Simple Wine Sales Funnel

What Does a Sales Funnel Taste Like? Or, Conversion Strategy for Gourmet and Lifestyle Brands

Sales Funnels are Not Funnel Cakes – but they can be just as yummy!

Gourmet brands looking for new customers often entice them with samples and tastings. This is great for small purchases, like a cupcake or honey at a farmer’s market.

But what about a larger commitment like a wine club? Wine buyers expect to taste the product too, perhaps more than once, and maybe even be wine’d & dine’d first with a few parties.

This requires a larger investment on the part of a winery, from not only the inventory costs but the capital costs of a tasting room or showing at events. Given this commitment it’s important to quantify the sales process to maximize ROI. One way to do this is to map out the sales funnel.

Simple Wine Sales Funnel

Simple Sales Funnel

What is a sales funnel? It’s the concept of a path that a prospective customer takes, from initial awareness of the brand at the top, down through the various stages of research and decision making, to action/purchase at the bottom. See Fig. 1.

If you ask the marketing manager in charge of the tasting room, they’ll say their tasting room is it’s own funnel. “Marketing” is tasked with getting prospects walking in the front door and letting the tasting room staff work their magic.

If you ask a the marketing manager (who may be in charge of the eCommerce site), they’ll tell you the sales funnel is all the traffic to the home page, filtering down to some wine purchasers in the cart.

But the Funnel is larger than the tasting room or the online components alone. It’s a composite of the two. And when we look at wine club sales efforts through the framework of a combined funnel we can discover new opportunities for improvement and sales gains. See Fig. 2.

In this combined funnel we see the online component on the left side, and the offline or physical component on the right. The idea to understand is that prospects may move from the online to offline medium (and back again) as they make their way down the funnel to a potential purchase.

Prospects may discover, interact with or research the brand online first, and show up at the tasting room with potentially a lot of brand knowledge and affinity. (Think about car purchases these days, where so little is left for the showroom sales staff to do.)

These prospects in particular are further down the funnel, and the tasting room staff should adjust their pitch to account for this. Of course plenty show up for a tasting with little knowledge of the brand and so the staff needs to be flexible enough to deal with all kinds.

Prospects may straddle both online & offline mediums at the same time. Has someone in a tasting group ever pulled out their mobile phone during a tasting? Are they checking work emails? Or pulling up the average retail prices on Or checking CellarTracker for tasting notes. Or seeing if there is any particular buzz on the brand?

Hopefully they’re checking in on Facebook, or posting to Instagram, but figure that any activity is integral to the process in the sales funnel, and staff should account for it. How? Ask and start a friendly conversation around it. Managers can set up a “check-in” photo spot with a gorgeous view or branded backdrop, and staff can point it out.

Fig.2  A Complete Sales Funnel

Fig.2 A Complete Sales Funnel

If prospects are going online in the sampling phase, (which they are,) a mobile-ready and mobile friendly website is a must-have. Sales managers will get extra traction for having specific content aimed at the prospect who is currently in the sampling phase, which may speed the prospect’s journey down the funnel.

Conversion Rates - More Wine Club Signups

Conversion rate is the total number of sales divided by the total number of prospects. Factors that affect conversion in the offline section of the funnel are things like the salesperson, what sales training they’ve had, and even environmental factors like appearance of the parking area as guests arrive, their first greeting, how busy or how crowded the room is and the ease or difficulty getting to the counter.

Without remodeling the tasting room, are there any changes we can make for some quick hits? We mentioned a couple, which is to have mobile-ready content and some check-in/photo spots.

Another adjustment would be with prospects who are leaving without buying. This is potentially the largest segment and it warrants looking at.

“Stop Dropping Good Fruit on the Floor!” – a marketer’s mission

Consider the example of a prospect represented by the smiling (but thinking) face in figure 2.

At this point, this prospect is educated about the brand (again, via online, offline, or both) and has tasted, and is considering buying.

We can assume s/he falls into one of two camps – s/he either likes the wine or doesn’t.

If they don’t like the wine, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that they exit the funnel, noted by the grey arrow to the right ending in a zero.

If they do like the wine, they further divide themselves into “buy today” or “not buy today.” Those that buy today are represented by the green arrow ending in $ at the bottom of the funnel.

The only group that remains is the “like wine & brand / not buying today” group, which can take either the red or yellow path, depending.

Typically, the tasting room staff will let any “like wine & brand / not buying today” prospect walk out (same as grey path). Some staff will try to get them to like the Facebook page, which is passive. Some will take a more active role and try to collect an email and get the prospect on the winery email newsletter.

