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Jim Agger
July 28, 2014 | Jim Agger

The Bay State Allows Wine Shipments for the First Time

After years of parochial wrangling, the Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill that will allow out-of-state winemakers and vintners to process online wine sales and ship it to the East Coast, but not without a cost. Not only does the taxing mentality of Beacon Hill lawmakers enter into the equation - winemakers must pay $300 just for a permit to do business in the Commonwealth - but a sales tax must be paid by the consumer. There's also an excise tax of 55 cents per gallon of wine that is paid by the wholesaler and passed on to the retail market.

Shipping protocols being established
According to the Boston Globe, wine shipping to the Bay State could face some difficult obstacles if the legislature and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission don't change some archaic fulfillment regulations that have been on the books since prohibition. Each truck that delivers wine is subject to a special permit and fee. In most states, said the Globe, one fee covers each shipping operation. In Massachusetts, shipping companies must pay the fee for each truck delivering alcohol, which could cause prospective shipping operations to opt out of delivering online purchased wine to customers. One lawmaker who sponsored the wine-shipping bill has now introduced legislation to eliminate the individual truck fee for a fleet-wide permit program. Current truck permitting fees, according to the source, are $200 dollars apiece and could push delivery charges very high.

Star-studded backing
Former New England Patriot quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, is a vineyard owner and winemaker from Washington State and he lobbied hard and effectively for the new law. He told Boston Magazine in a Tweet on social media that the news was gratifying.

"This is great news!" said Bledsoe. "[I'm] excited that we can start shipping in January."

January 1, 2015 is the first day wine shipping to Massachusetts can begin.

While the former gridiron star isn't taking any credit for the measure's passage, it is his lobbying effort last year that some have said was the final push. Bledsoe had testified that he couldn't ship samples of his product to friends and teammates, like Tom Brady, and he was hoping that would change.

"Tom actually bought the wine, and he shipped it to his dad's house (in California)," reported Bledsoe to the Associated Press, as quoted by NewsDaily. However, Brady never got to sample the wine. His father finished it off before the quarterback and his wife could arrive to taste it.

Legislature is pushing
Ted Speliotis is the state representative who authored the bill to allow shipping and is pursuing the measure to change the truck permitting. He told Boston Magazine that one license per shipping fleet as opposed to each truck is the way to go.

"I know there's some legislation here that I think is going to be coming to me out of the Ways and Means Committee. It would create a $3,500 fleet license rather than an individual license, and I am very supportive of that," explained Speliotis.

Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, signed off on the measure contained in the FY 2015 budget, bringing the Bay State - rated the fourth highest consumer state in the nation's wine drinking archives - to the forefront of a new, money-making venture.

There is no word to date on whether the shipping measure will make it to a vote before the first of the year, but the Governor has indicated he would sign the bill, as well, should it make it to his desk..

Courtney Copland
July 25, 2014 | Courtney Copland

Instagram Can Make Your Wines Attractive

A wine marketing campaign can be a tricky thing to do with oenophiles​ because they can be a finicky bunch and are very conscious of the wines they consume. Even casual wine drinkers have particular tastes when it comes to imbibing socially or at home watching a movie. Having a campaign that caters to all of them can be a game of fitting a round cork on top of a square bottle. Social media helps alleviate this problem by utilizing trends and discussions from consumers to turn into marketing and sales opportunities. Recent changes to the popular photo-sharing site Instagram in particular have made it possible for wine merchants to deliver a visually appealing campaign with a lot less effort and a lot more interaction with drinkers.

Instagram does things differently as a social media outlet in comparison to its parent company Facebook or even the likes of Pintrest and Twitter. For one, it's photo-centric. As Kate Harrison of Forbes notes, you can't really push any form of copy on the app, whether it's advertising or otherwise. Links are also particularly useless in photo posts. The main draw is the visuals: Really good photos with or without extra filters that can make even the most banal thing seem pretty. Interaction with these photos can increase a wine drinker's interest in your product. What helps businesses with garnering attention is the recent addition of web-based profiles which are similar in structure to Facebook profiles and gives consumers a single hub where they can learn more about products and the company in general.

In vino transparens
Because there are few direct ways to sell your wines on the app, the purpose of an Instagram account is to bolster your winery's image and reputation. That may seem a difficult task, but what makes using the site effective as a marketing tool is that you don't necessarily have to focus on your bottles of wine all the time. Instead, you can build the brand around what you are as a wine merchant and create a relationship with your customers that turns into a loyal source of revenue. Rather than images of just bottles of wine, there should be something else in the picture. For example, pairing a newly available vintage of pinot noir with some vegan stuffed mushrooms or pork tenderloin in a photo can entice customers and probably make them hungry.

In addition to putting your wines together with people and food, PracticalEcommerce suggest visually demonstrating a bit of the business, so to show users that you're more than just some faceless winery. This can include images of winemakers tasting the first batch of a vintage to be sold, grapes on the farm and/or the pressing process. By giving this sort of behind-the-scenes look, potential customers get a distinct impression that there are real people behind this business.

Social means interaction
Given that Instagram is a social media outlet, the emphasis with marketing on the site isn't enticing through visuals, but interacting with customers. Creating hashtags specific to your brand can enable wine drinkers to talk about your products in a manner that promotes it indirectly. With brand-specific hashtags, you can easily monitor consumers and even like or comment on their posts as a show of support. Monitoring the site can also let you seek out certain accounts that have an established audience and talking with them directly about promoting your varieties through posts and comments. Working with a foodie or oenophile account, for example, can grab people's attention simply because their notoriety will increase interest in your selection. Having your employees post photos of your bottles of wine can also boost your promotional value. After all, there are few things on the photo site shared more often than pictures of people's meals.

