflecting these developments into their brick-and-mortar offerings.

How to improve the retail experience for customers
Consistency is key in this pursuit, and technology can help bring disparate channels together, Deloitte stated in a report about the major changes in the retail industry. Because wine shipping is an important competitive differentiator if you sell wine online, fulfillment technology can eliminate some of the barriers to customer satisfaction. Utilizing Web platforms can help you engage consumers, make the shopping experience more convenient, offer the best shipping options and become more efficient. People are increasingly expressing a desire for truly omnichannel shopping, which may mean breaking down some of the silos between channels. Customers want to be able to view in-store inventory online. This can also save employees time. In addition, returning shoppers want to be recognized by your website, similar to how they would be by dedicated employees if they visited your winery.

Assessing your ecommerce fulfillment operations can help you identify new opportunities to meet customer needs and exceed expectations. Wine inventory software and an outsourced fulfillment partner can increase visibility. With better insights into customer behavior and needs, your business can create more ways to reach your target market and grow in the face of industry challenges. Retailers that integrate their separate customer touch points will likely see better results over time than those that don't innovate. 

Time Posted: Mar 26, 2014 at 3:55 PM
Sheri Hebbeln
 
March 25, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

INFOGRAPHIC: Your Most Valuable Shoppers

Direct-to-Consumer wine buyers often share the following characteristics: 1) they purchase frequently, 2) they belong to multiple wine clubs, and 3) they purchase from multiple wineries throughout the year. They also prefer shipping incentives over product discounts.

Click here to view a PDF version of this infographic

Many savvy wine lovers don't need to be convinced to buy online. Direct-to-Consumer buyers often share the following characteristics*:

 

  • They purchase often: The top 10 percent of online wine buyers purchase 4.4 times per year on average.
  • They love wine clubs: 17 percent of members simultaneously belong to more than one wine club.
  • They frequent more than one winery: More than one-fifth of DTC regulars purchase from multiple wineries throughout the year.

Loyalty plays a major role in continued DTC success. These customers are more likely to spend more per purchase - as much as 27 percent of your revenue could come from the top 10 percent of your client base. In addition, repeat and returning shoppers may spend up to five times as much as brand new customers. 

Your Most Loyal DTC Customers Are Particularly Motivated by Shipping Incentives
Whether you use "shipping included" offers or subscription services, access to the most affordable and convenient options will encourage customers to buy more. Amazon gives customers the ability to subscribe to its Prime service for an annual fee in return for free two-day shipping on any purchase. This has the effect of motivating Prime subscribers to limit their purchases to Amazon, because they know that they won't incur extra shipping expenses. Since these customers have already paid the fee, they want to take full advantage of their investment.

Shoppers are motivated to choose the delivery options that save them the most money. In A/B testing, we found that "shipping included" offers generated better results than product discounts of 20 percent.

Think consumer shipping fees don’t matter in the big picture of your overall operation? Think again! Free or discounted fulfillment options have become the norm in the eCommerce industry in general. By December 2013, 62.5 percent of the top 1,000 online retailers extended some form of free shipping to customers, either on all orders or with a minimum purchase limit. Consumers are increasingly coming to expect this from all websites and you risk scaring them off if your delivery fees are too high. In fact, shipping may be a bigger determining factor in purchasing decisions than the cost of the items themselves, with the added expense leading to higher shopping cart abandonment rates.

With WineDirect’s 46Brix program, you can extend a subscription-based service to your customers, allowing them to take advantage of reduced shipping costs, which should ultimately lead to increased loyalty for your winery.

*Vin65 platform statistics