The WineDirect Blog

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

Subscribe via email

Jim Agger
 
July 21, 2014 | Jim Agger

Consumers Want More Flexibility in Their Shopping and Shipping

When customers visit your online wine store, they aren't just there because they like your brand. They also want to get some decent wine and feel like they're in a real wine shop when doing so. Running a basic site that sells wine isn't enough anymore to placate the needs of most consumers. Ecommerce solutions should have a far greater emphasis on combining online and mobile stores into one comprehensive experience, meaning that your store should have the feel and effect of a local shop that you can visit anywhere. Recent studies have indicated that having such an all-inclusive approach for your shop is a new trend among consumers and reflects certain shifts in the retail sector.

Making the consumer experience flexible
UPS released its annual "Pulse of the Online Shopper" survey recently. The shipping firm explained many consumer trends in the online retail sector based on surveys with customers in several nations around the globe. With the rise of mobile shopping, there is a greater desire on making things easier for the customer to complete their transaction and consider the matter of browsing a convenience rather than a hassle. The emphasis seems to be on consumers wanting flexibility when looking up and purchasing an item they want. To prove this point, the survey showed a majority wanted to purchase an item while visiting an online store as a guest. While these customers may not be necessarily loyal, wine merchants should still pay some attention to them because they will drive a significant chunk of sales.

Other reports in the survey indicated both a desire to do the online equivalent of window shopping and an increase in impulse buying. On the one hand, around 62 percent of those surveyed wanted to know if the product they were interested was in stock, while 47 percent used their mobile devices to research the product they were interested in, either while browsing prior to visiting or at the store itself. This hands-off approach to shopping eases the customer experience for many. On the other hand, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted their information saved to make future purchases easier, and nearly 7 out of 10 said they wanted checkout to be no more than two clicks, both of which make snap purchases a far simpler process.

Diverse shipping, easy returns
Then, there is the matter of shipping the product out to your customers, which still greatly influences their decision-making processes when purchasing online. This is something wineries should be paying attention to, given the finicky nature of shipping wine. About 72 percent of those surveyed desired to see the expected delivery date of the product they wanted to buy, usually on the product page itself. More than 65 percent also wanted variety with their shipping options. In another UPS survey, 4 out of 5 saw free shipping as a major factor in making a purchase, and more than half surveyed would be fine doing this by meeting a threshold on items added to the shopping cart or dollars spent on a purchase. While free shipping is not an option for wine merchants, having shipping included in a similar manner works just as well.

Just as important is the ability to return items. There has been a 5 percent increase in reading return policies among those surveyed between 2012 and 2014, indicating a desire to know this ahead of time. This is particularly important in America where even the receivers of gifts are incredibly picky. The more convenient the return policy is to the consumer, the more likely he or she will purchase an item.

Time Posted: Jul 21, 2014 at 9:20 AM
Jim Agger
 
July 18, 2014 | Jim Agger

It's Never Too Early to Think About the Holidays With Online Retail

While it may be the middle of summer, stores of any kind - including wineries – should already be thinking ahead to the upcoming holiday season. After all, those six weeks of the year in November and December can often be the difference between a profitable year and contracting your business. If you sell wine online, this is especially true. You'll want your Web-based presence to be as strong as possible and you need the next few months to properly plan and roll out any new site design or feature that will cater best to your customer's needs. This is why you should pay attention to current reports on online retail now.

A new revenue schedule
Consulting firm Kenshoo released a Global Online Retail Seasonal Shopping Report earlier in 2014, discussing the holiday shopping season from the year before. It provides some guidance as to what was successful during the 2013 holidays, especially in the United States. In particular, online retail revenues were strongest not in December, but Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as well as the following Cyber Monday. Those three days can determine a significant chunk of overall revenue during the season.

A recent development in the shopping season that has caused somewhat significant success is Free Shipping Day, a merchant-based program which allows customers to get free shipping on an item they want that will arrive by Christmas Eve. The Kenshoo report indicates year-over-year growth in the holiday, making it one of the highest-earning days in the holiday shopping season. While wine merchants can't directly participate due to being unable to ship wine for free, it may be a good day to sell your wine with shipping included. That way, you can get into the spirit of the day and consumers will still be drawn to your varieties.

