Welcome to the Vin65 blog. We are using this space to try and convey our little piece of insight into winery websites, POS systems, and best practices to sell more wine.
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?
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?
A little over a month ago we launched our mobile ecommerce/website platform. We've been seeing mobile web browsing increase across our platform over the last year. More and more people own iPhones, Android Phones, and other smart phones and these people are surfing the web on these phones.
Most of our winery websites (all the ones without flash) preview well on a modern smart phone, but here's what happened when we introduced winery websites specifically designed for smart phones.
These conclusions are in line with what we anticipated. When surfing on a smart phone, a mobile formatted site is easier to view, loads faster, and delivers a better experience overall, which results in the visitor being more engaged.
Want to calculate how much traffic you are missing out on if you don't have a mobile site? Google Analytics makes this pretty easy to do. Once you login to Google Analytics, on the top right hand side click 'Advanced Segment' option and select 'Mobile Traffic'.
Once you have the advanced segment set to Mobile Traffic there are two things you should look at:
Want to test out the mobile experience for yourself? On your iPhone or Android phone visit one of these three sites: www.twistedoak.com, www.cuvaison.com, or www.pinewines.com. Play around on the site for awhile (by default you will be seeing the mobile site if you are on an iPhone or Android phone).
Now click the link at the bottom of each of these 3 sites that reads 'Standard Site'. You will now be viewing the site in standard mode. What difference did you experience when viewing the mobile vs standard site?
Chris Oggenfuss is a 13 year Direct-to-Consumer wine marketing veteran working at wineries such as V. Sattui Winery, Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery. In 2009 he founded Oggenfuss Wine Marketing and over the last year has executed several marketing initiatives. My two personal favorites are the V. Sattui iPhone App and his OWMarketing Channel on Youtube.
I've had a few opportunities to talk and work with Chris and I have always been impressed. This past week he agreed to an interview about Direct-to-Consumer marketing and here is what he had to say:
Chris, for wineries just getting started or ramping up their direct-to-consumer marketing plans, which key tactics should they prioritize?
Start with the end in mind and develop a strategy. Ensure that you are customer focused; create a great experience for the consumer and build a relationship. The next step is to focus on data collection. This needs to happen across all customer contact points. I cannot stress enough how important this is! The goal is to get everyone’s email information whether you're connecting with the customer through your tasting room, website or phone. No one will ever get 100% conversion, but that should be what you strive for. Next, get yourself a database or software that helps you manage the customer data that you are collecting. Best case is to have a POS and E-commerce solution that automatically feeds this database or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, that way you are not only collecting customer data, but customer behavior and purchase history. The end goal should be a 360 degree view of your customer.
Relationship marketing: what are some simple, effective ways to provide personalized touches that can help deepen a winery's relationships with its customers?
Follow up on purchases no matter where they are made (either virtual or from your physical site) with a personalized thank you note. I can’t stress enough how far a personal thank you note can go in cementing a long-term relationship.
Acknowledge your best customers by interacting with them. Don’t let this be a one-sided relationship where the only time you communicate with them is when you send them a receipt or email them an offer.
Be available and engage where your customers and potential customers are. Be it at your winery, in a virtual sense or in social media. Are you listening to what is being said about your brand? Are you engaging at the point of need or demand? Are you adding to the conversation as opposed to broadcasting a message? When someone speaks of your brand positively follow up and thank them. If there is negative conversation engage and exercise the opportunity to convert that person into an evangelist. Some of my clients have had great success in doing this.
Humanize your brand by understanding your customer. This comes from listening and paying attention to each individual customer's needs. How do you accomplish this? Data collection - the more data you collect on a customer the more information you have to act on and personalize each contact point.
How does social media, location-based apps like Foursquare play a part in that? Anything in the pipeline that we should watch for?
Social Media allows your brand to be available 24/7, it allows you to build your peer-to-peer brand ambassadors who will help you build trust and earned media. You can continue that one-on-one conversation or relationship virtually. By becoming part of the conversation your relationships are strengthened and become even more genuine. When you build a relationship you do a lot of listening and respond according to the other persons needs, when this happens trust is built, resulting in brand loyalty and profits.
Foursquare is great in that it allows businesses to do some pretty creative things when it comes to recognizing loyalty and rewarding visitors who put you on the social map. You can see who has checked in and reach out to them in real life and start a relationship that is sure to continue.
I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media and augmented reality, especially as far as businesses can leverage the potential. I would look for more social media integration across a winery’s digital and physical assets. We are actually working on a project that does just that and also integrates data collection to convert the visitor into a customer.
One of your recent YouTube videos on the OWMarketing Channel addressed the hub and spoke analogy. Tell us more about that.
