Tips for Pivoting Your Winery to Digital Experiences

Every winery’s operations look a little different right now. Without the ability to welcome guests into our tasting rooms, and be present with them as they try our wines for the first time, we’ve had to pivot to the next best thing: online wine sales and virtual experiences.

Was your winery prepared for this rapid pivot to the digital world? I hope so. I’m thankful that the wineries I do marketing for were pretty well prepared to provide online wine shopping and had the social media audiences necessary to get the word out about our modified offerings. But I know that many wineries are small businesses that hadn’t yet been able to prioritize their digital presences until now.

Therefore, given my previous experience as a marketing and social media consultant for wineries, and now as a marketing manager at First Batch Hospitality, a group of urban wineries, I’ve got some tips for you to implement at your winery, in order to better reach customers online and convince them they should buy your wine right now.

Thankfully, encouraging the public to purchase wine isn’t a hard sell right now. Read below for tips to make sure you’re doing so as best you can!

The Obvious: Improve Your Digital Storefronts (Social Media and Your Website)

With the inability to pour wine for guests in your tasting room, there’s a chance that the way most people are “visiting” your winery right now is through your digital storefronts. That means they are stumbling onto your social media pages or your website.

What are they seeing when they get there? An active, savvy Instagram profile that responds to comments from excited customers? A clean, easy-to-navigate website with info about how you’ve adapted to Coronavirus restrictions and how they can get your wine? A seamless way to sign up for your email list?

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Example from one of my winery’s websites

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Example from one of my winery’s websites

Or are they finding a dormant Instagram, that ignores messages and comments from followers, and doesn’t have any posts about ordering your wine? Or a website that makes it unclear how to buy your wine online?

If you haven’t taken the time to evaluate your digital presence for best practices, now is the time to do so. (I’ve got a bunch of blog posts here about best practices that might help you!)

The Customer Need: What Messaging Will Resonate Best Right Now?

This is a very delicate time for many people. It’s important to keep in mind all the possible sensitivities your customers may be dealing with, from family members’ health, to job loss, to general anxiety about the pandemic.

In that case, the copywriting in your social posts, website and emails is more important than ever. You should constantly be evaluating how your words will make your customers feel.

When trying to incentivize people to buy your wine during tough times, it’s common to offer discounts and promotions to convince them. Many wineries are offering shipping and delivery promos right now – which is great. But not all of them are describing those promos in a way that makes the offer sound irresistible.

For example, let’s say you want your customers to spend a certain amount on wine before they can receive free shipping. Which do you think would more easily convince someone to visit your online store: “Get free shipping when you spend $100 on wine” OR “Get free shipping on 3 or more bottles“?

Seeing that $100 number might give people sticker shock, especially if they’ve limited their spending, while 3 bottles sounds much more manageable, even though the ultimate purchase might end up being around the same price.

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Example from one of my wineries’ websites

Here is a really great guide to marketing products in a recession based on your customer’s different kinds of financial reactions to the crisis (spending freezers, cautious spenders, and continued spenders), and the type of purchase your wine represents for them (essential item, treat, or luxury). I highly recommend taking some messaging advice from this resource.

P.S. – any promos you enact to encourage wine sales NOW may come to be expected by your customers when things return to normal. Keep this in mind before you offer too many discounts.

The Virtual Tasting: How to Provide a Better Experience

Almost every winery has come to the same conclusion about replacing the tasting bar experience while we must remain closed: the virtual tasting, live on social media.

From Instagram Live, to Facebook Live, to Zoom calls, these events have popped up everywhere. And for wineries with online stores, the ability to sell wines ahead of time allows these tastings to feel close to the real experience.

That said, as wineries have jumped into the virtual tasting game, quality of these events and ability to retain viewership has certainly varied.

I appreciate the scrappiness and spontaneity of every winery that has tried a virtual tasting in the past few weeks. I’ve seen winemakers hop on Youtube, probably for the first time, to talk about their wines in front of their vineyard. I’ve seen tasting room associates facilitate live streams on Zoom with multiple guests. And I’ve seen wine lovers from across the United States come together for virtual happy hours on Instagram, sharing the screen with other winos for spontaneous chats throughout. It’s been amazing to watch.

But I’ve also been able to see the viewer numbers drop or remain low during some of these tastings. Poor audio quality, internet glitches, and awkward gaps in conversation can render these virtual tastings ineffective without proper planning. Additionally, as a viewer, I’m not always compelled to stay when joining a tasting mid-stream if there is nothing to pull me in, like context about the conversation. While working quickly to produce virtual content is smart, doing so without thinking through all these possible problems is not.

My advice after observing many virtual tastings is this:

  • Be as clear as possible about the details when promoting your virtual tasting – how can people buy the wines? Is there a deadline by which they need to order to receive the wines on time? On which platform should they plan to tune in for the tasting, and at what time?
  • Outline a script ahead of time so you can reduce dead air time, fill a designated time period, and make sure the conversation stays interesting
  • Prepare your backdrop and place setting to be noise-free, connected to quality internet, and visually interesting (avoid being a talking head in front of a blank background, and keep the wine in sight!)
  • Make it a real conversation and interact with your audience! Actively encourage questions and tasting feedback in the comments throughout. The more people feel like an appreciated part of the tasting instead of being a silent viewer, the better
  • Provide context for viewers who join mid-stream, such as reminders about what question you’re answering, or occasional comments like “for those just joining us…”

And for those of you looking to provide an especially professional looking live stream appearance, I recommend finding some Facebook Live software. These programs will allow you to not only invite guests to split your screen with you, like in a webinar, but they will also let you add branded graphics to your stream, and display viewer questions on screen while you answer them – an excellent way to make it easy for people to pop in mid-stream and immediately follow the conversation!

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How My Wineries Have Pivoted

Luckily, the wineries I work for already had a dedicated digital presence before this crisis. Brooklyn Winery and District Winery already sold wine via Shopify on our websites, and we’ve devoted significant time to growing our social media followings and email lists, so when it came time to launch wine sales promos and virtual tastings after we had to close, we had a well-engaged audience to start with.

At District Winery, we’re offering free shipping on purchases of 3 or more bottles of wine. Local residents can also take advantage of contact-less pick-up on select days. At Brooklyn Winery, in addition to regular shipping, we’re offering free delivery on 3 or more bottles in NYC and Long Island. At both wineries, we launched virtual tasting packs of 4 wines, that we are tasting through in live streams with our winemaker on Facebook. Check out the archives of our first virtual tastings for District Winery here and Brooklyn Winery here!

Is your winery doing something fun or unique while you’re closed? I’d love to hear about it below or on Instagram! Good luck out there, folks, and stay healthy.


Meaghan Webster is currently Marketing Manager at First Batch Hospitality, the group behind urban winemaking and events at Brooklyn Winery in NY, District Winery in DC, and the soon-to-open RiNo Point Winery in Denver. The advice shared here is solely Meaghan’s opinion based on her own expertise, and does not reflect the opinion(s) of her employer.

An experienced wine and food photographer, social media manager, and designer, Meaghan formerly worked as a marketing consultant for wineries and restaurants in DC, Virginia, Napa and NY. Learn more about her work at meaghanwebster.com or see her latest work and tips at instagram.com/meaghanwmarketing.

 

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