Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial Pandemic Ecommerce Tactics for Wineries to Implement Now

Pandemic Ecommerce Tactics for Wineries to Implement Now


Plus strategies to set up for sustainable ecommerce success

Expert EditorialIn response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the difficult realities that have forced us to #stayhome have put pressure on wineries that previously relied on hospitality and foot traffic as their primary means of lead generation. While many of these wineries might not have had a clearly articulated digital marketing strategy in place even in the best of times, implementing one now can assist with online sales opportunities that form the grim silver lining of this crisis.

Now that tasting rooms are closed by the government, how can wineries shift their marketing focus to sell wine directly to consumers? What can they do today to try and recoup lost revenue?

It’s been evident for a long time that selling wine online is a huge and growing opportunity. With the recent COVID-19-related “shelter-in-place” directives being implemented and encouraged across the nation, and on-and-off-premise buying options unavailable or unsafe, consumers are looking to the internet more than ever to buy wine.

Prior to COVID 19, online sales of wine were already booming, growing by 12% to surpass $3 billion in 2018Wine Business recently reported that “U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages were up 55 percent in the week ending March 21, according to Nielsen. Spirits sales were up 75 percent in the same period, wine sales were up 66 percent, [and] beer sales [were] up 42 percent. What’s more, Nielsen said online sales of beer wine and spirits were up 243 percent versus the same week the year before.”

According to Wine Industry Advisor, “The latest weekly U.S. off-premise data from Nielsen reveals that alcoholic beverage sales increased in the first full week of the pandemic ending March 21, 2020 by +28% compared to the week prior and +55% versus a year ago. The magnitude of the year-over-year increase… [saw] wine at +66%, and the beer category at +42%. ‘Not surprisingly, online growth rates for alcohol are ahead of in-store sales growth, but the online measured increases were out of the park – up 243% versus the same period of a year ago,’ says Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen. ‘And wine continues to dominate in terms of online share, 71% of total Beverage Alcohol sales.’”

With the new #sipfromhome landscape due to “safer-at-home” orders, ecommerce has become even more opportunistic for wineries. As consumers clearly want to buy wine online, especially during the pandemic when retail buying options are limited, what tactics can wineries put into place right now to leverage this boom in online wine sales?

Mining existing customer data and doing new lead generation are good places to start. However, putting a strong digital marketing strategy in place now will help sustain a higher level of ecommerce sales in the coming months as the pandemic online buying craze fades.

Below we’ll review tactics that you can implement right now and advise you on how to  become more strategic with your digital marketing in the future. We’ll discuss:

  • Winning sales from customers with high purchase intent through various forms of paid advertising and behavioral marketing
  • Crafting email segmentation to maximize revenue per email sent
  • Performing a public relations push to let journalists know what you are doing to serve your customers during the COVID 19 outbreak.
  • Using content marketing to improve your SEO so that you are discovered on Google for search terms that are relevant to your winery

Behavioral Marketing

A person’s search and browsing habits reveal a lot about their purchase intentions, and that data is for sale. So if someone is researching wines to buy online, how can you insure that they discover your winery over others? The fastest way is through performance advertising and behavioral marketing.

Consider that you can segment web researchers into ones that match the demographic of your ideal customer. It is possible to drill down into the likes and website interactions of your target demographic, how much they spend, their age, gender, marital status, etc. If your wines are priced at $100 a bottle, then sending ads to budget buyers, for example, is not going to help you, but targeting a high net worth cohort will. Behavioral marketing helps ensure your ad money is well spent on web visitors that will actually convert.

Email Marketing

Chances are, you already have a platform like MailChimp or ActiveCampaign for managing your email subscribers. These platforms offer powerful tools for up leveling your customer engagement and mining your customer data.

For ten years in a row, email is the channel that is generating the highest ROI for marketers. According to Campaign Monitor, for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI. McKinsey confirms that, “e-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use email daily, and the rate at which emails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.”

As a winery, your email list is gold. Everyone that had a great experience with you will probably spend money with you again. And these imbibers are desperate to remember better times.

Consider implementing the following tactics: You can easily tag all emails in your database by what was purchased. Craft email automations of well-branded messages with strong calls to action to convert one time purchasers into wine club subscribers and recurring revenue. All non-wine club past purchasers who are on your email list have the potential to be converted to recurring revenue through thoughtful email offers as well.

