It’s been one heck of a year. 2020, you are full of surprises. We’ve seen a worldwide pandemic, tasting rooms forced closed, wildfires, and at the rate we are going, probably frogs and locusts. The wine industry is nothing but resilient. It has overcome prohibition in the United States, WWII in France, and we will overcome 2020.
Ready for some good news? WinePulse shows overall DTC sales are up 1.46% as of August 2020. Of course tasting room sales are down double digits, but e-commerce has been the knight in shining armor for the industry with an unbelievable 289% growth according to WinePulse.
Speaking to various wineries, some report even greater growth and others, no such boost. This pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the wine industry, but it has also shown deepening disparities.
As Labor Day comes and goes, Rosés are pushed one last time for the year, and consumers gear up for wine buying season. According to Sovos ShipCompliant and Wine & Vines Analytics’ 2020 DTC Report, October, November, and December (OND) account for close to 40% of all DTC wine sales in the year. You hear that? The year is not lost, if anything it’s just beginning. So now is time to seize the day, look forward, and double down on your marketing efforts. 2020 will not get the best of us.
E-Commerce Is Your Lifeline. Invest In It.
When was the last time you worked on your own website, let alone shopped it? If you are like most wineries, you bought a template years ago or invested in a custom website, but have done little to optimize it since.
I can’t shout this from the rooftops loud enough: websites are living documents, not one-time projects! And I’ve got news for you, that website you launched 5 years ago isn’t good enough anymore. Technology changes. Design aesthetic changes. The minimum bar keeps going up.
So what do you do? The first step to maximizing your e-commerce is selecting the right e-commerce platform. We are massive fans of Commerce7 and WineDirect. Their technology is the best in the business. If you don’t use one of them, run, don’t walk. You still have time to get up and running before OND.
For existing users, when was the last time you audited which features you are using? Both platforms offer so many robust tools that I fear wineries never take advantage of. Commerce7 has an outstanding personalization tool for your website and new wine club subscriptions. On the other hand, WineDirect offers a loyalty points system that I have seen only a handful of wineries utilize.
Now that you have the proper e-commerce platform ready to go, let’s talk about that website of yours. Try to step back and look at it with a critical eye. What is the first impression it creates for potential customers? Are the photos high-resolution and interesting? Is the homepage full of informative text that tells your brand story?
The design aesthetic of the mid 2010s was to have a full screen image on your homepage with one phrase on top. Unfortunately it was just that, a trend, and it is actually detrimental to your website. Google is scanning your website for informative headlines and copy so it can rank your website and deliver it in search results. If you skip the opportunity to add keyword optimized copy to your homepage, you are missing out on tons of SEO potential. At least in Google’s eyes, a photo is not worth a thousand words.
Additionally, how can one photo tell your brand story? Your website’s homepage should take customers on a journey highlighting internal pages, your best selling wines, and explaining why they should buy from you over the 10,000+ other wineries in the USA.
It’s not too late to get a new website up and running before the holidays arrive. If you want a fast and low cost modern website, we suggest the Johnathan James website template from the team at Highway 29 Creative. It is the first of its kind and integrates out of the box with both WineDirect and Commerce7. Further, the website template is built on an easy-to-edit, fully customizable WordPress backend. The template is packed full of e-commerce best practices including customer ratings, sticky buy buttons, product filters, product badges, flexible selling options, and more. Remember when we said DTC wine e-commerce sales are up 289% on average this year? If yours are not, it’s time to invest in your e-commerce website.
The Answer Is: Content, Content, Content.
I keep hearing the same response when I ask wineries who they think does the best marketing. Time after time people look to Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Sonoma as a leader. Their marketing team clearly gets it. They have invested in content.
Take a look at Jordan’s social media accounts. They are constantly posting informative and engaging content that’s about more than their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. They started their own blog Wine Country Table, which is a well-curated taste of the Sonoma lifestyle. On their blog you can learn how to prepare a Baked Alaska or make the perfect holiday centerpiece. Jordan gets that you cannot keep asking for the sale time after time. The key to good marketing is to create content your customers want to engage with. Become a part of their lives and they will reward you with sales later. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to sell wine is to stop trying to sell wine.
Content is key for the holiday season and you need to get started right away to prepare. Plan a photo and video shoot so you can be ready to go for OND with fresh imagery that shows how your brand fits into your consumer’s lifestyle. Offer your clients fun recipes that they can prepare to pair with your wines. Start your own blog and stick to it!
Meet Your Customers Where They Are
The most important thing to do this holiday season is to listen to your customer and meet them where they are. Stop trying to sell the wine you want to sell. Instead help your customers buy the wines they actually want to buy. I see too many wineries look at their inventory and decide they need to “push” a specific SKU because inventory is piling up. I get it, warehousing is expensive. But, why push a wine your customers clearly are not as excited about? I hear wineries lament when their customers buy a case of their lowest priced wine instead of a few bottles of their signature high-priced estate wine. Use this intel to spur your future marketing efforts!
As you put together your holiday offering, decide how you can build flexibility into your product catalogue. Give your customers choices that suit them, within reason. Be careful not to go overboard and offer 20 different holiday gift sets because too many choices will overwhelm your consumers. Start by reviewing your sales by SKU and leaning into your best sellers. During an economic downturn, consumers will resort to safe and known products that are comforting. Don’t force your favorite wine on them. Listen to your customers and offer them what they actually want to buy and watch your wine sales increase.
Show 2020 Who’s Boss
This year has been full of trials and tribulations, but together we can persevere. Use this article as your sign that it’s time to take a step back and prepare for OND. Block off at least an hour or two of your day and seriously put in the work to craft an effective plan. Here is quick checklist to get you started:
- Shop your current website and asses it with fresh eyes.
- Work with a wine specific e-commerce platform like Commerce7 or WineDirect.
- If you already have e-commerce in place, audit it and determine how you can better leverage its features.
- Review your content to make sure it speaks to the lifestyle of your brand.
- Schedule a photo and video shoot.
- Get a few holiday recipes you can share with your customers.
- Start blogging and talk about more than just your wine.
- Plan your holiday gift sets and lean into your best sellers.
- Schedule all of your communications for the rest of the year.
- Choose 1-2 digital channels you will own and go all in on them.
This may seem daunting at first, but will be well worth it. If you need guidance or want to hire a team of experts to help you maximize your holiday sales, reach out to the team at Highway 29 Creative.