Welcome to the Vin65 blog. We are using this space to try and convey our little piece of insight into winery websites and best practices to sell more wine online.
A few weeks ago I blogged about the importance of first time visitors on your website. (First time visitors represent over 60% of traffic on our websites that we build.)
After watching the First Time Visitor presentation, we started playing with our Vin | 65 website to see what we could do to enhance first time visitor experiences. (One of the biggest changes was how much more content and effort we put into our 'About Us' page)
Here is some questions you should consider:
Need some help analyzing your websites first time visitor traffic? We can assist you with this even if your not currently our client (no obligation)
Believe it or not, as web developers we face a very similar problem to winery owners. There's 3000+ commercial wineries in United States. I have no idea how many web firms there are, but I can tell you it's way more than 3000.
So we find ourselves asking the same questions that wineries ask... how do we differentiate our product and services and how do we stand out.
Pretty much every wine maker will tell you they are "passionate" and they make "quality" wine. Same thing in the web development world. They tell you how they have quality code, it's XHTML and CSS compliant and follow best practices, etc.
I read the post on Stormhoek.com two weeks ago "It's Not What You Make, It's What You Stand For". To a degree I agree, but to a degree I really disagree (that's a confusing sentence). The products you make, and everything you do needs to stand behind what you stand for.
At Vin | 65 we build winery ecommerce websites. From a wineries perspective we have a very similar product offering to Interia Beverage, eWinerySolutions, Nexternal, Wine Web, Cultivate, and many others. (From my perspective, as a developer I will tell you we are very different just like a wine maker will say his wines are very different from everyone else). So in a customer's eyes how do we stand apart?
This is a question that we've been continually developing over the last while. In January 2009 a new version of our platform launches and we really hope to make a clearer statement on what we stand for. (Until then, read our Mission and Philosophy and what we stand for here). I really hope what we stand for shows in what we make.
I've stumbled upon your website. I'm like one of the other 60% of people on your site. It's my first time visiting... Why should I buy wine from your website? It's Christmas time, so I might be in a spending spirit, but then again the economy is down, so that spending spirit might be slightly suppressed.
According to Wikipedia, a value proposition is the sum total of benefits which a vendor promises that a customer will receive in return for the customer's associated payment. (In simple terms, what the customer gets for what the customer pays)
To me your value proposition goes a little beyond that. I know I can buy a bottle of wine from you online, and there is a good chance that I will receive a bottle of wine. To me your value proposition is your story.
Two weeks ago, I was in Vancouver and I was trying to buy a pair of jeans. For me I'm trying to be socially responsible and it's fairly important where my clothes are made (I try if possible to not support a sweat shop). Vancouver is full of socially responsible stores, and I walked into a jean store and found a really nice pair of jeans. The vendor assured me the jeans were made in LA, but upon closer inspection I found the label said they were in Made in P.R.C. (Being somewhat savvy, I can tell you that Peoples Republic of China is not the same as Los Angeles).
The story behind the clothes is important to me. The story behind your wine is important to a lot of customers. It often represents the total value proposition. When there are thousands of other labels out there, one of the only ways to stand out is to tell your story. This holiday season ensure that your story is on your website.
If you don't quite understand what I mean by Story - I found this great blog post by Seth Godin which defines it a little further.
On November 10th, shop.org had a blog post titled "Is Free Shipping a MUST in this economy?". I've seen this posted numerous times around the internet in several blog posts including this question posted by Future Now: Do customers prefer to see a Free Shipping offer rather than calculate and pay a lower price that includes paid shipping?
Being very logical, I personally always like to know my total acquisition cost (both the item plus shipping and taxes) before I commit to a sale and I always opt for the lowest price. For me "Free Shipping" always seems like a gimmick because I know that the product price will reflect the shipping (FedEx has yet to offer free shipping).
When I buy a book, I typically put Amazon.com verses Amazon.ca verses Chapters.ca to see where I have the lowest total cost. (As a Canadian all three websites will ship to me and I'm often amazed at the price difference and that there is often a clear winner every time).
I do think the average web customer is fairly savvy (and more savvy than the 2005 experiments I've read research on), so I'm not sure they fall for a higher cost product with a free shipping offer. Having said that, I do still think there is some perceived value in "Free Shipping" that can affect customer decisions.
