Making an Impersonal Experience, Online Shopping, Personal

When a customer comes into your tasting room, service should be and always is the top priority. Friendly faces and warm greetings are prevalent and everyone is focusing on that visitors satisfaction. If someone has a question, you are there to give an answer. If someone has an issue or special request, you are there to resolve and fulfill it. Most importantly, your customers know how much you appreciate their business and them.

Matching that personal experience during the purchasing process on a website is way more difficult. Your online store is technology and when it comes to technology and business, technology is intended to streamline operations and reduce human intervention. Everyone knows that and sometimes an online purchase can seem so isolated from any other human interaction. So, how do you personalize an experience being created by a mostly one way system?

First and foremost, put your phone number on every page! Despite the length of your FAQ page, you are not going to be able to answer every single question that your customer might have. Most websites drive people to contact forms and emails, but if I have a quick question sometimes I want to talk to someone right then. Be accessible according to your customers preference. Make sure your website clearly articulates the fact that you are available via phone, contact forms and emails.
**Added Bonus** It brings a level of credibility and can help improve conversion from visitors to purchasers.

Showcase the same level of professionalism on your website that you hold your staff to. Have a consistent look and feel on every page. Your site was designed to provide a smooth and consistent experience and your customers like that. Sometimes, people get a bit carried away with editing the text on pages and it often leads to a page that is very difficult to read or navigate.
Avoid the following:
Bolding entire paragraphs of text – Use bold and italic sparingly.

Centering text – it works on print materials better than it does on the web.

Different colors – Your brand is important and your website was designed to match your brand. Don’t create a rainbow in your content. It is distracting, looks amateurish and takes away from the consistency of your site. Also, it can be hard to read. (If you can’t read that last part, put your cursor at the start of the sentence, left click and hold, and drag to the end to highlight the sentence.)

CAPITALIZING – Why are you YELLING AT ME???

Making text really BIG!

Underlining things that are not links. – This confuses me. The internet has programmed me to think that when something is underlined, it is a link and I am often concerned that my left mouse button has stopped working when I click on an underlined word and nothing happens.

Give your customers what they want. Imagine a customer is in your tasting room and they want to buy a case of wine that you currently do not have at the winery. Are you going to turn away the sale? Nope. You’re going to explain that you currently do not have any in stock but you would love to ship it to them or have it available for pickup later that day. So why wouldn’t you say the exact same thing if a customer is trying to buy a wine that is temporarily out of stock on your website? Your not, right? I am willing to bet that you are in fact allowing that customer to add the product to their shopping cart, but making sure that you clearly state throughout the checkout process, that there might be a slight delay in getting that wine shipped out to them while you handle the logistics in completing the order. Like I said, I’m willing to bet that is what you are already doing. :)
**Opportunity to be a customer service superstar** In a backorder situation, follow up with the customer directly so they know you are aware of the state of their order and it is not landing in limbo or no man’s land.

Most people can tell if an email is automated and there is nothing personal about that. In order to remain personal, include non webby methods of communications. Emphasize the fact that a customer can always call you directly. Have a question about your order? Give us a call or login to your account. (Notice the login is the second choice. We love talking to our customers, right?)

Don’t stop at the website or after the order is complete. I know that you can’t always do it, but when you can, follow up personally. Call and ask about the purchasing process and was it easy? How was the wine? It pulls the curtain aside and shows the human behind the technology.
**Added Bonus** You can usually get another sale from these types of outreaches. Not too shabby and a fantastic way to impress your boss.

Include special collateral with pictures of your winery/vineyards in shipments to remind customers of their experience when visiting with you. And my personal favorite, a special hand written thank you card. I have only gotten one of these ever, but I can tell you that it made my day and it made me a fan for life!

These are just a few suggestions, but there are plenty of other methods to turn a non-personal experience, like shopping on a website, into a great personal experience.

5 Reasons Would-Be Customers Do Not Purchase

  1. Final Sticker Shock
    No big surprise here but one of the most common reasons a customer will not complete the purchase process is the final cost is more than they expected. Sure, they could pull a product or two from their shopping cart, recalculate and it might be in the right range but the damage has already been done. Once they see that final price, including shipping, their mind has already determined that they are not prepared to pay that much right now. Introducing the other factors that lead to the total cost of the order earlier in the checkout process will help soften the sticker shock.
  2. Checkout requires a login or account creation.
    If you are requiring a password of any sorts on the first page of your checkout process, you are throwing sales out the window. Bottom line. No ifs ands or buts.
  3. Unclear product information and product pages
    If a customer is landing directly on your product pages, they are coming from either a referring site or a search engine. Either way, they are looking for a particular product or information. Make sure you are presenting it appropriately so they can find the information they are looking for quickly and then moving thru the checkout process.
    1. Clear and high quality images. Heck, even add multiple images.
    2. Make sure your price is clearly shown and make it near that good old add to cart button.
    3. Additional information such as bottling date, time in oak, winemaker etc. is easily available but is not necessarily clogging up YOUR description of the product.
    4. REVIEWS!!!  I’m sure we all understand the major importance of customer reviews and their influence on would-be buyers.  Even if you do not have any reviews, showing you care enough to capture that feedback is valuable.
  4. Slow pages
    If your pages take a long time to load, would-be customers are closing their browser window. Ensure your web site visitors and customers can quickly access the pages they are looking for and the checkout process is quick in order to ensure a good experience.
  5. I don’t feel secure.
    If your customer gets a warning message when accessing a secured page saying it is in fact not secure, your would-be customer is no longer a potential customer. If someone is going to input their credit card information on a website, it must SCREAM secure transaction. The first indication of a non-secure transaction renders an image of a creepy guy in trench coat, down a dark alley just waiting to steal your financial stability. Don’t be that creepy guy!

So, To How Many States Can You Ship?

Much has been written about the benefits of direct shipments to consumers since Granholm opened up many states to legal interstate shipping.  There is much worthy conversation about the growth in consumer shipments, the growing dependence of smaller boutique wineries and specialty retailers on direct to consumer sales in markets otherwise unavailable to them, and the greater margins to be realized by selling directly to the ultimate consumer rather than through the wholesale tier.

Despite this conversation and the current debate over the possible impact of HR 5034 on the future of direct shipments, many wineries remain unsure as to which states they can ship.  Additionally, many other licensees, specifically retailers and importers, are unaware that they are also able to ship to consumers in a number of states.  All of this begs the question…to how many states can you ship?  And what are they?

