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Sheri Hebbeln
March 18, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

How to use wine marketing to your advantage

You may be employing several different tactics in wine marketing efforts, but don't rule email out. Even though this technique is the oldest form of Internet communication, it still demonstrates high return on investment, which could translate to increased online wine sales

In fact, Entrepreneur magazine cited data from the Direct Marketing Association, which found the ROI of email is $40 per each dollar spent. However, you can't use the same techniques that worked 10 years ago. For example, many marketers still try to utilize outdated email newsletters, and this does very little to get results. Technology has made attention spans shorter than ever - eight seconds, which is less than a goldfish. In addition, even though very few people are good at multitasking, most individuals do it anyway, and this means that subscribers probably scan promotional emails rather than devoting the time to actually read them. 

Mobility has also revamped the way people interact with their inboxes. In the past, consumers would sit down in front of their desktops to go through their messages, but now most adults in the U.S. have smartphones, which enables them to always be connected to their emails. Shoppers still want to receive emails from brands they like, but you need to change the way you're approaching this form of communication to stay relevant.

How to send more effective emails
If you offer an online wine store, email is an essential way to stay in touch with previous customers to encourage repeat business. Here are some tips to increase your subscriber list and retain customers over time:

1. Allow subscribers to define their contact preferences
Not only do consumers have shorter attention spans than ever, but they also want more choice in how you connect with them. Content that doesn't apply to recipients' interests and too many emails are the primary drivers for unsubscribes, according to Practical Ecommerce. When customers first buy wine online and opt in for your messages, you can consider giving them the option to select how frequently they would like to be contacted and what types of promotions they would most like to see. This can foster your relationship with clients because they will appreciate that you care about their preferences. 

2. Make emails more mobile friendly
Many people will immediately delete emails that don't display well from a smartphone or tablet, and some will go as far as unsubscribing from the list, Entrepreneur stated. While this may seem like it will add a lot of work, utilizing snappy subject lines, appealing images, big fonts and a clear call to action are features that will perform well from devices of any size. 

3. Personalized email content
Sending blanket messages to your entire subscriber base is a quick way to lose customers. Email should always be as personal as possible - you shouldn't be hiding behind a screen, Practical Ecommerce said. Wine lovers are all different. If a customer is browsing different reds on your website, it may not be very effective to send him or her an email about moscato. Utilizing previous purchase history and customer preferences can help you craft more relevant messages. Items that website visitors view may be a useful starting point. Shoppers will appreciate the attention to their interests. 

4. Don't do much with one message
Although newsletters with several different articles worked in the past, emails can function more efficiently when they serve a single purpose, according to Entrepreneur. Most email marketing platforms allow you to segment your user base to send more targeted messages. Sending the right message at the appropriate time to a specific audience can help you see more online wine sales.

Jim Agger
March 17, 2014 | Jim Agger

Reducing shopping cart abandonment may come down to eCommerce fulfillment

If you run an online wine store, you may have noticed abnormally high shopping cart abandonment rates. This can be troubling when you depend on your website for direct-to-consumer sales. Why does shopping cart abandonment occur and what can you do to fix it?

According to Statista, some of the following concerns may be detracting from the effectiveness of your online wine sales:

  • 37 percent of shoppers were just browsing
  • 36 percent are comparing prices
  • One-quarter think website navigation is too confusing
  • 21 percent said the checkout process took too long
  • 17 percent expressed concerns about payment security

However, the most significant causes of shopping cart abandonment may be related to ecommerce fulfillment concerns. The statistics revealed 56 percent of consumers will drop a purchase before completion if they are faced with unexpected costs. This often relates to shipping expenses during checkout. You may be able to decrease abandonment by being more transparent about wine shipping rates as customers add wine to their baskets. Thirty-two percent will leave your website because the total price was too expensive, which can also relate to shipping costs. Sixteen percent will stop shopping if they are dissatisfied with the delivery options offered by a vendor. Wineries need to emphasize their unique capabilities in fulfillment operations to decrease the number of consumers who are ditching their purchases at checkout.

