Ready for an eCommerce System?

This post is part of an educational series by our friends at VineSpring, an eCommerce platform made for wineries.

Wineries know how to craft an excellent customer experience in their tasting rooms. In the tasting room, there’s a one-to-one connection, and customers get the chance to understand your winery and your wines. Unsurprisingly, 47 percent of all direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine sales happen in the tasting room. However, without eCommerce, the opportunity stops when the customer leaves your tasting room.

eCommerce is a critical component of the DTC channel. It makes wine sales beyond the tasting room, possible. If someone discovers your Pinot Noir at a restaurant, or visits your tasting room and wants more, all they have to do is visit your website. By setting up an eCommerce store, you can expand your customer base, get more sales per customer, and manage a wine club more efficiently.

Consumers have become increasingly comfortable with purchasing wine online. Across the retail industry, 11.7 percent of all sales were made online in 2017 and are projected to increase to 17 percent by 2022. Even without the influence of new states opening up for DTC shipping, the eCommerce channel will continue to grow and become a standard channel for winery sales.

How do you know if you’re ready for an eCommerce system?

While tasting room sales are the number one DTC sales driver, eCommerce sales are already a close second.

Do you have a wine club? Wine club sales are 33 percent of all DTC sales. However, without eCommerce, you’re putting geographical constraints on your wine club and your business. If you have a wine club or sell your wine outside of your state, you’re ready for an eCommerce system. Wineries like Matthiasson Wines saw significant sales increases when they went from a strictly wholesale operation to incorporating eCommerce sales and their wine club into their business model.

Think you’re ready to launch an eCommerce program? Here’s how to get started.

eCommerce should make your life easier and more efficient. To do that, it will need to integrate with your existing systems like your website, compliance software, email system, etc. It’s important to make sure that whichever platform you choose, it has the flexibility to work with the software you currently use.

Here are areas to assess and questions to ask as you start shopping for an eCommerce platform:

1. Will this work for my products and allocations?

Make sure that any system you choose makes your product management easier, not more difficult. An effective system streamlines your product management for more efficiency and visibility. When assessing eCommerce systems, make sure that it enables you to manage your product elements (product images, descriptions, packages, etc.) and inventory. A good system will also help you control allocations and promotions associated with your products.

2. How will the eCommerce platform support my wine club?

As we mentioned, wine clubs are often the bread and butter of a DTC program. The ability to manage your wine club through your eCommerce system is critical. Wine club capabilities are one of the biggest reasons why you should look at wine-specific eCommerce platforms instead of general eCommerce systems like Shopify or WooCommerce. In a winery-specific eCommerce system, you should be able to control all of your clubs and club members. Whichever system you choose, make sure that they understand clubs and provide you the flexibility that you need to manage and grow your wine club easily. For more on how to build your wine club, read our guide on How to Attract Wine Club Members.

3. Does the system have or integrate with a Point-of-Sale system?

We all know that most of your customers and wine club members will start as visitors to your tasting room. Be sure that your eCommerce system has or connects to a point-of-sale (POS) so that you can maintain a central source of data for all of your customers. Some eCommerce systems have their own, home-grown POS systems and others, like VineSpring, integrate with existing POS platforms like Square. Whatever you choose, be sure that the POS is easy-to-use for your tasting room staff and customers. It’s no fun to roll out a new system in your tasting room and then realize that it doesn’t work for your workflows and potentially slows down your sales and makes things more complicated. Systems like Square focus solely on the process and design of point-of-sale. As a result, they have one of, if not, the best system for in-person sales.

4. What can I customize when it comes to branding?

Your eCommerce system should support the design of your brand. Your online store is going to integrate with your website and send transactional emails to your customers. To ensure a consistent experience and continued trust with your customers, make sure that the system you choose allows you to control brand colors and your logo. It’s also essential that the system you select has a team that values design and ease-of-use for your customers.

Consumer expectations for online shopping have evolved, and many platforms in the wine industry haven’t evolved with those expectations—meaning, some systems are hard-to-use, require too many steps to purchase, and are just downright clunky. Be cognizant of the design and user experience of whatever system you choose and make sure it’s the best option for your customer.

5. Will it support my compliance process?

Most wineries who are selling direct-to-consumer have to consider the intricacies of compliance. This is another area where a winery-specific eCommerce system is essential. Software made for wineries will almost always integrate with systems like ShipCompliant or let you control which states you are licensed in and manage the sales from those states and the associated sales tax. Double check that the system you’re assessing gives you the ability to configure the platform according to the sales tax rates and licenses you have.

6. How does the system handle email marketing communications?

Some eCommerce systems have their email system and others, like VineSpring, integrate with tools like MailChimp. Make sure that the system you choose is going to be easy-to-use for your team and will produce lovely emails that will end up in your customer’s inboxes. If you’re considering an eCommerce platform that has their email tools, ask them about their email deliverability. Some less reputable email service providers have pretty poor deliverability rates which can have a negative impact on your company and your customers.

7. What is the commitment to customer support?

Lastly, make sure that the system you choose is committed to customer support. No system is perfect, and you are going to have questions. It’s essential that the company you decide to buy your eCommerce platform from is dedicated to supporting you and your winery, well beyond the sale and onboarding process. A good customer support team will serve as a partner in your business. Be sure to get a clear understanding of the customer support commitment and talk to existing clients to find out how supportive the company is before you sign up.