Winery Direct
The actual number can be a topic of some debate because it can vary depending on your approach.  It also will depend on how you are licensed, as direct-to-consumer reach is greater for wineries than it is for retailers.  Another issue is whether to include only direct-to-consumer states or also states that can be reached through an established 3-tier network.  Some resources like to include any state that has a permit system in place, whether feasible or not, as well as states allowing onsite-only shipments or through consumer-obtained permits. 

Under the broadest approach, a licensed winery can ship to 45 states including all permit and open states, onsite-only states (DE,NJ,OK,RI,SD), consumer permit states (AL,MT), and 3-tier (MA,NJ).  This broad approach has its issues however.  Onsite restrictions and consumer permit systems aren’t workable for online sales.  Even some of the permit states have restrictions that may be problematic from a practical perspective.  

Indiana would be such a state.  The Hoosier state’s permit includes a “face-to-face” requirement, meaning the purchaser must make an initial visit to the winery (ostensibly so that identification can be confirmed) before any future shipments can be made to the consumer under the permit.

The only states completely off limits to direct shipments are AR,KY,MD,MA,MS,PA,UT, which are primarily control or partial control states with no practical permit system in place.  In fact, it’s a FELONY to ship to either KY or MD without a permit, which isn’t generally available in either state.

Practically speaking, consumer direct shipments by wineries are available to 36 states:  AK,AZ,CA,CO,CT,DC,FL,GA,HI,ID,IA,IL,KS,LA,ME,MI,MN,MO,NE,NV,NH,NY,NC,ND,NM, OH,OR,SC,TN,TX,VT,VA,WA,WV,WI,WY.

Retailer Direct
The options for retailers and imported brands are less broad but still available for some very desirable states.  There are as many as 15 states (AK,CA,DC,ID,LA,ND,NE,NH,NM,NV, MO,OR,VA,WV,WY) that permit retailers to ship directly to consumers, either with or without a permit, although with some restrictions.

The 3-Tier Alternative
There is a 3-tier alternative to shipping to consumers, even to some states that do not have direct shipment permit systems.  Through IBG’s Fulfillment Center, we offer a 3-tier network allowing wineries, retailers, and importers to reach up to 23 states, including MA and NJ, which are otherwise unavailable.  Through our network of licensed wholesalers and retailers, licensees can reach consumers in CO,DC,CT,FL,IL,MA,NJ,NY,NC,VA, and WI by shipping within the 3-tier system.   Combined with our partner’s direct shipment capabilities to most of the retailer direct states shown above, fully 23 states are available without the need for the licensee to acquire direct shipment permits.

We all know the wine industry has been hit as hard as any by the tough economic times.  Maximizing potential market access can be a key to growth and continued viability for many wineries and retailers.  The decision to ship to some states is easy because of the size of the market and ease of access.  Others may be more difficult.  Either way, be aware of your options and keep in mind alternative methods are available.  I’ll have more to say on accessing consumer direct markets in future posts.

Texas Two-Step: Siesta Village Market Back for a Second Look

It looks like the Texas retailer case of Siesta Village Market is headed back to court for a second look.  The plaintiff’s announced they are petitioning for a rehearing of the panel’s decision a few weeks back to refuse to rehear the case en banc before of the entire 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The plaintiffs understand it is necessary to exhaust their options before the full Court of Appeals before proceeding to the Supreme Court, should it come to that.  The plaintiffs cited the following in their petition:

“The panel opinion errs in two areas of exceptional importance.  First, the panel opinion contradicts substantive holdings of the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court by permitting the State of Texas to discriminate between in-state and out-of-state participants in interstate commerce.  Second, the panel opinion applies an analytical method contrary to the method mandated by both Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent in Commerce Clause cases such as this one.”

This case is tremendously important to opening up Texas to DTC for retailers and imported brands as well as setting precedents for retailer direct in other states.  It is unclear at this point when the petition will be decided and I’ll continue to track.  My guess is, regardless of who wins, if the case is decided by the full 5th Circuit the losing side will appeal.  This one looks to be going the distance.

Recent Direct Shipping News

A few recent developments on the direct shipping front of which you should be aware:

Texas:  The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused a rehearing en banc of last January’s Siesta Village Market decision by a panel of 5th Circuit judges.  The panel had ruled to uphold the Texas law prohibiting out-of-state retailers from shipping consumer direct to Texas residents.  This means such retailer shipments will remain illegal unless one of two things occurs:

  • The case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is certainly a possibility but dependent on the financial wherewithal of the plaintiffs and with no guarantee of success; OR
  • The Texas Legislature acts to change the law, which seems unlikely.

Massachusetts:  A bill to allow both instate and out-of-state wineries to ship direct to consumer to Massachusetts residents stalled in committee in the Massachusetts House and has until this week to pass before the current session ends.  HB 4497 is based on the Model Direct Shipping Bill and features the usual permit, age verification and volume limits requirements.  It does not appear to include retailer direct shipments.

Virginia:  The state ABC has resolved an issue that has prevented wineries & retailers from using 3rd party fulfillment services when shipping direct to Virginia residents.  The ABC created a direct to consumer permit specifically for such services.  The cost of the permit is $120.  This can be considered both good and bad news at the same time.

  • It’s good that they resolved the issue in a manner that helps everyone:  consumers, wineries and fulfillment services because there was much confusion after the ABC issued a ruling last year preventing such shipments, so this clarifies the situation in a high wine consumption state.
  • It’s bad because it sets an unfortunate precedent for other states to copy.  In most states, fulfillment services can ship direct to consumers as a service for their licensed winery customers without any permit requirements.  Now, other cash starved states could possibly look at this permit model and emulate it, adding an additional expense to consumer direct shipments.

Until next time.

We’ve Seen This Before: Consumer Access Denied In Delaware

If anyone doubts the opposition to direct consumer access to interstate wine shipments is largely about money, they need look no farther than the recent rejection of a direct consumer access bill by the Delaware House Economic Development and Commerce Committee.  In a 5-3 vote the committee decided not to allow the bill to be considered by the entire House.  You can read about it here in an article by the Associated Press on BusinessWeek.com.

