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.
Kristina Palko, is a Napa Valley native with deep experience in wine industry sales, operations and marketing. She is currently the Direct Marketing Manager at Wine Tasting Network, a 1-800-Flowers company that has several direct to consumer e-commerce websites include Geerlings & Wade, Ambrosia, and Wine Tasting Network. (WTN is a client of Vin65.)
Kristina is responsible for an enormous amount of direct-to-consumer email and has seen first-hand what works and what doesn't. It was great to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about email marketing specific to the wine industry.
What are some of the common goals of your campaigns?
- Acquire new customers and activate older customers
- Retain current customers
- Engage customers on a deeper level through social networking, product reviews, blogging and more
With such a large mailing list, what are some of your strategies for segmenting and engaging your mailing list members to increase effectiveness?
- By Order Recency or Frequency. For example, customers who have not ordered in over 12 months or, customers who have only purchased one time.
- By Wine Club Status. Cancelled, expired, former wine club gift recipients and potential prospects.
- By Previous Purchase History. We follow up with new customers with product review emails which encourage feedback and increase brand awareness. We also offer special pre-release notification emails.
What types of promotions get the best results?
In terms of overall response rates free shipping and aggressive discounting with short offer expiration dates and, holiday related gift sets at attractive price points. In terms of engagement, follow up product reviews and surveys.
Have you seen any emerging trends or changes in email marketing?
There has been a lot of emphasis on deliverability in which creative design & sender reputation play a big role. There is also a big movement towards the incorporation of animation and video within emails. I suggest signing up for The Retail Email Blog which reports the top retail emails of the day. Fun read called the “Oopsy Hall of Fame” as well...everyone make mistakes!
How often should a winery/wine business measure and evaluate results of their email marketing campaigns?
Unlike direct mail, you can get a good read within 5-7 days of the email deployment date. I suggest both a weekly and monthly evaluation. Create a layout that allows you to compare results at a glance so you can see significant differences in open rates, click through rates, click to transaction rates and unsubscribe rates.
When you are ready to take metrics to the next level, Google Analytics can serve as a fantastic means to track not only sales associated to each of your email campaigns (and from which exact click of the mouse) but also provide valuable insight into how your customers are reacting once they get to your landing page such as cart abandonment rates, time spent on site, number of page views and more. Best yet, it’s free.
What advice would you give to a new winery or wine business about list building and email marketing?
- Train your staff to collect email addresses at every touch point. It is much harder to obtain them later.
- Make sure that every email you receive is tied to the customer purchase history for future segmenting (i.e., don’t start a new massive excel spreadsheet which only contains email addresses).
- If you have a website, add an email opt in field on the homepage.
- Familiarize yourself with the Can Spam law and email creative design best practices.
- Opt in to competitor emails.
- Start slow with one really great email per month to gage response. Include personalization, short yet concise copy, a compelling image, a great discount and a sense of urgency (short expiration date).
- Resist the urge to overload your customers with multiple products within the same email and/or long winded copy. Remember, the point of an email is to get the customer to click through to the landing page where you can close the deal.
- Monitor results. The beauty of email marketing is because an email has such a short shelf life, results are available quickly. Use those results to your advantage in judging what you are doing correct and what you can improve upon.
Kristina I want to thank you for taking some time out to answer my questions. There is a lot of great content here. "Train your staff to collect email addresses at every touch point".
I had the opportunity to talk with Kristi Taaffe, founder of Juicebox Direct a Direct to Consumer Sales & Marketing Management firm. She's also an instructor at the WISE Academy and was previously the VP of Marketing at Inertia Beverage Group and has over 15 years of D-to-C marketing experience.
I asked Kristi a few questions about Direct to Consumer marketing and here's what she had to say. (Its rather lengthy, but the content is great and well worth the read).
Kristi, for wineries just getting started or ramping up their direct-to-consumer marketing plans, what are the key tactics they should investigate? If time is limited, how should they divide their time among those tactics?
It depends on the winery and the resources that are accessible to them – or that they’re willing to invest in. For instance, do they have a tasting room? If so, it’s likely that the bulk of their direct sales are being generated through their on-premise sales and where they’re going to want to focus on implementing tactics that drive visitor traffic, encourage on site purchases, capture customers on their mailing list and sell wine club memberships.
No tasting room? Wineries will rely heavily on their customer list to drive their direct sales growth. And this means it’s critical that their list continues to grow, is maintained (regular hygiene performed, de-duping, opting-out clients when requested) and managed on a platform that will allow them to best market to their customers. They will need to take every opportunity to invite customers to join their mailing list, and then give them a reason to stay on that list, and become a repeat, purchasing customer.