Social Media Advertising

With your email list, you can create look-a-like audiences in Facebook and Instagram and target ads to those folks who are mirrors of your existing customer base. The capabilities and benefits of a well-tended email list go on.

These platforms also allow for further advertising to key customer lists. When you host a sale for example, your VIP list should be the first to hear about it. In addition to receiving an email, you can show targeted social ads to those VIPs. Make sure your customers are aware of promotions and new products according to their interests. This will stretch each marketing dollar invested.

Social media is not a one-size-fits all medium, and your advertising shouldn’t be either. There are lots of different types of users on social media so be sure that advertising dollars are used strategically.

Wine Public Relations and Influencer Marketing

Amplify your message that you are OPEN for delivery by engaging journalists and their readers. With the billowing landscape of journalists and wine influencers, media’s desire for content and brands’ need for organic coverage continues to reign supreme for many wineries that are savvy about their communications and SEO strategy. However, this shifting media landscape means that PR campaigns are becoming increasingly challenging, unwieldy and hard to manage in house.

Wine PR is blending with influencer marketing more than ever before as social media democratizes the authority of old guard critics. Consider a strategy for engaging wine and lifestyle influencers in addition to wine journalists. This compliments your goal of growing your social following by tapping into the pre-established following of key social opinion leaders in wine. Craft content that is mutually beneficial for you and your influencer of choice with tactics such as giveaways and joined tastings so that potential customers and followers can participate from home.

Think Holistically About Your Content Marketing

A social media post, an email, a blog post, a pitch to journalists – these should not occur in vacuums or independent of one another but rather be woven into big picture content marketing campaigns, with each channel complementing and enhancing the others.

Due to the closure of public tastings, think of brand and user generated content and refreshed digital solutions as a new, optimal content-turned-advertising strategy. With an email and on-site advertising strategy in place, levers for digital marketing can bring in new customers through consistently refreshed content – all while tapping into the content your customers are creating on your behalf as well.

Through digital media, you can take potential customers who are stuck at home on a fine wine journey with your strategically disseminated content. As you think about populating your email, social media, and advertising content, think about what kind of messaging and imagery your digital tasting room guests want to see. You can quickly test to see what kind of content is resonating with your audience through simple Instagram analytics on your backend.

Virtual Wine Tastings

This has evolved as the go-to tactic for many wineries to try and do at least something to engage their customers and perhaps drum up some DTC revenue. However, as the bandwagon gets bigger, we can now likely agree that many efforts fall flat. Here’s a good read on how to avoid being boring when you host and promote webinars about your wines.

It’s worth mentioning that your virtual tasting should be tied to a well articulated marketing goal, and “selling wine online” is too broad. We suggest making this a lead generation activity with the goal of gathering emails. You can create an incentive in exchange for a customer’s email: Sign up for our virtual tasting and get a discount on wine sold on our website.

One More Thing – Optimize Your Funnel:

Google recently changed their algorithm to prioritize mobile friendly websites. Consider that many consumers are spending hours of quarantine time on their smartphones. It is imperative to ensure that user experience is ideal to enhance your sales.

Ask yourself: How easy is it for your customers to check out? Is it difficult to search my wines and programs? Ensure that the customer’s interaction with your website is optimized through a branded and pleasant journey, leading them to sign up for your club and move towards purchase. It is crucial and imperative that each touchpoint en route to check-out is well thought out. Any friction and your conversion rates go down.

Expert Editorial

By Erin Vaughen Hlynsky


Erin Vaughen Hlynsky has a wealth of experience driving media strategies for top wine, fashion and lifestyle brands. She is intimately familiar with the business of wine, having also worked in wine brand management, and is tuned into the power that good PR can have on wine sales. Erin brings creative thinking, strong writing and pitching skills, and a proven track record of success to each of her campaigns. Prior to working in PR, Erin wrote for various travel magazines, including Modern Luxury and the St. Regis publications.

In addition to managing Everly Communications, Erin also founded Vinley Market wine club. This ongoing experience of managing a digital wine brand has given her a top down perspective on digital marketing, including driving e-commerce and social media strategies for the wine industry.

Erin has a double major in English Literature and International Studies from UC Irvine. Her love of wine developed during family trips to Santa Ynez Valley and flourished when she traveled abroad to Barcelona in college. Erin has the WSET Level 3 Advanced Award in Wine.



  1. Curious as to what wineries are paying for lead. For example, real estate agents pay Zillow ~$50 per lead on average.



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