The usual concerns of access to minors and collection of taxes were foisted up by opponents of the bill, but the real opposition was centered on concerns by wholesalers and retailers of revenue lost to out-of-state wineries from consumers seeking to purchase wines that the wholesalers and retailers likely don’t carry in their own inventories anyway.

Of particular interest were comments by the Teamsters union representative, who said direct shipments would hurt drivers and warehousemen who work in Delaware’s three-tier distribution system.  Not stopping there, he further suggested that instead of making consumer access to wine easier for Delaware residents, the state should follow the Maryland example and make such access to an otherwise legal product a felony.  It doesn’t appear his primary concern was minor’s gaining access to wine shipments.

It’s interesting that Maryland should be brought into the conversation, since a bill introduced in their own legislature recently failed to get out of committee as well, held back by the powerful committee chairperson, who also happened to be a political ally of the Maryland wholesale tier.

Finally, the director of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement commented on the difficulty of enforcement, despite acknowledging that the paper trail created by the bill would make it easier to investigate illegal shipments.

I’ll be the first to say I’ve never been to Delaware.  I don’t know first-hand the situation in that state.  But if I had to guess based on experience, the issues identified by opponents as making direct shipments to consumers a dangerous proposition are not substantially different than those in the 37 states that presently allow such shipments.  Why they can manage direct shipment programs and Delaware or Maryland cannot defy an answer, except money and politics.

Reregulating the Wine Industry

Now that a bill, H.R. 5034, has been introduced in Congress to stop the continued “deregulation” of the wine industry, it’s interesting to look at the game of semantics that is being played by the bill’s supporters in Congress and the wine industry. See So-Called Alcohol Deregulation Bill Introduced in Congress from Wine Business.com.  Most interesting is the use of the word “deregulation” itself. 

The very definition of deregulation indicates “the reduction or elimination of government power in a particular industry,” (Source:  Dictionary.com).  The idea is that what once was governed, limited, and restrained by regulations is now without restriction, free to operate in any manner the industry deems appropriate and most profitable, regardless of consequences good or bad.  One could create a picture of a Wild West free-for-all, with bad guys and good guys fighting it out in the streets at the risk of the community.

This “deregulation” impetus in the wine industry is often associated with the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Granholm v. Heald.  As most in the industry now know, Granholm held that while the 21st Amendment granted considerable authority to states to regulate and control the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcohol within their borders, the states could only do so within the confines of the Commerce Clause and its opposite by implication, the dormant Commerce Clause.  Since Congress is granted the ultimate authority over interstate commerce by the Constitution states may not create laws, even under the great authority offered by the 21st Amendment, that burden or restrict such commerce between the states.

Granholm’s Result 

Granholm created an elegant interweaving of Commerce Clause jurisprudence and 21st Amendment prerogatives.  It conceded the states’ near complete authority granted by the 21st Amendment as sublimated only to the absolute authority granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause.  To do otherwise would have undermined the authority over interstate commerce held by Congress, creating an exception that would also implicate the Supremacy Clause, as state authority would be considered supreme to that of the federal government in the area of alcohol regulation.

In reaching its decision, the Granholm Court did not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  It did not simply say that all state alcoholic beverage laws and regulations are invalid or suspect.  It did not call for the “deregulation” of anything.  It did not wipe out state regulatory schemes but rather required them to be rewritten in such a way as to not discriminate against out-of-state interests.  It upheld the states’ general grant of authority under the 21st Amendment.  Drawing from years of previous Commerce Clause precedent, the Court crafted a test to determine if such discrimination existed and, if so, whether the discrimination served a legitimate local purpose and that no other non-discriminatory means were available that could achieve that purpose.  This is hardly the underpinnings of “deregulation”.

The real result of Granholm is not “deregulation”, but rather “reregulation”, and this is where the game of semantics is played.  The bill’s proponents and industry allies would like to paint that picture of a Wild West free-for-all to the public.  They seek to benefit from the idea that state control is thrown out the window; that anyone and everyone can buy alcohol on any street corner or through the internet; that states are losing tax revenue because of illegal wine shipments to their residents that are outside the 3-tier system.

State “Reregulation” 

The reality for most states is that their legislatures went back to the drawing board after Granholm and created new regulations that either permitted or denied access to direct shipments of wine to their residents in a way that did not discriminate between instate and out-of-state interests.  They passed meaningful and rather sophisticated laws and rules to regulate the direct shipments coming into their states.  They required permits, fees, and taxes and put in place defined requirements to ensure wine did not fall into the hands of minors.  Additionally, they created new regulations for common carriers as another layer of protection against deliveries to minors.  Quite simply, they “reregulated” the industry under their authority to do so granted by the 21st Amendment.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of direct shipments of wine between the states…good, bad, or indifferent; make no mistake that alcoholic beverages continue to be a highly regulated industry and that the states hold considerable authority to determine the manner in which they are manufactured, sold and distributed within their borders.  The idea of a newly “deregulated” industry as a result of Granholm and its progeny is simply not so.  Instead, it is the product of a clever but inaccurate game of semantics.

Massachusetts Chooses Direct Wine Shipping Legislation Over Litigation

Attorney General Martha Coakley of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which saw its wine shipping law declared unconstitutional in January, announced she will not appeal the ruling.  The deadline to file an appeal was April 14th.

Now, all eyes are watching the Commonwealth as a new direct wine shipping bill is moving its way through the Legislature.  As currently written, the bill would create a permit allowing out-of-state wineries to ship up to 4 cases of wine per year to an individual.  The permit cost is $100 per year.  The bill would also require permit holders to report monthly on shipments into the state and to pay sales and excise taxes.  The bill could take several months to pass and amendments could change its content, a common practice in the legislative process, so that what the final bill contains is yet to be determined.

The previous Massachusetts law only allowed wineries that produced 30,000 gallons or less and did not have a wholesaler in the state for the previous six months to ship direct to consumers and retailers.  It was found to be unconstitutional by the First Circuit Court of Appeals for its discriminatory practical effect, which prevented more than 90% of out-of-state wineries from shipping to state residents while allowing all Massachusetts wineries to ship in-state. 

IBG will be watching the bill closely as it proceeds through the Legislature and will alert clients as to the determination of its passage.

Have You Googled Your Brand Name?

 

I typed the names of several wine brands in the Google search bar and came up with some very interesting results.

