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.
Its 2011, but a lot of websites I visit still feel like they are in 2008. So here it is, David Letterman style with Wayne's World graphic (for the really retro), the Top 10 Signs Your Winery Website is Stuck in 2008.
10. Your last blog post is dated 2008.
In 2008 you were so innovative that you jumped on the blogging band wagon. Blogging was everywhere and you wanted to take part. Unfortunately your enthusiasm died after about 8 blog posts.
If your blog hasn't been updated since 2008, it's time to remove the blog from your website.
9. Flash on the homepage with no alternative.
Flash animations used to be cool. What better way to express your story? Unfortunately, people got sick of flash intros and have turned flash off. People on the iPad can't see your flash. Mobile visitors usually don't have flash installed, nor do they want to wait for it to load.
8. You have birthdate validation on entry.
Birthdate validation on site entry is a visitor turn off (and consumers often enter false dates until they get to the checkout process).
There are so many reasons not to do birthdate validation on site entry that I could write a blog post on it - but consider this - the major wine retailers (wine.com, winelibrary.com, winetasting.com, etc) all don't have it and I know first hand the amount of testing that goes on at winetasting.com.
We do not condone selling alcohol to minors, and believe that birthdate validation should be done on checkout, and ID verification on package delivery.
7. Your product pages don't have your recent vintages and/or contain vintages you no longer have available.
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing out of date product content on a website. It's not only frustrating to customers; it also frustrates your distributors, trade people, and bloggers who all want current images and tasting notes.
6. You're not using a Content Management System
If you have to pay your web designer to update products and other content you are out of date (truthfully you were out of date in 2008 also). It's vitally important for you to be able to update your own content, and content management systems are very mature and pretty much a commodity.
5. Copyright notice still says 2008.
Your visitors know you stuck in 2008 when your copyright still says 2008. If your content is out of date and stale, people won't keep returning to your site.
4. Your heading text is images
The last few years have brought great technology for fonts on the web. It's important that your heading text be text rather than images - important for search engines, for bandwidth, and just for general ease of maintenance.
3. No customer ratings or reviews.
In 1999 Amazon stated that the 2.5 million reviews it featured are what made it popular. We've known for years that customer ratings and reviews help sell products. In 2009 Wine.com revealed that products with reviews sold more. If you don't have customer ratings and reviews, your site is 2008.
2. You have a splash page.
Splash pages were out in 2008 but I still see them. A splash page does nothing for you other than give a customer a reason to not visit your homepage.
1. No mention of social media anywhere
And the number one sign your website is stuck in 2008 - no mention of social media anywhere. The last couple of years we've seen a large uptick in social media activity. Facebook with over 500 million users is mainstream. If you don't at least have a Facebook link on your website, you might be stuck in 2008.
And to continue our Top 10 list, here are the Top 10 Signs Your Website Is Stuck In 1998 courtesy of my colleagues.
10. Your web address has the word geocities in it
9. Free hosting ads on your website
8. You have a 'make this your homepage' button on your website
7. You have a 'best viewed in Internet Explorer' button
6. Under construction page
5. Your neighbour’s high school son built your web page
4. The fixed width is designed for 800x600
3. Your site is built in frames
2. Auto playing music
1. Animated gif images
What signs have you seen that still point to 2008?
I was contemplating a geeked out blog post talking about some of the cool stuff we've learned at Vin65 in 2010 (some of us are learning new programming languages, others are spending time in HTML5, CSS3, iPad and mobile technologies, etc). Instead I opted for the non-geeky, somewhat more-directly-relevant to our customers, 5 Things We Learned in 2010.
At the end of 2009 we saw mobile traffic reach the 5% mark on some of our websites. At Vin65 we knew we had to do something to improve user experience while visiting websites from a mobile device so we created our mobile platform. Visit a site like www.twistedoak.com on your iPhone, Android Phone, or Blackberry Torch and you’ll be presented with our mobile experience.
Mobile visitors who visit a website with a mobile specific experience are far more engaged than mobile visitors on a traditional site. Mobile users spend more time on the mobile website, they visit more pages, they click through more often and they purchase more frequently, but none of this is really surprising.
What is surprising is this... while mobile traffic is now closing in on 10% of traffic on some sites, mobile sales aren’t 10% of total ecommerce sales. The number one thing mobile visitors do on the mobile winery site is view wine, and the number two thing is visit the ‘contact us’ page. (On a traditional site, the 'contact us' page will often be in the top 10 but never at the 2nd or 3rd spot).
Mobile visitors do buy on their mobile phones (we aren’t going to give away the numbers), but they are different than the regular visitor on traditional sites and most wine ecommerce sales are still done on the traditional site. This data is helping us identify new ways to engage mobile visitors.
