Best practices for Wine Clubs

By Mindy Joyce

Loyalty programs work in any industry and the wine industry is no different. Wine clubs are of course created by many wineries to build brand loyalty, secure future sales revenue, and also grow the customer base through referrals and word of mouth.

In a recent interview Sue Straight, wine club expert and owner of DTC Winery Coach, shared her expertise with our Commerce members. In this blog post I’ve distilled our conversation into three main takeaways; benefits, communication and retention.

Creating a wine club goes beyond giving members a discount on wine. While the standard wine club discount is 20 percent, there are a myriad of other benefits you can add to make becoming a wine club member a compelling proposition and also reinforce what makes your brand special. Aside from price the other element that can drive sales is scarcity. Being a boutique winery means you can let people know these wines are limited. You can offer pre-sales or wines based on allocation. You can be as creative as you want with benefits but some these could include invitations to an exclusive harvest experience in Napa; direct access to a “wine concierge” or “club manager”; wine club dinners in cities (especially outside of CA) are a great opportunity to reinforce loyalty.

Communications with wine club members should reflect your brand positioning and it is worth taking the time to develop what you plan to send and how. All club materials (and images you choose) should have the same high quality look and feel as your other communications – and it should also reinforce your brand story.   Sue recommends developing the wine club communications plan from the shipment and working backwards. The main point is to stay in regular contact. Offer club members a special opportunity in between club shipments; email them a month prior to the shipment date and ask if they have changed their credit card or if they plan to be out of town (fewer bounced credit cards, fewer returned shipments); call them and get to know them; and send handwritten Welcome to the Club letters. Sue says an effective way to communicate is also through direct mail (i.e: postcards, letters or mailers). The images you choose for any materials, including the club page on your website should create the feeling of an insider community by illustrating who is in the community.

Wine club members traditionally have an 18-month lifecycle so one of the biggest challenges you can anticipate is retaining members. Sue says the best way to do this is by providing exceptional customer service. She also recommends keeping the experience fun, creating ways to interact with members such as themed dinners, and giving them access to your best wines. Rewarding members for their loyalty and member referrals is also another great way to retain them. On the anniversary of their membership send them a small token of appreciation such as a gift certificate. Thank them for referring new club members by sending them surprise merchandise or goodies in the mail.