The first search I performed was for a very well known brand and resulted in the following:

Organic Search Results

  1. A listing for a lower price point subsidiary brand
  2. A listing with the winery’s URL, rather than their name, as the title and their navigational categories as the description (for example, “………popular categories, Napa Valley, wine tasting”).  These results are not at all useful in building the brand or enticing the user to click through.
  3. Shopping results pointing to sites such as Amazon.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, and a discount wine retailer

 

Sponsored Links

  1. A wine retailer with the following description “Thousands of wines including (Winery’s Name) and other greats”.
  2. “Buy (Winery’s Name) books”

 

There were several other sponsored links for this brand including two people finder ads, several competing brands, and an ad for Fresh & Easy.  The image below is an actual Google Ad served for a search of this brand.

 

 

 

 

The second search I performed was for another major brand and yielded the following results:

Organic Search Results

“(Winery’s Name) website requires Macromedia Flash. Get Macromedia Flash.  If you have Flash installed, click to visit the website. …”

This was the fourth search result (following some Wikipedia entries).

Sponsored Links

There was just one sponsored link, for an online retailer advertising “a huge selection on sale now”.

The third search I performed had much better results (and I’m happy to report that this was an IBG client). 

Organic Search Results

The first three organic results pointed to the winery’s website:

  1. Local business results complete with a Google map and reviews
  2. A listing with the winery’s name as title and a compelling description
  3. A listing which pointed to the winery’s product catalog page (again with a nice title and description).

 

Sponsored Links

The sponsored results were not so positive though:

The first was for a bargain retailer

Cheap (Winery’s Name)
Looking for (Winery’s Name) on sale?
Compare Wine & save up to 48% now!

The second result was for WineZap

Buy (Winery’s Name)
Compare prices at hundreds of
US wine shops online

What should you do?  First, make sure you’re appearing first in the organic listings when you search your winery’s name.  Most likely you will be.  If you’d like to tweak the title or description that appears, just login to the admin panel for your website, go to your site settings and make the necessary adjustments.

Should you consider paid search advertising for your brand name?  My feeling is yes.  Appearing at the top of both the organic results and sponsored links adds authority and leads to confidence on the customer’s part.  It also provides you with an opportunity to tie any offline promotional efforts directly to your website.  You’ll likely end up with the top spot at a much lower cost than anyone else bidding on your brand name because you’ll have a higher click through rate and thus a higher quality score.

In developing the headline and description for your ad, I would keep it very simple.  Let visitors know that yours is the official winery site and that your wines can be purchased directly.  You might try doing a search for other companies whose products are sold both direct-to-consumer and through retailers, i.e. Godiva Chocolates, Clinique, Sony, and Dell.

Selling Your Wine Online to Someone Who Has Never Tried It

 

Wine is an experience…… in the same way that a gourmet meal or a luxury vacation is an experience.  And because it’s an experience, the challenges in selling wine online are much greater than they are for commodities, which can often be sold based on price alone.  That fact shouldn’t deter you, though, because it can be done.  And in fact, if you understand the differences, it can be a whole lot more fun.

How do you sell an experience?

First, you need to engage the senses.  Create a vivid image whereby your visitors can imagine themselves enjoying your wine.  This is something best accomplished through exceptional copy and photography, not only on your product detail pages, but throughout your website.

Copy

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. –Mark Twain

Although it’s tempting to copy and paste wine notes or vineyard notes into your product descriptions, it’s important to remember that the product teaser and description are often your only opportunity to capture the attention and imagination of your visitors.  Web visitors have short attention spans so your words should be chosen carefully, with an eye toward attention to detail.  Your website may be the first and only opportunity you have to make an impression.  Spelling and grammar errors will cause a lack of confidence or trust in your brand.  And product descriptions which are too technical and lack personality will cause visitors to leave just as quickly as they arrived.

As an example, these are two very different product descriptions I found for sparkling wine.

  1. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of wine to effect carbonation.
  2. ………a shimmery coppery gold in the glass, with a gentle stream of tiny bubbles. Powerful and complex aromas of raspberry and fresh cut red apple are accentuated by appealing notes of cardamom and oak spice.

 

And here are two product descriptions for Chardonnay.  Assuming you have no previous experience with the brand, which one captures your interest?

  1. The grapes for this wine are grown in an extremely difficult area – composed of rock and gravel. The yields are very low, as the vines must struggle greatly just to survive.
  2. This gorgeous Chardonnay defines the concept of synergy, and it beautifully expresses the character of its distinctive vineyard and wonderfully ripe vintage. The aromas are a lovely mélange of lemon custard, fresh apple and toasted coconut, with just a hint of pineapple: a fruit and oak combination that is as exquisitely balanced as it is luxurious.

 

And just for fun, here’s something I found on the Dove Chocolate site - yum.

“As you unwrap your DOVE® Chocolate, note the aroma. Take the same care in experiencing the smell of your wine. Swirl the wine in your glass, then sniff it lightly to sample the bouquet. Break a piece of DOVE® Chocolate, then place the chocolate on your tongue and let it luxuriate and coat your entire mouth. As the chocolate taste envelopes your senses, take a sip of wine. Notice the subtle layers of flavors from the two tastes mingling together in a truly sensual experience.”

I just may need to stop on the way home and buy some DOVE® Chocolate to enjoy with my wine this evening.

Photography

The primary purpose of the imagery on your website is to complement your words as they gently guide visitors through the buying process. Each image, whether product photography or images used elsewhere on the site, should aid in creating the experience you are trying to convey through your copy.  Professional photography showing people enjoying your wines coupled with high quality product shots will go a long way toward guiding the purchase decision.  Conversely, sloppy or unattractive pictures may actually hurt in your efforts. 

I love this image I found on the Tamber Bey site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kudos to Mumm Napa for the lovely description of their 2004 DVX Rosé  and to Chasseur for their 2007 Chasseur Rued Chardonnay description.

REthink Compliance: Changing the “Whether”

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it!”

                                                             — attributed to Mark Twain.

Wine shipping compliance is much the same way, with most wineries grumbling about whether it is worth taking on the hassles compliance can bring.  The question is whether they want to do anything about it.

