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How To Bring Your Business Online: Bridging the Offline/Online Divide

September 20, 2021
This article originally appeared in the spring edition of the Wine & Viticulture Journal 2021.

It’s fair to say that before 2020, most businesses focused their priorities and resources on their physical store, limiting their online presence to be nothing more than a modern-day Yellow Pages ad. Job done – right? Wrong. 

Even when businesses opened their eyes to the more profitable opportunities that online sales channels provided, they were overcome by challenges: “How do we build an online shop?” “What will customers even want on a website?”, “What the heck is DtC and why should I care?”

With the onset of border closures and lockdowns, more pressure was put onto wineries that had their stream of customers cut off. But with the right software provider, these challenges become opportunities. Here’s our take on how to make the most out of the online opportunity.


Make It Easy For Your Customer

Work from the customer backwards. Your customers are what make your business successful. While the cellar door will always be an important step in acquiring new customers and providing a memorable experience to loyal customers, your online presence cannot be ignored in this new world of digital eCommerce.

Your website and eCommerce online shop is an online version of your cellar door. But having a website alone isn’t enough to reach and convert customers. You can have the coolest brick-and-mortar store in town, but if it’s tricky to get to or everything customers actually want is hidden down the back of the store, you probably won’t sell much. Think strategy first, system second. 

Remember that the mindset of an online customer is very different to the mindset of a cellar door customer. The cellar door customer is there to sample, enjoy and potentially purchase wine. Whereas, the online customer is coming to your website for one of three reasons: buying, browsing, or booking. They aren’t there to hang out and enjoy your website graphics. Make it as easy as possible for a visitor to your eCommerce to purchase, contact, or book with a straightforward website and beautiful eCommerce. No need for bells and whistles.

Combine Offline and Online Experiences

Many businesses treat offline and online sales channels as two separate worlds. For the best outcomes for your cellar door, bridge the divide between offline and online. Use your offline retail presence (your cellar door) to capture leads for the more profitable sales opportunities online (your online shop or eCommerce).

Start small. The first thing every customer interacts with when they walk into a cellar door is typically a piece of paper featuring a wine list. They reference the paper throughout the tasting, sometimes they write notes on it and then at the end of the tasting, they throw that piece of paper in the bin or crumple into their bag.

If you could see what was written on that piece of paper, it would help you re-engage with that customer. So, why not digitise that piece of paper? It’s not as difficult as you might think.

One of the services that we offer is digital tasting menus. Your wine tasting list can live on your website or eCommerce and be accessed by cellar door visitors on their own smartphones. A side effect of the 2020 pandemic is that everyone is very familiar with QR codes. You can easily place a QR code on your cellar door counter and when visitors come in they can scan and have the list instantly. On the digital tasting menu, they can mark which wines they tried and liked and can have their tasting notes emailed to their own email inbox. WithWine’s mobile POS can also email receipts to customers after a purchase, providing wineries with a reason to capture a customers email address and an opportunity to reach out to them again and make a repeat sale.

Don’t Underestimate Email

Now you have a customer’s email, treat it with respect. There’s nothing worse than being on the receiving end of a one-to-many email blast. After all, do you enjoy receiving them? We know it’s all well and good to say "You have to send emails" but what content should those emails contain? The emails you send don’t have to be limited to what great deals you have (although of course, those emails have a place). Remember most of your customers will receive crazy offers and deals from massive corporations. What sets you apart from the big corporations is your authenticity. Lean into your identity as an independent winemaker and seller. You are an expert on your product, share your expertise with those that want to support you. Consider sharing your favourite wine pairings, event invitations, your wine club benefits and more.

Rather than sending one email, with five different messages in it, to your entire database, and putting the onus on your customers to work out which message is relevant bring a level of personalisation to your returning customers by engaging with them over email, for example by sending Shiraz meal pairing ideas that your team swears by offers to those cellar door visitors who enjoyed your Shiraz (if you have a smart POS of course!).

Keep Looking For Opportunities

Are you looking for doom and gloom? There’s plenty on offer for those who want it. But for those looking for silver linings to this COVID pandemonium, they’re everywhere. Despite the challenges that lay ahead, ultimately we’re of the opinion that most wineries will come out the other side of this crisis stronger and more confident than they were going in. Whether the glass is half full or half empty – it will ultimately need topping up! 

Let’s use this time to focus on experimenting, measuring and refining the strategy that will turn your business into a well-oiled machine so that when things open back up again, all you’ll need to do is worry about making enough wine to meet the demand.

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