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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
June 19, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How to Market Your Wine Club

Membership-based ecommerce is booming, particularly in niche sectors, according to Practical Ecommerce. Your winery can take advantage of this trend by offering a wine club with regular deliveries, or refining the wine club program you already offer. In order to market this opportunity as well as possible, it's necessary to take certain steps. Here are a few:

Concentrate on curation
Curation, a term most commonly used in the art world, refers to collecting, organizing and caring for a set of items. A curated collection ensures every item has value and is in harmony with the rest. Applying this approach to your wine club can be a great marketing move. Consumers are interested in curated collections of products of all kinds, from clothing and beauty products to pet toys and treats. 

As a winery, you're likely to have plenty of experts who could create impressive collections for wine aficionados on a regular basis. Taking advantage of this means not only will your customers enjoy the perfect wine collections, but also that you have a new marketing angle. Your wine marketing should focus on the fact that your regular subscription deliveries are carefully selected by true experts in the field. Ideal marketing materials for this purpose include essays by curators on why they made particular choices for the current collection or past ones, as well as blog posts that demonstrate your curators' expertise. Customers often feel curated product collections give them the benefit of discovering the best options available for a price that is usually much more reasonable than what it would cost to assemble the knowledge and products necessary themselves.

Give great value
Another attraction of subscription wine clubs is the savings they usually make available to consumers. Indeed, customers tend to expect a price incentive when they are looking at enrolling in a wine club or other type of subscription service. Your winery can provide this with careful planning. It may be that your marketing expenses are lower for the wine club than for other product areas because you can rely on methods like an email list and word of mouth on social networks.

As Practical Ecommerce notes, subscription services are built to create repeat sales, which may give you the opportunity to work on smaller margins with the knowledge your customers will be returning. Indeed, repeat buyers are likely to spend as much as five times more than a new customer on each visit, according to the source. You may also be able to offer cost savings through recurring membership fees that defray the price of the complex shipping and fulfillment procedures good wine delivery requires.

Make it easy on yourself
Of course, any great marketing strategy will require effort. Ensuring that effort is worth it takes planning and time. WineDirect can help with all aspects of ecommerce, from marketing to wine shipping in a way that will create value and protect the product.

Contact a sales representative to learn more about how WineDirect's marketing solutions can help you boost sales.

Time Posted: Jun 19, 2014 at 5:35 AM
Jim Agger
June 18, 2014 | Jim Agger

DTC Sales Are One of the Biggest Opportunites for Wineries

Opening direct-to-consumer channels - especially an online wine store - can help you exceed revenue projections. According to a joint study from Digital River and Forrester Research, online DTC sales will be the largest source of revenue for many businesses within the next two years.

In the study, "Be Direct: Why a Direct-to-Consumer Online Channel is Right for Your Business," the companies assessed why branded manufacturers should quickly move to create this offering if they haven't already. The most significant reason businesses should consider this is because it allows them to increase revenue.

"One of the most striking findings in the study was that an overwhelming majority of companies that have implemented DTC ecommerce channels - 76 percent - reported that their programs either met or exceeded revenue targets," said Scott Heimes, senior vice president and CMO of Digital River, in a press release. "The research also addressed a key barrier to DTC channel adoption - the fear that it would conflict with other channels. Instead, the study found that if handled appropriately, DTC channels can actually enhance the performance of other channels."

Increase revenue and build better customer relationships
Offering more channels to customers gives them more ways to reach your business. For wineries, it can provide access to shoppers on the other side of the country. Despite the fact that retail is increasingly moving online, competitive businesses are increasingly prioritizing customer relationships, according to Practical Ecommerce. As ecommerce continues to grow in popularity, many companies have faced pressure from consumers to add an online channel.

Depending on your winery's location, DTC sales can give you a way to increase the size of your customer base. Some wineries only sell through distributors, but this isn't the best way to build a brand reputation or relationships with customers, industry source Harpers stated. This is particularly detrimental to smaller wineries. In addition to increased wine tourism, online wine sales can give them a way to strengthen their brands and engage with a larger group of consumers.