Mobile dominates
More recently, IBM released its "Seventh Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness" Report. The annual analysis offers a more accurate gauge of the current online retail situation over the course of a year, so as to provide merchants the means to plan ahead for the holiday season. Key among the findings is that consumer attentions have continued to decline significantly year over year, and this included the average length of a site visit and number of pages viewed. Conversely, the bounce rate - or people leaving the site after viewing a single page - has increased about 5 percent since 2011. More than ever, merchants need to create site designs that will keep customers logged in, since more time on the site increases the likelihood of it ending in a transaction.

The leading reason for the decline in attention has less to do with people's attention spans and more to do with the means that consumers actually look at their stores. Since April 2011, mobile devices have surged in site traffic share, going from less than 10 percent to about 38.2 percent. By 2015, it is very likely that mobile site traffic will cover the majority of all ecommerce site traffic. Of course sales are a little behind actual, but it is worth noting that during the 2013 holiday shopping season, mobile devices still contributed nearly a fifth of all online sales. This should make clear to any merchant that having a working and effective mobile site is practically mandatory to making revenue from online sales, especially in the coming years. In addition, wine merchants should focus on both that and regular online media. While social media can be used as a means to attract shoppers, there hasn't been many effective strategies in doing so, making bounce rates in that medium high.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 17, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

4 Important Features for Your Mobile Wine Website

Your online wine store may have the attention of customers, giving them the choices on a particular vintage of merlot or chardonnay with decent shipping options. However, that only applies to people who use your regular Web store. What about the mobile version? Is it up to the same level of quality? Having great mobile ecommerce is incredibly important, especially given that tablets and smartphones combined are set to surpass regular PC ownership by 2015. At the same time, due to a smaller screen size and resolution and touch-based interface, getting your vintages to look good on mobile devices is a different blend from standard website design. Therefore, you should put some distinct effort into making your mobile site stand out and make wine impulse buys a common part in your sales. Here are some mobile site features that would work well with your store:

Direct and easy contact
As with any site, it is important to have contact information available somewhere on the site, in case something goes wrong with an order or if a customer has second thoughts about his or her purchase. Having that info out front is very useful, especially when it comes to wine of any kind. With mobile, you can take things a step further, according to ActiveMobi. Because they are likely looking at the site from a smartphone, consumers should be able to call the winery directly about their orders using a click-to-call feature on the contact page. Merchants can take it a step further by adding a click-to-SMS feature, which is great for younger buyers who prefer texting over talking.


Geolocation to determine shipping
Shipping matters greatly when selling wine. After all, unlike other products, you can't offer free shipping to customers. The fragility of the wine bottles makes shipping a bottle a delicate and complex matter. Therefore it is important to know where your buyers are so that they can getting an accurate estimate on how much it will cost to get that riesling to their home. While entering their zip code on the product page to get an exact estimate can be useful when they're away from home, a better idea is to have them tap a button that determines shipping cost by using geolocation on the phone, as suggested by Smart Insights. This minor addition to your mobile site can save a lot of hassles on the part of consumers who don't want to spend time remembering and inputting their ZIP.


Buttons as big as a cork
OK, maybe your buttons don't need to be that big. But it is critical to remember that touch-based interfaces are the standard with tablets and smartphones. The emphasis on tapping means that unlike using a mouse, touchscreens need everything to be large to be both readable and interactive with the user. Even on a product page, you should take great care that your buttons are actually big enough to be pressed. When buttons are a struggle to tap, it ruins the customer's experience and may put them off from buying a case of sauvignon vert. According to ActiveMobi, a good range for button size is 45-57 pixels.


Images and video over text
While your product descriptions and recommendations may be a fine piece of work, they are going to be hard to read on a smartphone, not to mention tedious. Small screens mean you need to deliver detail in a more compressed space, something text cannot provide even in the most concise terms.It's critical that your product pages are optimized for media use, Smart Insights recommends. That includes easy-to-navigate image galleries, as well as video in lieu of text descriptions if possible. With those features, your customers will be able more easily decide whether or not they want your products.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 16, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Analytics Can Take the Dregs Out of Product Pages

You may be pushing to get your customers to buy wine online and trying to get more customers from places far beyond your usual reach. Your online wine store is decently designed, and you're attracting a significant amount of the clientele you'd expect. However, one of your vintages of pinot noir isn't selling at a level that is consistent with the rest of your varieties or even of other vintages of the same blend. There isn't anything to suggest that there is something wrong with the wine itself and in normal channels it seems to be selling just fine. Perhaps the problem isn't the product but the page it's on, resulting in the loss in traffic and sales. This is why it is essential in ecommerce to have a good grip on analytics, and why you should make adjustments to suit your wine business.

