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Jim Agger
August 18, 2014 | Jim Agger

What Online Wine Stores Can Learn From Omnichannel

As a wine company, maintaining a retail-based presence is tricky at its best. Given the budgets on hand and revenue a wine merchant makes on a given basis, it's impractical for most to set up a retail operation outside of a small shop at the winery itself. That is why most have resorted to the Web to sell wine directly to customers when necessary. However, this doesn't mean they should strictly draw upon the experiences of ecommerce to build an effective program. Merchants have a lot to offer to online stores, especially as retail becomes more integrated with the Internet. The creation of omnichannel solutions should not be mistaken as a threat, but rather as a source of inspiration for all online stores and a way to improve the shopping experience for all.

What it means to reach everywhere
Omnichannel has been given multiple names: cross-channel selling, boundary-less retail, channel-less retail, among other things. All of these mean essentially the same thing, which is to say a customer experience that is the same across several channels, according to RIS. In other words, if your winery were running a retail outfit, the feel and process of buying a bottle of syrah would be the same if he or she were buying it online. Conversely, if they ordered something online, they could pick it up from the store itself rather than wait a few days to have it delivered. All these benefits and others will greatly enhance shopping for people everywhere as more companies move in that direction.

However, as mentioned before, not everyone is capable of building a retail presence, especially small to midsize businesses such as wineries, simply because of the cost of creating and maintaining a physical store front can be incredibly high. As a consequence, they need to improve the experience of online shopping in order to make it appealing to customers, especially if they are unable to even viably distribute wine to a retail location. That means having as far a reach as possible with customers in terms of logistics and fulfillment processing.

The immediacy of shopping
In a survey with AT Kearney, customers saw online retail primarily as a way to conduct research on a product they wished to purchase. While that is a great feature, the problem is that there are several other steps in the purchasing process where Web stores lag. For example, there is matter of receiving an item. Even if a merchant offers options such as including shipping on wines, most people tend to want to pick up stuff the same day if not the same time as they purchase it. One of the benefits omnichannel has over online is the convenience of being able pick up a online store purchase in-store, even during the same day. One way to counteract this is to lower the amount of time for delivery on some of your products, such as a bottle of pinot grigio. Having access to distribution channels that can deliver within 1-2 business days may be particularly useful in this situation.

Another important thing to consider is the return policy in case something goes wrong. Customers tend to want the return process to be as easily manageable as possible. That's why more than 83 percent of shoppers prefer the after-purchase experience of retail to online, with omnichannel allowing online purchases to be returned at a store. This is not as much an option for online-only retailers, which can deter potential customers. A way around this problem is to have a top-notch return policy. That can mean making returns ship free of charge. A wine merchant should also look to make sure that customer service is top notch, especially in regard to any problems a consumer may have with a bottle of Riesling, so that people are willing to come back to a site because it cared for its audience.

Time Posted: Aug 18, 2014 at 6:50 AM
Jim Agger
August 15, 2014 | Jim Agger

Same-day Delivery Business Expanding, Gains Competition

Up until a few years ago, the idea that you could do something like buy wine online and have it delivered to you the same day always seemed to be a radical idea. The logistics of same-day delivery seemed very difficult to manage, and it's such an expensive endeavor that it was at best left to major shipping companies. However, the times have changed and this method of ecommerce fulfillment for customers who need items as soon as possible is becoming more and more popular as it covers more urban areas across the country.

Expanding to new places
The leader in same-day delivery, Amazon, announced an aggressive expansion of their "Get It Today" service to six cities and surrounding urban areas, according to The Verge. Customers in Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are now able to purchase items by noon and receive them by 9 p.m. the same day, seven days per week. The Dallas Morning News reports that coverage for this method of delivery covers most of the metropolitan area, with some exceptions such as Plano, McKinney and parts of northeast Dallas.

Along with these expansions, Amazon has expanded its same-day delivery service in New York City to the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as the New Jersey suburbs of Jersey City and Hoboken, in a report from the New York Daily News. However, the Bronx and Staten Island remain out of luck for the time being. Before this expansion, Get It Today was available in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Phoenix.

Competition is healthy
Meanwhile, other companies are looking to expand their same-day delivery services to take on Amazon directly. The main competitor has been the Google Shopping Express platform. This service does things a little differently from Amazon's approach: Rather than have a distribution warehouse that holds all the items a customer could possibly want to purchase either on impulse or out of necessity, Google partners with brick-and-mortar retailers to have goods delivered within hours by picking them up from local stores. The company works with Costco, Target, Walgreens and Staples in providing this method of shipping.

The New York Times announced the addition of a new store to that list: bookstore Barnes and Noble. The two announced the roll-out of their service in West Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Manhattan. Barnes and Noble looks to take on Amazon's original business of books with this service. The Google Shopping Express program is part of a procurement fulfillment program for the retailer that includes free express shipping for members and free shipping for orders of at least $25.

A more bubbly approach
Of course, when it comes to ordering wine online, the option of same-day delivery may seem unlikely. After all, a winery has to work out distribution deals and inventory management just so that the one bottle of pinot noir is available. However, one company is working on precisely that. NakedWines, based in San Francisco, has begun its own same-day delivery service for customers in the city, according to a report from TheNextWeb. The company, which utilizes a wine club membership program to provide different varieties to consumers around the United States. offers its members the ability to get a bottle or case of wine within a few hours on weekdays if the order is made by 1 p.m. the same day.

NakedWines' foray into same-day delivery is a watershed moment, and wineries should pay attention to what happens next with them. If it succeeds over the course of the next two to three years and expands its market beyond its home base of San Francisco, it will show that same-day wine delivery is a viable option. It will mean that wineries are able to reach out to customers on impulse and save them money.

Time Posted: Aug 15, 2014 at 11:45 AM
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