Editor’s note: This post was updated in September 2022.
With mail-order wine clubs dating back to the 70s, direct-to-consumer (D2C) wine subscriptions have been delighting consumers’ palates for several decades now. Traditionally, after visiting a winery and enjoying some samples in the tasting room, winelovers would be able to purchase a bottle or two to take home there and then, as well as sign up for cases of their favourite wine to be sent directly to their doorstep on a recurring basis.
In recent years though, we’ve seen the traditional notion of a catalogue-based wine club undergo a digital transformation.
Several factors are responsible for this shift to online wine buying:
- Increasing accessibility of D2C ecommerce. The low barrier to entry has encouraged many “vintage” wine brands to take the plunge online and modernise their business model. It’s never been easier for retailers to start selling D2C thanks to ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Shopify Plus.
- Rise of the subscription economy. Subscriptions have become a steadfast aspect of many consumers’ daily lives, particularly in the food and drink sector which has experienced dramatic and sustained growth. For wine enthusiasts, having bottles delivered to their homes at regular intervals, on an automatic basis, is the ultimate in convenience. Plus, curated subscription boxes satisfy consumers’ cravings for personalised experiences, whilst facilitating the guided discovery of new wines.
- A new type of wine buyer. Whilst Baby Boomers are still the largest consumer group for wine, connecting with Gen Xers and Millennials represents a promising growth opportunity for wine brands. These tech-savvy shoppers are looking for seamless digital experiences that are personalised to their individual needs and put flexibility at their fingertips.
- The pandemic. The arrival of Covid only accelerated the digital transformation of wine commerce. Tasting room sales plummeted in lockdowns, with ecommerce taking a prime spot in wine retailers’ strategies. Many producers moved the entire winery experience online, allowing customers to learn, shop and taste from the comfort of their home. Even when restrictions were lifted, ecommerce subscriptions remained a key strategy to attract and retain customers.
Today, Shopify and Shopify Plus are host to a growing batch of wine stores and their subscription clubs, 10 of which we’ll explore in this article. Fast, flexible and scalable, the Shopify platform is perfect for ambitious brands looking to serve up convenient and compelling online experiences to subscribers.
UK subscription brand Winepost was created for people “who want to learn about wine but don’t really know where to start”. Every month or two, subscribers receive a selection of wines delivered to their doors, complete with tasting details to “learn as you drink”. Patrons then rate each wine, so that subsequent drops can be customised to their preferences.
At the foundation of this Gloucestershire-based business is a promise to make it as easy as possible to sign up to a subscription. Customers can quickly and easily find answers to frequently asked questions via a sticky help widget, or on the website’s dedicated Help page. Prioritising fast and accessible customer support like this is important for establishing trust, securing customer loyalty and preventing churn.
Elevating the subscription experience for their customers, Winepost promote extra goodies that can be added onto orders as one-off treats, including chocolate, prosecco and port. This is a great tactic for increasing key ecommerce metrics like average order value.
#2 Tamburlaine Organic Wines
Next, we’re going down under to New South Wales, home of Tamburlaine Organic Wines. Now one of Australia’s largest producers of organic wines, with vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Orange region, the brand was first established in 1966.
Their Reserve Membership sees subscribers receive a batch of exclusive small production wines every July, as well as invitations to VIP members’ lunches, complimentary wine tasting sessions and discounted stays at the reserve.
Stuck with a clunky custom commerce system that couldn’t keep up with their evolving needs, Tamburlaine migrated to Shopify Plus in 2019. As well as a scalable platform to grow with their ambitions, they were seeking functionality to create a custom tiered pricing structure.
Within six weeks of replatforming, their conversion rate had increased by 30% thanks to a new frictionless purchasing experience. Shopify Scripts had simplified their once complex member pricing, and soon they began using tags based on purchase behaviour.
Today, Tamburlaine continue to leverage Shopify Plus’ native functionality and powerful integrations to provide a seamless buying experience that attracts new shoppers and fosters meaningful relationships with existing customers.
UK-based wine subscription club Plonk are on a mission to “save Britain from commercial, mass-produced, characterless wine”. They work with independent winemakers to deliver a curated selection of artisanal wines directly to subscribers’ doors on a monthly basis, complete with tasting cards and food pairing suggestions.
Customers can choose between two, three or six bottles of small-batch wines each month, as well as enjoy exclusive perks like VIP event invitations, surprise gifts and discounted repurchases. Their Recharge-powered wine subscriptions are fully flexible and can be cancelled at any time.
Plonk’s Shopify store makes it clear exactly how their wine club subscription works, leveraging icons to convey key details to prospective customers. They also have a thorough FAQ section on their dedicated subscription landing page, as well as a chatbot to provide timely assistance. These are all important factors when it comes to establishing trust and credibility as an online drinks retailer.