Focusing on personalized relationships and creating more opportunities to impress customers can increase the chances that they will return to your business.

How can small wineries rise to the challenge of DTC?
The study found that some manufacturers avoid DTC sales because of the perceived challenges of operating an ecommerce environment. However, this is often because businesses try to operate disconnected systems, which can lead to problems with inventory management and customer service. Integrated channels provide a more consistent experience for shoppers and increase accuracy. 

One reason ecommerce may be challenging for small wineries is because of the influx of customers and the complex regulations surrounding wine shipping. It can be difficult to attend to fulfillment while managing day-to-day operations. The right third-party fulfillment partner can help you meet the changing needs of your business while increasing DTC revenue. 

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

Sheri Hebbeln
June 17, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Is your winery ready for the future of ecommerce?

Ecommerce is a constantly transforming field and your winery needs to be equipped to keep pace with the trends in the field to stay successful. Here are a few changes that are coming in the future for the ecommerce industry as a whole and how they may impact your online wine sales:

Big data is the future of online retail
Industry insiders have been talking about the potential of big data for quite a long time, and it truly is changing the face of selling online. Consumer data gives businesses the information they need to sell more efficiently and at a higher volume. Leveraging that information is quickly becoming vital. Analytical information can develop business strategies on a large scale through influencing the smallest decisions, according to Forbes. Data can help companies determine which customers to target with which specials, which consumers are likely to sign up for a loyalty program and even who is most likely to choose a more expensive wine shipping option at checkout. Through giving consumers the options they want by using smart analytics will transform the way ecommerce works in the future.

The customer will become even more important
Customers now expect more of businesses online, Forbes reports. Consumers now have many options online that will satisfy their every wish as conveniently as possible. Retailers who cannot live up to the standard set by ecommerce players who offer superior customer services and specific options will not be able to keep up, the publication reports. Being able to provide customers with nearly everything they want - and services they didn't know they needed - will continue to be the mark of a successful ecommerce business in the future.

What can your winery do?
Ecommerce fulfillment is as important to the customer experience as any other element of your business. As ecommerce changes and your sales strategy involves in line with big data and delighting customers, the need for speedy fulfillment and smart shipping will remain constant. As major retailers are able to offer faster shipping every day, wineries need to be able to compete with the ability to ship anywhere at a reasonable speed.

Working with the ecommerce experts at WineDirect to provide customers with a superior experience from marketing to shipping can help your winery stay competitive as ecommerce changes. Partnering with WineDirect means you can focus on why you went into the winery business in the first place - to make superior products - and still achieve a level of ecommerce sales that will sustain and grow your business over the years to come. Meeting the needs of your customers, particularly as those needs evolve in line with a changing industry, requires a suite of services for every aspect of your online sales efforts.

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

Sheri Hebbeln
June 17, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

4 Tips for Your Online Wine Store

Direct-to-consumer sales provide you with an avenue to sell more wine, and many of these transactions are taking place online. While it may seem easy to sell wine online, a lot goes into running a successful store and effectively extending your brand to your website. Whether you're opening an online wine store for the first time or looking to make improvements to your site, there are some things you can do to ensure you increase sales:

1. Make special offers to loyal customers
Whether it's your wine club or returning customers who have registered for an account on your website, exclusive offers can increase online wine sales, according to Practical Ecommerce. Special benefits can make customers feel more satisfied and thus loyal to your business. However, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your customer segments to identify relevant offers.

2. Write compelling product descriptions
This is especially relevant if you're just getting started with an online wine store, but you can also reassess existing product pages to drive effectiveness. Descriptions should be easy to digest. Bullet points often work well. Shopify recommends that you hone in on what's important to your target audience and avoid generic phrases like "excellent product quality." This type of wording can make your descriptions less persuasive. In fact, the article notes that Zappos describes the technical details and benefits of the shoes it sells rather than discussing quality. Similarly, if you're going to use superlatives, make sure you follow it up with a reason.