Site analytics are basically a format in which a platform captures all the raw data from Web traffic and organizes it into readable bits of information. They are a means to monitor page views in multiple ways, from people just visiting a single page to those who go onto other pages on the site. In ecommerce, there are multiple tools available which are specific to online stores that include tracking transactions, shopping cart inventories and order processing. With these scripts and apps, you can get as precise and/or broad a view of your visitors and sales in order to determine what is or isn't working with your store.

Fixing problems with a click
Going back to your poorly selling pinot noir vintage, you may be wondering what is going wrong with the product page. With platforms like Google Analytics, wine merchants can easily assess that information through views and filters. According to Practical Ecommerce, a good way to appraise the situation is making filters specific to the page, such as combining all the links that lead to the product page, creating similar filters with other product pages and analyzing each page's traffic and transaction history. Looking at the traffic will be particularly important because it may determine that the likely problem is that nobody is actually visiting the page from either within the site or through searches and social media. When you see that problem, you can further examine the situation and uncover, for example, a misspelled link or low keyword density on the wine's page. Through analytics, you are able to fix the links and descriptions to get it to the level of visits and subsequent sales that match the rest of your product line.

A better way to ferment sales
Of course, that's not the lone benefit of analytics when you sell wine online. With all the data coming in regarding Web traffic and sales, you can easily get a better grasp of your clientele and the overall wine market. Another article from Practical Ecommerce suggests multiple perks to using big data to your small winery's advantage. For example, you can gauge which vintage is working better or worse. If a 2010 vintage of Sauvignon blanc isn't selling at the price you set it at, for example, while a 2009 vintage costing about the same is, perhaps you can lower the price of the former to still make a decent return. You can also determine which of your product pages are the most successful to get people to make a purchase. Finally, you can persuade consumers to buy more stuff off the site by suggesting related items, whether it's another variety or some wine accessory that you think will complement their order. All of this can be done in real time and gives you room to experiment with new products and ideas.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 15, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Online Wine Stores Should be Mobile

Here's an interesting scenario: Say you sell your wines to a restaurant in another part of the country. One bottle of your Riesling is served with a fruit tart, and the restaurant patron is impressed with the wine. They inquire about it, and hear that you're the winery that sells it. He or she takes out a smartphone, goes to your site to look it up and discovers that you have a store where you sell it. What happens then? Will potential customers see an online wine store that was designed on a computer for a computer and thus look messy and unsuited for the small screens of phones and tablets, thus waiting to get home before they look it up again only to forget about it? Or will they see a well-designed site tailored for mobile devices with all the functionality of the regular  website — complete with product descriptions and multiple shipping options — and purchase a bottle or two?

This scenario is not all together unrealistic. Customers are increasingly using their mobile devices in place of their computers for everything from checking on news stories to finding out what song they just heard at a cafe. More importantly, they're using their smartphones and tablets to shop for anything and everything. Wineries need to pay attention to this new development in retail because it presents an opportunity for them to develop effective ecommerce solutions that mean getting your lines out there in faster and more efficient ways.

Mobile is the future
Directing your energies to mobile is increasingly important in online retail and ecommerce in general. Consider this: According to In Stat, before the end of 2015, there will be more mobile devices using the Internet in America than PCs. That alone should indicate the need for mobile version of your store. But more importantly, phones and tablets cater extremely well to impulse buying: More than 50 percent do a mobile search of a specific product because they want it as soon as possible, as reported by​ eMarketer.

Mobile customers also interact on the Web in a different way that allows your site to earn more money. Marketing expert Ian Mills writes in a column for the Huffington Post that the ability to buy things without even having to move anywhere makes it far easier for mobile users to purchase them on a whim. As a consequence, phone and tablet users spend more money and get more things per transaction than desktop or laptop users. A mobile store is thus more likely to bring in more money than a regular Web store.