When I look at free shipping, here is what I know: whenever companies start to compete on price it's a spiral downwards. On the internet, I can easily pit three companies against each other that sell the same commodity. Price is not a great way to differentiate yourself (unless you're Wal-Mart). You want to tell a different story rather than being the lowest cost provider.
From a winery perspective, wine is heavy and expensive to ship. Free shipping isn't really a long term sustainable promotion. Most of the time free shipping promotions are offered on large volume orders (case or more) which doesn't always bode well for first time customers who only want to sample your wine.
As a winery, I personally think you need to keep shipping reasonable (possibly even have it as a lost leader), you need to be open and upfront the total product cost (tell them the shipping before you get to the cart), and ultimately you need a better selling proposition than free shipping (ie focus on your product, on your delivery, on your service, etc).
What do you think?
P.S. Do any of our clients, or possibly Crushpad ecommerce clients (who all use our platform), or perhaps even another winery want to run an A/B experiment where half of your traffic will have free shipping and the other half would have regular shipping and we can calculate the overall affect on your orders this Christmas season? We would be willing to help setup and conduct this experiment and I think we have time to do this yet this holiday season. Feel free to contact me.
Earlier this week Google released its 22 page Search Engine Optimization Start Guide.
Most of the tips we've been preaching for quite some time (especially their top 3).
If you have a website built by us, and have any questions at all how to implement some of these suggestions into your site, be sure and call or email our office.
We constantly look at ways to get our existing customers and our best customers to buy more, but what about the first time visitor. This could be an untapped opportunity on your website.
This past week at Vin | 65 we watched a great presentation on First Time Visitors. Consider some of these facts:
If first time visitors are 60% of your traffic and they convert at 2%, growing this conversion from 2% to 3% is a much bigger sales gain than growing your repeat visitor from 8% conversion to 9% conversion. If your first time visitors are not converting well, there can be some low hanging fruit here.
What is the goal of a first time visitor? In your tasting room the goal is obviously for them to try some wine, and ultimately buy a few bottles.
On the web the goal is to either have this visitor buy a bottle or two, or to have them signup for a newsletter, and definately have them come back to your site in the future.
So how do you treat first time visitors? You need to build trust. Having a good "About Us" page. Maybe having a "First Time Visitor" page. How about some testimonials? user generate ratings?
You should also make it easier for first time visitors to buy wine. Shipping is a huge hurdle and typically wineries give shipping discounts on larger quantity orders, but a first time visitor probably only wants to "try" your wine before they commit to a larger quantity order. You may want to look at First Time Visitor shipping coupons.
How do you convert first time visitors?
One of the main goals of your website should be to ask visitors to subscribe to your email list. At what point during their visit should you ask them to subscribe?
Asking on the Homepage
Having a subscribe form on the homepage can come across as being too forward. You wouldn't walk into a bar and ask a girl for her phone number right away. Instead you try and start a conversation before you ask for personal information. For tasting room traffic you wouldn't ask a visitor as soon as they walked through the door. Here again you try and start a conversation before asking for their email address.
Asking visitors to subscribe on your homepage before they have had a chance to learn about your company and your products will result in fewer subscriptions.
Asking during Checkout
A second alternative is to ask a website visitor to "subscribe" during the checkout process. This is really important however you will only be collecting email addresses from your purchasers and not from your non-purchasing visitors. People who never go through the checkout process will be missing out.
Asking based on Location
Where is the correct location for a subscribe form?
It’s my opinion that you should ask for a visitors to subscribe around the 3rd or 4th page they view. At this point the website visitor has shown some interest in your website and your products. You should also have the subscribe option show up in key areas of the site such as the 'About Us' page and if there is room on the navigation, having a 'Newsletter' or 'Email Offers' option. (Ideally this subscribe form should only appear if the person visiting the site isn't a subscriber already.)
Email subscription forms can be stand alone elements or built right into the website copy (for example, on a product page, you can ask people to subscribe to learn about new product releases and when next year's vintage of this wine will be available)
Email subscriptions should be one of the main goals of your website, and therefore both the copy and the form placement should be tested for optimal conversion rates.
In the offline world, you should have a subscribe signup sheet right at the tasting room. This is one of the easiest ways to grow your email subscriber list. (You can then take this hand written list, manually insert them into your subscriber database, and with the right tools have an email generated to each subscriber thanking them for visiting your tasting room, introduce your website, and asking them to "opt in" to your email list)
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