Whether a newsletter sells any wine or not is a topic for another post, but we can say this: if the staff is simply sticking the prospect on the newsletter list, they are sending them back to the beginning of the funnel (yellow path). They are keeping them in the funnel, which is a good thing, but they’re placing them at the beginning, at the top.

That creates a disconnect, as the prospect is at a later stage, having been nearly sold, nearly done with their journey. After they leave the winery, this prospect is expecting a different type of conversation or interaction with the brand.

If a prospect doesn’t hear from the brand for weeks, for example when the next newsletter comes out, the prospect can feel ignored and misunderstood. Also, the communication style of a newsletter is typically the most generic and non-personal.

For this type of prospect, the interaction should instead be on a very high and specific level, applicable to someone further along in the funnel. And here is an opportunity for big gains in conversion rates.

What to do? collect an email address and send them to a very specific web page that speaks to them based on their stage in the funnel.  If that process is designed well, the path continues to a purchase stage (red arrow).

This keeps prospects in the funnel, at the right level. They just move laterally into the online medium.

Will everyone convert via the online eCommerce channel once they leave the tasting room? Hardly – that’s why it’s still a funnel. But the investment in this process change is low, so it only take a few extra club signups a month to really boost ROI.


For most wineries, the tasting room is the cornerstone of their direct-to-consumer (DTC) efforts. And if there isn’t one, then other opportunities to taste the wine (such as events) become an important part of the sales process. Understand that prospects interact with the brand, both before and after this tasting phase, and both online and offline. Then look for ways to improve the process and increase conversion rates.


  • Tasting Room sales staff should discover what stage the prospect is at when they first appear in the tasting room, and use that info to tailor a tasting presentation.
  • Mobile-ready eCommerce sites should offer content for the sampling/tasting prospect.
  • Collect email / contact info as often as possible. Use RSVP systems to get it up front.
  • Set up non-buyers for more funnel maturation, with a non-newsletter process

For help in mapping our your winery’s sales funnel or for help improving conversion rates, contact us at VinMarketer

Current Wine Marketing Site
5 Top Ecommerce Secrets Wine Sites are Ignoring!  

Why is the wine business slow to adapt successful website sales tactics from other categories?

Perhaps the reasons are a field-blend of not wanting to turn off potential buyers by “selling too hard,” some “we don’t sell much off the website anyways,” and there is always a little bit of “that won’t work in our business, we’re different.”

Our stance is thus: consumers looking at your website are at the same time looking at other ecommerce websites, and are in a frame of mind to expect more of the same. They expect more ecommerce tools and functions that make THEIR life easier, and they expect less of the things that make their life hard (like too many clicks). Also, consumers like to see that you are up to date, and that reflects well on your brand.

Let’s pop the cork and see what this smells and tastes like:

1) Streamline the the purchase path to your wine.

Reduce the barriers (read: clicks) to your products. whether they be wine or wine club signups. You likely are using a hosted shopping cart solution, so don’t have any control over how many clicks the buyer has inside the checkout process, but you can control how many clicks before the checkout, when a buyer is trying to put wine into the cart.

Will we ever get as close as 1 click shopping on Amazon? Doubtful, but we do need to think hard about any site that is 4-5 or more clicks just to put some wine in the shoeComm bottlepping cart and fudge around with quantiites before they get to the checkout page (where another 3-10 clicks await our hapless buyer).

Arranging wine in nice heirarchies suits our right-sided brain, but products arranged in such a way that buyers have to go through reds, then cabs, then see the vintage or cuvee they want? The experience does not need to feel like navigating a flow chart.

What to do? Ideally, for a small catalog (even up to 12), all the wines should be displayed together on one page. Most popular items up front and center, and available directly from the front page via an image, rather than having to find the menu item called “shop”.

Some ecommerce carts are more fleixble than others, and there are ‘hacks’ to reduce clicks on some of the ecommerce carts – if you need help, just ask us.

And don’t require 3-4 clicks of age verification just to get into the site. There are other, better ways.

2) Email capture

Time and time again you have heard that you need to collet emails; so much so that it begins to be background noise. So maybe this is not such a secret.

But email is more powerful than you give it credit for – that’s the secret. It really is That important. When a stranger visits your web site one time, you need a way to continue the conversation after they leave.The most successful ecommerce sites are actively using email followup to increase sales up to 3X.The idea is to complete the sales process after they leave (and have not bought), and to do that we need an email.