Another way this London-born brand increase the confidence of potential customers is through social proof. Their 5-star rating is proudly displayed in a site-wide sticky widget, whilst their homepage features an interactive carousel of verified customer reviews. Tactics like these can be very effective at nudging consumers through the purchase funnel.
#4 Bottleswap by Everyday Wines
Over to New Zealand for a wine subscription with a bit of a difference. Everyday Wine’s “Bottleswap” initiative is just like a traditional milk bottle delivery service, but with wine. Subscribers leave their empties at their front door, in exchange for freshly filled bottles.
There’s different options available for the number of bottles in each drop and various delivery cadences to choose from, plus customers can have their deliveries tailored to their personal taste preferences. With subscriptions that can be paused, amended or skipped at the click of a button too (thanks to Recharge), Everyday Wine are tapping into consumers’ appetite for flexibility.
This wine subscription brings all-organic wine direct to consumers with reusable bottles and a reduced carbon footprint, appealing to shoppers’ increasing desire for eco-friendly retail experiences. With the wine ecommerce industry becoming increasingly competitive, going packaging-free makes for an effective differentiator for today’s conscious consumers.
First-of-its-kind wine-by-the-glass tasting club Vinebox first came on the scene in 2015. Built to disrupt the wine industry, it’s done just that, transforming the wine tasting experience for consumers across the US. The brand was acquired by innovative gifting platform Sugarwish in 2021.
Promising “wines that you won’t find at the corner store”, Vinebox champion smaller wine producers and the unique stories behind their winemaking processes. Club members get nine single-serving vials of seasonal wine delivered direct to their door every quarter, based on their personal flavour preferences. Subscribers earn credits with each delivery, which can be put towards full-sized bottles of any wines that take their fancy. Credits can also be exchanged for Vinebox merchandise or gifts for another wine drinker.
With an ecommerce tech stack including Swanky favourites like Shopify Plus, Klaviyo and Justuno, Vinebox are well-positioned to serve up a compelling digital experience that attracts and retains club members.
#6 Unico Zelo
Another Australian brand successfully selling wine online is Unico Zelo. Users can configure their ultimate wine subscription box, or “Thirst Aid Kit” as it’s been cleverly coined, with a super-intuitive build your own box experience (powered by Recharge-owned app Rebundle).
First, consumers pick what type of wines they’d like (Unico Zelo wines, guest wines, or a mix of both), how many bottles they’d like in their box (three, six or 12), and whether they’d prefer red, white, or a bit of everything.
Next comes the fun bit – choosing exactly which bottles they want in their box prior to each delivery. The final price remains consistent, no matter which bottles are selected.
The final step is choosing a delivery frequency – boxes are available for delivery either every month, every other month, or once a quarter.
This interactive, user-friendly pick and choose experience empowers customers to build a wine subscription box that feels their own – speaking directly to consumers’ need for immersive, personalised retail experiences.
Unico Zelo subscribers can quickly and easily update their personal details, wine preferences and delivery frequency through a branded customer portal. This puts flexibility at their fingertips, which is particularly important when selling consumables like wine that don’t get used at a blanket rate. Letting customers self-manage their subscription via an accessible, intuitive customer portal is a key tool in increasing subscriber satisfaction, building loyalty and reducing churn – all whilst saving time and money in customer support.
Our Product Manager Nichola Birch talks more about the importance of investing in your customer portal in our guide to successful food and beverage subscription websites.
LITTLEWINE’s Shopify website is a unique destination for wine-lovers to explore “behind the bottle”, learning about their favourite wines and the winemakers responsible. This UK brand are on a mission to shape the future of wine content and discovery, serving up winemakers’ stories on an accessible, immersive online platform that engages and inspires. They want to close the gap between source and consumption, providing improved transparency and education around the people and places behind the wine.
Subscribers can discover the world of organic wine from the comfort of home, with regular curated deliveries straight to their doorsteps. There are subscriptions to suit all tastes and budgets, with the option of two, four or six bottles delivered every one, two or three months. Each LITTLEWINE subscription box comes with exclusive digital content, including a monthly online event invitation to a live winemaker interview.
As part of their aspiration to make wine more sustainable, the brand have doubled down on “green” fulfilment, offsetting all carbon emissions from shipping and only using recycled or biodegradable packaging materials. With more and more consumers taking a stand against excessive amounts of plastic packaging materials, ecommerce fulfilment initiatives that focus on zero-waste or minimalist packaging are fast becoming competitive differentiators for retailers.
LITTLEWINE are tapping into the power of referrals too, leveraging popular app Smile to reward shoppers for sharing the love. This is a proven tactic for simultaneously improving acquisition and retention rates, and a strategy commonly used in the food and drink subscription industry where customer churn is high.
