I was in a client meeting recently where I've had the opportunity to listen to several brilliant marketers. The best piece of advice: pretend you are a customer and try to buy a bottle of wine from your site. (If you're doing this exercise I would encourage you to pick a specific customer you know from your customer list and pretend you're are him or her and go through the shopping process.)
As a customer, here are my biggest peeves when I shop for wine online:
1) Having to create an account.
Having to create an account is a large deterrent. This has been and proven over and over again (I still see it everywhere when I shop online - often in dated websites). As a customer, I want to buy a bottle of wine and give you money. I don't want to pick a unique username, password, have to authenticate, or anything else. If you still force people to create an account, you're losing a large portion of your sales.
Visualize these lost sales. According to Forrester Research, cart abandonment rate is 23%. That means you're losing 23% of your site visitors somewhere during the checkout process because they don't want to create an account on your site.
2) Insane shipping rates.
Let's face it, wine is expensive to ship. As a customer, if I buy wine on your site at your retail price I'm in your most profitable customer segment. If I'm outside of driving distance, it means that I must really like your wine and I have chosen your wine over a wine store close to me that would gladly sell wine that I could consume immediately. Why are you taking the most profitable customer segment, that customer who is fan enough to buy your wine online, and charging them rates that are sometimes above UPS posted rates?
3) Minimum Quantities.
I was talking to a wine retailer recently who forces web customers to order in quantities of 6. What if I only want two bottles? Having quantity discounts, or shipping included in the price after a certain bottle count makes sense, but don't force me to buy 6 or 12 bottles. If I only want two bottles and you attempt to force me to buy six, you probably lost a sale!
4) Lengthy Checkout Processes
As a customer I've stumbled through your site selecting a couple wines and now I'm entering the checkout process. At this point I'm prepared to give you my payment and wait for my wine. Endless forms, profiling questions, multiple pages (often very slow due to processing and security), all drag the experience down. Form fatigue is a real issue. Do you track how many people start the checkout process and never complete it? The faster the checkout line, the happier the customer and the more likely they are to complete the sale.
5) Security Assurance
When I enter my credit card I want to feel safe. Is the webpage under SSL. Does it look professional (yes the design of the page has a lot to do with how secure a person feels). I'm still shocked sometimes when I see unsecure checkouts, or checkouts that send me off to some third party unknown site to enter my credit card.
Today my question for you is - have you shopped your own wine website?
It would be great as part of the building process to go over with the owner what makes a site user-friendly. Some web developers do this, others do not.
But it is frustrating for a customer who actually wants to buy the product and finds it difficult or impossible to complete the sale. It's costly to the owner not just for the one lost sale, but for future sales from that one unhappy customer.
Any thoughts on just having a per-bottle shipping cost to simplify matters? It seems to be that being really clear about how much care you take in shipping is a way to differentiate yourself. Most sites treat shipping as an afterthought.
"How we ship your wine" would be a great blog post for a lot of wineries.
And don't forget to offer the option of picking up your wine if you have a lot of locals who order from you.
The wine shop page on Inman Family's new site (www.inmanfamilywines.com) has a really nice shipping widget on the left side of the page before you ever add wine to your cart. (This is a great implementation of shipping rates)
Nation wide flat rate shipping on Twisted Oak is also good (www.twistedoak.com) - Twisted Oak has a link to the rates at the top of each product page. Geerlings and Wade (www.geerwade.com) also has flat rate nationwide shipping, but it's a little harder to find the rates on their site.
Mike, you are right that most sites treat shipping as an after thought (some think of it as a hassle and upcharge a lot). Simple shipping rates will help you sell more wine.
P.S. Thanks for the blog post idea.
It also might benefit wineries to subsidize shipping to a certain extent. If they sold their wine to a wholesaler they would earn far less than selling it at full retail (or even discounted wine club price) and paying a portion of the shipping charge. Perhaps they could even encourage larger purchases if they subsidized shipping for a case or half case.
Allowing the customer to pick up their wines can also lead to increased sales. If a winery has a tasting room, offer a free tasting to anyone who comes to pick up their wines.
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