Not everyone visiting your site is ready to buy something, but they are willing to leave their email if they a) believe you won’t spam them, and b) can unsubscribe at any time. There is a higher level of trust with a wine brand than with other ecommerce sellers, and almost by default the visitor believes that you would not spam them and there would be an easy unsibscribe process. So, wine site visitors are the perfect audience to ask for emails. It’s a real wonder why it’s not done more!

Should you leave email collection to your “join our list” signup form? That depends on your web traffic so far. Check your logs, and if over 80% of site visitors are leaving emails, then you’re done! If it’s less, and it most likely is, you need to consider another “offer” to trade for their email.

Bait for emails could be a giveaway/sweepstakes offered on Facebook (and other channels), RSVP to events, notification of some special event or future release that is made to sound special.

Proper followup is key too. It is not nearly as effective a sales tactic to ask someone to “Join our list” then only send them an email at your next release, which may be months later.

No, a proper “drip” campaign with a specific goal at the end of the campaign is the way to go.  That goal is not “stick around and remember us until we email you in the futuer.” A goal that drives sales is a purchase that further entwines the buyer to the brand. It does not need to be as big as a club signup, although that is a notable goal for the drip campaign too, of course.

So collect wine-buyer emails all the time – from the tasting room, from events, from everywhere.  And of course, collect from your website.

3) Free shipping,

Free Shipping (really 1$ shipping) is another ecommerce secret that we don’t see enough of in the wine trade. Of course this is due to the high cost of shipping wine, and owners not wanting “to loose money on the transaction”.

But if a dributor or broker showed up and said they would move X cases of wine, minus their fee of course, would you do it? So, consider that the loss on shipping is the brokerage fee. (We’re assuming you said yes to the above!)

You can (and many do) limit the wines that are eligible for free shipping, giving favor to some gift sets and starter/taster packs. Also it is best to limit the offer to 6+ botles, or even a case. At 6-12 bottles the gross margin is more attractive and the per-bottle cost to ship 6/12 is much lower than singles/doubles.

You can also limit the offer geographically. You can advertise free shipping but it will be for CA, AZ, and NV only where you can get cheap GSO. But before doing this, check the web statistics and sales logs to see where traffic and buyers are coming from. Don’t worry about the occasional shipment to, say, Chicago if most  of your customers so far have been from California.

4) “Introductory  Purchases”

In the 90′s movie with Bill Murray titled “What About Bob” we learn that all big issues can be overcome with “baby steps”. And that is the process we want to emulate online with a wine ecommerce site.

The large issue for the non-buying visitors to your site is that they are not yet completely comfortable with you. Sure, the guarantee and the free shipping reduce a lot of the risk, but web visitors are busy and are fickle. They want to do something, but can’t yet bring themselves to buy a case or 1/2 case in order to qualify for free shipping.

For them, we want to break the Ice with a smaller item, meant to incentivize the client to create an account on (yet another) web shopping cart, and give us a chance to earn their repeat business through great customer attention and personalized followup selling.

In wine an introductory purchase could look like a “sampler” or “discovery pack.” If your wine is loved by all who taste it, but you struggle to get enough tasters, then this is the secret for you.  Assemble the right mix of a few or more bottles, include shipping in the price, and sell it for a target “awesome deal” number, such as $99.

Next season, look into bottling more splits and have 2-3 to create a taster with.

 5) Remarketing

Remarketing is considered an advanced marketing tactic, but it’s not out of reach.

You must have had the experience: you visit an ecommerce site like Zappos or eBay, or many others, and after you leave and surf elsewhere on the web, you see ads for the site or even the products you were looking at earlier. And you’re no longer on that site! Spooky? – sure. Powerful? – you bet.

What could we do with that on a winery website? Primarily we use it to keep the brand top of mind. So many web visitors come back to the site to remind themselves of an experience they had, and think about doing something more. But “doing something more” like buying wine or joining the club actually takes time, and the prospect gets interupted and drifts away. Remarketing helps bring them back.

Remarketing also helps with your trade relations. Imagine a distributor rep on your site looking for collateral. For days later, they see your ads and are reminded to push your brand!

Google has the info on how to set up a remarketing campaign if you manage your own adwords account. Otherwise ask whomever handles adwords for you, or if you’ve not used adwords yet, pull us in to help.


Have a different secret, or want to tell us what has been your experience with any of these 5 if you have tried them? Leave a comment below. That’s all for now, but more secrets in the next instalment! Be sure to get on our list for notification.


SEE ALSO:  Social Media Ideas For Busy Winery Staff

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