Jim Agger
July 24, 2014 | Jim Agger

Same-day delivery: The next frontier for online wine?

The one advantage that wine shops have over online stores is the sense of immediacy. If customers want to buy a specific bottle or case of a certain blend and/or vintage, they can get it at the store and go home with it. But when you buy wine online, you tend to have to wait at least a day or two before you see that chardonnay on your doorstep. Impulse buys are often guided by the sense of instant gratification gained from receiving a purchase, and that satisfaction isn't as strong if consumers have to wait more than a day for it. Online stores are now taking steps to address this particular problem through the use of same-day delivery. Wine merchants should take heed of this new development, for it may give them a leading edge and a place from which to build up customers.

Same-day delivery is not an entirely new phenomenon, but it has only recently taken hold as part of an ecommerce system. Even then, it is a very limited system. Same-day delivery is often only available for people living in large cities such as New York or Chicago, and the goods provided tend to be items that can easily be stocked. However, it is pretty inexpensive for consumers, especially when compared to one-day or two-day shipping options. To give an example, Amazon currently gives a minimum for same-day delivery at $9.98 for one item, with 99 cents tacked on for each additional item. Through their Amazon Prime subscription service, the cost is even lower at $5.99 per shipment with no limit on the number of items delivered. These prices are comparable with basic shipping, which tend to take at least a week to deliver its goods. It is little wonder that other companies such as Google are looking to expand into the field, with a focus on electronics and groceries, according to PYMNTS.

A leaner, less fermented operation
Wineries, especially midsize operations that may only have a small line of grape varieties they sell in large numbers, can stand to benefit from this form of delivery. For one, it creates an on-demand basis from which consumers purchase and imbibe your wine. From this situation, it's very easy to build a customer base without having to work directly with wine stores or visible wine distributors, which can result in cost savings that are passed along.

Fulfillment expert Dave Piasecki also discusses particular benefits for same-day shipping in an article for In it, he suggests that same-day orders can boost the overall productivity of a distribution operation. When a shipping center is required to send out orders for delivery that day, it is likely that will encourage workers to push harder in getting other orders out as well, which improves fulfillment logistics for all orders, not just those expected at the customer's door by the end of the day. This can lead to a lower shipping time as well on all fronts.

More importantly, wineries will be able to spend less time focusing on making sure their wines get shipped out, according to Piasecki. This sounds counterintuitive, since adding a shipping option means more processes need to be put in place. However, that can also mean a shift in the way your wine orders are processed over the course of the day. Rather than running through a series of functions and decisions in order to ship wine, you would have to cut down the number of steps in order to ensure the item gets delivered in time. By reducing this bureaucratic process to prioritizing what needs to be sent today, you can become a leaner winery that is able to handle a sudden influx of orders, all the while maintaining satisfied customers.

Sheri Hebbeln
July 23, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln

Is your winery prepared for the future of ecommerce?

Ecommerce has been growing steadily more popular year after year. If online wine sales are becoming a greater focus for you, it's important to have the right ecommerce fulfillment capabilities in place. Omnichannel retailing is increasingly gaining attention because consumers expect companies to meet their needs and preferences at all times. This tactic aims to offer customers a consistent level of service through whichever channel they choose to utilize, which is why omnichannel is effective for brands that maintain a traditional brick-and-mortar store and an online presence.

However, it's still easy to run into issues with your online wine store. When left unchecked, these problems can seriously hurt your operation. Marketing publication Fourth Source highlighted some issues that should be avoided or resolved:

  • Making too many updates at once: If you've waited too long to update your winery's website, trying to do too much at once can overwhelm returning customers, and the site may not have the high level of functionality you wanted.
  • Focusing on short-term goals rather than the big picture: It may be tempting to make short-term fixes to your website for the sake of meeting current objectives. However, if major improvements are needed to achieve a better omnichannel strategy, it may be worth the investment, even if it takes a little time to implement.
  • Poor communication with customers: Omnichannel means being more accessible to consumers at all times. If shoppers run into problems with an online order, it may be easier for them to pick up the phone to deal with the issue rather than waiting for a response to email. Make sure contact information for your winery is easy to find.

How to establish an omnichannel retailing strategy
Omnichannel can put a lot of pressure on wineries because online offerings and ecommerce fulfillment typically need to improve to meet customer preferences. Here are tips for some upgrades you can make to ensure your winery is ready for the future:

  1. Better inventory visibility: Not only will this increase customer satisfaction, but it's good for you as well. Increased insight into stock levels ensures you aren't processing orders on your website for products that are out of stock, according to Supply Chain Management Review, citing data from Capgemini. Advanced wine inventory software can improve stock management.
  2. Offer the same products across all channels: While there are obviously some special exceptions, like exclusive promotions, in general you should advertise the same products across each customer channel. If visitors try a wine in your tasting room and decide to buy it online later, they will be frustrated if they can't purchase it from your website.
  3. Have the right wine shipping options: Omnichannel aims to give customers more choices for how they shop. Your ecommerce fulfillment strategy needs to be agile and flexible to meet these changing demands and provide a high-quality experience for shoppers around the country. Wineries need to find a way to reach customers more quickly and at a low cost. 

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

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.