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.
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.
Paul is truly visionary and far-from-shy about leading the way to develop, critique and implement ideas and strategies to improve the online wine world. Paul and VinTank are valuable partners of ours as well as close friends.
I had the opportunity to ask Paul a few questions recently and he stayed up way late answering them for us.
Paul, for wineries just getting started or ramping up their direct-to-consumer marketing plans, which key tactics should they prioritize?
I don’t want to start as a broken record but a plan is key. Strategic and tactical. However, the core of all DTC strategies should be customer centric. Google put the power into the consumers hands. Social networks put a megaphone and an interconnectivity never before seen in human history. Both positive and negative consumer reactions to your product can spread like flash fires. Being customer centric is part of the new world.
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, location-based apps like Foursquare play a part in that? Anything in the pipeline that we should watch for?
There are many marketing components that Location Based Service (LBS) like BrightKite, Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla, et al bring to a winery. But in the end these are just customer connection mediums (adding a new dimension of locality). This could include rewarding visitors when they notify you and the world they are at your location or give them recommendations when they go to other locations. They are just new methods to create deeper engagement with your customers. However, the first statement about whatever strategy or tactic you choose to leverage these platforms, your view still needs to be customer centric.
You recently tweeted that "Pro-direct doesn't mean anti-distribution" (something to that effect). Tell us more about that.
I’ll break this into two segments of direct: DTT and DTC
DTT provides a healthy route to market for small brands or products. It acts as an incubator for brand building. Remember, wholesalers provide a necessary service to wine brands that have good strong velocity and require high service. However, smaller brands (due to the total quantity worldwide of 55K) and due to the regulations of wholesaler being required to buy the products (no consignment). Excuse me while I geek out on wine industry dynamics and economics. Wine is a what we call a SUPER long tail industry (an amplification of the www.longtail.com theory) and only one of four consumer good package industries that has this level of different products (books, movies, music, and wine). We produce at least 250K different wine products per year and far more SKU’s than that (375 ml, 750 ml , etc). This SKU load compounds in the market vintage to vintage and remains alive three to ten years in the market (sometimes more). e.g. 3 years into the future times 250K products equals 750K products! Can you imagine a wine store with 750K products? Or go ten years into the future how about 3M? And unlike the other three super long tail products, who are increasingly being distributed digitally, wine is the only absolute physical product. You can’t deliver wine virtually. Ever. One other unusual aspect about the wine industry’s long tail is the price is not as normalized like other three super long tail products and almost has an inverse pricing structure to the demand curve. e.g. Kistler has far more carrying costs and inventory risk than Mondavi Woodbridge. In essence it is the prohibitive economics of wine buying in the middle tier that create dysfunction. Wholesalers can’t support the product load and would benefit from an alternative channel that allows wineries to build a trade customer base to a level that requires their support and doesn’t force them to take inventory positions until the winery has market penetration and awareness. DTT is key for the health of all tiers of the market. They provide that incubator and pressure relieve valve of product overload for wholesalers. They provide alternative route to market (even to the product level for wineries). And they give restaurants and retailers a more diverse selection to compete in the market to better distinguish themselves to the consumers.
DTC is over demonized by wholesalers. Remember that most consumers buy wine and consume it within 3 hours of purchase. DTC does not support that behavior. However, it does allow consumers to purchase wine they enjoy and if they are in need, they will buy within the local market. It builds awareness and customer loyalty as well. Wineries that have combined DTC and traditional distribution are stronger as brands and the wholesaler pull is better than those without DTC in the market. DTC acts as pull marketing due to the industry dynamics. Also DTC gives back strong margins to wineries to help them become and remain healthy companies. This health allows them to reinvest dollars into sales and marketing efforts THAT SUPPORT wholesalers trade efforts. Wholesalers, don’t you want financially healthy partners?
#NapaValleyTweetup: Tell us about it and how wineries can use tweetups in their marketing strategies.
Tweetups are an interesting marketing vehicle. They can work in many ways but here are two that are most easy to recognize. First, it is an easy way to not only speak with you customers, but to allow them to meet each other and talk amongst themselves. At its core it is community building with your brand as a key element. It is also very obviously a point of purchase catalyst for IN-MARKET as well as DTC purchasing. How else are the consumers in out-of-state markets going to get the wine to taste? The tweetup provides value at all tiers. The winery connects with its customers, creates sales catalysts, and brand equity. The wholesaler gets the benefit of in-market pull. The retailer gets the benefit of in-market pull as well as the opportunity to participate in the conversation with consumers (many theirs). And the consumer gets to interact directly with the winery & retailer, create relationships with other wine consumers, learn about wine and wine tasting, and enjoy an experience.