Well, the way I see it is that your website should be the hub of all your activity, meaning that this is where you want the revenue producing engagement to happen. I see Twitter, Facebook, etc as the spokes that should be used to drive traffic to your hub. I can’t tell you how many websites are doing just the opposite. They are driving the traffic, conversation, and interaction away from their sites onto the ancillary social networks. In my mind the role of social media is to help you not only engage and acquire new followers and friends, but then to help drive them back to your website where you can convert them into customers. This is how the ROI question about social media is going to get answered. The sites that are themselves set up for social commerce will be able to do this most effectively.
Your newly developed iPhone and Android app for V. Sattui Winery: Tell us about it and how wineries can use mobile apps in their marketing strategies.
We are very excited about V. Sattui’s iPhone app, they are one of the first to leverage an app to help strengthen consumer relationships and deliver relevant content to a mobile device. The app was originally developed for the music industry but we saw that a lot of its functionality could be adapted to a winery’s needs, so we approached V. Sattui winery and got them excited to the possibilities. The app allows wineries to take advantage of push notification and even geo-target that notification. Imagine you are a winery and your winemaker is in Chicago selling wine in the market. With the app you would be able to send a push notification to all your followers who are in Chicago and invite them to a special winemaker dinner. You can send push notification when a new wine is released and drive traffic to your shopping cart or tasting room. The marketing possibilities here are endless. The app also allows for full social media integration with Facebook and Twitter as well as having it’s own fan wall. It has an events calendar, allows for purchases within the app, mailing list sign up, and streaming video. It even allows you to stream live video direct to the user's phone. Basically it allows the winery to be available around the clock on a device that people carry around with them everywhere, freeing the information from the constraints of a computer. It also allows the winery access to rich analytics.
Which tactics do you recommend to increase a winery's online sales?
Here again it’s about fostering your relationship and providing a great experience. Let’s address the relationship part first. Do you understand your customer? (This goes back to being able to collect data). Are you able to target your offerings and campaigns to those customers that are most likely to purchase? Do you know what a particular customer's preferences are? Customers want to be understood and have their needs met and a well-crafted and targeted email campaign does just that. Now for the experience part, you need to make sure that your ecommerce site is easy for the consumer to use and navigate. Nothing is worse then a shopping cart that requires the user to hunt for what they want and then requires them to click through 7-10 pages to execute a purchase. Remember amazon.com has defined how users expect the online shopping experience to be. Do some RMF analysis of your database to identify your top customers and then tailor an experience accordingly. Make sure that every offer you send has urgency and a clear call to action. The final point is to make the content of your site, email campaign, and social media efforts exciting and engaging. Use video! A recent comScore study shows that online video viewers spend 20% more on e-commerce than the average Internet user.
Remember you are not just selling a product; with wine you are selling lifestyle and romance.
How do you feel about wine product pages that feature consumer reviews?
I absolutely think that is the right way to go because it leverages peer endorsements. Studies have shown that next to trial tastings, friend and peer recommendations are the second biggest driver of wine sales. I am always surprised at how many wineries have not yet incorporated this in their e-commerce solution. The future of online sales is in integrating social media in your website (aka social commerce). Think amazon.com and zappos.com. Remember your goal is to engage your customer on your site, why would you force them to review your products somewhere else? Think of it as your 24/7 focus group.
What do you say to wineries who are afraid to receive lukewarm or negative reviews?
You need to get over it! People are going to talk about your brand and products whether you give them the opportunity to do so on your site or not. Customers trust peer reviews because it helps them make a decision. Reviews drive sales. If you make a great product, have great service and meet your customers expectations why be afraid? When you are delivering on the aforementioned fronts you are sure to have more positive reviews then negative, plus your good and regular customers are going to be your biggest supporters and allies, they will help self-moderate the reviews and defend you against the negative ones. I have seen this happen time and time again. Besides, I am of the mind set that a complaint or negative review is a gift, as it allows you to take action and win over one more customer.
Which areas of direct-to-consumer marketing do you see wineries struggling with the most? Why do you think that is? Your advice to them?
The Direct-to-Consumer areas that most wineries struggle with are strategy, technology, customer data analysis, and how to use social media to drive conversions and sales.
Develop a clear direct-to-consumer strategy! While tactical actions can get you only so far, a well-developed strategy can help you make the most of your resources. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
Invest in technology across your entire direct-to-consumer business and make sure that technology is integrated and talks to each other. The goal here is a 360 degree view of the customer not only for the winery, but also for the customer. Your strategy will dictate your technology needs.
Spend time analyzing your customer data and applying RFM principals to this data. This is the low hanging fruit! It is far easier and cheaper to increase revenue from an existing customer and extend their lifecycle and lifetime value (LTV) then it is to acquire a new customer. Yet time and again I see wineries spending their time and efforts on customer acquisition and neglecting their current customers
Use social media not just because it is there, use it to build your business! Again strategy here is key. Contrary to popular belief you can drive conversions and sales using social media. It all starts with building a relationship and setting expectations. A consumer following a business on social media is doing so to have access to information, stay in touch and yes, receive special offers. A recent eMarketer study supports this.
Chris, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Your recommendations to our readers are much appreciated.
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