#8 Treat Speciality Wines
Remaining in Europe with this next Shopify wine store, we have Berlin-based Treat Speciality Wines who specialise in low intervention and natural wines from artisan winemakers across the continent.
At a frequency of their choosing (every month, quarter or half), club members receive a wine subscription box tailored to their individual taste profile. Subscribers can also enjoy first access to limited-edition wines across Treat’s online inventory, as well as VIP discounts and advanced delivery options.
Giving subscribers exclusive perks like Treat do is a great way to nurture long-term relationships and improve customer retention, which is especially important in subscription ecommerce where churn can be a major challenge. Special subscriber-only benefits can also help to attract new customers – particularly helpful in the online wine industry where consumers are being tempted with more subscriptions than ever before.
#9 Usual Wines
Another brand bringing single-serving wines directly to consumers is Californian company Usual Wines. Their wines are made with minimal intervention and no added sugars, and shipped in chic individual-serve bottles for a fresh pour every time. Customers can subscribe to monthly deliveries of six, 12 or 24 glasses, saving 17% on each order.
Usual Wine’s modern by-the-glass approach to selling wine online is reflected in an equally contemporary Shopify Plus site design, whilst their commitment to natural, fuss-free winemaking manifests in a clean and simple UX. They’ve given plenty of real estate to exquisite lifestyle photographs across their store, with stunning images that are as crisp as the wines they picture. These beautiful high-res snaps capture attention on an otherwise monochrome site, evoking the senses and leaving visitors craving a chilled glass of wine.
The brand have been busy experimenting with two-way SMS marketing to maximise sales and improve customer experience. For example, their Live Text feature means customers get quick answers to questions via text (we’re talking five minutes or less) – great for quelling any concerns, boosting consumer confidence and driving conversions.
Meanwhile, an abandoned checkout SMS recovery flow uses a conversational approach to eliminate barriers to purchase and capture revenue that would otherwise be lost.
#10 The Borough Box
Last but not least we head back to Australia, where monthly natural wine subscription The Borough Box is making a splash as one of the newer D2C wine brands on the block. With two professional sommeliers and natural wine importers at the helm, subscribers have access to some of the rarest and most sought after sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines from small-batch producers across the globe. A mixed box of six bottles is delivered to customers’ doorsteps once a month, with instant cancellation easily available if subscribers decide they’re no longer thirsty.
As a relatively young wine subscription brand, The Borough Box make good use of third-party endorsements to convey credibility and establish trust. Buying wine online could feel like quite a gamble for many first-time shoppers, especially when they’re signing up for a repeat purchase from a brand they’re not familiar with, but showcasing high-impact logos from respected publications is a great way to quell shoppers’ concerns.
Their “Glug” blog serves up interesting and engaging content from some of Australia’s best wine journalists, importers, sommeliers and industry leaders, demonstrating to users that The Borough Box is a leading authority in the world of wine. This hub of valuable blog posts is perfect for attracting winelovers to their Shopify store, as well as nurturing lasting connections with existing subscribers. Learn more about the benefits of content marketing.
DRINKS x Shopify Plus
In August 2022, alcohol ecommerce platform DRINKS announced a partnership with Shopify Plus – a collaboration hailed as a “game changer” for the wine industry.
Integrated into the Shopify checkout, DRINKS is a real-time tax and regulatory solution that enables wineries and retailers to scale online sales and create best-in-class customer experiences within a native Shopify checkout experience.
Thanks to this new integration, Shopify Plus wine retailers will be able to benefit from:
- wine-specific real-time tax and compliance seamlessly integrated into the Shopify checkout experience;
- hundreds of pre-configured compliance rules that can be managed natively in Shopify Plus;
- dynamic store customisations that prompt shoppers to provide their age and date of birth, display state-specific messaging, and apply volume limits per order and customer; and
- detailed report generation for state tax filings.
Your go-to Shopify Plus agency for food and drink ecommerce subscriptions
With an enviable brand portfolio including HelloFresh, Pasta Evangelists, Huel and Union Roasted Coffee, we know what it takes to create successful food and drink subscription websites that serve up outstanding results. Our award-winning in-house specialists are trusted to deliver powerful and complex D2C subscription solutions for clients across the globe, leveraging Shopify Plus and its integrations to facilitate significant digital growth.
Whether it’s navigating the complexities of selling alcohol online with a bespoke subscription solution (just like we did for fast-growth Australian liquor brand Whisky Loot), or driving growth with a commercially-guided experimentation strategy, you can count on our Shopify Plus Experts to unlock your ecommerce potential.
Contact our team today to find out how we can help you sell wine online.