2011 will be a big year to watch as smart phones continue to be more prominent, more websites start to embrace mobile traffic, and more customers start to use their smart phones for web surfing.
Wine ecommerce platforms are getting to a place where wineries and wine retailers now care more about customer support than additional features. Sure features matter, and we think we meet or exceed our competitors on features, but with all the great platforms available, customer support weighs heavily in the decision.
Customer support via video documentation, online training, live telephone support, responsive emails, etc. is what our customers and prospects care about the most.
As a side note, the online training done by Brent has really taken off. Be sure to check it out.
The iPad was one of the most exciting technologies for consumers in 2010. We saw some of our clients, more specifically Pithy Wines embrace it immediately (long before we had an iPad app). Pithy purchased a number of iPads and displayed their web page with a 'subscribe' form to engage with tasting room visitors.
The iPad was our number one product launch in 2010. (I knew it was going to be great, but we were overwhelmed with inquiries).
The iPad (and tablet technology) has the power to replace the traditional paper signup forms to really engage visitors and wineries have been quick to embrace it.
Wineries want more insight and a 360 degree view of their customers. Wineries want to know lifetime value, last order, most recent visit, etc. across channels. We are seeing real time integrations between systems like ours with POS systems. Other wine vendors are producing great CRM tools. (The dashboard analytics being produced by VingDirect this past year are amazing.)
I first heard the phrase 'actionable CRM' from Paul Mabray at VinTank. What wineries really need is the ability to act on the information they have. For example: A visitor enters a tasting room. How do you engage this customer - not just in this visit, but also in the future? Wineries are exploring the iPad, POS integration, and other tools that not only capture, but take action with these visitors.
On the web, we are seeing some clients really mine their data. Some of our clients chase abandoned carts. Some clients telemarket to their best customers. Some clients contact their good customers who have stopped buying. We are also seeing clients measuring the results from these CRM activities. 2010 was a great year to watch actionable CRM start to take root with wineries.
Social Media has been everywhere the past couple years. We are now seeing social ecommerce taking root (sites like Groupon, wineries selling wine on Facebook thru Cruvee). It’s been fun watching Deals from the Vines and other social type of sales. We also worked with WineTasting.com and some of their partners to do some social sales - with mixed results. In 2010 we saw social commerce start to take off and things are going to get even more innovative in 2011.
As a winery or wine retailer you should be watching the social space and starting to investigate social commerce.
2010 was a banner year for learning, not only for me personally but also for our team. In 2011 I’m sure we'll see improvements on all of these areas and we’ll continue to learn and bring those findings into strategies to enhance our platform.
What has been the #1 thing you learned in 2010?
It's pretty easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. We become engrossed in our own jobs and forget the big picture.
I was talking with a potential client this week who was really concerned with POS and accounting integration for their winery website. This integration seemed to be the focus of the entire call. This surprised me because their website had almost no sales.
Shouldn’t the focus be on sales first and accounting integration second? Shouldn’t we talk about strategies for getting more people to buy from their site rather than discussing how we get data to accounting? (As an aside, Vin65 has first class integrations with Microsoft RMS, Quickbooks, and has great webservices for other POS systems to connect to.)
Another prospective client spent over an hour combing through our wine club processing tools. They are a great winery, but their club has less than 200 members.
Rather than focusing on club processing, shouldn’t the focus be on club growth and how the website could attract more club members? Rather than review how quickly a wine club can be processed, shouldn’t we be talking about reducing club attrition, and incentives for people to sign up for the club? (As another aside, Vin65 does have great club processing tools.)
The primary goals for a website should be to increase sales, increasing club memberships, build better relationships with customers, deliver better customer service, and promote the brand story. POS integration, wine club processing, and other details are important, but don’t let them bog you down.
PS. I’m happy to discuss POS integration and club processing with anyone, but I would much rather talk about increasing checkout, reducing cart friction and promoting club growth and other primary goals first.
As a consumer, I buy a lot online. I buy a lot of wine and I buy a lot of other goods. I enjoy going through websites not on the Vin65 platform and testing out their shopping experience. Even when the site has a terrible experience, I'll often wade through the hassle (and some sites make purchasing a huge hassle).
In the last couple of weeks, I've stopped just short of making a few purchases. The marketing email I received was enticing, but after clicking through to the website, the site failed to deliver.
This holiday season, if I come to your site, and I fail to purchase - here are a few reasons you may have lost me as a customer:
1. I won't buy because your site is non-functional or broken.
Make sure the links in the email work. Make sure the 'add to cart' works. If there is an error, show me a friendly error screen, don't show me a server error.
