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Why is it so difficult to sell wine online

How to successfully (and easily) approach wine sales in a virtual world

It is possible to sell wine to people that have never tasted your product. In fact, if 2020 taught us anything, the world is ready for more opportunities to buy wine online. Looking back to late March and early April, when lockdowns peaked in North America and Europe, the stats confirm this. The alcohol industry saw triple digit growth instantly—sales the week of April 4th were nearly 450x higher than that same week a year ago.

An impressive number, but one that mops up the alcohol category as a broad one, without taking into account how many new-to-them bottles that people purchased, how many new-to-them wineries they tried in this phenomenon that is now known as a “boom.” To assume that all wineries and wine businesses have benefited would be an overstatement, a vast one. Online optimization still seems out of reach for many producers, wine businesses, and industry suppliers around the world.

Sustainable solutions

But it doesn’t have to be. Wineries and wine retailers that have been tentative toward going all in for DtC and ecommerce aren’t necessarily “missing out.” In fact, riding a wave that’s tied to a global pandemic is not a long term plan. Sustainable, reliable solutions and ecommerce tools for wineries are available now, and there’s time to take advantage of the industry’s momentum and get these resources in place.

Sebastien Tremblay, chief executive officer and founder at Troly

It can be a challenge to enter into the vast world of ecommerce for any wine business—how to stand out? How to differentiate from the thousands and thousands of brands and offerings that exist? According to Sebastien Tremblay, chief executive officer and founder at Troly, a provider of software solutions for the wine industry, thinking like a customer can be insightful in this process: “It’s essential for wine producers to understand how the ‘liquid’ in the bottle is a fraction of the overall value of their product.”

Wineries and wine businesses know that customer experience, such as great memories and service in the tasting room, has traditionally motivated purchases. Bring this element into the virtual world with a thoughtful online experience for users. “The shopping experience online, the shipping and follow-up experience, combined with a brand story is how wineries and wine businesses can easily differentiate themselves and step above the crowd,” says Tremblay. “What seems to be ‘the menial day-to-day life’ for them is what consumers crave, along with the wine itself.”

Always current

Nick Martin, founder of Wine Owners

Nick Martin is the founder of Wine Owners, a provider of software solutions and business essentials for the global wine industry. He sees two pain points that wineries experience when building their online sales presence, and they both revolve around keeping the webshop current: content management and syncing the sales page with inventory. Both key elements of the customer experience.

“Content sells, especially images, reviews and scores, drinking dates, and other information that informs a purchase,” says Martin. “Maintaining it is very time consuming and either adds headcount costs to a business, or ties up peoples’ time that could be better spent more productively.”

This is true for all wineries or wine retailers, big or small. Laurie Millotte is the founder of Outshinery, provider of bottle photography for the alcohol industry. She agrees that up to date information and images can make or break a sale. Incorrect or poor quality content and visuals are a turn off, and relying on “no image available” or filler text is even worse. This is because people make super-quick decisions based on what they see—in fact, humans know if they like something within 50 milliseconds of looking at it. This means that wine shoppers form an impression at first sight.

Five tips and takeaways

Laurie Millotte, Founder and Chief Amazement Officer at Outshinery
  • Think about your customer’s experience online. Make this reflect the feeling you’d want people to have if they were in your tasting room. Be clean and beautiful, offer something enjoyable, make it easy for people to buy wine, and collect contact information so you can keep in touch.
  • Populate your webshop with current information. Ensure that each wine in the portfolio or offering has up to date technical information, images, scores, and reviews. People won’t buy a product if they can’t trust the information.
  • Stand in for the senses. Because people can’t sample something that they are actually purchasing for the taste, they need other sources of information. Use images to show how this wine will fit into their lives and supply details that fill in the blanks.
  • Find a partner. Troly, Wine Owners, and Outshinery are great examples of business that were founded with one goal: to help wineries and wine business owners. Schedule time to research options and get word of mouth recommendations for those tasks that need professional guidance.
  • It’s never too late. With a new year ahead of us, and a crazy year almost behind us, now is the time to tackle the online sales pain points that delay success.
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