If you’re in the business of selling wine, you probably have -- or are seriously considering -- a wine club. Reaching your customers directly with automatic shipments of wine is a great way to build your business and your profitability. We explored the best ways to build your wine club business including what type of club to offer, how to promote your club, what technologies can help you manage club operations, and how to improve club retention. vinSuite Software has worked with hundreds of wineries nationwide - from mom & pop start ups to large scale operations, and we’ve learned a lot of best practices along the way.
Wine Club Benefits for You & Me
A wine club is one of the best and most profitable business strategies a winery can implement for a number of reasons. It guarantees you a level of income and cash flow that you can count on every time you process a club shipment. By cultivating relationships directly with your end customers, you gain the ability to encourage repeat visits and purchases through your marketing efforts. Club members become your most devoted fans. They tell their friends and families about “their club” and they often invite them to attend winery events. New customers often come through wine club members.
Creating Your Club
If you are considering creating a wine club, start out by thinking about the personality of your winery and how you want to stand out.Be flexible enough to meet your customers’ needs, but not overly complex. Depending on the types of wine you produce, you can offer a choice of a red club, white club, or mixed bottle club. It is also nice to offer an entry level price point as well as a premium priced option. 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 wine. Try to maintain a consistent level of quality with some variations, so the shipments remain interesting.
Promoting Your Club
Wineries are facing increased competition from all sorts of wine clubs. Hotels, magazines and credit vinSuite wine clubcard sponsor clubs and new web-based clubs give 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 think creatively and play up their strengths, which often include a strong brand story and history as well as a personal connection to the winemaker, growers and owners.
So get creative about your club benefits to make your wine club stand out. Some clubs offer a variety of benefits including:
- Exclusive member events and wines
- Concierge Services
- Referral rewards
- Wine Seminars
- Vacations or Tours
In the Tasting Room
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. How can you stand out? It’s easier than you may think. Staff training is critical to your success!
- Do they know why the club is important to your business?
- Does the staff understand the benefits to your guests?
- Does your staff understand your brand’s story?
- Are you keeping score and celebrating success?
In the tasting room, you have a unique opportunity to meet many customers face to face. Take that chance to get their e-mail address so even if they don’t join the club immediately, you can follow up and continue to promote your wines.
Outside The Tasting Room
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. Be sure to maximize every opportunity to build a mailing list at every event or tasting you participate in. Use e-mail and social media to promote your wine club. Take extra care to nurture referrals and promote gift memberships to expand your customer base.
Managing Your Club
Managing the operations of your wine club doesn’t have to be a headache if you have the right tools to help. Wine Club software, like vinSuite is specifically designed to make club management functions easy. The right software will improve your customer service, help with inventory management, assist with managing compliance issues, and increase your success rate for recurring credit card billing. When evaluating wine club software, keep in mind these important criteria:
- Flexibility: Make sure that the software can handle the various types of clubs you plan to set up, and can support multiple pricing tiers or discount levels for the members.
- Integration: It’s very useful to have your wine club software integrate directly with your tasting room point-of-sale system. The two systems can share product, price and inventory information, as well as customer data.
- Customer Friendly: A self-serve tablet kiosk in your tasting room can be a great way to sign up members, as is a form on your website.
- Credit Card Processing: At the core of your wine club’s success is your ability to easily process the credit card payments for each shipment. Because you are storing credit card data to reuse, you must take special care to keep this information secure, following the credit card PCI security standards.
- Communications: Your wine club software should offer an easy integration with e-mail services so that you can keep in touch.
- Gift & Loyalty Cards: Offering your members a membership card is a great way to stand out and keep your brand in front of them.
Tracking Your Results
Once your club is up and running, monitor your success regularly! We recommend that you track four key statistics about your wine club:
- Membership Growth: How many new members were added
- Membership Attrition: How many members canceled
- Sales Per Member: What are your total sales, including those above and beyond the club shipments.
- Conversion in tasting room: How many e-mail members and club members are you recruiting.
The average member lifespan in a wine club is 18-24 months. This means you may experience attrition of 30-60% per year. To beat these odds, you can take steps to improve member retention.
- Communicate! Regular communication will help to build loyalty and keep your club members interested in your brand. Be sure to welcome members to the club, send a special thank you on the anniversary of their club membership, and keep in touch between shipments.
- Connect! Encourage your members to connect with your winery and brand, and foster community among your members. This can be done at events but also virtually, through social media. Make being a member fun with surprises, gifts and extra treats along the way.
- Be Flexible! Sometimes circumstances change, and if you are prepared to help your members find a way to stay in the club, you’ll gain their loyalty. Allow members to opt for a lower priced option or less frequent shipments if needed. You can also allow a temporary hiatus from shipments while maintaining other benefits.
- Follow Up! Some members will inevitably quit the club. Follow up with a survey to find out why they left. You may learn insights about how to structure your program to keep people longer. Stay in touch with your “alumni” - as they will continue to be great ambassadors of your brand.