3. Set goals and keep KPIs in mind
It's hard to make improvements to your online store if you don't know how it's working now. Key performance indicators can provide insight into the success of your wine store and help you define goals, according to a separate article from Shopify. Rather than getting distracting by measuring too many variables at once, it's a better idea to focus on a few important metrics. Conversion rates and shopping cart abandonment rates are good places to start improving sales.

4. Create opportunities for repeat sales
Ideally, once you convert customers, they will return to your store again and again. However, there are many moving parts in any ecommerce operation, and it can make success more difficult. Even if your website offers a high-quality customer experience, slow fulfillment or problems with wine shipping can cause people not to buy wine online from you again. Giving customers multiple options in your online wine store can ensure that they complete the purchase and want to buy again. For example, many shoppers don't like being forced to register to complete the purchase. Adding a guest checkout option can accommodate customers who don't want an account. Multiple choices for shipping can improve customer satisfaction as well. Additionally, it should be easy to get in touch with someone from your winery if problems do arise. Even though the transaction is occurring online, solid customer service is still critical for a good experience. 

Contact a sales representative to learn more about how WineDirect's ecommerce solutions can help you boost sales.

Time Posted: Jun 17, 2014 at 5:37 AM
Jim Agger
June 16, 2014 | Jim Agger

How to Offer Competitive Wine Shipping Options

As the popularity of ecommerce continues to grow, free shipping is increasingly becoming a priority for consumers. In fact, UPS and comScore's joint third annual "Pulse of the Online Shopper" report revealed that free shipping played a role in purchasing decisions for 4 out of 5 consumers. A further 83 percent of online shoppers said they would be willing to wait an extra two days to receive their orders if they didn't have to pay for ecommerce fulfillment. One-third will wait five or more days to avoid shipping expenses. Consumers aren't picky about the channels retailers use to ship merchandise, but cost is definitely a priority.

Although online retailers are racing to offer faster shipping, consumers clearly have a preference for cost-effective options. Some have argued that one of the detractors from the success of ecommerce is delayed gratification, but at the same time, shoppers aren't willing to pay more for their purchases, The Wall Street Journal reported. Outside of major cities, same-day delivery is prohibitively expensive for many shoppers. While retailers can often absorb some of the costs, the expense of same-day shipping is often too much for them as well.

"I think the key thing that we see is that the cost of delivery still trumps the timing of the delivery," said Bala Ganesh, UPS's retail director, according to The WSJ. "As long as it's cheap and hopefully free, people are willing to wait for those deliveries."

How wineries can handle shifting customer expectations
While the UPS survey adds new questions each year to stay relevant in the changing world of ecommerce, returns have always been one of the topics. In 2012, 51 percent of regular online shoppers had returned at least one purchase. In 2014, the number climbed to 64 percent. Additionally, respondents said free returns were crucial to having a good customer experience. Wine merchants may need to update their shipping capabilities to meet changing consumer needs. 

Because wineries can't advertise free shipping like other ecommerce businesses, they may need to consider how they present shipping information. Having to pay for shipping won't necessarily cause people to abandon their purchases, but it depends on how these costs are displayed, Rafi Mohammed wrote for Harvard Business Review.

Mohammed gave the example of consumer outrage over TicketMaster's fees and highlighted StubHub's move to an all-included price structure. Previously, StubHub customers had to pay both a buyer's fee and delivery costs.

Studies have indicated that online shoppers will add an extra item to their purchases to qualify for free, low cost or included shipping. Because expense is the top concern for customers, it may seem counterintuitive, but shoppers are getting an extra product instead of just paying shipping fees. What does it matter if the total cost comes out to be the same? Mohammed noted that he found a promotion on one of his favorite products for $19, but was presented with a $6 shipping fee during checkout. He abandoned the purchase, but said he would have completed the transaction if it had been $25 with shipping included or $22 with a $3 delivery fee.

When assessing your wine shipping, you can consider including it in the overall cost. Customers will still feel like they are getting a deal. Shipping expenses can be frustrating for shoppers, but building it into the cost of the order can make fees acceptable. This is one way you can establish more competitive shipping options for your online wine store. 

