There are some great lessons for wineries in this post, entitled The Shop I Want.
We’re in a world where you can find anything you want, which is great, except when you realize there’s a lot of everything...The shop I want is full of people who are dedicated to their opinion. Who are happier understanding a thing rather than wanting it. These people will happily tell the story of [how they] happened upon this opinion and I want to hear it because the opinion of someone I trust is just as valuable as my own.
He goes on to talk about Twitter as (one example of) a source for opinions about stuff.
There are some great thought-starters here for those who are willing to ponder a bit. We live in a world full of wines. We're looking for opinions with stories behind them.
We are all suckers for a good story.
(PS - When you find a blog post that's interesting, don't forget to read the comments as well. In general, comments are at least as valuable as the original post. It's where you see what the author missed, for one reason or another, and get the insights of other smart people.)
After all the hype and recommendations about Facebook as a method of connecting with your customers, this is a pretty big deal, and you should read his post (and the comments, which are always a valuable part of any blog post). At the same time, I need time to consider his points before giving my own opinion.I encourage you to comment on Josh's post.
(full disclosure: this is not the online sales graph for a winery)
What happened in December of 2009? The company involved started to make changes in their Web site, one at a time, measuring the changes.
Notice that I didn't say "they redesigned their entire Web site." And it was pretty horrible to start (and it's still no prize, in my opinion).
They just started with a pretty horrible design, and started removing the "rocks" that impeded customers from making a purchase. Turns out, they didn't have to remove too many.
You can read the full story here. If your site gets at least 50 visitors a day (which may be the first problem you need to solve), you can get the same treatment (for a price).
I apologize that this story isn't about a winery Web site, since that's what you come here to read about. But I think it's valuable because it talks about incremental changes guided by measurement, which applies to your winery Web site as much as it does to a site selling The Amazing Bible Timeline.
Here, with minor edits, is the opening paragraph of an e-mail I received from a winery today:
Dear [redacted] Customers,
We’ve decided to re-send last week’s e-mail announcing the release of two new [redacted] wines, since many of our customers encountered difficulty in placing their orders on our website. We have since learned that our website vendor was having serious server problems that prevented some of our customers from completing their orders (other orders were placed successfully). Over the week-end, the problems were fixed and the ordering system is now in [sic] working. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your e-mails, alerting us to these problems.
First of all, breathe a sigh of relief that this wasn't your winery.
What would have happened if some frustrated customer hadn't sent them an e-mail? They might still have a broken e-commerce site. They might be wondering why that e-mail offer they sent isn't generating as many orders as usual.
I could be cynical and assume that this is just a way of sending another e-mail blast to get people to take action. But I'm not. I feel sorry for whatever revenue this winery lost (my understanding is that they are, like many wineries, trying to move slow-selling products). I suspect it also had some impact on their customer's perceptions as well.
I took a moment to look up the IP address for the winery's Web site (they host their own e-commerce solution). Doing a lookup through ARIN (the entity which assigns blocks of IP addresses for the US), I could see that their IP address belongs to their Web host, Bay Area Network Systems. Presumably, that's where the problem occurred, although it's hard to tell from the winery's description.
What can you do to ensure that you won't experience the same breakdown? Ideally, you have a way to place an order (from outside your own network) that flows all the way through the system and shows up as received. That's the only way to really be sure. And even then, as the letter above shows, that's not a guarantee that it's working for everyone.
If you're like most wineries, where Web sales aren't all that important to the bottom line, you probably don't care. But if you're doing significant revenue via your Web site, you should be asking yourself, "How do I know that my e-commerce site is actually working?"
(If you supply winery e-commerce solutions, I'd appreciate any comments you care to add. Thanks!)
A tasting room is one of the most critical success factors for small-to-medium size wineries. That's why if you have one (and perhaps even if you don't), you should go read Tasting Room Tactics right now.
Then be sure to subscribe to the WineryProfitability.com blog. Although the posts don't come along too often, it's great information whenever one comes along (that's why blog subscriptions via RSS is one of the very best ways to follow key information providers).