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Wineries Shift to Mobile Platforms

One e-commerce provider says more than 17% of site's traffic is mobile

by Peter Mitham
wattle creek
Ben Williams of Wattle Creek Winery in Cloverdale, Calif., is using software to streamline the storage of customer data.
Bellevue, Wash.—Digital media consultant Rick Bakas of San Francisco, Calif.-based Bakas Media told wine industry members at marketing seminars in Oregon and British Columbia a year ago that indicators pointed to a breakthrough for mobile commerce in 2014.

“This is the year that’s targeted for mobile media and mobile marketing to explode,” he said at the time. Wineries should, at the very least, have a mobile landing page for online visitors using smart phones and tablets – not simply a web page, which can be very difficult to read and navigate around on a mobile device. He said a welcoming feature like this would build a relationship with aficionados and potential customers.

This week, Bakas told Wines & Vines that wineries are still lagging in the development of a mobile presence—or what he prefers to call a digital strategy, one that takes a coordinated approach to desktop and mobile interfaces, social media and apps.

“Wineries will want to integrate them all together into a single sales and marketing strategy,” he said. “From what I see, approximately 75% of wineries using the social web still haven’t figured out the basics of social media and are doing it wrong.”

That’s not to say they aren’t trying, and that customers aren’t pushing the issue.

Mobile traffic doubling
Andrew Kamphuis, founder of Canada’s Vin65 in Abbotsford, B.C., said mobile traffic through the sites of the 800-odd wineries for which his company manages e-commerce platforms has doubled in each of the past three years.

“Two years ago in December about 5% of our traffic was on mobile,” he said. “This past Christmas it was at 17.5%, that’s a huge uptake in mobile traffic.”

Kamphuis expects traffic could hit 30% by the end of this year. Wineries have responded accordingly, he said. “Two years ago, Rick (Bakas) was right; wineries were blind to it,” he said. “I don’t think they’re blind anymore.…When 17% of your web sales are coming from a mobile device, you’re going to pay attention.”

Vin65, which has launched an iPad-based point-of-sale system, identifies five key benefits for wineries to make the leap to mobile sales platforms:
• Greater sales,
• More productive employees,
• Better customer service,
• Easier reporting,
• Improved customer experience.

Of course, Vin65 is not the first company to recognize the advantages.

Originally an inventory-management firm, OrderPort LLC of Bellevue, Wash., has developed a roster for its eponymous tasting room software since debuting it at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers convention in February 2012. A partnership with Vintners Logistics LLC and Vintners Direct LLC allows the fulfilment of orders from consumers to wholesalers, with integrated management and keeping of records.

“It does all their sales,” said Stephen Ratzlaff, managing partner of OrderPort. “A lot of wineries have different systems to manage each one of those. We do it all in one place, so at the end of (the) month it’s really easy to do all of your accounting, all of your compliance reports.”

The software is tailored for use with iPads, primarily within tasting rooms, but it is increasingly used at tastings and elsewhere.

“You could handle these things manually, but then it’s a tremendous amount more work. They don’t have consistent pricing, they don’t have a common database for marketing,” Ratzlaff said.

The aim of the software is to help tasting room staff be more responsive to customers, moving sales along and creating a more positive experience for the customer. On the back end, the integration of various sales channels streamlines accounting and reporting.

Helps winery get the word out
Ben Williams of Wattle Creek Winery in Cloverdale , Calif., told Wines & Vines that the system has helped the winery boost its mailing list, helping it get the word out about its wines to more people.

In addition, consumer data is shared securely across the winery, so that the existing relationship is honored if one of those consumers follows through and buys wine. This wasn’t the case last year, when Wattle Creek was manually adding customer information to upwards of three separate databases.

“We were running a wine club database system, I was running a separate system for our mass emailer, and I was running yet another database system for our online sales,” he said. “They’ve been as close to a silver-bullet solution as I could ever hope to find.”

Moreover, during some small improvements to its Cloverdale tasting room last week, the mobile nature of the system allowed Williams to move tasting room operations onto the patio rather than be tethered to a cash register.

Ratzlaff says such turnkey solutions are exactly what small to mid-sized wineries are looking for, because most don’t have in-house tech expertise to collate the various databases and sales channels.

“They’re not big enough to try to integrate it,” he said. “They want it easy to implement.”

OrderPort currently has approximately 100 clients, but Ratzlaff expects the number could easily double by the end of this year.

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Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $575 million
$7,743 million
September 2013 $550 million $7,311 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $163 million
$1,708 million
September 2013 $141 million $1,538 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 166
September 2013 145 192
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