As an aside, this past week I was on a couple of websites with raw server errors - those are a major security risk. Ask your vendor to fix them or get a new vendor.
2) I won't buy because your site is painfully slow.
Speed sells. I don't want to wait and wait and wait for content to load. On one winery's site I had to wait 5-8 seconds for a page to load. It was a big turn off and was the reason I left the site. I intended to come back later to see if speed improved, but I didn't. Your customers will probably act the same way. Most vendors know that holiday traffic is heavier than regular traffic. People have less patience during the holidays - make your site faster.
3) I won't buy because your site looks ugly.
Maybe I'm shallow. Websites where everything is misaligned, ugly, from the stone age or has major browser compatibility issues typically indicate that the order, if placed, isn’t going to go well. People make snap judgments about who you are (often unconsciously) based on how your site looks. Make sure your website looks great.
I realize there are a lot of factors that stop customers from making a purchase (just peruse through our blog for more examples). I purposely called out these three issues because I experienced them all this week and they drove me away from purchasing wine.
During the holiday season, we often recommend that customers don't make large changes to their site. It's a busy time and you don't want to confuse customers. However, if your site has one or more of the problems above, I'd consider fixing it - especially if you want your customers to complete their purchase this holiday season.
This past summer, like summers before, our staff took a holiday together to the Okanagan Wine Region. We rented a van, had a designated driver, and toured a number of wineries before ending up at a house boat on the Shuswap.
Here's the thing. I know I bought a couple of cases of wine on the trip. I know I tasted some great wine. I know I had some great experiences in several tasting rooms. But now, three months later, not only can I not remember the specific wines I tasted, I can’t even remember all the tasting rooms I visited. I'm sure several tasting rooms handed me a paper sheet on the flight of wines I tried, but those are long gone too.
Tasting rooms are a great place for a winery to engage a visitor - but if you want to create a relationship with someone from out of town, you have to continue to reach out to visitors beyond the tasting room.
'Shameless Vin65 plug coming...'
Today we launched our Tasting Room iPad Application. iPads are fun... infectious in fact. So what if I pick up an iPad in the Tasting Room? What if I entered my email address, and as I tasted a flight of wine went through and rated each wine? I even "favorite" a couple. Afterwards, when I get home, I receive an email thanking me for my visit and reminding me of the wine I liked.
There are a lot of ways to engage the out of town visitor after you have their email address and some knowledge of the wines they like. From a simple email thanking them for their visit, to an email "Remember the wine you marked as 5 star - we have it on sale", are both great customer service and sales strategies.
The iPad isn't a replacement for tasting room staff (technology will never replace the personal experience), but it is a tool to assist in building the valuable relationship with your customers to increase your profits.
You can read more about what we are doing here and here. You can check out what another Napa entrepreneur, Winergy Inc is doing here. (Great minds think alike). Our iPad application is available today whether you're a Vin65 client, IBG eCommerce client, or a winery or wine retailer on another platform.
If you have a chance, we would love to know your thoughts on the iPad in the tasting room. Leave a comment below or send me an email.
Last December I wrote a post that the most important time in a customer relationship is the three months following their first purchase. I want to revisit that and state that the most important order is a customer’s second order.
A visitor walks into your tasting room, tries some of your wine, and places an order. They then leave your tasting room. Now what? How do you take this new customer and turn them into a repeat customer?
In preparation for this post, I ran some numbers. Here’s how important the second order is. We analyzed wine sales across our system and found:
Here are some more numbers from About.com
Getting a person to become a repeat purchaser is important, but how do you move them from a onetime customer to repeat purchaser?
One example might be to send an email thanking the customer for their first time purchase and have them rate the wine and their purchasing experience. For their efforts reward them with a coupon for a second purchase.
Whatever strategy you implement, remember to test and measure the results (and be sure to share them with us).
You’ve had a website for a number of years (at least I hope your winery has a website) and now you want to add an ecommerce store. Here are the key elements to creating a shoppable wine website:
Product Information: Ensure that you have great product pages with rich product information, the product price and the ability to add to cart. Make sure the shopper has everything they need to know about your wine. If your customers are asking the same questions about your wine and that information isn't included on your product page, respond by adding it. Go the extra mile to establish trust by including customer ratings and reviews and enable social sharing. (For more info read our post on The Anatomy of a Great Wine Page)
Professional Wine Bottle/Label Images: The images of your product often make or break the sale. People like to see pictures of the wine they buy. (While we don’t have hard numbers, we can definitely say products with images outsell products without images). Professional crisp images are far superior to pictures taken with a consumer grade digital camera and reflect positively on your brand.