Much noise is made about compliance issues in the wine business.  There is a tug-of-war in state legislatures debating direct shipment bills about what it means, how it should be accomplished, and in the minds of the opponents of such bills, whether wineries shipping into their state will stay compliant (see the recent battles in Maryland).  There is also a tug-of-war within individual wineries over the allocation of resources in tight economic times and whether attention should (or can) be given to compliance issues.  Compliance is rarely viewed as an opportunity opening doors to new markets and frequently viewed as a barrier to competing within those markets.  It’s considered confusing, time-consuming and boring (even I have to give a nod to that last one).  Until now.

In January we launched an updated version of our REthink Compliance web tool as a service to our IBG eCommerce clients at no addtional charge.  REthink Compliance provides complete consumer direct wine shipment compliance reporting and, as an integrated compliance solution with our REthink Engine technology, sales order compliance checks at the point of transaction.  All with quite literally a few clicks of your mouse.  The website is at www.rethinkcompliance.com and is newly redesigned with an attractive look and more topical information on wine compliance and shipping issues, including updates on changes to state law, agency contacts and resources for acquiring permits and licenses.

  • Compliance Reports - Powered by eCompli, REthink Compliance will generate complete, accurate compliance reports using the sales data automatically passed from the REthink Engine directly to REthink Compliance.  No order file uploads required! Just login and view whichever reports you need.  Even reports for periods with zero activity are generated to make staying compliant in every state you ship easy.

 

  • Compliance Checks - The new REthink Compliance also can check orders for compliance status at the point-of-transaction from the REthink Engine.  Check for permit status, volume limitations, dry areas, or prohibited states before you ship to ensure each shipment meets the requirements for each state.

For years I’ve said that compliance is important.  Many of the dramatic changes to direct shipping laws in the five years since Granholm are directly related to whether wineries are willing to follow the rules, report and pay state taxes, and stay compliant.  Doing so convinces non-shipping states to open their borders to direct shipments because it allays their fears of unauthorized shipments and unremitted taxes.  That opens new markets and creates new customer opportunities.  Now, IBG eCommerce clients have a new tool at no additional charge to solve their direct shipment compliance issues:  quickly, inexpensively and with minimal effort. 

Change the “whether” in handling compliance.  Contact your Account Manager to learn how easy it is to set up your account in REthink Compliance.

The Best of All Worlds: A Holistic Approach to Direct Sales

If you work in the wine industry, it’s likely you rely on a number of different technology and/or service providers to run your business efficiently;   ecommerce,  wine club, point of sale, CRM, email, compliance, fulfillment, accounting, sales and inventory management  to name a just a few.  It’s no secret that as an industry we’ve been slow to adopt certain new technologies, ecommerce in particular.  Aside from the obvious compliance challenges, when you look at that list it’s not difficult to understand why.   In some ways, eCommerce for wine can be viewed as what is referred to in the business world as a “discontinuous innovation”.  In other words, it requires you to modify some of the other technologies that you rely on.  Frankly, it’s not easy to make all of these products work well together.  Innovation is a good thing until it begins to impose new day-to-day challenges upon us. To compound the problem, the costs and risk associated with making different software solutions work together often fall to you.

Integrations of disparate technology solutions can be problematic for a number of reasons:

  • They’re costly in terms of both monthly service fees and integration costs
  • It’s often difficult for employees to learn all of the intricacies of each new technology
  • Issues with data integrity and error handling frequently arise
  • There is often confusion over who to call when things go wrong
  • Due to the sheer number of solutions on the market today, it’s difficult for any vendor to integrate with each of them 

Benefits of an Integrated Package:

A full suite of direct sales tools can provide the answer to a number of these challenges by offering solutions which expedite your time to market and result in cost and administrative efficiencies which allow you to focus on your business.  What’s more, it results in a partner who’s in a better position to share responsibility for the success of your direct sales efforts.

This holistic approach to direct sales has a number of advantages:

  • You  gain a service provider with the skills necessary to manage the full lifecycle of your technology, including roadmap development
  • A stronger partnership leads to a better understanding of your needs, which allows your technology partner to drive innovation and value
  • A single data repository will more accurately reflect your customer interactions and touch points
  • You avoid the “Not our problem, talk to the other guys” phone call.  Instead, you have a single point of contact across product lines

These are just a few of the reasons I find what we’re doing at IBG so exciting.  For one, we’re providing a means for you to lower your cost of ownership just when competitive dynamics in the wine industry have necessitated it.  Even more exciting though, is this:  by owning the primary pieces of the puzzle, we’re in a position to build a better product.  Tighter integrations result in better visibility and better customer management.

At the same time, we recognize that customers often have existing systems or relationships in place which they would prefer not to disrupt, and that the “best of all worlds” implies choice.  This is why we believe in fostering strong industry partnerships and working with our clients to develop a solution that meets their needs.  The adoption of one technology should not necessarily mean that by default you are locked into another that might not suit your needs.  Our fulfillment and ecommerce products are compatible with numerous applications, from POS and ecommerce to fulfillment.

“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.” Douglas Horton

 

Turn That Thing Down!!!

As we all look to beef up our online presence these days, especially on behalf of the companies we work for, I have noted a couple of trends. Everyone seems like they have advice on whether or not you should join Facebook, get a Twitter account, start your own blog, or broadcast live on YouTube. Well, here I am to tell you - just listen to your mother.

“If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”
Ok, so everyone else may be joining social media sites to help promote their online presence, but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Do what feels right. You have to approach everything you do with a level of commitment and enthusiasm. If you don’t have these attributes when it comes to social media, you may just want to stop reading here, because this may not be the right medium for you or your business.
“One mistake I often see when people use Twitter is that they approach it without a real interest in or passion for the service.” via @SorenG

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Back to my first point - you have to want it. Commit to where you want to spend your time online. If you don’t have a lot of time - pick one social media outlet and carefully approach it – you know, baby steps. Don’t come out too strong in an environment you may not understand. Try creating a personal twitter account before you launch one for the brand you are working with. Get used to using tools like TweetDeck to help you navigate your contacts and manage several accounts. We live in such a fast-paced environment these days, people are quick to judge you and then move on so make sure your entry into the world of social media is strategic.

“Don’t sit so close to the TV or you’ll go blind.”
Sometimes it takes a little stepping back to see the big picture. Think about what you are trying to gain from social media. Are you trying to network? Drive traffic to your website? Encourage more online sales? Discover more potential business partners in your field?
It may be best to determine just what your own identity is, build your sense of your own brand and determine what your goals are before you outline just how you set out to accomplish these through social networking.