Whether time and resources are limited or not, every winery who wants to grow their direct channel must monitor the results or impact of the various tactics they execute to grow the direct channel. As well, they should have a dashboard of the key metrics which their direct channel is delivering, and monitor it on a regular basis to see where improvements can or need to be made. Without having visibility into the variables which impact their overall business, it’s nearly impossible to ask the right questions or understand how to influence the positive change and growth that they’re seeking.
Relationship marketing: what are some simple, effective ways to provide personalized touches that can help deepen a winery's relationships with its customers? How does social media and email marketing play a part in that?
It seems like the Social Media buzz of late has suddenly gotten everyone thinking about how to engage with customers, and how to have a “conversation”; as if there are new “rules” that suddenly exist to guide brands in relationship building. However, the basic tenets of relationship marketing still exist and have not changed, and those tenets still hold true here: providing content, products or interactions that are personally relevant to your consumer, having your product or interaction be meaningful to the lifestyle or needs that they hold, and being available and present when your customer is personally ready for the interaction.
To accomplish the above, brands need to be true to themselves; do they know who they are? What their brand personality is? What their core values are? If you were developing a print ad, you would think about what you want to convey through the art or graphics. You would think about the words you’d use, and the tone or voice you’d take. If that ad is true to the brand, the “voice” that speaks through social media or any other one-to-one engagement should shine through with that same personality, as well. It’s also critical that that presentation is real; consumers have bullshit meters that they’re not afraid to use. And trying too hard to sell, being something you’re not, talking without listening, etc., is a quick path to turning customers away.
Second – and perhaps even more important – is that the winery understands who their customers are. Who is purchasing their product – and why? What is their lifestyle like and why did they choose to bring your brand or product into it? What do you provide for them that contribute to their enjoyment of friends, family, or any other things that excite them? When are they purchasing, and through which channels? How else are they engaging with your brand? With a deep understanding of who your customers are, it’s easy to start and keep the conversations going.
Wine clubs: what can owners and their staff do right now to drive new memberships and reduce wine club attrition?
With the current economy, attrition rates are certainly higher than ever and new club memberships are down. There are a couple of things wineries should be doing – regardless of what economic condition we’re in. First, wineries need to ensure they’re giving their members a reason to stay. They need to value their customer, let them know they’re special, make them feel like they’re part of your family and give them a reason to stay. Line up 10, 20, 30, 100 wine clubs next to each other, you’ll likely see that the only distinguishing feature is in the product itself. What can you offer to distinguish yourself and show your members you value them? “Membership” suggests something more than simply a one way share of wallet every few months from the customer; it should suggest a two-way engagement.
Second, review your club levels for untapped opportunities; watching the purchasing patterns of members and soliciting feedback from members can give you insight into modifications or new levels you may need to create. Is the frequency of shipment too high? Create an entry-level club that ships 2x/year. Is the average order price too high? Reduce the number of bottles per shipment. Are repurchases of certain products higher than others? Create a new club offering. Offer these alternative levels to customers who may be thinking of leaving.
Finally, members won’t stay forever. But, just because they’re leaving your club, doesn’t mean they’re leaving as a customer. Thank them for their membership, ask to keep them on your mailing list, perhaps even offer them the same club discount for that occasional purchase and continue to treat them as a member; send out newsletters, invite them to club events. Treat them well and they may join up again in the future. At minimum you’ll still have a customer and an advocate for your brand.
What are some tactics you recommend to increase a winery's online sales?
eCommerce is not an art. There’s a pretty scientific formula which nearly all of the top ecommerce websites are employing – and while they all may look different at the surface, there are some basic web design, usability and conversion tactics that many wineries are – unfortunately – not yet employing. I encourage all wineries to take a look at their own websites and review them for the following:
- Clear navigation. Can visitors “find” what they’re looking for with ease? It’s critical that your site is easily navigated and users can move around without having to visit the dreaded “site map”. Additionally, you have the opportunity to “guide” visitors to the areas you want them to go (for specific promotions or campaigns you’re running, for instance). Does the design of your site allow you to do this?
- Robust content. Customers need information to make decisions. This isn’t just varietal, price point and vineyard. It’s also tasting notes, other customer reviews, in depth info on the winemaker, and so much more. As well, not all visitors may be purchasing online, but they’re still potentially customers; many use the web to research a wine before they purchasing it at a favourite restaurant or retail shop.
- Images. “Image not available” or a generic bottle in place of your wine image isn’t a way to sell. Similarly, images that are not consistent in size or presentation make for a cluttered and messy site. “Cluttered and messy” don’t instil the confidence that visitors need to transition them into purchasing customers.
- Refreshed content. Give customers a reason to return. Event highlights and pictures. New releases highlighted. Holiday campaigns. New vineyard footage. The update of content also provides you with a reason for another email or outreach.