Contact Information: Have your contact information everywhere. (We recommend including your phone number right on your website header like WineTasting.com). Build trust by having both contact us and customer service pages (customers like to know how to contact you if their is a problem with their product).
Frictionless Checkout Process: No online shopping experience is complete without a shopping cart and allowing customers to checkout easily. Build a frictionless checkout by reducing forms to only necessary information and enabling guests to checkout without registering. (For more info read our post on
Reducing Friction Points in Checkout)
Before you launch the ecommerce portion of your site, ensure you have all the necessary elements to make your customers feel comfortable. Inspire confidence and trust by providing all of the information they’ll be looking for without having to search for it. Try purchasing wine from your own site and ensure the experience is optimized.
P.S. One of my favorite "shoppable" wine sites we've launched recently is the Inman Family Wines site.
It's always great when we hear or see our clients dedicating time and resources to marketing and testing their wine e-commerce store. Tweaking store content, optimizing email promotions, and general testing can take your e-commerce sales to the next level.
Our client/partner Wine Tasting Network (WTN) is a company we love working with because of the amount of testing they do. They gave us permission to share one of their most recent tests including the results. WTN has a few websites on our platform including Geerlings and Wade. Club members can reorder wine from their club shipment and receive 20% off if they purchase $200 or more. The director of marketing, Kristina Palko recently conducted a test to see if highlighting/reminding club members of this discount would increase reorders.
Creative for May VIP Package Insert
Starburst On June Newsletter
The object is to increase reorder revenue from Passport Wine Club members.
Test a dollar offer versus a percentage offer to see if the average order size is directly related.
Here are a few of my takeaways for wineries:
Thank you WTN (specifically Chris Edwards for allowing us to post your test on our blog, and Kristina for running and tracking tests like these).
There are tens if not hundreds of analytic measurements you can conduct on your website. Unique visitors, page views, top content, where people are visiting your site from, are all great things to look at.
The two most powerful, but often overlooked measurements are conversion rate and customer retention rate.
Conversion rate is the total number of sales divided by the total number of people visiting your site. (Technically conversion rate is the number of goals achieved divided by the number of visits, and there are a number of measurements people use such as total number of sales divided by total number of carts started, etc – the important thing is to measure it consistently month over month).
Total Number Of Visitors
Total Number Of Sales
Conversion rate gives you a benchmark of how well your ecommerce is performing month over month. Once you have a measurement, you can start to play with factors that affect conversion rate including usability, content, navigation, etc. Try changing button sizes, minimizing steps to checkout, having larger images, etc and gauge whether it increases or decreases conversion rate.
(One of the best resources on the web for conversion rate optimization is the blog at Future Now Inc)
Customer retention refers to the percentage of customers that continue to return as customers with you after a given time period.
In the wine industry, customer retention should be measured in two areas:
Total Number of Club Members Last Month
Total Number of Club Members That Remain In The Club This Month
It’s far easier and costs significantly less to retain customers than to gain new customers. Bautomation claims that a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.
The next time you are looking to see how well your ecommerce is performing, skip unique visitors and page views and calculate conversion and retention rates.
Keeping your website fresh is key to its success. Visitors won’t return if the content is stale and dated.
So how often should you update your site? As often as possible! (Sorry for the smart ass answer.) In reality the answer varies from website to website and depends on your audience and your goals.
Let’s look at the different sections of your site.
Update your specials and offerings as often as you want customers to return to your site. For wine retailers you probably want customers returning every week or two weeks. For wineries it's probably more realistic for customers to return once a month.
You also want to ensure your product content is as accurate as possible. New products should be offered on the site at the same time they are offered in your tasting room or store. Product ratings, reviews, awards, and other details should be updated as soon as possible.
At a minimum, you should review your store once a month.
Some content might not be important to update as often. For time sensitive information (such as events, allocation information, etc) a strategy should be in place to ensure this information is kept up to date (Most content management systems allow for content to be added or removed from a site on specific dates). If the most recent winery events that appear on your page are several months (or years) old, your web visitors will get a sense that you're not enthused or not paying attention to details.
You should probably review your general content at least once a month.
If your goal is daily or weekly visitors then you need daily or weekly blog content. With blogging it’s important to have consistent updates if you want long term readership.
The design of your site needs to be updated a lot less frequently than the content. Your design should be updated if it's starting to look stale, if you’re missing features, if it's falling short when compared to your competitors; or anytime you update your brand, logo, or business cards.
Design changes should be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Repeat visitors need to feel like your site is changing for the better and should be able to figure out any design changes.
For most wineries and wine stores, we suggest the design of your website should be rrefeshed every one and half to two years (again this often should be evolutionary and minor rather than full scale redesigns).
If you feel like you need to update your website... you're probably right. What do you think?
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