“Money does not grow on trees.”
I think what mom was trying to tell us is nothing comes easy. You can’t expect to convert twice as many sales next month just because you posted a video on YouTube or sent out a few tweets. If you are expecting to see immediate monetary gains from online activity, you may want to hold your horses! (Another mom-ism right there) Especially in our current economy I wouldn’t plan seeing the money flowing in to your online store right off the bat, but don’t give up! You can gain more from social media than just profit. Beware of marketers who tell you it’s all about selling wine – try focusing on building your brand first.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
The most important thing to remember is to play nice. You should always maintain a certain level of tact while blasting things out online. Just because you have the ability to update your status every 3 seconds doesn’t mean you should. You don’t have to resort to only speaking when spoken to, just think about what you are saying - is it helpful or are you just trying to fill dead space? Recommending things to others or giving people props for cool new ideas will only get you further in this brave new online world.

And finally – If you keep making that face it’s going to freeze in like that!

Personal Customer Service – Your Differentiator

How do you set yourself apart in a relatively saturated and extremely competitive market? You need to capitalize on every opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your existing customers. While identifying ways to continue to reach new audiences and find ways to acquire new customers, you always need to be finding new and exciting ways to engage with your current customers.

Far too often, the focus on new business trumps the efforts to continuously build upon the current relationships that you have.  Your most valuable prospect is the customer who has already purchased.  By developing key tactics to engage and introduce new opportunities to your existing customer base, you will find their willingness to repurchase and step closer to that “Brand Ambassador” role.

Listed below are a couple things you can do that are relatively easy but go a far way in continuing the experience and strengthening the relationship.

  1. Always Follow Up! Follow up with customers within 30 days after they have purchased and ensure the product was great and the purchasing experience was exceptional. If there was a problem with the shipment, correct it.  If you had not reached out, you potentially would have never known about the issue and you could have lost that customer.  This is an opportunity to ensure everything went well and if it didn’t, make it right.
  2. Send birthday wishes!  My inbox is full of companies trying to sell me something and rarely ever does the email subject catch my eye.  However, on my birthday, if I get a message saying, “Happy Birthday Stephen”, you can bet your bottom dollar, I am going to open that message and read the entire thing.  It is a way to make sure your customers know how important they are to you.  Regardless of your size, this is something that is relatively easy to do and goes a long way in further strengthening your relationship with that customer. 
  3. Make it personal.  In your marketing outreaches, segment your customer database and ensure a personal and meaningful message is coming across.  For example, emailing your customers in Sonoma and reminding them that your upcoming event is only 20 minutes away is a much different message then blasting your entire database and creating a generic event reminder that lacks the personal touch you would offer in a personal interaction.  Perhaps the subject line could even say, Our Wine and Food pairing is only 20 minutes away from your home! Ensure your marketing messages are personal and focused on the customer.  This is definitely a key way to stand out from the rest. 

 

Focusing on Customer Service and using new creative methods to increase the life time value of your existing customers is a strategy that will always yield significant returns.  Find ways to reach and service your customers that are valuable to them and you will find a customer base willing to purchase more and spread your story!

Animal Wine Labels

If you think you’ve been noticing more and more animals on wine labels over the past several years, it’s not just your imagination. According to a study by market research firm ACNielsen, approximately one out of every five table wine brands introduced features an animal on the label. Traditionally, a logo or label with direct relevance to the product it represents has been emphasized as a key to success. For wineries, this would generally be grapes or a vineyard. In spite of this established practice, wine labels with animals have been warmly received, and even demonstrate an increase in sales. Danny Brager, VP of ACNielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Team, states that the sales generated by new brands featuring a ‘critter’ outperform other new table wines by more than double.

One theory suggests that an animal label has a unique presentation that differentiates it from more traditional label styles. This may help to distinguish it on retail shelves drawing the attention of new consumers.

A second theory of this trend explains that consumers have an easier time relating to images which they have already been primed to. The imagery is already familiar to the consumer and may have other meaning in their personal lives as well.

Earlier this year Peter Renton, founder of Lightning Labels, further explored this idea noting a study by Professor Aparna Labro (University of Chicago Booth School of Business), Ravi Dhar (Yale University) and Norbert Schwartz (University of Michigan). According to their research, consumers tend to purchase products which reflect themselves rather than the product.

Below are a few examples showcasing labels which have interesting and unique animal designs.

Nebraska Table Wine

Nebraska Table Wine

A partnership between Lincoln Children’s Zoo and James Arthur Vineyard, these clever labels highlight animals within the zoo and include catchy names such as Pokey Red and Snappy White (shown above). Nebraska Table Wine was awarded in Commart’s 2008 Design Annual for its crisp packaging design.

www.jamesarthurvineyards.com
www.commarts.com

Mutt Lynch Wine

Mutt Lynch Winery

Supporting a long list of nonprofit animal rescue shelters and organizations, Mutt Lynch Winery stands out for both its community leadership and award winning wines. Each bottle design has its own unique, individual flair. Featured above are Merlot Over and Play Dead, Unleashed Chardonnay and Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel.

www.muttlynchwinery.com

PengWine

PengWine

Offering delectable wines sourced from Chile’s Maipo Valley, PengWine dedicates its brand and label designs to Chile’s regional bird - the penguin. Each bottle illustrates a specific type of of penguin and is even tied to a PengWine persona which provides a brief summary of the bird and wine characteristics. Shown above are Humboldt, Royal and Rockhopper.
www.pengwine.com

Showing Thanks: Inexpensive Differentiator or Missed Opportunity

I’ve noticed lately that one of the easiest, most important (and relatively inexpensive) customer service techniques often goes over-looked. In our ever-evolving world of technology, it’s easy to increase automation for improved efficiency. However, one unintended result is that we sometimes end up forgetting our manners.

Just as important in today’s economy as it was when we first learned proper etiquette, is taking the time to properly thank your customers. I think every business owner can remember their first sale. The excitement, the enticement of endless possibility and most importantly - the gratitude. Why should subsequent sales be any less important?

