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

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Sheri Hebbeln
August 14, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Email Marketing Helps Online Wine Sales

Nationwide, more states are passing legislation allowing direct-to-consumer online wine sales.  Now wineries and wine clubs are looking at ways to increase sales through traditional and up-and-coming sales disciplines.

Social media is a good marketing tool
Savvy online wine merchants are turning to social media outlets to get their message out. A Multi-Channel Merchant Report said sites like Facebook make a great platform for marketing new products, and Pinterest and Twitter are also seeing increased wine marketing presence. MCM conducted a poll and found that almost 92 percent of those who responded said they had an active presence on Facebook with just over 74 percent saying they used Twitter regularly, while Pinterest came in at a little more than 50 percent presence on the site.

Ryan Gripp is a marketing manager for a cosmetics firm, and he explained the difference between Facebook and Twitter.

"With Twitter, users can follow your brand and you do not need to follow them back," Gripp said. "Facebook is a very important social network, and we have found amazing results using re-marketing aligned with targeted Facebook ads. Facebook isn't cool anymore for young adults; rather Facebook has shown a much higher demographic toward our older customers."

Knowing the platforms can bring success
Social media users have fairly predictable habits about when they use the Internet for work, business, fun and shopping. An Entrepreneur Magazine article outlined some tips for marketing managers about how to best utilize social media for positive marketing response. Using the right message for the social platform is critical to getting the best response from consumers. Running a test on each social media outlet to see what potential customers like best is a good measuring stick for the effort and resources a company should invest in a particular platform.

An Exact Target report showed that 91 percent of consumers indicated that they used email on a daily basis. How does that impact ecommerce? Entrepreneur said that email is preferred by many customers, and having a sign-up form on the website or social media sites can bring a company more customers who are willing to buy product because they were intrigued by marketing and advertising offers seen there.

Attracting potential customers with incentive offerings on social media is another way wineries and wine clubs can sell wine online and ship it hassle-free to a discerning customer base.

Time Posted: Aug 14, 2014 at 6:15 AM
Sheri Hebbeln
August 13, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

DTC Online Wine Sales Show Strong Second Quarter Growth

It was a strong month of June for direct-to-consumer wine shipping, according to the latest wine industry metrics from Wines and Vines. The total value of June sales rose by 17 percent.

A pretty good year for wine marketing
The report stated the total annual sales for the past year exceeded $1.67 billion, marking an 11 percent increase from the year before. Jobs industry-wide were also up in the past year by 41 percent, that according to Wine Business. One way the sales have kept rising is through the utilization of ecommerce technologies.

Provide the product the public wants
A recent DTC Wine Workshops report showed that wine merchants are increasingly using the ecommerce solutions to reach more customers than ever before. This means that marketing strategies have to be more creative and informative while targeting a specific demographic. Setting up the company website so it's user-friendly can keep a customer on the site longer and tends to increase sales because the purchaser is getting what he or she wants from the Web page.

Keeping things personal
Personalizing the online shopping experience also goes a long way toward driving sales. If consumers feels the company really cares about their tastes, choices and interests, the Workshop report said, DTC sales will likely increase as a result of follow-up phone calls and e-mails and other personal contact from the wine operational staff.

Incentive programs are also a way that companies can boost DTC sales with a little effort. A special birthday bonus for wine club members is always well received, and creating a special package for frequent buyers that includes rare or unusual products makes a customer feel appreciated, which can bring increased sales totals at the end of the month as well.

Making sure the website is informative and there are great graphics along with a personal touch are all ways a company or club can attract consumers to be repeat buyers. All it takes is a little imagination and creativity on the vendor's part to make a customer's overall experience a positive one.

If an online wine operation can do that consistently, said the Workshop report, the uptick in sales should continue and the comparative ease of DTC wine shipping will drive customers to the club or company website to experience the online wine sales experience for themselves.

Time Posted: Aug 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM
Jim Agger
August 12, 2014 | Jim Agger

How to Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment for Online Wine Sales

As online wine sales continue to explode across the United States, wine selling operations keep working to find ways to offset the bane of all ecommerce: shopping cart abandonment. A recent Business Insider article said that nearly $4 trillion will be lost to abandoned shopping carts online but 63 percent of that revenue is recoupable by savvy business operators. That's a stunning number and they outlined a number of ways online vendors can ensure they get the sales once a consumer comes to their site.

Preventing shopping cart abandonment
Consumers are very discerning about what they want and how it is presented to them. Hostway, an online sales advisor, had some suggestions for how an online operator can keep customers on their site and not abandon the shopping cart. Putting prices upfront and readily viewable is one way to keep customers on the shopping cart page, said the report. Setting up the website to calculate shipping costs makes the experience that much easier for the patron, keeping them on the site long enough to complete the transaction. Also the cost of the wine should be readily viewable by the customer, as well [this is redundant]. Not requiring visitors to sign in, said the report, allows customers to stay on the site as they can shop and know the prices without having to enter them in the cart to see the cost.

Speed is a factor
In today's hurry-up-and-wait society customers generally won't stay as a slow Web page to load. If it's not fast, reported Hostway, consumers will turn away from the webpage in droves. Finding ways to speed up the website is critical to the success of an online sales operation, according to the source. A company also needs to make certain that they have an SSL certificate. Without one, said Hostway, customers will flee the website believing that it's not secure or safe to transact business with. With all the attention being given to data breaches and retail hacking, this area should be one of strong concentrations for an online sales site operator.

Think of a broader clientele. Although a winery may be American-based, the Internet is a wide-ranging tool and companies need to be thinking of ways to incorporate an the audience and to also make sure their contact information is highly visible.