A page you can fit on a label
Of course, mobile Web design is different from regular site design. It means creating pages for small screens, including resolutions that were standard in the 1990s. Mills points out that without a site design that works for smartphones or tablets, customers are more likely to skip shopping and therefore will miss key means to purchase that bottle of Merlot they were ey​eing. One consideration to solve this problem is to make the site more image-intensive and less filled with text, keeping product descriptions short and sweet. In addition, Smart Insights notes that many users will likely hesitate pulling out their wallets for a purchase and might find remembering their 16-digit credit card number and three-digit CVV number a bit annoying. With this in mind, it's ideal to consider alternative payment methods such as PayPal where customers just enter their details and send money that way. A proper site design will lead to greater sales and more customers, including impulse buyers at restaurants.

Time Posted: Jul 15, 2014 at 5:30 AM
Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 11, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

5 More Ways to Avoid Being a Bad Email Marketer

As a wine merchant, your role in building your online store is making sure you get as much of an audience as possible. Wine marketing tends to mean seeking out customers from places around the country who may not have your vintage at the nearest wine shop or supermarket. An email campaign can be a great way to reach out to these customers, especially after they buy their first bottles from you. However, as we have suggested before, there are many ways to mess this up magnificently and drive away customers. So here are five more ways to avoid that fate and improve your standing with your customers:

  • Know and care about the products you're promoting

If you're a winery, it goes without saying that you should be able to show a lot of care about the vintages you're promote. But if you're a wholesale wine distributor, it's easy to get trapped in the idea that you can just sell and ship products without much of a thought and just use the winery's ad copy. As Karol Król of MarketingProfs suggests in jest, wineries should take the time to tailor their message so that the distributor will be interested in actually sampling the product first before selling to restaurants and hotels. More importantly, when writing these emails, you should provide your own personal thoughts on these wines.

  • Only send e-mails when you have something to talk about

Previously, we discussed keeping down the frequency of emails so that you don't flood your customers' inboxes and deter them from using your services. A more important thing to consider, though, is the content you provide. Simms Jenkins of ClickZ advises against distributing repeat emails or reminder e-mails for the sake of sending something. Instead, push something out when there's something new in the business, or if there's a new promotion that will attract customers' and distributors' attention and get them to click.

  • Don't bore the customer

In addition to making sure you have new content with each email, it just makes sense to have quality content and information to go with them. That can mean a lot of things at once, but at the very least you should make sure  messages are actually relevant to your business, as Jenkins suggests. Don't write content that only gets to the point after a few minutes of reading, like a history of your online wine sales that concludes with a new method of buying wine online. More importantly, though, keep your posts short. Król recommends no essay length posts. They tend not to work well at all on mobile devices, especially if read from a smartphone.

  • Don't ever send attachments

Email is a far more flexible medium that most people imagine. With HTML coding, you can almost recreate Web pages in your messages. On the most basic level that means if you have some flashy copy that you want to send to your customers, you should figure out a way to recreate it in the mass send. In other words, don't send it as an attachment. In fact, don't send any attachments, as Król advises. It makes your promotions look spammy and shows excess waste.

  • Use a proper e-mail service provider

While it is awfully tempting to save money by running company emails on a free service like Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, it is a guarantee that your mass promotions will end up in the junk folder of many of your customers. If your Web host does not offer a robust email system, seek out a quality email-specific service provider who can provide features that make mass promotional messaging easy.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 10, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

5 Ways to Avoid Being a Bad Email Marketer

So you're a wine seller running an effective ecommerce solution. Now you need to run a wine marketing campaign to build on your brand and keep customers loyal. An email campaign is often the most effective way of build loyalty and increase sales. However, there are many ways that this can go wrong. Emails are flexible but they can't be treated like fluff. Executed poorly, consumers will simply unsubscribe to your winery's promotional e-mails, which can bring the whole business down. Here are eight ways not to blow it and have people enjoy reading your emails: 

  • Send emails only once a day at most

People don't like to be distracted by every new email that comes through their inbox. It's worse when they see the same firm send a message twice or three times a day.Odds are, you don't even have something important to promote more than once a day. As Karol Król of MarketingProfs jokingly suggests, keep the emails to at most once a day. If you do it less than that, say only a few times per week, that's fine too. It's okay for customers to not hear from you every day.

  • Keep your subjects lines short and easy to read

The subject line is like a headline: It's meant to draw people's attention to whatever you want them to hear. Whether it is more effective ways to order wine online or speedy ecommerce fulfillment methods, you want them to know that. Simms Jenkins of ClickZ advises avoiding subject lines that are long and nonsensical. Lengthy subject lines might get their messages obscured, assuming it isn't already. Also, while Upworthy has made a business out of writing clickbait friendly headlines, those do not translate into mass email subject lines.

