Talk about customer loyalty. Wine Insiders celebrates its 38th year as a pioneer in the sale and delivery of wine this month. And its most valuable customer is a 91-year-old woman who has been with them for 37 of those years.
“We credit our success to our three core tenets: convenience, curation and value,” said Zac Brandenberg, co-founder and CEO of Drinks Holdings, the parent company of Wine Insiders. “From a marketing standpoint, that includes seasonal offerings and promotions; curator partnerships with celebrities, chefs and sommeliers; and digital and traditional marketing tactics that reach all ages, regions and demographics.”
Calling itself “the internet’s preeminent destination for premium wine,” Wine Insiders has been a leader in the complex, highly regulated wine industry since the company started its direct marketing and door-to-door sales operation in 1982.
The company has combined savvy partnerships with edgy technology and innovations to become the most highly-rated wine site in the country, with over six million orders from two million households across the nation. It has clocked more than $400 million in revenue to date, 47 percent of which comes from mobile devices.
Wine Insiders has historically operated as a direct marketing company that used traditional direct mail, catalogs and package inserts for promotion. It still uses those channels, but has supplemented them with digital advertising via Facebook, other social mediums and influencer campaigns.
DRINKS, which was Wine Insiders’ chief competitor, acquired Wine Insiders in 2014. It kept the brand alive, launched an eCommerce site, partnered with Martha Stewart and introduced social media channels. It currently focuses on wines within the $8-$20 range, shipping them directly to consumers, and also introduced the option for customers to receive their wine at over 14,000 local pickup locations. Customers can buy one-off bottles, curated packs or build-your-own packs, or they can join a quarterly wine club.
The retailer’s 38th anniversary will marked by two weeks of promotions. The Wine Insiders anniversary sale has typically lasted for seven days. In light of historic uncertainty and temporary closures of local businesses – including retail stores and restaurants – the company has decided to double the length of the promotion to make it easier for customers to get the wines they enjoy at an affordable price.
And if ever there was a time to kick back and have a glass of wine, this is it. Wine Insiders has seen orders spike five times over the past month, starting with the West Coast states first hit by the pandemic and now in every other region. Sales in the Northeast doubled overnight from Sunday (March 22) to Monday (March 23), which was the largest grossing day of the year so far.
“Looking at the long term, we see this moment as a further catalyst for increased online wine adoption,” said Brandenberg. “The trend has been going in the direction of eCommerce for quite some time, but until this point, online made up less than 2 percent of the $70 billion wine market. Now, we are seeing a massive embrace of online shopping by consumers who are new to this method of shopping, with very positive long-term ramifications for all parties in the digital commerce space.”
The executive team at Wine Insiders has used data science to gain a better understanding of the customer. Brandenberg believes customers will come to expect more hyper-personalized recommendations. The company’s patented PAIR engine technology uses demographic, behavioral and historical transaction data to map out consumer preferences, using those to break down the taste profiles and design attributes of various wines. From there, PAIR identifies the visual elements of a wine label that are most likely to grab the attention of a specific set of consumers, which is then used to optimize label design (much like ad creative) and inform product mixes.
The PAIR engine also tailors the customer experience through both a patented recommendation engine and personalized product merchandising. That technology can assess a customer’s historical wine buying preferences – from varietals to pricing to label designs – and determine which new wines to suggest. From there, the customer can see a virtual “product shelf” customized specifically for them. By providing customers with wines that are most relevant to them, these e-storefronts help eliminate the struggle traditionally felt when looking at a “wall of wine” at a retail store.
“As in all industries, consumers want convenience, value and curation – they want to buy whatever they want, whenever they want, from wherever they want,” Brandenberg noted. “We believe these desires will only grow stronger over time, and will continue to shape the wine buying experience.”
Wine Insiders also anticipates that customers will expect faster, more seamless delivery. In addition to shipping wines directly to homes or businesses, it has launched pickup options at 14,000 local locations in partnership with FedEx.
Noted Brandenberg, “when we envision the ‘next generation,’ we recognize that customers will want to shop in accordance with their lifestyle – but also with new amplified considerations about having as many items as possible shipped to their door. We aim to continue the expansion of these offerings where possible.”