- Personalization. Many of the top ecommerce sites welcome me back by name and remember my purchase history or recently shopped products. The ability to review back through prior purchases can remind me of the products I liked and want to purchase again, or remind me what I didn’t like and may want to avoid. As well, recommendations made off my purchase history can help encourage that next purchase and bring more relevancy to the engagement and the relationship with the brand.
- No surprises. We know we can’t ship wine to all states. And we know it’s expensive to ship wine. But customers don’t always know this. Give customers the ship to state information up front. Give them shipping costs before they’re 2/3rds their way through the check out process. If customers are leaving the minute they see shipping rates... consider subsidizing shipping as a marketing expense.
How do you feel about wine product pages that feature consumer reviews?
I love consumer reviews. As a long time internet shopper, the sites I find myself purchasing from most frequently are those that have consumer reviews. And the placement of the consumer review should be on the product page. That supports the notion of available content where and when I need it. I navigated through to a product page, which means I’m ready to learn all about the specific product. The “buy now” button is likely in front of me waiting to be clicked. If I can get as much information as I need to make that decision now, I will. A customer review does that for me. With the vast number of review sites out there now, consumers are going to find a product review if they want to. Why not be that source?
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 most prevalent question is “how do I sell more”, of course. But when you start to get into marketing strategies and different vehicles available to wineries, most questions are around new media; online, social, mobile, etc. Any so-called “struggle” is more about how they should be using them, and of course how they contribute to building sales.
While the media and other voices may have us believing these are magic pills to building a brand and a business, they’re not. They’re simply another tool in your toolbox to engage customer and build your brand. My advice is to first consider your overall sales & marketing platform; to who are you marketing, how are you positioning yourself, what reasons are you giving your customers to engage with you, what are you offering your customers that will build that long term relationship? Second, what are you trying to accomplish with your marketing? Knowing your goals will help you make the best decisions about which vehicles you can use to best accomplish those goals. Finally, establishing a discipline around your direct marketing is critical; put processes into place, assign responsibilities to staff, be consistent, test, measure, plan, replan. There’s no magic pill, but with a disciplined approach it’s a much easier undertaking and the longer term benefits can be built.
It takes discipline and dedication to build and maintain a successful direct sales program. It’s like any other element of your business: you need to plan, invest, monitor, learn and continually apply those learnings to help guide its growth. It’s important, for instance, to invest in a centralized database to get a 360 degree view of your customer, to employ qualified and dedicated staff to implement and manage your efforts, and to find strong service partners to help execute your direct initiatives. Without this kind of discipline, long term and sustained revenue growth won’t be realized.
Kristi I want to thank you for both the phone calls, emails and the effort you put into this interview. There is so much good content here.
In February the San Francisco Chronicle published an article 'Facebook directs more online users than Google'.
From a winery perspective, is this true – does Facebook send you more traffic than Google?
Looking at our platform, the short answer is no and it's not even close. Across all the wineries, Google accounts for 27% of traffic and Facebook referrals only account for 2.3%. (See the first graph to the right.)
The longer answer is that it depends on the winery. Some of our clients are "getting" Facebook and those that really "get it" receive almost twice as much Facebook traffic as Google traffic. (See the second graph on the right.)
Our platform is search engine friendly. It auto creates a lot of key elements Google is looking for (in tech speak, it creates a XML site map and auto create meta descriptions, titles, and friendly URLs). Basically Google traffic can come with little effort.
Unfortunately Facebook traffic requires planning, effort and it takes time. (There are a lot of great social media pundits in the wine industry that can assist you with your social media and Facebook strategies.)
Is Facebook traffic worth it?
My gut feeling is that Facebook traffic is higher quality traffic. Traffic comes from either a winery fanpage (in which case they already have some kind of relationship with the winery) or they come from a friend (a social referral). A Facebook friend whose positive comment on a winery's fanpage seen by a friend in their newsfeed is more powerful and influential than a list of search results on Google.
Furthermore this traffic coming from Facebook is probably not a cannibalization of existing traffic. So it's a case of the pie being made bigger rather than being divided up differently.
As a side note Google recognizes the power of Facebook and is now ranking Facebook pages higher in its search results.
Facebook is becoming a larger and larger source of traffic and I bet if we revisit these graphs in a year they will be considerably different. Whether it's worth it now depends on the time and effort it takes and what that costs you.
One of the powerful things a winery can do with tasting room traffic is convert them from casual visitors to members of your winery's mailing list.
Tasting room traffic tends to reflect passing customers who are on the "tour" and once they leave your tasting room they are gone. If you are lucky enough to stand out in their mind there is still a good chance that they will forget your website address, and they won’t take the effort to track down your wine.