  • Avoid making the email personal

When being given a marketing email, the customer knows in advance that they are simply a consumer. While personal emails that intend to sell a person on something can be a useful tool, mass messages lack the same individual level of attention to be engaging. So avoid using a script that opens the email with "Hi, Customer's First Name/Last Name with a Title!"

  • Write content pieces that aren't just about the brand

As a wine merchant, you obviously have a vintage or two worth selling. Your customers are probably also proud snobs and tasters that like to talk about their favorite varieties. You should have emails that engage them on oenology and all related matters. Król suggests writing useful content such as talking about whatever industry your products happen to be in to maintain attention. Your emails should be more than just promotions about your new vintage of pinot grigio or syrah. You should also talk about what makes those blends so interesting to imbibe in the first place.

  • Make it look good

Email design is like Web design and not just in terms of code. Customers can be either wowed by the looks of the template and look for their wallet before they even reach the point of sale, or they can just click over to the next email about something that isn't your product. Jenkins reiterates that the look of the email should be phenomenal. Having a visually appealing aesthetic is very helpful in this regard, especially one that matches the brand of your website. After all, if your customers like the appearance of your store enough to buy stuff from it, your emails should be able to pull off the same level of desire to purchase even more wine or wine accessories.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 9, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Are you helping your customers through social media?

In ecommerce, having a social media presence is essentially a given. It helps push sales, gives your Web store a wider presence and audience and expands your brand in as many places as possible. However, many ecommerce stores have not extended their use of social media to the important field of customer service and support. The idea of "social customer service" remains new to most online stores such as wineries, even those that are veterans to the business. Still, having a strong bridge between social outlets and your business is crucial, and thus it is essential to see social customer service as an important component of ecommerce fulfillment.

Social media-based customer service is a form of consumer relations that utilizes social media to resolve product or service issues. Most brands tend to have a social media presence at the listening level, as described by Conversocial. However, others have started to take the direction of having specialists engaging customers over Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets in order to better understand issues and get feedback on new product developments. An increasing number of companies have been also working to build out this service to the point of making it part of a support center, with customer service representatives serving also as social media agents. An example of this could be a wine merchant monitoring bulk orders of a particular pinot noir through the responses of chefs and restaurant owners who have a similar presence.

Making social more than marketing
The use of social media in customer service stands to benefit any ecommerce site, especially when it can better monitor fulfillment situations that develop, such as a delayed shipment. Gadi BenMark, in an article for McKinsey Quarterly, reports that many companies have failed to recognize that in recent years, customers tend to use social outlets when they have grievances with a product or service. These firms often get distressed when their Facebook pages are littered with complaints, feeling that these outlets are meant to be marketing tools, not as places to address problems. Not coincidentally, they tend to see service and marketing as separate spheres of business operations. However, by making social media a service operation, with customer care on hand to deal with problems on the group level, there is a far greater chance of being able to manage problems before they get out of hand.

There are other advantages to social media that using a call center or a support forum lack as well. For example, while support forums require registration and other hoops to jump through just to file a complaint, a user will only need a Twitter or Facebook account, which they likely have for other reasons, to connect with customer care agents. They don't even need to follow your page or Twitter account to make their problems clear. That seems like trouble until you realize that with proper management of their problem, they get the sense you care about them. Such a positive experience can only heighten your brand reputation.

Caring more than selling
Of course, when managing social customer service  regarding your ecommerce solution, you must not fall into the traps that tend to come with handling social media users, as Micah Solomon of Forbes recommends. For example, someone may attack your online wine store viciously after having a shipment gone awry. While legal recourse may seem like a good idea, that tends to backfire in spectacular ways because it then becomes an argument that you can't win. A more effective solution would be to react calmly to the situation. If positive engagement doesn't work, just let the customer go. A benefit of social media is that if you hear a complaint out in social media, you can directly engage with him or her through Twitter direct messaging or other means. You may be able to contain a problem before it goes viral through such forthright interaction.

Matthew Mann
 
July 2, 2014 | Matthew Mann

Is Massachusetts about to legalize direct wine shipments?

On June 30th both houses of the Massachusetts legislature approved an Appropriations Act for 2015 that includes provisions for direct shipments of wine to consumers.  Governor Deval Patrick has 10 days to approve the bill or make vetoes.  He has indicated previously he would not veto direct shipping provisions.