How to reduce shopping cart abandonment
The costs of cart abandonment are huge. In fact, Sales Cycle estimated $3 trillion will be lost globally from incomplete online purchases in 2014. Total online spend is projected to be approximately $1.4 trillion, so this could be a huge missed opportunity for online retailers. As ecommerce continues to grow, so will abandonment rates.

When it comes to peoples who are browsing or comparing prices, the answer to reducing abandonment could be held in your wine marketing. Triggered emails can often encourage the consumer to return to the website and complete the purchase. This could help you capture some of the potentially lost revenue. 

However, avoiding shopping cart abandonment could come down to the way you highlight wine shipping options. With unexpected costs and lack of delivery options ranking so high on the list of reasons for abandonment, you may need to assess how you ship wine. If your consumers aren't completing purchases and your site is easy to navigate and highly functional, it may be time to team up with a fulfillment partner to improve your delivery capabilities. Here are some ways fulfillment can lessen cart abandonment:

  • Be transparent about shipping fees: Consumers are coming to expect free shipping when they shop online. While you can't compete with large online retailers on this aspect, you can avoid losing purchases by clearly disclosing all applicable fees before shoppers reach the checkout page. This way, consumers won't be faced with surprise costs when they are about to pay. Transparency can extend of other parts of the shopping experience. For example, it may be a good idea to include your return and exchange policies in a prominent location to eliminate confusion. 
  • Offer multiple delivery options: Some customers may be willing to pay more to receive their purchases sooner, while others place a priority on cost-effectiveness. To avoid alienating different preferences, you should offer several options.
  • Be consistent across all regions: It can be challenging for smaller retailers to offer the same speed of delivery to customers, but this can impact satisfaction. When you sell wine online, you can reach a much larger audience, but fulfillment needs to be a top priority so customers in certain regions aren't waiting two weeks for their deliveries. 
Sheri Hebbeln
March 14, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Why You Should Have an Online Wine Store

If you've been on the fence about implementing a multichannel approach at your winery, you should consider some of the advantages of online wine sales. Although businesses used to treat ecommerce as a separate entity from traditional brick-and-mortar retailing, these two entities are converging, according to Practical Ecommerce. Small wineries in particular may be reluctant to direct more focus to an online wine store, but it can help them reach a wider market. Here are some reasons why you should make the move into multichannel retailing if you haven't already:

1. Your target audience is already on the Web
You may not think it's important to have a strong online presence if most of your revenue comes from instead of your winery, but the reality is many consumers research products online before buying, even if they plan to purchase it from a brick-and-mortar store. You could be missing the opportunity to convert them by not enabling ecommerce on your website. Many wineries may see more sales and wine club memberships around the holidays. Practical Ecommerce cited a Google Think study that found customers are especially in favor of Internet shopping during the holidays because of the convenience. Without an online presence, you could be missing out on one of the most lucrative times of year.

2. Customers want a consistent experience
Wineries may steer away from online retailing because they believe they don't have the same capabilities as large-scale stores. Instead of taking on giants like Amazon and eBay, it's more important for you to focus on delivering a consistent experience, Multichannel Merchant stated. Whether shoppers choose to contact you in person, online or over the phone, they expect to receive the same quality of service. In fact, the multichannel approach works both ways. In the past, retailers focused on driving Internet traffic to their physical stores, but now you can encourage winery visitors to shop from your website. Integrating different customer touchpoints can increase the sense of consistency.

3. Some items translate well to the online arena
While it may seem counterintuitive because wine is something you need to see and taste, regional products often see high online sales, Practical Ecommerce said. Items that are bought in bulk and specialty products can be easier to find on the Internet than in local stores depending on where consumers are located. This may prove to be true for wine. Experienced wine collectors may turn to the Internet to acquire seasonal varieties that aren't common in local retailers. 

4. Ecommerce is inherently social
While some critics of ecommerce think a fundamental element of the shopping experience is lost online, an Internet store can boost the number of people you can reach. People are more likely to share their feelings about recent purchases on social media, which can amplify word-of-mouth efforts. Even having an online catalog can make your brand more social, according to Practical Ecommerce.

