Wine Industry Technology Symposium
12 July 2005
My name is Michael Duffy, and I'm the publisher of The Winery Web Site Report, the first independent evaluation of the effectiveness of over 2,200 winery Web sites. I also write the monthly technology column for North Bay biz.
I'd like to start by asking: how many of you work for a winery? Please raise your hand.
Now, since this session is aimed at small-to-medium wineries, please leave your hand up if your winery produces less than 10,000 cases a year.
There's no need to take notes, since a copy of this presentation is available on our Web site.
[slide: winery technology]
There's a lot of technology available to the small and medium winery: Web sites, e-mail, spreadsheets, entire systems like those from Inertia Beverages and Cultivate Systems, even new fangled stuff like RSS and Web logs.
Today, I'm going to focus on your Web site, because increasingly your winery Web site is the first point of contact between your winery and the world.
A January, 2005 study finds 32% of adults use the internet as their primary source of information, compared to 42% of the "mass affluent" and 50% of the "highly affluent."
That means that the people most likely to buy and recommend your wines are visiting your site. What do they experience? Satisfaction or frustration?
[slide: index finger]
If you remember nothing else from my talk today, here's the one thing you should remember:
With regard to your Web site, you need to think like a visitor. The secret to success is to make it easy for your visitors to accomplish whatever they came to do - to make your visitors effective.
[slide: remote control]
Because your visitor is in control.
Let me give you an analogy. If you have a tasting room, you wouldn't make visitors wait at the door and listen to a 30-second video before they can enter. But some Web sites do.
In the physical world, visitors might put up with the imposition, since it took some effort to physically get there, but not on the Web.
[slide: back button]
Like every one else on the Web, your visitors know how to use the back button. The so-called "page paradigm" says that on any Web page, visitors will either (a) click on a link that appears to take them closer to their goal, or (b) click the back button.
You invested in a Web site to help sell your wine. Let's talk about how you can do that by thinking like a user.
[slide: 4 kinds of visitors]
There are four kinds of visitors to a winery Web site. Each one has a different goal. It doesn't matter what you want them to do - if you help them meet their goal, that will follow.
First, buyers. They just want to buy your wine right now. Don't get in their way. Help them make choices.
These may be past customers or people who have experienced your wine somewhere else, or even people who just heard about you in the Wall St. Journal "Tastings" column. They're the most difficult to pin down.
[slide: the trade]
The trade. Even if you're a small winery, you need to think about what you want to say to distributors, retailers, and restaurants.
[slide: the media]
Ideally, you want people to taste your wine. The media are important because they serve as surrogates for the direct experience of your wines.
This is a graph of the scoring frequency of the 2,231 wineries currently in our evaluation database. Each winery is rated on 25 distinct elements.
On our 100-point scale, the median for all wineries is 48. Basically, everyone could be doing a lot better. The highest score is only 83, and lest you think that's one of the big 30 wineries that has lots of time, money, and people to throw at their Web presence, it's not.
An effective Web site is not simply a matter of how much money you have to spend. It's really how well you think like your visitors. Let me give you a quick example.
[slide: Conn Valley]
Here's a visually attractive home page. A bold, colorful picture. Links for buyers, browsers, the trade and the media. Not bad at all.
Here's a similar home page. After all, it has another picture of a vineyard, and one vineyard looks pretty much like another.
In passing, I would suggest to you that one of the most important images you can place on your home page is a decent-sized picture of a bottle of your wine. Why? Because that's the point of contact with your customers, on a store shelf or in a restaurant. That's how your visitors are likely to know you.
[slide: Lynmar buy page]
If you decide to buy their wine, this is what you get. It's typical of smaller wineries to outsource their shopping carts.
[slide: Conn Valley intermediate page]
Here's a great example of thinking like a visitor. When you click on "buy wine", instead of dropping you immediately into e-commerce mode, this winery offers the choice of a list of retail stores, their 800 number, or their online store.
It may not be obvious at a distance, but both of these wineries use the same third party provider for their e-commerce (Nexternal). So, one small change, a simple intermediate page, makes a big difference in the effectiveness of these sites for people who came to buy.
Based on our evaluation of over 2,200 winery Web sites, here are four concrete things which most sites need to improve:
1. Address the trade
Do you sell your wine to others? How would they know? Yes, people can always call you up, and find the right person, and ask them. But specifically addressing distributors, retailers, and restaurants takes little effort, just like the "buy wine" page we saw earlier.
2. Address the media
Most winery Web sites completely ignore the media. Yet media coverage is one of the most powerful boosts a small winery can receive. The number one gripe of journalists? They can't find your PR contact.
3. Clear information about shipping
This is more confusing than ever. Even California is revising its laws in reaction to the recent supreme court decision. As a extreme example, consider that there are wineries in states which don't ship wine which don't mention that little detail on their Web site.
As you've seen many sites defer this to their shopping cart, which can set visitors up for a disappointment.
[slide: think like a visitor]
Your goal is a continued relationship with your visitor which results in sales of your wine. Technology allows you to pursue that goal in a cost-effective way, but it cannot substitute for authentically engaging your visitors by helping them achieve their goals.
Consider: from their visitor's point of view, Amazon.com isn't successful because of their technology. They're successful because they make it easy to buy.
[slide: business card image]
I hope that I've whetted your interest in increasing the "visitor effectiveness" of your Web site. I welcome your questions.
Michael E. Duffy, Publisher
The Winery Web Site Report
650 Larkfield Center, Suite B5
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
mike AT winerywebsitereport DOT com
(707) 523-4590 voice
(707) 523-4591 fax