Properly thanking your customers can mean many different things. Do you have an automated email thank you for online orders? What does it say? Does it sound automated? Consider adding a personal touch to your automated responses so that customers know you are paying attention. Add an invitation to an upcoming event since they purchased from you this month. Let them know of next month’s annual cellar sale. Keep it updated often and don’t let it get stale. Good customer service is a key differentiator between you and your competition. Automated “thank you’s” like “Your transaction has been processed.” or “Thank You.” don’t help your customers remember you. Going the extra mile will. What else do you do to say thanks? In addition to a warm and friendly thank you email, also consider calling customers at random to personally thank them, or slipping a hand-written thank you note into some out-going shipments. Even if you don’t have the budget or man-power to do this for every single customer, doing it sporadically will make a difference for that one individual - it’s like winning the customer service lottery for the day.

A proper thank you goes a long way – it is common courtesy and makes a customer more likely to return once you’ve shown you truly appreciate their business. Positive brand recognition and word of mouth referrals are the strongest advertisement you can get. Set the bar high for customer service and you can’t go wrong. Your customers will take note, and your competition will too.

Are you offering holiday specials this year? We have a few tips for you.

1.  Start planning your holiday newsletter timeline and assemble newsletters now while you have time.
2.   Be sure to test your newsletters. Create (free) email addresses for yourself in hotmail, gmail, and yahoo and send tests to each of these addresses. Send copies to a few coworkers (or friends) and ask them to look for typos and confirm that all links are working as they should.
3.  Do not overuse punctuation. Excessive exclamation points are spam-like and will cause your newsletter to get caught in the Spam filter.
4.  Avoid using ‘free,’ use ‘complimentary’ instead
5.  Be careful with special html characters as most of these do not render well in email applications.
6.  Consider adding the following to your newsletter, at or near the top of the page “Please add emailaddress@winery.com to your email address book to ensure our emails go to your inbox.”

Research email deliverability, content and/or subject lines. You’ll find a wealth of information.

Vertical Response Suggestions

• Book now - 10 dates left for holiday parties
• Wine clubs: The gift that gives all year long
• Trio of wine under $50 with gift pack and card
• 40% holiday discount for wine club members
• Discounts for Wine club members
• 2005 Cab with our gift of Riedel wine glasses

Vertical Response, Creating Subject Lines

Get started now so you and your holiday newsletters are ready before the holiday rush is here.

Cheers,

Spyware, Malware, oh my…

Over the many, many years of using a Windows based PC’s, I and almost all Windows users have run across computer infections that involve what is known as “Spyware” or “Malware”, and various other malicous Trojans and Worms. None are beneficial, nor keep your data or computer secure or allow you to surf the web without some type of security compromise. All of them will give you a headache if not caught in time.

I am to understand over 80% of all Windows based computers are infected unbeknownst to the users, until they either stop working or come to a slow grinding halt. This may be a high estimate but not from my actual experience with assisting others with their Windows based PC’s.

Spyware is software that resides on a computer and sends your personal data to its creator. The data may include surfing habits, system details or, in its most dangerous form, passwords and login data for secure applications such as online banking. Many 
spyware programs  are more annoying than dangerous, serving up pop-up ads or gathering email addresses for use in spam campaigns. Even those programs, however, can cost you valuable time and computing resources.

Often, spyware comes along with a free software application, such as a game or a productivity program, such as connection boosters or free screensaver. Once it is installed onto your computer, the functional element of the software works exactly as promised, while the information gathering program sets up shop behind the scenes on your computer and begins feeding your personal data back to the bad guys.

To protect yourself from such nefarious software, install and maintain some type of Spyware prevention and removal application that you must keep up to date and run on a regular basis.

I have found over the years that these 3 FREE applications, not only run very well together but also do a very good job either blocking such spyware or removing the infection entirely. You should NEVER install more than one current Anti-Virus program but with Spyware and Malware, more can be better and these 3 are the best. My own past experience proves it.

Ad-Aware - http://www.lavasoft.com/
Spybot-Search & Destroy - http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware - http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php

Once you have reviewed the above sites, download and installed these 3 applications. You will need to keep up on the almost daily updates and RUN the applications on a regular basis, installing and not updating or not running them is a waste of your time and hard drive space. You must  take the medicine if you want your PC get better!

As this is the remedy, what about prevention?

Avoiding Spyware

  • When it comes to spyware, the best defense is a great offense. Practicing the below step to avoid getting spyware on your computer in the first place helps prevent you from becoming a victim.
  • Keep Windows up-to-date by setting up automatic updates in the control panel. Microsoft issues critical updates at every second Tuesday of each month. Many of those are designed to eliminate or avoid specific security threats.
  • Never open an email attachment if you are uncertain of its source.
  • Install an anti-virus software package and keep it updated at all times. There are many of these available, some of which are free. The most popular brands include Norton, McAfee, and AVG by Grisoft.
  • Don’t download shareware (or anything else for that matter) from unknown sources. Seek out reliable providers of free utilities, such as download.com.
  • Avoid questionable web sites. If you visit a site that seems strange, there is a good chance you should not be there.
  • Don’t click on any pop-up or ads for free anti-spyware software. These are almost always bogus, even if they carry the name and logo of a well-known company. Sadly, this is a very popular method used to distribute spyware and other malware.
  • Install a firewall and, if you have a home network, use a separate router, rather than sharing the Internet connection through one of your computers. This puts one more barrier between you and the bad guys. Windows XP and Vista come with a firewall, so no extra cost here.
  • If a virus alert appears on your screen as you visit a web site, do not click on it, even to close it. Instead, type control-alt-delete to launch the Task Manager and use the “End Task” command to close the window. Next, use your own anti-virus software to run a complete scan of the system.

All of this is by no means instructions on how to install and safeguard your computer from viruses, spyware, and malware, more to make you aware of what is out there, to either look into it more and make an informed decision, or seek professional assistance for the solution that best serves your needs.

Preparing for the Perfect Storm in the Wine Industry

I moved to wine country from South Florida in 2002, yet I’m still very much aware of the official start of hurricane season each year.  Although it technically runs from June 1st through November 30th, the majority of named storms tend to hit a little later in the season, beginning in September or so.  And each year, as activity starts picking up in the Atlantic, I’m reminded of the many hours spent preparing for tropical storms or hurricanes, storms that in many (if not most) cases take last minute turns and hit other (hopefully less populated) areas.  Preparing for a hurricane is a monumental task; shuttering your home, preparing your place of business, stocking up on supplies, and on and on.  Not surprisingly, after a number of false alarms people often become complacent.  And standing beneath beautiful blue skies, braving the Florida heat and humidity while waiting in line to fill the car with gas, it’s not difficult to understand why.  But reality always prevails and history, in the form of storms such as Andrew or Katrina, reminds us just how real the possibility is.
 