5. Improved customer service
In addition, it may seem like a human element is lost in customer service on the Internet, but an online wine store can enhance the experience for shoppers. For example, one of the benefits of ecommerce is that people can shop when it's convenient for them. However, if consumers are trying to make an online purchase after normal business hours and they run into difficulty, they may not be able to find the information they need. Because online shopping enables more self-service, you can include a frequently asked questions section on your site to eliminate some common confusions. 

Jim Agger
March 13, 2014 | Jim Agger

Make Returns as Easy as Possible for More DTC Sales

If you sell wine online, you most likely dread customers returning parcels to your winery. You lose money on the sale, and it's complicated to coordinate the shipment. However, returns and exchanges are an inevitable part of online wine sales. In fact, handling them the right way can win you increased levels of customer loyalty and more sales. 

It can be difficult to get a real sense of a product before buying it online. For this reason, ecommerce returns are on the rise. Sixty-two percent of consumers returned or exchanged something in 2013, compared to 51 percent in 2012, according to an infographic from Endicia. In addition, 42 percent of shoppers want the process to be as easy as possible. While the growing number of returns may seem like a hassle to you, processing them as efficiently as possible could have its benefits. The infographic revealed 64 percent of consumers will refer friends or family members to an online retailer after having a good experience with return processing. Ninety-five percent will repeat their business with the brand if it's easy to return something. However, 85 percent of shoppers will abandon an online store if it's a struggle to return or exchange products. 

Higher expectations for return and exchange processing
Returns and exchanges require tightly aligned ecommerce fulfillment operations. Consumers will continue to put more pressure on retailers to offer the best wine shipping options. While it's important to get products to customers as quickly as possible for the lowest cost, handling returns can make or break satisfaction. Many multichannel retailers are starting to offer free returns and in-store pick up for online orders, which highlights the need for you to assess your current fulfillment capabilities. A study from Internet Retailer found that 2014 will be a year of movement toward these new trends. Currently, only about 10 percent of ecommerce stores offer free returns, and 25 percent have in-store pickup. However, this is expected to change over the course of the year. 

Only large retailers with an online and physical presence provide free returns, along with a few online stores. Zappos was one of the first organizations to pioneer free shipping in both directions if returns were necessary. However, as consumers continue to express a preference for these capabilities, your online wine store may need to adapt.

Why people return purchases and what they want
It can be hard to know exactly what you're getting when you buy wine online. Endicia found the most common reasons consumers will send something back is because they've received defective merchandise, the wrong product or unwanted gifts. While it's hard to compensate for user errors, you can minimize the number of returns by making your website intuitive to navigate. Having the right fulfillment technology in place can also reduce the number of inaccurate orders that get sent to customers. 

Instead of pretending that returns aren't going to happen, you can facilitate the process as much as possible. Customers want a clear return policy with direct language, easy-to-follow steps, a specific timeframe and full disclosure of any associated fees before they make the purchase. Just in case they need to send it back, many consumers prefer to receive a return label in the box along with their orders. For returns, many shoppers want automatic refunds. 

A return or exchange isn't a guarantee that a customer won't buy from you again. Making returns as easy as possible for your customers can increase loyalty and satisfaction. It could even lead to new business if they refer people to your website. 

Jim Agger
March 12, 2014 | Jim Agger

Preparing for Shifts in eCommerce

Wineries can increase their direct-to-consumer sales through their websites. However, online wine sales aren't the only concern anymore. First, retailers needed to focus on creating a user-friendly online experience. Then they needed to offer a mobile website. While both of these components of the shopping experience are still important, online wine stores need to provide a multichannel approach.

It's no longer just about ecommerce - consumers need to be able to access the same quality experience no matter how they choose to shop or communicate with you. And smaller wineries need to pay attention to these trends just as much as larger retailers. Here are some ways that you can keep up with the times:

True multichannel approach
Because ecommerce once seemed like a completely separate arm of retail operations, companies treated it differently from their in-store sales, according to Ventureburn. However, now it's becoming more apparent that integration between all these channels can create a better shopping experience. For example, if someone visits your winery and tries to buy a bottle they sampled in your tasting room, they will have a preconceived notion about your brand. You can support this by providing a consistent experience. In particular, your reputation can be damaged if consumers can't find the same types of wine online. 

