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.
The most important time in a customer relationship is the three months following their first purchase.
That statement may or may not be true for you... but it's true for Kevin Hillstrom. Do you know what percentage of your first time customers will purchase again? And do you know within what time frame they will place their subsequent orders?
We spend a lot of time tweaking the customer experience on winery websites so that visitors will make the first purchase. We also know that repeat customers are the best customers to have. What happens between the first purchase and a customer becoming a repeat purchaser?
There are some really great comments in Kevin's blog:
Consider the following scenarios:
First Time Purchaser in the Tasting Room
A visitor from out-of-town makes their first purchase in your tasting room. Converting them to a repeat purchaser becomes a lot easier if your POS and website talk with each other. We would recommend that they receive a 'Thank You' for visiting email, followed by an email asking them to rate the wines they bought, and a coupon to entice them to make their second purchase online.
First Time Purchaser on the Web
For most wineries this consumer may be a little more rare. They heard about your wine from a friend or at a restaurant, and now they come to your website and order a bottle. Do you treat them the same as any other customer? Wouldn't it be better to treat them special with a customized message and coupon for their second purchase?
Shop.org released the results of their eHoliday Study pre-holiday consumer and retailer surveys early in November. Here is a brief summary of the key findings when consumers were asked, "When choosing to make holiday purchases from a given retailer, what is most important to you?":
Shop.org followed it up with a second post summarizing results of a survey of consumers about which specific Web site features they rely on most when making holiday purchases. When rated out of 5:
While none of these results are surprising, it still is astounding how many wineries don't address these issues that these survey results prove are very important to their customers. Doing so could bring that customer back to purchase again.
Are slow loading web pages causing you to lose purchasers?
The holiday season is the busiest season for winery websites. If your site isn't optimized for the load, you're selling yourself short. Earlier this month Get Elastic posted some of the research from Forrester Research on web page loading speed on their blog. Here are a few notible excerpts:
There are 3 factors that cause slow loading pages.
1) The webserver is slow. There is a trend (especially in ecommerce) to have more dynamic content which places a larger load on webservers. Webservers can become slow because there is too much traffic, the database may be slow, the hardware might be under powered, and/or the software application may not be optimally constructed. There are a number of ways to combat slow webservers such as load balancing, caching queries, adding more hardware, and reviewing overall code architecture. There are lots of load testing tools available to web developers and your developer should have a sense of how much traffic their webserver can hold.
2) The web page has large images, lots of images, large flash files, or is poorly constructed. Obviously larger images, more images, and large flash content all take longer to load. There are ways to combat slow pages including using a content delivery network, ensuring images, css, and scripts are cached, compressing and/or minimizing files, and using preloaders. Your web developer should be able to tell you the overall size of your web page and give you options to have it load faster. (Tools like YSlow make this really easy.)
3) Connection speeds are slow. Internet service providers don't always provide the connection speeds they advertise. We still see a decent percentage of traffic that is still on dial up networks. Your web page probably still needs to cater to a percentage of dialup users. (Your analytic software may give you a sense of what percentage of traffic is still on a dialup connection.)
The holiday season is almost here. It's probably a good time to ensure that your website is performing at an optimal speed before the traffic increases.
Thinking about redesigning your winery website? If so, here are three common mistakes to avoid before jumping into your redesign.
Even though your old site might be dated, it still garners traffic from outside sources. Half the people visiting a winery website enter via a search engine. Inbound links from blogs, social media, and other websites also represent a good portion of traffic.
These links to product pages, company pages, contact pages, etc are often broken in a site redesign. (Different platforms and designers handle URLs differently, and often you will want your URL structure updated for search engine ranking and other reasons).
The proper way to handle updating URL structure is:
Your most frequent site visitors probably don't want you to drastically change the site design (even if it's better, people don't always want to learn a new way of doing a task).
In an ideal world, your site would be continually enhanced rather than drastically altered every few years. If your club members are used to coming to your site and quickly placing an order, and you then completely redesign the store, it often throws the user way off.
Consider the redesign we did this past year for Twisted Oak. The new site is more of a progression on the old site rather than an evolution. The overall navigation structure and location of the wines and products didn't change that much and previous visitors should be able to find their way around.
Bottom line, think 'evolution' rather than 'revolution'.
We see a lot of redesigns just because a site is dated. While it's fine to redesign a dated site, it's even better to set goals for your site.
Design is very important to your site, but you should look first at function, structure, goals, and business objectives of the site. Your designer should walk you through a design process that starts with these goals.
We start all of our sites with a goal questionnaire followed by wireframes. A wireframe will allow you to focus on function (for example what are the key elements on the homepage and what are their goals) rather than on design.
One more thing to think about when redesigning your site is the historical data. If you are switching platforms, it's important that order history, customer lists and other data be brought over to your new site. The longer you sell online, the more important this data becomes. (Being able to build lists, segment customers, etc off historical data is a very effective way of marketing.)
If you are thinking about a redesign, there are more options and better tools than ever before. Just make sure you are thinking about the overall affects rather than doing a redesign just for the sake of a redesign.
As an owner of a wine web site one of the biggest challenges you will face is conveying "The Experience" of your winery, facility, vineyard, and wines. At Vin 65 we often get asked to capture as much of the atmosphere of the winery in the design of the web site as possible. We use all kinds of things like flash and photos to give the visitor to the web site as much as we can.
