Oregon Winery Websites Sell More Wine,
Strengthen Customer Relationships During the Holidays

The holiday sales season of 2015 had mixed results for Oregon wineries. A record number of tasting room promotions, events, and wine dinners produced significant sales, reiterating the importance of face to face customer relations. While some wineries promoted their regular wine list for holiday gifting, the most successful incorporated beautiful printed brochures, special packaging, email and social marketing, and direct customer contact. Soter’s Soter Vineyard and North Valley gift offerings were some of the standouts of Oregon wineries’ holiday marketing efforts with integrated brochure, web pages, and social posts.

The Increasing Importance of Holiday Sales Promotions

Much though winery owners might want to slow down after Thanksgiving, close the winery for the season and take a vacation, there’s millions of dollars to be made in December and January.

A gift of wine for the holidays – popular and potentially very profitable for wineries. All year long, Oregon wineries build a loyal customer base with tasting room, winery dinners, emails, social media, events, etc etc. And Thanksgiving weekend is the big event, for many wineries the most profitable direct sale days of the year.

A  look at how Oregon winery websites are selling holiday wine gifts reveals everything from big success to, sadly, many missed opportunities.

Survey: Many Oregon Winery Websites, Few Holiday Promotions in 2013, 2016

I surveyed the websites of thirty wineries across Oregon on December 4-6 2013 dividing the survey into ten wineries with annual production over 5,000 cases a year, ten with production of 2,500-5,000 cases and ten with under 2,500 case production. Focus was on the contents of the home page, holiday and gift related marketing across the site, the products, and holiday customer service.

  • Of the ten largest wineries’ home pages, five had no mention of the holidays or gifting whatsoever. Wow. Seven had holiday gifts buried several links deep into their sites. Three had no holiday gifts anywhere on their pages.
  • Of the ten wineries with production of 2,500 to 5,000 cases, three had something about gifts on their home pages. The rest had something in their shopping lineup that could be a gift. One had an extensive array of gifts combining wine and food. Several used the word “gift” in their wine club information.
  • Of the ten wineries with production of under 2,500 cases a year, one used the word “holiday” on their home page. None offered gifts or mentioned their wine club as a possible gift.

In 2016, this had changed… to a degree.

  • Of the ten largest wineries’ home pages, all had some mention of the holidays. Eight had a special page or section with gift packs designed for the holidays.
  • Of the ten wineries with production of 2500 to 5000 cases, six had something about the holidays on their home page. Only half a special page or section with holiday oriented gifts.
  • Of the ten wineries with production of under 2500 cases, only two had anything about holiday gifts on their home page. One had a special section with wine gifts and a promotion of a wine club membership as a holiday gift.

In 2016, small wineries were more likely to send out an email offering their wines for holiday gifting. However, in the case of wineries with 2500 cases or less, only three of the ten wineries studied sent more than one email.

The rest of this report covers the 2013 holiday season. I will update again when 2015 statistics are available.

A Million Dollar Missed Opportunity on the Web
The 2013 holiday season’s web sales were up 24.3% over 2012, and U.S. web sales for the Thanksgiving holiday were over $3.58 billion dollars. Oregon winery’s customers are shopping online and they are looking for gifts. They love Oregon wine, now make it easy for them to spend money with you.

Graphic courtesy cmo.com Adobe Digital Index

But We’re So Prestigious, We Don’t Need To!
You say, “we are a prestigious Oregon winery with awards and a long tradition of fine Pinot noir made by a world class winemaker. We don’t have that much wine and customers can order wine from our site and we’ll send it with a gift card.”

If you are really out of wine, congratulations. You are done with this article. Go to Hawaii, you deserve it.

But you are missing a great opportunity to make money and build deeper customer relationships on the web. Almost everyone has a wine in the warehouse that they’d like to move. A beautiful wine that you made too much of or  that you are discontinuing. This is not only a time to make money it’s a time to move that slow selling wine at retail or close to it, making happy customers at the same time.

Five Ways to Sell More Wine on Your Website During the Holidays
The home page of your website is the most visited, followed by your website store. Put your gifts front and center on both pages.  It takes time to create holiday gift packs, photograph them and add them to your shopping system. But without a lot of elaborate planning, you can do a lot to promote holiday gifts.

  1. Send an Oregon Wine Gift!

    Send an Oregon Wine Gift!

    Easiest way to go: change your website home page to suggest a Wine Club subscription as a holiday gift. Add a holiday graphic. You don’t have to ship immediately and there’s no new product to create. Make sure your phone number is up top and prominent if you want to make it easy for customers to buy.