Integration with wine inventory software can not only create a better user experience, but it also can streamline ecommerce fulfillment, which is more essential to customer satisfaction than ever before. Having better visibility into who is buying through which channels can help you optimize each individual experience. Having access to data across all aspects of the business can help you identify new opportunities and refine wine marketing efforts to be more relevant.

Customer loyalty will be more important for sustained sales growth
Exclusively ecommerce vendors are cropping up all the time, but providing high-quality customer service is crucial to retaining a loyal client base, Ian Mills, CEO of Web design company Magicdust, wrote in a blog for Huffington Post. Offering extra features, such as reduced-cost wine shipping, order tracking, multiple delivery options and extended return periods, can help differentiate your brand from other competitors. Making customers' experience as easy as possible can encourage shoppers to return. 

Rewarding your most loyal customers for their continued purchases can ensure your online sales continue. If consumers are purchasing through other DTC channels, you can send them special offers to buy from your online wine store. Boosting customer satisfaction can lead to increased wine club membership, which guarantees a continued revenue stream.

Assess fulfillment operations
How good is your wine shipping? Even if you are on par with other wineries, chances are, you have some room for improvement. Amazon has set the bar pretty high in terms of what customers can expect from ecommerce deliveries. It doesn't matter what website customers are purchasing from anymore, BusinessNewsDaily stated. They want the most efficient, cost-effective shipping options whether they are buying from a small winery or Amazon. 

One fulfillment mistake to avoid is only offering flat rate shipping across the board. Some online retailers do this because figuring out other options is complicated. However, you can lose money because many customers simply won't buy wine online when they see the shipping fees. Offer multiple options when possible. It's also a good idea be transparent when it comes to shipping. Amazon Prime shoppers may be willing to spend a little more on products themselves because they know they will receive their items in two days. Small retailers can't offer the lowest prices and hope to gain sales unless they offer competitive shipping as well. 

Jim Agger
March 11, 2014 | Jim Agger

Ecommerce Customer Experience Doesn't End When the Order is Placed

It's easy to think that as soon as you process an online order and ship it from your wine warehouse, it isn't your responsibility anymore. However, this couldn't be further from the truth because there a number of things that could go wrong before shipments reach customers. Competitive wine shipping can make or break new clients' perception of your brand. 

This is very apparent when people are purchasing holiday gifts for a family member or loved one, and packages don't arrive on time. Through difficult weather in December, many major carriers experienced delays that impacted holiday purchases. In addition, 1-800-Flowers failed to deliver candy and flowers for many customers on time for Valentine's Day, according to Multichannel Merchant. These issues can easily prevent a first-time customer from ever shopping from your online wine store again. To compound matters further, during some of these peak times, retailers didn't even answer their phone lines when clients called to complain about the poor service. 

Ecommerce fulfillment is clearly a competitive differentiator. As customers continue to express a preference for shopping online, they have higher demands and expectations for deliveries. For omnichannel retailers to succeed in the future, they will need to extend thorough customer service from the time shoppers first access their sites until items are delivered. 

How to improve shipping wine for better service
Online retailers that have gained the best results are those that offer high-quality fulfillment options to their customers. You don't need to deliver wine with drones to see more online wine sales! You don't need to stress about competing with vendors that can offer free shipping. The following tips can help guide your ecommerce fulfillment strategy to better serve customers:

1. Implement real-time wine inventory software
Breaking down silos between channels can improve order processing and shipping, a separate article for Multichannel Merchant said. All winery enterprise systems need to be integrated to avoided shortages or errors. Real-time visibility can prevent orders from slipping through the cracks. 

2. Create shipping fee transparency
Have you ever tried to buy something for a bargain online and had the shipping costs come out to almost as much as the total? This is one of the most common causes of shopping cart abandonment, Ecommerce Times said, citing a survey from Pitney Bowes. Nearly half of online shoppers will ditch a purchase for solely this reason. Product price points aren't always a good indication of shipping costs. You can consider giving shipping estimates as customers add items to their carts.

