Disruption can be a dirty word. Walmart was one of the original disruptors, and they pretty much closed down indie retail in small cities and towns across the country. People celebrated the lower prices, however other prices were paid, too, like the loss of mom and pop independent businesses. But then there are good disruptors, which have contributed to deep changes in modern life, like the internet, ride sharing, cell phones and, arguably, social media.
Since the COVID shelter-in-place orders, the American wine industry is most definitely going through a disruption: the shift to direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales. Whether this mass discovery is a good or bad thing for the industry overall has yet to be seen, but wine lovers in the U.S. have realized the easy joy of bottles arriving at their door. Not just any bottle though — small production wines made with love, not the soulless wine brands that litter grocery store shelves.
So embrace this trend. Predictions are that winery tourism won’t return to “normal” for another 24 months thus it’s time to hunker down and get serious about digital sales. As wine consumers have discovered this new, convenient channel, many of our winery customers have enjoyed 500% – 900% increases in e-commerce sales, often making up for their tasting room sales losses. However, there’s no fairy godmother to wave her magic wand, and *POOF* you’ll be a DTC machine when you wake in the morning. So I’m sharing lessons learned and tactics honed, advice not just for wineries but anyone selling anything online. Here are the four steps we take to get new clients ready for the digital big leagues:
Step 1: Prepare to welcome
Make sure you’re prepared to welcome new customers or to woo existing ones. Walk through your own e-commerce experience. Logout of everything that might tie you to your website, clear browser cache, then go explore your site like a new customer would. Better yet, ask someone who’s never been on your website to do the same. Ask these questions along the way:
- Is the winery story being communicated in an effective and emotional way? Customers love to hear about the people behind a brand… not just the vineyards and the products. Will they feel a connection to you and your brand?
- Is it easy to figure out how to buy the wine on the website? This may sound obvious, but you might be on the site everyday – most people aren’t. And be sure you walk through using your smart phone, too — on both Apple and Android versions. On average, 40% of website visitors are on their phones now. That’s a lot of potentially missed sales if your mobile site is glitchy or looks bad.
- Do the wine descriptions have enough information to motivate purchase? Are they unique or do they sound like every other winery out there? Get in touch with your brand’s personality and make it shine here. Is there a good, clear photo for each wine? Offer ways that will improve the customer’s life, like links to recipes or ways to serve the wine. How about temperature levels to serve it – how much time in the fridge before popping the cork in the summer?
- Are the add-to-cart and purchase processes streamlined? How many steps does it take to buy the wine? In this Amazon-influenced world, the more clicks, the more drop-off you will have. In a perfect world, it takes less than 4 clicks to purchase. Explore if you can add ApplePay or PayPal to streamline the process even more. If this process is cumbersome, consider moving to a different e-commerce cart.
- Consider or reconsider your prices. Remember that online, you’re competing against much more than your winery neighbors but also against online retailers if your wines are available on sites like Wine.com. Shoppers are savvy these days. No matter how brand loyal, high unemployment sends people looking for the best price.
- Shipping costs: How will you address shipping once the COVID-induced shipping offers drop-off? What is your plan for shipping then? The high cost of shipping is the main reason for winery website cart abandonments. Develop a plan now to spend some marketing dollars to subsidize shipping for future customers. Dumpster dive in your marketing budget for platforms that can provide trackable results like paid social media.
- In your Google Analytics account, look at the data available to analyze this same experience on a larger scale. Dig into the Behavior > Behavior Flow report to get an idea of how customers peruse your website.
- If you’re more of a visual person, view your customers going through the process of visiting your website by installing an inexpensive widget called Lucky Orange. It allows you to see, in real time, each customer’s journey. Believe me, it’s very enlightening. And slightly addictive (you’re forewarned).
- Once you’re rolling, be sure to continue to monitor your conversions by setting up goals in Google Analytics.
Whether the mass-scale discovery of direct to consumer is a good or bad thing for the industry overall has yet to be seen, but wine lovers in the U.S. have discovered the easy joy of bottles arriving at their door.
STEP 2: Know thy customer
Getting to know your current customer has never been more important before. Mine customer databases for addresses, age and average spend. Mine Google Analytics data, and make sure Interests are activated under the Audience > Interests report. In the Geo report, you can uncover hot areas and where should you be focusing any digital efforts like social media ads or targeted emails. Create a Facebook Business Manager account which aggregates data on your followers, including education and marital status. Creepy? Yes. Helpful? Definitely.
STEP 3: Evaluate the tools you have right now
Do you have a lot of followers in social media? If so, leverage those folks and send them paid social media ads to purchase your wine. They really don’t cost that much money. Right now, I’m seeing the lowest online cost per conversion ever. Leverage those same social followers to grow your email list and wine club membership. If you’re running a shipping special (and shame on you if you’re not), get that message out there, too. Use tactics like uploading your customer email list to Facebook as a Custom Audience in order to serve ads to them where they’re spending a ton of time. Don’t have the resources to hire people like me? Facebook will happily train you (for free!) on how to spend money with them: Facebook Blueprint
STEP 4: Get ready for reopening
Dust off your Google My Business account and make sure it is pimped out to the fullest of your ability. Refresh photos, revise descriptions, and while you’re there, look at the new Insights report. More good data for you there, too. This valuable digital property is as important as your website since your Google listing is often the first place people learn about you before visiting. There, and on your social media channels. Think of social media as a business card. If it’s are boring, people think you’re boring. If your photos are exciting and welcoming, that will be felt by the person looking at your social media. I’ve heard from many wineries who think that social media isn’t worth the time since there are “no direct sales”. I cannot disagree more and urge every winery to embrace social media marketing with the right frame of mind – open to courting new customers doing research on your business. If you don’t embrace this concept, your neighbor will. And they will be the winery that wins.
Want more? Read about how to attract customers.