Which tactics do you recommend to increase a winery's online sales?
- Invest in the channel (human and financial resources).
- Create a customer centric strategy to SUPPORT your ecommerce and more.
- Choose your foundation of software partners wisely. The last one is key. Not only do they have to be aligned with your interests, they need to play nice in the sandbox with other best of breed vendors.
- Do not let accounting lead the reason for your software decisions. Let sales and marketing lead the decision.
- For larger wineries, make sure brand ALIGNS its interest with consumer direct. Most sites led by brand managers do NOT take into account web best practices (SEO, conversion, etc) that are healthy for both the brand in market as well as DTC sales.
How do you feel about wine product pages that feature consumer reviews? What do you say to wineries who are afraid to receive lukewarm or negative reviews?
I think consumer reviews are key for helping consumers overcome the friction associated with buying ANY item online. Per kiwitobes.com, and his class with former Chief Scientist at Amazon) Andreas Weigend, Amazon makes 20-30% of its sales from recommendations. Only 16% of people go to Amazon with explicit intent to buy something. If I were to learn something about e-commerce, I definitely would look to Amazon (I think they know a thing or two). The fear of a negative review is understandable and tactics and methods for addressing low reviews from consumers is as much art as science (no brand wants a product sheet filled with expletives). However, with proper processes, tools and company rules of engagement, even negative comments can be assets to create deeper customer engagement and trust.
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?
E-commerce, Social Media and CRM. It is not a winery’s fault, we just don’t have enough talent in those disciplines to date. Remember online ecommerce has only been really viable for barely 5 years (before that it was viable, but only accessible to 14 states). As a result it is also the least healthy DTC channel for wineries and thus, the least in importance for investment, resources, and understanding. Ironically it is ecommerce that gives the wineries a window to many, many more customers than a tasting room ever could. With the tasting you room you are limited by the amount of people that come to you. The internet gives you access to the world.
I believe the future of wine online starts with the wineries cleaning and solidifying the foundation of our houses. That to me means ensuring customer and product data are ready for tomorrow. If I were to ask a winery to do four things to ensure the health of their brand online it would be:
- Invest in the channel (I know I said this before but I can’t stress it enough). If you don’t feed it, it will never become healthy and flourish. For that matter, invest properly in DTC in general. It may yield less gross sales, but more than make up for it in net revenue.
- Create a customer centric strategy. Paraphrased from Zappos.com “One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online. People will buy from the company with the best service...” I know where I want my partners to be, on the winning side of that 30%.
- Put your COMPLETE information into yourwineyourway.com (for FREE) to manage your digital footprint. One place, 50+ outlets that you get to control the way your brand is being represented in the digital arena.
- Start planning your consumer CRM platform to support your consumer centric strategy. IMHO tomorrow’s future of our brands will be built on how well we understand our customer and create service that caters to their preferences while delivering great product. CRM is the foundation to build a customer centric strategy.
Paul, I appreciate your insights and candor here. As always, great info on where wineries should consider looking to increase their DTC sales. I really appreciate the time you took to share.
Late last year I was looking through one of our customers web analytics, analyzing some sales and browsing patterns and noticed something interesting - someone using an iPhone bought wine on this particular website.
We are hearing more and more about internet usage on smartphones - so is it time to target these mobile visitors? Let's look at some stats:
All of the websites we build work on the iPhone and Android phones, but the experience hasn't been particularly great. Like most traditional websites, when they are viewed on an mobile device it involves a lot of tapping, zooming, and scrolling.
While there are some big numbers in the links above, looking at the wine websites we build, we are only seeing between 2-5% of traffic from mobile devices. However even with these small numbers, I would argue that the time for a mobile site is now - for the following reasons:
Today we launched our mobile ecommerce solution. If you have an iPhone or Android Phone visit http://twistedoak.com, http://cuvaison.com or our demo site http://pinewines.com. Let us know what you think of the experience. I would also like to hear your opinions on mobile websites and mobile commerce.
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.
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:
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