3. Assess your fulfillment strategy
California wineries may struggle to offer the same delivery to customers on the East Coast. It may be a good idea to assess fulfillment locations to provide a more consistent experience. Operating from a warehouse closer to a large customer base can reduce delivery costs, Multichannel Merchant stated. 

4. Provide as much information as possible
Shoppers can grow frustrated simply from not knowing the status of their orders. Smaller retailers often neglect to give customers tracking numbers for their orders, according to Ecommerce Times. Clients may end up contacting customer support, and this can create more work for agents, especially when deliveries are on schedule. Giving shoppers this information during the transaction can cut down on these support requests.

5. Offer great customer service
In the event that something goes wrong with an order, having staff on hand to field customer complaints can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship. Even informing shoppers in advance that there will a delay can prevent dissatisfaction and frustration. 

Sheri Hebbeln
March 10, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Retail POS Impacts eCommerce Success

Point of sale systems are an essential consideration when you begin to sell wine online. Consumers can be wary of sharing their financial information on the Web because of security concerns. In fact, this issue was a detractor from Internet shopping adoption for many years, according to GeekWire. People have gradually become more accepting of ecommerce, and this has been reflected in growing online revenues for many retailers. Consumers are even shopping for product categories that were primarily purchased from physical stores in the past, including wine and other specialty liquors. To take advantage of this emerging channel, you need the right point of sale system to protect client information.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have been plagued by a wave of data breaches in recent months, which reflects a fundamental shift in views about security. Cybercriminals have been targeting retail POS systems in physical stores because they are seen as easier to hack. GeekWire suggested that part of the reason for this vulnerability is because retailers have made more investments in online security to enable multichannel sales, and this has resulted in systems that are better equipped to handle modern threats. In-store systems have been somewhat neglected, and they pose a bigger security threat because some are out of date. In the wake of a massive data breach at Target, many consumers are starting to view ecommerce as safer than shopping in a store. 

How to choose the right online store software
You stand to gain a lot from opening an online wine store. However, selecting the right POS can make or break your entry into multichannel sales. Here are some suggestions for wineries looking to choose a platform:

1. Consider your unique needs
You need to identify the features of retail POS that are most important to your operations, according to Small Business Computing. The solution you ultimately choose should support these needs. You can use a spreadsheet to compare different vendors and offerings.

2. Think about mobile from the beginning
Mobility is creeping into every aspect of the transaction. If you're just getting started with online wine sales or are looking for a new platform, keep in mind that mobile is becoming increasingly important, Business 2 Community stated. People are more frequently using their smartphones and tablets to shop online, and they interact with these devices differently than shoppers from desktop computers do. Plus, consumers expect mobile sites to make it easy to navigate and pay. Retailers with a mobile website can see higher sales, and those that don't offer mobile pages risk losing revenue. Location-based services can improve user experience. 

3. Scalability
When first choosing ecommerce solutions, it can be difficult to figure out which features are essential. In addition, POS implementations can take a long time, Small Business Computing said. Your winery could be losing productivity in the meantime. It may be a better idea to start out with a system that has only what you need and then add more features later.

4. Pick a vendor you can trust
Your point of sale system will form the backbone of your ecommerce strategy, so it's important to choose a vendor that will act as a trusted partner. While the technical capabilities of the platform and overall website design matter a great deal, you need to be sure you're teaming up with a company that will support your business. You can ask the provider for references from previous consumers to determine if it's the right choice. The right platform and provider can help your winery better meet customer needs. 

Jim Agger
March 7, 2014 | Jim Agger

Use Wine Shipping to Connect With Customers

Wine shipping represents both a challenge and opportunity. Ecommerce fulfillment is anxiety-provoking for both you and your customers - they have already paid for products but don't have them yet and you need to orchestrate the process to make delivery as efficient as possible. Once orders leave the wine warehouse, it's difficult to maintain control and visibility over the process because a logistics provider can impact the speed of the delivery. 