If an online wine marketing operation wants to shine and survive in the current economic market, it needs to take advantage of the many common sense business strategies it can employ to alleviate shopping cart abandonment and make customers feel that the website and shipping operation is user friendly and efficient.

Time Posted: Aug 12, 2014 at 7:10 AM
Sheri Hebbeln
August 11, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How to Make Your Online Wine Store Sparkle

Your online wine store is live, but there aren't a lot of customers coming and buying your bottles or cases. There may even be high traffic but no conversion happening. While there are several components to ecommerce that are particular to wineries, such as different methods of shipping and distribution, getting the basics of a Web store can be more important. If you focus on all the necessities that wineries need to address without getting the shop down first, you're likely to get less sales in the long run. This is especially true when you consider new developments in Web design such as mobile-friendly sites and integrating social media. Getting the online shop right is just as essential as placing customer needs and satisfaction where they need to be.

Looking good in more ways than one
As said before, site design is a critical aspect of online sales growth; but how does one do it in the age of mobile devices and social media? Sometimes, going back to the basics can be of great use, according to The first step is having high-quality images on your site. Showing your high-resolution bottles of cabernet sauvignon may sound ridiculous to some. However, people like to know exactly what they are getting ahead of time, even if they have tried the wine before. Having an image gallery of the bottles and perhaps the grapes can be useful. With mobile devices having less visual real estate for things such as text and other copy, that's all the more important.

Another thing to consider is having a sale section of the store. This incentivizes customers to buy extra batches of your winery's inventory or entices them on new grape varieties. For example, if you still have leftover bottles of a particular vintage of merlot that haven't sold all that well, you should be able to sell them at a discount in the sale section or with shipping included. More importantly, you can use the sale section to create some artificial scarcity, according to MultiChannel Merchant. Say you have a vintage of chardonnay that is selling well at a discount. You can say that only a limited number of bottles are left at that discount before they sell out or return to original price. That will increase sales because it gives a sense of urgency to customers. With the sales section, you will have a strong source of traffic and sales.

Time Posted: Aug 11, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Jim Agger
August 8, 2014 | Jim Agger

Online Wine Sales Set to Exceed 2013 Levels

As more states around the U.S. allow wine shipping to their residents the process of moving  products to consumers is a complicated and involved one. With wineries and the many wine clubs popping up, online wine sales are booming and forecast to increase and an industry magazine, Wine Business, found that 2014 online sales have already far surpassed the total retail sales  figures for 2013. So how does the wine make it from the vineyard to the consumer and still maintain its allure?

Wine shipping is keeping up with the demand
The Wine Institute measured the annual amount of product passed through the industry's direct shipping channel and found that in 2013 some 215 million cases of California wine were delivered in the U.S., up 3 percent from 2012. The report also showed that the estimated retail value of nationwide wine sales was up 5 percent to $23.1 billion. California wines also made up 57 percent of all wine consumed in the country, according to the report

How it works
Wine shipping is an operation that takes time and expertise to manage. A customer orders a bottle of wine from a club or winery and requests it be shipped to the home. WineDirect, for example, has two shipping outfits in California and one in Ohio to keep up with demand on both sides of the Mississippi River. The company takes the order and the wine warehouse goes to work. Careful selection and packing are used at the shipping facility to ensure no damage occurs to the bottles or packaging and WineDirect can get the wine packed and delivered within two business days in the U.S. only. Different state and local regulations can hamper the shipping, but delays and mistakes are relatively rare at the WineDirect warehouse.

Buying wine online can be a rewarding and cost-saving experience. Doing the research and finding the best vendor for your tastes is critical. Knowing the vendor has the shipping experience and track record to prove it is one way to guarantee top-quality wine, great service and a delivery process that gets the product from warehouse to wineglass safely, securely and in a timely fashion.

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

Time Posted: Aug 8, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Sheri Hebbeln
August 7, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Creative Shipping Rates are Good Wine Marketing Tools

Online wine sales continue to increase as more states allow direct wine shipping to consumers. Wineries and clubs are always searching for the best way to get their names out to customers. Being creative with pricing and shipping rates is one way a savvy company can catch the eye of the shopper. Wineries are not allowed to send product for free, but wine clubs can. Using free shipping as a marketing tool can help boost sales and increase brand visibility. An RJ Metrics article talked about the advantages free shipping gives to clubs that distribute wine across the country.

Does free shipping really nab more customers?
When shopping online at a retail Point Of Sale shoppers are keenly aware of how much they are spending. The RJ Metrics report showed that customers are often willing to purchase an extra item if it means the whole order will be shipped free of charge. According to a University of Pennsylvania /Wharton report some 60 percent of all e-commerce operations queried offered free shipping to their client base as a bonus to customers. David Bell, the Wharton professor who co-authored the report, explained that customers will more likely spend $10 to get free shipping on a $6.99 posting fee and it's the Wild West in the world of shipping right now.

"There is no direct analog to this in the traditional retail world," Bell said. "It seemed to us that firms had not figured out the 'right' shipping policy, so there's a lot of experimentation going on without clear guidelines."

Free shipping is like going to the old country store
Bell added that buying goods on the Web is akin to going to the old corner store in terms of consumer experience and that shoppers behavior changes when shipping fees are added. The fees tend to make shoppers turn away and head for other options. Bell said it's pretty clear that free shipping is a very attractive item for Internet consumers.

As part of a wine marketing strategy, using free shipping to attract customers to the web site and keeping them there makes sense for company executives in a bid to increase sales - customers will likely buy more product if free shipping is available - and keep costs down. More research and trend analysis is on going, and Bell added that as that data comes back there will be tweaks to the business model. Both the customer and the wine merchant will likely benefit in the long run.

Time Posted: Aug 7, 2014 at 7:00 AM
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