After more than 15 years of working to develop the best wine club software on the market and supplying it to hundreds of wineries nationwide, we’ve learned that the most effective methods to increase wine sales through club offerings aren’t always the most obvious ones. That said, while building a successful wine club doesn’t happen overnight, implementing the right strategies will ensure that you head down the path toward prosperity.
Without a doubt, DTC (direct-to-consumer) channels are the most potentially profitable sources of revenue for wineries. In fact, according to a recent industry survey, DTC sales account for 60 percent of winery revenue. For wineries making less than 2,500 cases per year, that number jumps to 74 percent!
Unlike selling through the 3-tier distribution system, wine clubs guarantee a certain amount of cash flow with each club shipment. Additionally, by cultivating relationships with your club members, they become your most devoted fans and encourage other wine lovers to get in on the goods. When you connect with customers directly and consistently, you encourage repeat visits and purchases, which in turn, plant the seeds for evangelism.
Depending on the types of wine you produce, you may want to offer clubs based on specific varieties or genres (i.e. reds only). Alternatively, it may be beneficial to offer clubs based on price, from entry-level to premium. The key is to think about your buyer personas and determine what they value the most. If they find value in what you’re offering them, they’re more likely to offer you their loyalty and disposable income.
Maintaining a wine club can be fairly easy as long as you remain flexible and solution-oriented. Before accepting a cancellation, identify exactly what isn’t working for the member and consider making adjustments to the club or the flow before accepting defeat.
- Ali Paterson, V.Sattui Winery
The easiest way to make your club flexible in price is to offer a choice of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles shipped. You’ll also need to balance this with the frequency of your shipments: Quarterly or Semi-Annually are most popular. When choosing which wines to include, avoid the temptation to move excess inventory that isn’t selling well elsewhere! Your wine club members deserve your best efforts, inside and outside the bottle. Try to maintain a consistent level of quality with some variations, so that the shipments remain interesting. In the words of one seasoned wine blogger, “you can't keep shipping the same thing because it won't give them the same zing.”
Ultimately, the most successful wine club managers have a good handle on what their clients want and make that their guiding light.
In today’s age of consumer-focused technology and marketing, an increasing amount of competition is inevitable. Hotels, magazines, and credit card companies sponsor their own wine clubs, while online wine club start-ups offer consumers a greater variety of wines from different wineries. Some of these clubs are incorporating more user participation and feedback to help refine wine recommendations. To compete, wineries need to think creatively and play up their strengths, which often include a strong brand story and personal connection to the winemaker or other people behind the wine.
So, what club benefits can you offer?
Encourage add-ons and reorders... every once in a while, ask your members if they want to add a bottle or two to their shipment. Entice them with something new - perhaps a large format, or a fan-favorite that is seasonally appropriate - and offer it with their club discount at no additional shipping or minimal added shipping.
- Ali Paterson, V.Sattui Winery
The more you can make your club members feel that they are getting something unique and special, the more ROI you’ll see reflected on your wine club reports.
Since 90% of club members are signed up in the tasting room, it makes sense to start here when evaluating how to improve your wine club sales. Needless to say, staff training is critical to your success!
Many wineries see huge increases in wine club sign-ups when they offer bonus incentives to staff. The caveat to offering sign-up bonuses is that some wine educators can become a little too aggressive when approaching guests about wine clubs. With that in mind, you may want to offer staff “retention bonuses” in order to encourage them to be more thoughtful about whom they sign-up.
In the tasting room, you have a unique opportunity to meet many customers face to face. Take that chance to get their email address, so that even if they don’t join the club immediately, you can follow up and continue to promote your wines.
If you don’t have a tasting room, you don’t have to rule out a wine club! You just have to get a bit more creative about how to reach potential customers. Maximize every opportunity to build a mailing list, whether it be at tasting events or via digital marketing. Email and social media are great channels for promoting your wine club to targeted audiences. Additionally, take extra care to nurture referrals and promote gift memberships to expand your customer base.
It's really important for us - and any wine business - to have the information we gather in one place. - Devin Joshua, Judd's Hill
Once your club is up and running, you’ll want to monitor your success regularly. We recommend that you track four key statistics:
Knowing that you may experience an attrition rate of 30-60% per year, take steps to beat the odds and improve member retention by staying on top of communication and follow-up. Foster brand community through social media and email. Above all, remain open-minded and persistent!
Want to learn more about The Most Effective Techniques for Retaining Wine Club Members? Download our free eBook!