Shipping wine is complicated enough, between processing orders, managing inventory and delivering products on time. However, fulfillment can be a determining factor in whether customers trust your winery's website enough to buy from you. There are many competitors online, which adds to the challenge. Consumers may be especially reluctant to purchase from a winery they've never heard of. Emphasizing strengths in the fulfillment arena can foster shoppers' confidence, according to an infographic from KISSmetrics. 

Communicating information about the speed and efficiency of your wine shipping can make customers more likely to buy. Huge online retailers have offered shoppers increased visibility into order processing, and they are coming to expect this from your online wine store. You can provide detailed shipping information as consumers add items to their carts to lessen the chances that they will abandon the purchase. The infographic listed several features to include on the page:

  • A customer service phone number: This way shoppers don't have to leave the page if they have trouble completing the purchase. 
  • The delivery date: Focus on this date instead when products will ship. Fulfillment delays are a huge reason for customer dissatisfaction. It's also a good idea to show shipping costs as consumers add items to their carts so the fees don't come as a surprise at the end.
  • Show where products are being shipped from: Customers sometimes like seeing this information, and it can help reassure them that products will arrive when they're supposed to.

Wine shipping can improve customer experience
Utilizing shipping notifications is another way to increase customer confidence in the process, Practical Ecommerce said. Most online shoppers acknowledge these messages but don't pay too much attention. However, they will notice if they don't receive an email about deliveries at all. You may even be able to set these notifications up in your online store software when you process the shipping information. A simple email can reassure consumers that deliveries will be on time. It's also important to warn people if shipments are going to arrive late. Offering real-time parcel tracking information can help as well. 

Providing multiple shipping options can significantly boost satisfaction. In its 2012 "Online Shopping Customer Experience Study," comScore found 48 percent of customers are not willing to wait more than five days for products to show up. As retail giants like Amazon have continued to refine the fulfillment process, this patience may be even shorter. In 2012, only 5 percent of customers expected next-day delivery, but this is rapidly becoming more the norm. However, this may not be the same across the board.

"Online shoppers have a range of time they are willing to wait for the delivery of their orders," the report said. "Retailers that offer a range of delivery time options allow themselves to appeal to a wider range of customers."

Because customers have different preferences, offering a variety of options could help you see a rise in conversion rates, Practical Ecommerce stated. Despite this, your operations can run better when order processing is as quick and efficient as possible. There are potential bottlenecks that you can avoid by starting order processing as soon as the purchase is completed. 

Joanne Grantz Anderson
March 6, 2014 | Joanne Grantz Anderson

How to Get More eCommerce Conversions

Even with the right online store software and tightly managed inventory processes, you may notice you aren't seeing as many conversions as you hoped when you sell wine online. Shopping cart abandonment could be to blame, but you don't have to let your online wine store struggle. 

In fact, the Baymard Institute released a statistic that some ecommerce websites experience abandonment rates of nearly 70 percent, Copy Blogger stated. Price is often a cause for shopping cart abandonment, but it's certainly not the only one, and it may not be the issue you need to fix. Asking shoppers to take too many steps or fill in too many fields before completing their purchases could send them away. A feeling or poor security is a major detractor. And many shoppers don't want to be forced to register for an account with your site. However, if your site is free from these other problems, customers won't be as concerned with price. 

Security is a top priority for online shoppers in the wake of several high-profile retail data breaches, Penny Sansevieri, CEO of Marketing Experts, wrote for Huffington Post's blog. Having the best deals won't keep customers on your site if they feel like their financial information isn't secure. You may want to include a badge for your point of sale software to boost the sense of security on your winery's website. Wording like "secure checkout" can make a big difference.

How to avoid shopping cart abandonment
Online wine sales represent a huge opportunity for wineries, but you can't capitalize on this unless you have a high-functioning website that converts visitors. Here are several features that could be detracting from the overall effectiveness of your site:

1. Hidden shipping costs
Cost-effective wine shipping is essential for getting consumers to complete the purchase. Shipping discounts may be even more effective for increasing conversion rates than product discounts, Copy Blogger said. Some customers expect to see the total cost - including shipping fees - displayed before they reach the checkout page. Because shipping wine can be cost-prohibitive, it may be a good idea to include an estimate as shoppers add items to their carts.