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

Jim Agger
June 13, 2014 | Jim Agger

Consider New Options for Your Wine Club

Your wine club can be one of the most sustainable sources of monthly revenue. Depending on the structure of your program, you can increase brand loyalty and build online wine sales over time. However, it's important to make sure that customers are as excited about the relationship with your winery as they are about the rewards of the program.

The quality of the rewards is a major factor in consumers' decisions to join your loyalty program or not, according to Bond Brand Loyalty's "2014 Loyalty Report." The group surveyed more than 6,000 consumers and discovered that people are more likely to stick with a brand based on the type of rewards that are offered. Only half of companies succeed at closely aligning their loyalty programs with brand image.

"For customers who deem the loyalty program is part of their relationship with the brand, non-monetary benefits become almost twice as important to them the longer they're with the program," said Scott Robinson, senior director of loyalty design and solutions at Bond, in a press release. "With less dependency on monetary means of reward, it becomes even less expensive to hold onto a customer - and can be done in a differentiated way that's harder for competitors to mimic."

Expanding popularity of loyalty and subscription programs
While the average consumer surveyed by Bond belonged to 10.9 loyalty programs, people weren't active in all of them. In fact, the average was 7.8. Wineries want to take note because a significant portion of wine club members may belong to multiple clubs, and they might have a preference for a particular brand.

Introducing new options in your wine club structure may be a good way to revitalize this important source of revenue. You can survey the members of your wine club to come up with some new ideas. For example, some people may want to have more choice over the selections, and others might prefer to have wines personally curated for them based on a flavor profile. In particular, the excitement of not knowing what the selections will be each month can drive people to maintain their memberships, Forbes reported.

Another area to consider is the type of rewards you extend to members. The Bond report found that discounts were the most popular benefit, followed by cash back, rebates and qualifying for a higher status within the program. Personalized selections were actually ranked lowest on the list.

Consider your ecommerce fulfillment needs for your wine club
While subscription-based offerings provide added convenience and value for consumers, they are beneficial to wine merchants because they guarantee a sustainable stream of revenue. Wine clubs can be highly lucrative for your business, but there are some important planning considerations that go into running a successful program, according to Multichannel Merchant. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help you reduce the costs of running your wine club to ensure profitability.

If members are allowed to choose some of their own selections, it's important to have an automated order processing system in place. These programs connect order management, inventory and fulfillment so no items are left behind.

If you curate your wine club selections for members each month, it can be beneficial to do this in advance. One of the key inventory management benefits of a wine club is the element of predictability. Pre-packing orders and labeling them ahead of time can help you run your program more efficiently, the article said. Additionally, proper scheduling of club shipments gives you greater choice for wine shipping options. 

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

Sheri Hebbeln
June 12, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How to Increase Ecommerce Conversions with Wine Marketing

Some online retailers are giving up on email marketing in favor of newer digital tactics. However, email is still highly relevant for your wine marketing efforts. In fact, a recent infographic from Monetate revealed email is more effective at driving conversions than either search engine optimization or social media.

Tips for raising conversions with email
If you're looking to drive more traffic to your online wine store, email could be the appropriate tool. However, this marketing channel has evolved over time and there are some new developments to be aware of. Here is some advice on creating more effective email marketing campaigns:

  • Be consistent in email and winery websites: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to lure customers to your website from an email and failing to display matching products on the landing page. If you're promoting a new seasonal wine with your marketing efforts, your website should reflect this or visitors may leave immediately. If your email highlighted a special offer, the landing page should mention it as well.
  • Don't send generic messages: Segmented email messages have a 50 percent higher click-through rate than blanket emails, according to Monetate. While splitting your email list into multiple groups may seem complicated, basic segmentation can lead to significantly higher conversions. For example, retargeting emails can re-engage clients who previously browsed particular product pages on your website. Generic offers won't lead to increased click-throughs.
  • Personalization can drive results, but don't go overboard: Email personalization has emerged from the need to form deeper connections with customers and have actual conversations instead of one-way marketing tactics, Essential Retail stated. However, it's important not to confuse personalization with product recommendations. Consumers are wary of brands getting too familiar with them. It's crucial not to overstep the bounds in customer relationships or people may unsubscribe from your list.
  • Consider responsive design: The number of people reading emails from smartphones and tablets continues to increase, and wine merchants need a way to accommodate recipients' devices of choice. Clients will be frustrated if they receive too many emails that can't be viewed from a smartphone. However, each device has a different screen size, which makes it harder to design messages. Responsive design is a good way to manage this issue because it enables messages and Web pages to adapt to the screen size of the particular device used to access it. In fact, Monetate revealed this practice can increase email views on iPads by 73 percent in the course of four months. This tactic can also help you design better landing pages, which can keep visitors on your website.

Make more online wine sales with email
Email marketing is one of the most valuable tools available to wineries. You can experiment with different tactics to determine what works best, especially when it comes to different customer segments. Many of these new developments in email marketing will help you create more intelligent campaigns and build lasting relationships with clients.

Contact a sales representative to learn more about how WineDirect's marketing solutions can help you boost sales.

Jim Agger
June 12, 2014 | Jim Agger

How to Make the Most of Summer Opportunities for Your Online Wine Store

Summer offers many opportunities to increase online wine sales, but some wineries may be limited by their shipping capabilities. Seasonal holidays, like Father's Day, could be a great chance to sell more wine, but only if you have the right ecommerce fulfillment practices in place.

In fact, a study from the National Retail Federation found that more than 28 percent of shoppers plan to purchase Father's Day gifts online this year. Approximately 18 percent of these consumers will shop from their tablets. The survey predicted that the average shopper will spend $113.80 on gifts. Consumers are starting to purchases a broader scope of presents online as well. 

Summer wine shipping can make or break your ability to raise sales during this time of year when people are celebrating Father's Day and a number of other events. Wine can make a great gift or complement summer parties. However, many wineries are forced to stop shipping during the summer because of the difficulty of maintaining a specific temperature across a long distance.

Inform customers about shipping wine to recover lost sales
Your online wine store can serve a number of important functions for your business, but one you may not have considered is bringing back lost customers, according to IM Soup. Shoppers may leave for a number of reasons, but you can use your website to provide a better level of service to help them return. Here's a look at how wine merchants can win more sales:

  • Send email reminders about abandoned shopping carts: People interact with online shopping carts in very different ways. While shopping cart abandonment is a significant problem for many retailers, it may not always be intentional. Some consumers may place items in the basket to return and purchase at a later date. Because many people use purchasing channels through multiple devices, they may not buy products right away. For example, a customer may add items to the cart from his or her smartphone and then return from a desktop computer to complete the purchase. Sending email reminders when shoppers leave wine in their carts can increase conversions, especially for customers who simply forgot to finish the transaction.
  • Promote summer shipping capabilities with special offers: Customers may not know that you can ship across the country during the warmer months of the year. Additionally, shipping promotions are especially attractive to online shoppers. One of the major causes of shopping cart abandonment is unexpected fees at the end of the transaction, especially shipping charges. Consumers are increasingly expressing a preference for free or low-cost shipping to avoid paying more for purchases. A well-timed summer shipping discount could help you win sales during this time of year. Shipping-included offers can drive purchases because this promotion is often more successful than speedy shipping. Being able to offer discounted two-day shipping can increase sales even further.
  • Provide valuable information on your website: Customers often visit your website seeking information. You can use this opportunity to educate them on quick shipping offerings, which can help increase conversions.

Summer is a great time to sell wine online if you have the right shipping capabilities in place. This can help you better meet the needs of your customers, leading to lasting satisfaction and loyalty. Summer shipping also enables you to keep up with competitors and grow your business. There are a number of summer occasions that call for wine, and updating your ecommerce fulfillment strategy can help you take advantage of these opportunities. 

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

Sheri Hebbeln
June 11, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How are POS systems changing?