 

DISCLOSURE:  I have not yet seen the final text as passed by both houses so some of these details may change however, based on the Senate version from May 23rd, it appears the new wine shipping law provides for a wine shipper license available to wine producers for an initial fee of $300 with an annual renewal of $150.  There is no production capacity limit, which is what caused the previous direct shipping rules to be struck down in court.  The winery may ship up to 12 9-liter cases annually to any individual consumer.  A "contains alcohol" warning label and adult signature are required, as are the remittance of excise taxes and the annual filing of a shipment report.  Of particular interest is a provision allowing limited self-distribution to both on-premise and off-premise retailers in the Commonwealth.  Off-premise sales are limited to 250 cases per year but this change represents a tremendous opportunity for smaller wineries that do not have distributor representation in the state.  If signed, it is uncertain when the law would take effect but I have seen the date of January 1, 2015, which would allow the ABC Commission to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the statute.

 

On other state legislative fronts, according to Free the Grapes, there are still direct shipping bills pending in both Pennsylvania and Delaware, although their ultimate passage is far from determined.  A direct shipping bill in South Dakota failed in committee under heavy pressure from beer and wine wholesalers and retailers.  Slowly the doors to regulated direct shipping are opening.  All the more reason to formulate a direct shipping strategy for your winery.  You can read more in our white paper on DTC Licensing Strategies.

Sheri Hebbeln
 
July 1, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Affiliate Marketing to Sell Wine Online

Wineries that want to expand the reach of their online wine sales and general brand visibility should consider affiliate marketing. There are many ways to accomplish this, but one of the most appealing and simple is to recruit bloggers to become affiliate marketers. Typically, these bloggers are paid for each customer enticed by their posts to make a purchase on the winery's ecommerce website. According to Technorati Media's "2013 Digital Influence Report," blogs are the third-most trusted source of information consumers use when thinking of purchasing a new product online. The first two are retailer websites and brand sites, which wineries have control over. Recruiting bloggers to act as affiliates can give a winery the top three most influential channels for online purchase decisions.

How to Choose Affiliates
Wineries should put careful thought into the type of bloggers they would like to form affiliate marketing relationships with. People who run websites or communities devoted to wine are a natural choice, of course, but there are other options as well. Wineries could seek out cooking bloggers, for example, who may be interested in talking about wine and food pairings, or lifestyle bloggers who can integrate a winery's brand into their discussions of domestic life and style. Wineries should seek bloggers with a significant readership composed of the demographics the wine-sellers are looking to target in other marketing endeavors as well. In addition, bloggers wineries choose to court for affiliate marketing should be seen as authoritative in some way and should have a relatively long and reliable posting history. It is also crucial to find bloggers who are open to affiliate relationships, as not all are.

Proposing an Affiliate Relationship
According to Practical Ecommerce, building a relationship with an affiliate is not like executing a media buy. Though compensation is standard and expected, bloggers do not function like traditional publishers. Instead, wineries should work to establish a relationship with their affiliates. As such, having a boilerplate email may not be the best idea. Instead, wineries should look for ways to get a conversation started as well as pitch an affiliate relationship.

Affiliates and wineries should also discuss terms frankly. Will there be a fee for placement or will the blogger accept commission on sales he or she drives to the winery's website? Does the affiliate expect to give his or her readers access to discounts or special sales? All of these questions should be answered at the beginning of an affiliate marketing relationship to reduce stress for both parties as it progresses.

Product Samples and Branding Direction
It's a natural step in affiliate marketing to help bloggers give informed perspectives on what they are writing about. Therefore, wineries should ensure their affiliates receive wine shipments. These should be accompanied by a marketing kit, according to Practical Ecommerce. This can be a list of key product features and information about how the winery brands itself in other marketing endeavors. Wineries should not be shy about collaborating with bloggers on the best way to position their products, but they should also leave plenty of room for affiliates to do what they do best and create compelling content for their own particular set of readers. Sometimes an honest opinion on a wine and a set of pictures taken at home is just what an audience will resonate with, while more complex branding schemes may work better for other blogs and their readers.

The information provided here is based upon an interpretation of current California law pertaining to third party marketing programs.  It should not be considered legal authority in California or elsewhere and is not intended as legal advice.  The laws in other states may vary.  Readers should contact the regulatory agencies responsible for the interpretation and enforcement of alcoholic beverage laws in their state for authority on this issue.