This article explores wine online innovation by looking at the successful example of Gusbourne, an English wine producer.
Wine Online Innovation: Wine Clubs
Why might a producer choose to use a wine club and online sales to boost sales? What are the benefits and restrictions of selling wines this way?
A well-run wine club combines several major benefits for producers.
It creates a sense of exclusivity and buzz around flagship product which can optimise price achieved of the flagship product and sales volume throughout the range. Screaming Eagle have had great success with this approach. Their wine club has a long waiting list and is highly prestigious.
The mailing list forms a way of building lasting relationships with customers. They will often introduce family and friends to the brand. A wine club is a variant of a company newsletter but with much higher levels of interest generated among consumers.
Enhancing Customer Relationships
Customer loyalty provides some resilience against natural fluctuation in productions levels.
Customers who have a long-standing relationship will not desert the producer if there are supply issues in particular years. These can be caused by a poor harvest, for example.
Similarly, production may be larger than usual. In these circumstances, the existence of established allocations to customers helps shift a significant slice of product. It can ideally also be leveraged into extra volume at an (ideally minor) discount if this is seen as optimal under the circumstances.
Certainly, the wine club can be a conduit for driving traffic to the cellar door, which is a further useful channel in itself. It also further strengthens client relationships and is a positive advertising vector.
Valuable marketing intel comes for free. The winery can learn about its customers. It will learn their socio-economic breakdown. Market segments to address further will become clear. Which products appeal to which people?
Having the wine club online is a relatively inexpensive way of reaching a very large number of potential clients on a global basis.
Given the current nature of the commercial environment, not having an online presence or worse having an amateur one makes a producer appear extremely backward-looking. We cannot expect a producer with no website to be on top of the latest trends such as organic certification/new varietals post-climate change etc.
Having an online ordering possibility is extremely valuable in the extreme COVID circumstances currently obtaining. Wine writers have commented that small producers with no online presence are struggling enormously under lockdown because they simply have no way to move product.
There are no major disadvantages to having an online presence. Setting up and maintaining a website involves costs. This requires specialist skills. It is very important that the website be reliable and easy-to-navigate.
This includes consideration of how the website will appear on a phone. This is a channel of ever-increasing importance and many website today simply fail to be usable on a phone.
Staff must invest time in maintaining the website and potentially also a social media operation. For example, customers will often use social media to comment and complain about the product. Complaints must be handled on a measured and timely basis.
The entire nature of social media posting is confusing for two reasons. Firstly, one must somehow combine professionalism and informality. Secondly one must stay abreast of an ever-changing landscape of platforms. For example, the median Facebook user in the US is now 41. This may be fine for reaching the established client base but will increasingly miss the future Millennial market base.
Keeping the online stock updated is another task which will involve sustained effort .
Wine Online Innovation at Gusbourne
Gusbourne is a great example producer that is using online innovation to sell their wines.
Gusbourne is a successful producer of English sparkling wines which has an online wine club named “Gusbourne Reserve.”
This is an intelligent choice of name which combines a sense of exclusivity with simplicity and a focus on the brand; it would have been very easy and lazy to call it the “Gusbourne Wine Club” etc
Consumer Touch Points
How does this online presence gives the producer various touch points with the consumer?
The club has a dedicated region of the main website: https://www.gusbourne.com/reserved
The navigation options at the top of the start page of the site reflect the touch points. These are as follows.
- ABOUT US
- TOURS & TASTINGS
- TIME WELL SPENT
50% of enquiries die when a question is asked or input is required on a website. It is therefore essential to have as little time/navigation required between arrival on a site and an opportunity to purchase as possible. Therefore, many of the options above lead on to immediate revenue-generation opportunities. The rest offer further information which will ideally retain visitors on the website.
The first four options offer further information. Gusbourne can thus appeal to potential clients who are specifically interested in the location of the vineyards. Clients want to know how the wine is made and what wines are available. The very first option ABOUT US being the default for someone who wants to know more but has no specific direction of enquiry at present.
All of the remaining options are revenue-generation opportunities. Details of where to buy the wine offline are provided. Opportunities to visit the cellar door are promoted. Further details of the wine club are offered. TIME WELL SPENT is a COVID opportunity whereby their sommelier will engage on specific topics of interest such as food matching via bespoke online channels such as Zoom.
The remaining two options BUY and TOURS are placed at the far right. These are repeats of options already available but are basically designed to catch very busy people. If someone only reads one word on this page, it is likely to be one of these two. One offers the chance to buy product and the other offers the chance to book a tour. Both are good revenue opportunities for Gusbourne.
Effective Wine Online Innovation
How effective is Gusbourne’s online strategy?
The online strategy of Gusbourne is extremely effective as a result of various factors. The site has strong design with varied professional photography. It has frequently updated content. The last two posts are from the same day and six days previously. Appealing photographs front both posts. There are nine posts from the current month which is impressive.
The content is fresh and informative. There are discussions on what is happening in the vineyard in spring with a theme of “hope” and renewal. This is particularly valuable and sensitive to current conditions.
There is plenty of food matching advice from chefs as to what can work with the product.
There is a post on the unconventional and interesting background of the founder. He was a surgeon from the noted wine region Stellenbosch in South Africa. This adds human interest which is important to building the brand story.
This is very strong offer with no wasted words. It tells potential members what they are getting and why they should want it. It is good marketing to explain to the customer why the product will give him what he wants and tell him also that he wants it just for the avoidance of doubt.
The website sells an “experience” or how a customer will become more the person he wants to be or to project. “I want to be the kind of person who is in the club.”
“Become a member today to guarantee your allocation of our wines, direct from the cellar, and access to a range of exclusive benefits.”Gusbourne Website
There is a strong use of consistent livery across the website. This enhances its professional appearance. The front page of the Reserved subsite has very strong and bold graphic design. This is simple and straightforward and emphasises the product.
Text is sparse. This is wise since “busy” websites are extremely off-putting. There are some navigation options and the mission statement below.
Allocation Appeal in Wine Online Innovation
Immediately below the main page of the subsite comes a USP statement as below.
“YOUR ALLOCATION: Two bottles each of Gusbourne Brut Reserve, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs are allocated to each member at cellar release and delivered in two cases of six during the course of the year.”Gusbourne Website
This tells clients exactly what they are getting but also makes it clear that the initial commitment need not be immense.
The offer continues as below.
“Throughout the year, you can order additional bottles at preferential rates, and you’ll also have the opportunity to order our limited edition, mature and rare wines, which are only available to members”Gusbourne Website
These exclusive benefits are likely to be extremely appealing to clients. Note also the constant address of the potential client as “you.” This emphasises what it is that YOU are going to get if you join Gusbourne Reserve.
“All orders receive complimentary UK mainland delivery”Gusbourne Website
This is a way of giving a discount to loyal customers without actually reducing the price of the product. Discounts can have adverse market implications.
Gusbourne is not cheap. This is because low yields in the UK under the current conditions mean the price per bottle will be relatively high at ca. £20 per bottle. The winery has to produce a premium product to be viable at this price.
Social Media Operation
There is a comprehensive social media operation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These have dedicated content tailored to the different platforms. Twitter is less visual than the others; Instagram uses more video than still photography.
The mailing list is easy to join. No commitment to joining Gusbourne Reserve is required. The upgrade/conversion rate will be good given the effectiveness of the site design.
This is such a professional and widely-ranging online operation that it is difficult to suggest any further improvements.
One possibility to explore would be to add more video content. The current site is very text-based. This may gain less traction with younger people now and in the future.