What do hurricanes have to do with wine sales?  That analogy, in some ways, reminds me of the many stops and starts we’ve endured in the wine industry over the last several years.  When I first became involved in the industry in 2002, excitement was just starting to build around the potential of Internet marketing and direct to consumer sales.  In fact, I believe that predictions at the time put DTC at somewhere between 5% and 10% of total wine sales by 2003.  Since that time we’ve seen many companies try to navigate the myriad of regulations that each of us deal with on a daily basis.  A few have succeeded.  Many have not.  Yet once again excitement is building around the direct channel.   Is it time to start preparing for the hurricane or are we just in for more of the same?  What is different about 2009?

In 1991, Geoffrey A. Moore wrote the book “Crossing the Chasm”.  While it focused on the specifics of marketing high tech products to mainstream customers, I think the principle itself is very relevant to the market for wine online.  Moore postured that a chasm exists between the early adopters of a product (the visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists).  Moreover, he argued that these two groups have very different needs and expectations, meaning that you shouldn’t try to market to them in the same ways.  Visionaries like being ahead of the curve and will seek out the new and exciting, whereas the early majority rely more on recommendations and word of mouth. 

Who really buys wine online?  It’s heavy.  It’s expensive to ship.  And it’s not always easy to get across state borders.  Why would I go online, pay a premium for shipping, and wait a week or more for my wine when I can walk to the nearest Safeway, purchase a bottle, and open it that evening?  Where do we stand in terms of the lifecycle for online wine sales and which group should we be marketing to?  I believe it’s the innovators and early adopters.  They’re the visionaries who enjoy being out in front and searching out superior products which are not broadly available.  This is the group who will go on to become viral marketers and evangelists as we try to gain broad appeal.  The current challenge for the industry as a whole is in pairing innovation with demand to successfully cross the chasm, finally landing in a marketplace where the mainstream can confidently place an order for a bottle of wine and know that 1) the product is exceptional (having been recommended by an early adopter), 2) the sale is entirely legal, and 3) the product will arrive in a reasonable amount of time and in perfect condition.  So what is different this time around, and why should we believe that direct to consumer wine sales might finally be entering the mainstream?  I think there are three signals:

  1. It’s been a gradual shift but since those early days we’ve seen many regulatory changes, most of which were precipitated by Granholm v. Heald.  In 2002 direct sales by out of state wineries were banned in at least half of the US states including states such as New York and Florida.  Today, wineries can access 36 states.
  2. Wine has gained the attention of some of the major Internet players.  There may be nuances and regulatory hurdles, but the end game remains the same.  Today’s landscape is attractive and they are ready to participate.  The question now is not whether or not a top retailer will enter the market, but rather who will be first. 
  3. New technologies make it easy for innovators and early adopters to influence the early majority, a key in crossing into the mainstream.  Using innovations which unite wineries (complete with their product detail, order processing systems, compliance safeguards, and customer management capabilities) with new customers, sophisticated Marketing Agents can market wines and present customer recommendations and reviews to their own loyal customers.

 

Hurricane PreparationGoing back to hurricane season, the forecast has changed dramatically since 2002.  It’s quite possible that what we’re experiencing right now truly is the calm before the storm.  What can you do to prepare?  To quote another book, “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin: you can “be remarkable”.  Remarkable begins, obviously, with your product.  But it extends far beyond that, to your branding, your content, and your customer service.   Think of who you are, where you’ve been, and what it is that makes you stand out from the crowd.  Put serious thought and effort into your product content.  And don’t be afraid to hire marketing and/or copywriting help if need be.  It just may be one of the savviest investments you can make right now. 

Virginia Fires Shot Over Direct Shippers’ Bow

By issuing a circular on July 22nd requiring Virginia direct shipper licensees to take orders and ship wine only from their own facilities using only their own employees, Virginia ABC fired a warning shot at direct shippers who were not reporting their shipments in a manner compliant with state requirements.  But stay calm, my guess is this rather extreme dictate will soften once reality comes back to the forefront.

Look at the situation.  Virginia’s direct shipment statute requires shipper licensees to ship to consumers using approved common carriers and to report to the ABC the carrier used.  Certainly not unreasonable, since tracking shipments seems a legitimate way to monitor illegal shipments into the Commonwealth.  Many wineries, particularly large ones in California, use third party logistics companies (3PL’s) to stage and fulfill both daily and wine club orders.  They are legitimate businesses providing a service more efficiently than wineries could do it themselves.  Even the recent California ABC advisory made it clear that such businesses operate legally.  While these 3PL’s provide reporting information to their winery clients, I’m guessing that some wineries were not properly reporting carrier information because they didn’t have it in front of them at the time the reports were due and Virginia ABC got tired of trying to follow up to get the information.

There are many legal issues involved, including the real possibility that the Virginia governing statute violates the Commerce Clause.  In Healy v. The Beer Institute (1989) the Supreme Court rejected the “extra-territorial” application of a Connecticut law that had the “effect of controlling commercial activity occurring wholly outside the boundary of the State” in violation of the Commerce Clause.  While certainly not a slam-dunk, you could make an argument that this application of Virginia’s law could be considered unconstitutional on the same grounds.

But aside from the legal considerations, the Virginia rule just doesn’t make good sense.  The obvious problem is that Virginia ABC’s response was to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Requiring all shipper licensees to ship from their own facilities will likely cause many wineries to simply not ship to Virginia.  It doesn’t make economic sense for wineries to change their entire shipping regime or carve out a more expensive exception to accommodate the requirements of one state, even the 9th largest consumption state.  There are no winners here.  Wineries lose customers, Virginia consumers lose access to many wines, and the Commonwealth of Virginia loses tax revenue at a time when most states can use all of the revenue they can get!

My hope and expectation is that Virginia will pull back from the requirements set out in the circular and recognize that wineries using 3PL’s are perfectly legitimate, as well as efficient, ways for wineries to get wine to Virginia consumers.  If not, it’s going to be a long, dry winter in the Commonwealth.