  2. Gift box: If time is short and resources are limited, a simple and quick way to add gifts to your homepage is to show the option to send wine in a gift box.  Put a festive graphic next to a picture of your gift box, the words “Send a Holiday Gift From our Winery” and change the page with the empty wine box option to add a few words about holiday gifting. If possible, add the gift box option to every wines’ shopping page. You’ll want to leave it there all year long, minus the references to Xmas.
  3. Wine image and link: You probably have an image of that wine you’d like to sell more of. Put it on the home page with a holiday graphic and a few words offering it as a holiday gift. Maybe a special price, maybe a free corkscrew, free gift box, or just the wine itself. Get it front and center and add a holiday reference on the wine’s shopping page.
  4. Really short of time and resources? Just one graphic with a holiday theme added to your home page will make a difference. You can grab a nice image from istockphoto.com or here are 142 pages of free holiday stock images.
  5. Customer gift lists and corporate gift lists: If you think you can pull it off, add a home page feature on how you can take the weight of buying, wrapping and shipping away from customers’ gift lists in one easy order. Better to offer Wine Club memberships than wine if they’ll go for it. Hand write and send custom gift cards to each gift recipient and you can wait to fill the orders when the weather is better. Next year, start early and make a killing filling corporate holiday business gift orders. That topic deserves a separate article it’s so important but it’s too late to get started for this holiday season.

Gift Certificates
R. Stuart 12 Days of Holiday Gifting Gift Certificate OfferOur aurvey found only a few wineries selling Gift Certificates. Selling gift certificates is legal for Oregon wineries, according to the OLCC. The twist is, they cannot be designated as only for alcohol. Something besides alcohol must be offered on the site. Gift certificates could be huge sellers for Oregon wineries: a few wineries offer them now, everyone should. Gift certificates can be your easiest sale.

R Stuart’s brilliant Twelve Days of Holiday Gifting had a great Gift Certificate offer (at right).

Inspiration
Three of the best examples I found of gift marketing on the web are from Sokol Blosser, Soter,  and R. Stuart.

Sokol Blosser

Sokol Blosser continues its lead as one of the most innovative Oregon wineries with its shelf of wine gifts on its site. Clearly  laid out, it is very easy for a customer to shop and select a gift. Clicking on the gifts shows a popup with a beautifully designed image and all the info needed to order. Great design.

Sokol Blosser Wall of Holiday Wine Gifts

Sokol Blosser Wall of Holiday Wine Gifts

Soter Vineyards

Soter Vineyards just added a pdf of a gorgeous gift brochure to their site. Beautifully designed, the product image quality is as good as I’ve seen for an Oregon winery. I wish they put their phone number and email info were more prominent on the first page, and I worry a bit about the size of the file for downloading (1.3MB) but this brochure is going to sell lots of wine and will appeal to the corporate and luxury customer, one of the hardest demographics to reach. Great job.

soter-holiday-catalog-600p

R. Stuart

Who does the R. Stuart graphics? Wow. This winery has built instant identification with their clever design. For the holidays R. Stuart is sending a daily email campaign. “Daily?” you say? Isn’t that bad practice? Usually yes, but R. Stuart has created a holiday marketing campaign that customers look forward to getting: the “12 Days of Holiday Gifting”. Each email offers one clear item, the graphics work together, and the website supports the products and adds more information. Hugely successful.

R. Stuart 12 Days of Holiday Gifting Webpage

Email Marketing During the Holidays
Email is such a hugely successful way to make money during the holidays it needs its own article. For now, just know that an email suggesting the gift of your Wine Club as a holiday gift is the easiest way I know to increase sales and build a loyal customer list in December. Check out the email marketing campaign of R. Stuart for the holidays – their 12 days of gifting emails are each an example of best practices in email design. A different deal every day builds interest, open rates, and sales.

Shipping
Weather is a big issue for holiday wine gifting. Customers respond well to the idea of waiting until warmer weather to ship  if it is carefully handled. Offer your customer a beautiful hand written card sent from the winery to the gift recipient announcing their gift. Include a separate sheet of paper explaining the weather limitations of shipping wine. Gift recipients will know that the gift is coming and eagerly anticipate its arrival. Put a phone number and email address on the card so they can call and make arrangements for shipping.

So Many Holiday Website Opportunities
It takes work during a time when many Oregon winery owners are so tired they really need a break, but there is a huge potential for major sales during the holidays. Oregon wineries are leaving millions of dollars on the table by not pursuing the holiday gift giving customers. You have developed loyal followers – this is the best time of the year to gain sales online, and those loyal followers want to give your wines as gifts, if you bring it to their attention and give great customer service.

Tell me what you think, and thanks for reading!

Jean