Converting tasting room traffic to members of your winery's mailing list offers great marketing opportunities that you can tap into for sales year around and for years to come.
I especially like the Ceja Vineyards tasting room sign up form because it doubles as a postcard as well. If the visitor doesn't get around to filling it out in the tasting room they can always put it in the mail later. I might also suggest prepaying the postage to make the sign up process even easier, and maybe have check boxes as to what they are interested in so you can market to segmented lists, another strategy to customize your mailing list communications. You could also enhance the sign up form a little by putting a photo of the tasting room staff or have a photo of the wine bottle on one side to strengthen emotional attachment.
These types of tools and strategies are so easy to execute on the office color printer. You would expect that every winery would have some mechanism to transform their most fleeting customers into more engaged, profitable customers, yet so often we find tasting rooms just don't execute on these tools at all.
Make it your goal this year to do simple things like this. It will make a difference to the bottom line in the long run.
Great web pages don't just happen, they require a lot of thought and planning. What makes the page below great are five specific things.
I won't debate bottle vs label images, but every great wine page needs great photography.
People make assumptions about your wine based on how it looks. It doesn't take a professional photographer to notice a picture looks cheap, home made, and poorly done.
High resolution, high quality images will increase your perceived brand value, and high quality photos will increase sales conversion.
PS. I feel bottle shots are better than label shots.
Your customers want to not only know what professionals think of your wine, they want to know what average people think of your wine.
You may not be methodical (and I prefer to skim rather than read) but a large part of the population is methodical. They prefer to read in detail about your wine, how it was made, all of the content, etc. They make informed decisions and favor a logical approach in data presentation.
Also your search engine marketing team will appreciate extra detail.
The return on investment is still out on adding social media widgets (such as tweet this, share this, and other social media widgets) to your page, but we believe that social media does have a positive return.
While there are an overwhelming amount of social widgets we feel that you should at least have facebook and twitter on each product page (If you're one of our clients, ask us about our new social media bar which includes these widgets for every wine page).
Last but not least is the entire ecommerce piece on your wine page that plays an important part. Pricing and incentives should be clear. The 'add to cart' button should have high contrast. If you have a 'quantity' field it should be pre-populated.
We prefer to put the 'Add to Cart' button near the top of the page. This is to accommodate both people who prefer to make faster decisions, and people who are more methodical.
What do you feel belongs on your wine pages?
Your customers want to purchase your wine quickly and easily so they can move on to the next thing they are doing online.
Every hoop a customer has to jump through, every form field they have to enter, every mouse click they have to make, and every place a customer has concerns about what is being asked is a friction point. As the friction builds up, a customer can become aggravated, fatigued, confused - and ultimately they will abandon the sales process.
Here are three friction points that bother me when buying wine online.
Just looking at the overwhelming amount of information that needs to be completed on this checkout makes me fatigued. While some of this information is required, here is how to make it less cumbersome.
I've shopped a number of websites where I'm prompted with a "must buy a minimum of XX bottles to checkout from this site". (Sadly 3 of 5 websites did this to me this morning). While I fully understand the implications of shipping wine, from a customer's perspective (especially a first time customer perspective), I only want one or two bottles to try - not 12. Careful thought should given to adding a 'forced quantity' friction point. It might be better to offer shipping discounts on 12 bottles rather than forcing people to order 12 bottles.
We are seeing more and more websites step away from the forced account creation on checkout, but there are still too many wine e-commerce sites out there that force users to register on checkout. Why would I want to choose a username and password, or worse yet try and remember my username and password from my last purchase?
Read stories such as the $300 million dollar button, or the report from Forresters entitled Required Registration Lowers Online Conversion Rates.
Have you purchased wine from your website lately? What processes could be removed to make the experience better? What is your pet-peeve when you are buying wine online?
Your customer is on your winery website, has found the wine he wants, has placed his purchases in the shopping cart and is now ready to checkout.
Which of the following two shopping cart pages triggers the behavior you want your customer to take?
All buttons are not equal. One of the 3 tenets of the Fogg Behavior Model is that you need to trigger the behavior you want customers to take.
Once an item is placed in a cart, you want the the path to checkout to be very clear. Yes you still need buttons to change the quantity, check their shipping, etc but the largest most contrasting button is the button most often clicked and this should be the checkout button as illustrated in design #2.
Paul Mabray, Chief Strategy Officer at VinTank was lamenting on twitter about how he ordered wine from 6 different wineries via the web and no one followed up with him. Brent and I tried the experiment ourselves a year ago with 20 Canadian wineries - unfortunately almost every website underperformed.
This past week I ordered wine (as a first time customer) from a couple different winery websites. I'm still waiting for my tracking information (even though some of the packages have already arrived).
At a bare minimum a website should:
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.
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