At Vin 65 we have lots of fun ideas, some are really out there. My current personal favourite is offering an online tasting pack. The purpose is give a visitor the option to have a virtual tasting room experience. In a tasting room there is a $10 fee or something to taste some wine and then you get a credit towards your purchase. So why not built a tasting pack around 6 small bottles that are like 200ml or 150ml each and send it out for $25.00 or something with a $20.00 coupon towards their next purchase?
In this way you can give someone the option to try and savour some of your amazing wine if they can't get out to your winery for a tasting. It allows potential direct to trade customers to sample without spending hundreds of dollars. Getting out to the winery is the best, but if someone back East can't make it out this year for your new vintages, give them an option. How are you going to capture new customers or give your current fans a vehicle to send their friends a cool tasting gift.
Anyway, back to the main point of the post and that is sharing what your are all about on the web site, as limiting as a web site is. One thing you never see is a 360 view of your wine bottle. Now, hardly anyone does this, maybe because the impact just wouldn't be worth effort. I saw it for the first time the other day and was shocked how much more impact it had than I thought was possible. It looks really impressed on silk screened labels, but works on any bottle. Take a look at JAQK Cellars - and click the 360 view on the drilldown page. I like it - a lot, I feel like I am experiencing that bottle of wine as much as I can with out opening it.
We've seen consumer reviews make a large difference in conversion rates online, and we've known for quite some time that people trust other people's opinions. Here are the numbers according to Nielsen. 70% of consumers trust consumer opinions posted online. This is higher than trust of TV, newspaper, magazine, radio and all other mass advertising listed in the survey. (Thanks Kristina for sending this to me earlier this week.)
If you are not letting consumers post reviews on your website, is it maybe because you don't trust your consumers?
The customer experience in the checkout process will make a difference in whether a customer completes the transaction or abandons their cart.
Here are five points to consider in your checkout process:
1) Make it easy for customers to get to the checkout area. Once items have been added to the cart, the "checkout" button should be clearly marked and visible to the customer. This button should be the largest button on the cart page. (Also ensure that when a customer clicks the checkout button, they are taken to the checkout page.)
2) Keep the customer focused. Once inside the checkout area, don't lead the customer away to other sales or promotions. The checkout process should be fully enclosed and devoid of almost all navigational elements. (Have you noticed that most large ecommerce stores switch their navigation or remove their navigation in the checkout area.)
3) Only capture the information required. This seems obvious, but how many times in the checkout process have you been asked for buying preferences, newsletter signups, or even to select a username and password. Gathering extraneous information can easily be done after the customer checks out. (Use contact points such as the confirmation page and order confirmation emails to request the user signup for your newsletter, create an account, etc)
4) Assure the customer about the trustworthiness and security of the checkout process. Trustworthiness can be communicated through a security assurance message and having an SSL certificate. Trustworthiness is also communicated by posting contact information, delivery charges and by having a smooth checkout process.
5) Use Customer Friendly Forms. There are a large number eye tracking studies with regards to forms and labels. It's accepted that the form fields should fit the information that is to be entered and should be clearly labelled. Studies also show clear advantages when the label is placed directly above the form field. Form fields are not a great place to show off creativity.
Is customer experience costing you sales? Visit the recent store we launched for Cuvaison and tell us what you think of the customer experience. We would love to hear your opinion.
Have you ever really thought about the 'Add to Cart' function on your ecommerce site? In a typical experience (and this is true on sites we build), you are in the store, you look at an item, you click 'add to cart' and you are taken away from the product you are looking at and redirected to a completely different area of the website where you focus on the items in your cart.
Imagine if the offline world behaved the same way. You walk through the grocery store, picked up an item, looked at it, and then when you added it to your shopping cart you are whisked away to a different part of the store and all you can see are the items in your cart.
One of the big ways to improve a user experience on the web is to not take users out of the context they are in. In a site we launched last week, Twisted Oak does this 'Add to Cart' experience well. If you are on a product list page and click 'Add to Cart' (or Add To Sack in this case), you stay on the same product list page and a little 'modal' cart drops in to let you know the item was added. If you are on a product drilldown page, and click 'Add to Cart', the same modal effect. The user is never whisked away to another part of the site.
From a user perspective this "modal cart" becomes more like the real world shopping experience where you add something to your cart, and continue down the same isle.
What do you think?
I was recently travelling with one of our sales reps and was intrique by the line of question that wineries asked us. A number of people fell into one of two camps:
Inward Facing: This type of person asked operational type questions about how the website could make their operations easier. Questions like: Does our platform integrate with their POS system? How can they get UPS shipping labels out of our platform? Almost all of the questions centered around the operations at the winery and how we could make it easier.
Outward Facing: This type of person asked sales type questions about how the website could sell more, how customers interact with it, and how they could go to market better or more efficiently with a website.
I'm not arguing against either of these camps. There is a need for both. I was just really intrigued by how some people really tended to lean one way. For myself, when I look at personality types, I typically like to know where I fit in so I can realize that other people think different than me.
So are you inward or outward?
A client wrote an email that reads "....I've been reading a bunch of articles and blogs on ecommerce carts and one of the trends I noticed was that customers are more likely to purchase something from your site when they "feel" secure using it. What sort of messages/images can we display/use to create this "feeling" that our site is secure?"
Providing reassurances to the customer through the checkout process does lead to less cart abandonment and encourages conversions.
So what kind of messages make you feel "safe". It's not just one thing. Trust arises out of lots of small trust-producing features.
So what is the perfect assurance message? No one message is going to work for everyone. Start with some of the basics, and then use Google Website Optimizer to test it over time.
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