Your tasting room is an important part of your winery's direct-to-consumer strategy. However, to increase sales through this customer touch point, it can be beneficial to update your point of sale system. In fact, traditional credit card readers and cash registers are quickly becoming a relic of the past, according to BusinessNewsDaily. Mobile POS can help you boost tasting room sales as well as improve your reporting.

Here is a look at some of the features of modern POS systems:

1. Mobile payments are expected to grow
Adoption of mobile payments has been fairly slow, and mobile transactions have only accounted for a small percentage of total sales, BusinessNewsDaily reported. However, these systems offer a high degree of convenience for consumers, and shoppers are expected to use them more frequently as they become available in more locations.

2. Better customer service
Tablet POS systems provide a great deal of flexibility for both customers and employees. Customer centricity is a much higher priority for many shoppers than in the past, according to Hospitality magazine. Tablets can help your employees deliver personalized attention to more visitors by preventing them from being stuck behind a counter during transactions.  

3. Integration with CRM and inventory systems
Collecting contact information and purchase history is essential to crafting relevant wine marketing efforts in the future. Modern POS systems allow you to better collect data and automatically send it to your customer relationship management platform so nothing gets lost along the way. POS systems can also integrate with your wine inventory software to keep stock levels consistent between each customer touch point. CRM integration is beneficial for your wine club and other loyalty programs. This is a valuable source of information for creating new marketing efforts. Customers expect more personalized communications. Additionally, this integration can prevent you from overselling out-of-stock items on your website. 

4. Greater efficiency
These systems make it easier to process transactions, taking far less time than traditional POS solutions. Tablets enable you to send receipts to customers' email addresses instead of printing them out, Hospitality magazine stated.

5. Better security
While ecommerce used to be seen as risky, many of the data breaches suffered by retailers in the past year have been in brick-and-mortar locations. The Department of Homeland Security's United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a report that found hackers were accessing credit card information through POS systems, according to BusinessNewsDaily. The group warned retailers to update to the latest versions of POS software to better protect themselves. You can also increase security by preventing remote access to your POS system and installing firewalls. Additionally, POS providers are required to maintain compliance in their service agreements.

Modern POS systems have a number of benefits to wineries. They can enable you to give better, more individualized customer service, collect insightful data and protect against security breaches. All of these advantages can help you increase sales from your tasting room.

Contact a sales representative to learn more about how WineDirect's commerce solutions can simplify your business processes.

Matthew Mann
June 10, 2014 | Matthew Mann

WineDirect Compliance – A Better Way

Let’s not kid ourselves, for most wineries compliance is an afterthought.  It’s certainly not why you got into the wine business.  Still, having a winery license creates obligations to go along with your license privileges.  Compliance is simply the process of following the rules that come with those obligations.  It’s the grease that keeps the wheels of your sales efforts spinning; connected to everything you do in a highly regulated industry.  Despite this, compliance is often treated as separate…and inefficient.

We created WineDirect Compliance, our direct-to-consumer compliance software service, as a reflection of the connectedness of compliance to all that you do.  WineDirect Compliance is simple, easy, and designed to support your commerce and fulfillment activities.  It is not a separate, disconnected platform.  It is not an order management system.  Rather, it is a part of the WineDirect solution, connecting the Vin65 Commerce and WineDirect Fulfillment software systems, allowing you to manage your customers and their order activity in the software platform where order management belongs.

Connectivity creates a seamless order processing system, with each platform performing its designated tasks, eliminating multiple-entry of customer, product and order data to create efficiencies by reducing data entry redundancy.  The WineDirect solution does this all while WineDirect Compliance accurately –

  • Checks order compliance status in “real-time” at checkout to assure they conform to the direct shipping rules of each state before you ship,
  • Monitors order status through the fulfillment process, and
  • Prepares the tax and shipment reports you need to keep your business in good standing with every direct shipment state with just the click of a button.

WineDirect Compliance is the better way to stay compliant.  Easy.  Efficient.  Accurate.  Connecting the WineDirect solution to allow you to do what you do best – SELL MORE WINE!

To start your free trial today, click HERE.