2. The checkout process is too long
According to Sansevieri, each click consumers are forced to make can cost you 5 percent of your traffic. If there are several steps of pages before completing the purchase, you could see high abandonment rates, and this isn't even accounting for price or shipping expenses. If you are promoting a particular seasonal wine, you may be able to gain higher conversion rates from adding a section on the home page of your site. Visitors don't want to dig through every page of the site. In addition, Copy Blogger recommended streamlining the number of fields people need to fill out to finish the transaction.

3. Forcing people to register for an account
Being required to sign up for the website can quickly send shoppers packing. Citing data from Luke Wroblewski and Jared Spool, Copy Blogger said cart abandonment can be reduced by as much as 45 percent by showing a Continue button rather than Register. You can see more purchases if you give customers the option to shop as guest and register for an account after completing the purchase. If it's an absolute necessity to have visitors create an account, streamline the process to make it as painless as possible. You can add a short explanation why registration is necessary. Another option is simply requiring shoppers to enter their email addresses to proceed. This can ease the tension of account creation. 

Jim Agger
March 5, 2014 | Jim Agger

Is Outsourced eCommerce Fulfillment the Right Choice For You?

Is outsourced ecommerce fulfillment the right choice for you?

As your client base expands and you increase your monthly numbers of online wine sales, it can put a strain on ecommerce fulfillment. Processing and verifying orders, updating inventory information and shipping wine yourself can increase the chances that there will be an error along the way. Because of the wide variety of options online, customers will be less tolerant of delays or incorrect orders.

Deciding to sell wine online can be a profitable choice because it can help you reach a new audience on the other side of the country. However, fulfillment is critical to the success of this venture. As large online retailers get more advanced, consumer expectations are higher than ever before. Ecommerce has facilitated a shopping culture of instant gratification, according to Parcel Industry. While an online wine store can open up new opportunities for you, there are several significant challenges you should keep in mind, such as high volumes of slow-moving inventory, unpredictable levels of growth, client demands for real-time inventory visibility, peak seasons and high numbers of returns.

This places a lot of stress on winery employees. Wine shipping isn't their only obligation, but doing it right is essential for customer satisfaction.

Why you should consider outsourcing ecommerce fulfillment

Because wineries are often impacted by seasonal fluctuations in demand, a fulfillment partner can ease the challenge of managing increased shipping or returns, Practical Ecommerce stated. In addition, fulfillment firms ship high enough volumes to access FedEx and UPS discounts that can make it more affordable for you to ship wine around the country. Plus, you'll save on warehouse rent and other handling expenses. Outsourcing wine shipping to a trusted organization enables you and your employees to focus on what you do best and offer exemplary customer service without getting bogged down with other processing.

Another consideration for when it may time to outsource is distance to consumers. California wineries may offer inconsistent shipping times to customers on the East Coast, compared to shoppers in closer regions. You can boost customer satisfaction by ensuring delivery times are similar for all clients, no matter where they're located. Being closer to customers also saves you more money because you can eliminate zone-based shipping fees, a separate article for Practical Ecommerce said.

To determine the most effective option for your winery, you need to assess the number of direct-to-consumer sales you make compared to the cost per order. Most low-volume vendors pay more for FedEx or UPS services, and you also need to cover the costs of shipping supplies. Free shipping is gaining speed in e-commerce, and while this isn't an option for wineries, outsourcing can help you offer low rates to customers, which can in turn encourage them to buy wine online.

Tips to keep in mind when outsourcing

When outsourcing, you will have a service agreement with your fulfillment partner. It's important to choose a firm that guarantees its work and will pay you back for errors in makes, according to Practical Ecommerce. A consideration that sometimes gets overlooked when outsourcing is return processing. You need to agree on whether customers will send returns to you or to the wine warehouse. A fulfillment partner can usually help you avoid split orders by providing a variety of packaging materials to avoid uneven delivery of a single order.

Outsourced ecommerce fulfillment can help you increase DTC sales and prevent orders from slipping through the cracks. Ultimately, the choice to outsource can come down to if a fulfillment partner can offer lower costs per order than you could maintain in-house.