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Cultivating Repeat Business Selling Wine Online

Posted on  | January 17, 2014   Bookmark and Share
Written by | Simon Lee

Selling wine online can be a challenging proposition, but the stores experiencing the most long-term success have found ways to access a steady stream of new clients while cultivating repeat business.  As more licensed retailers enter the market, organic search traffic is becoming crowded and free directory listings on Wine-Searcher and Snooth are not as effective as they used to be.  The big drivers of traffic can be unpredictable and a change to their alcohol policies can significantly impact your website.  More so than ever, it is important for online retailers to find loyal customers and develop relationships that endure market uncertainty.

In order to expand their online reach to new customers, the most successful stores have spent money to generate internet traffic.  Many have taken advantage of pay-per-click advertisements to highlight unique products and low prices; some have tapped into their local community by advertising on Yelp and Google Local; while others have purchased professional marketing services with varying success. It is important to remember that in the constantly shifting world of selling wine online, relying on a single advertising channel to generate traffic may be profitable short term, but it can quickly become a source of vulnerability.  This year has seen Amazon pull the plug on listings for wine and spirit retailers, while last year Google Shopping had a ban on advertising all alcohol products.  While there is no way to anticipate the next major industry change, diversifying your marketing mix is a good way to prepare.

In addition to finding new customers, stores should encourage repeat business by making use of targeted emails to customers.  Emails can remind previous customers about your offers and provide an incentive for the next sale.  To entice this second sale, stores will advertise programs such as wine clubs, case discounts and in-store events.  Other stores email weekly newsletters made up of promotional offers, detailed information on highlighted products, and seasonally appropriate items.  Still other stores have cultivated engaged customers by making use of a Facebook and Twitter following.

Developing a stable clientele requires an understanding of how clients are using your site.  Tracking bounce rates and referral data in Google Analytics can illuminate shopping trends and the efficacy of email campaigns.  For more subjective insights, customer satisfaction surveys can be conducted informally on the phone or included in your email footer.  This valuable information can be used to better understand what methods work to encourage future sales and increase the chances for repeat business.

It is difficult to anticipate how selling wine online will continue to change, but there are plenty of advertising options available to stores looking to improve their business. In addition to ongoing efforts to drive new traffic, a store needs to work at maximizing the return from existing customers. In store and online they are the most directly accessible and have already expressed a willingness to purchase.  Establishing and maintaining communication to encourage repeat customers allows retailers a chance to stand apart from their peers and develop a sustaining online business for many years to come.

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