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Planning your online wine promotions? Check the weather report first

Posted in Ecommerce, Interviews

Does weather influence your online wine purchases?

I asked myself that question after Geekwire reported on a study that analyzed consumer behavior for big retail clients. Its findings:  “Seattleites prefer to shop online when it’s rainy, and either shop less or shop in-store when it’s hot out.”

Some of us buy a fair amount of wine online through sites such as WTSO or Last Bottle. One of the biggest buying factors has to be value, i.e. price. But do we adjust our buying habits, consciously or unconsciously, when the weather is warm and the sun is shining?

I put the question to Paul Zitarelli, who runs Full Pull Wines, the premier online retailing operation for Washington and Oregon wines. Not only is Paul a very entertaining and engaging writer, but he’s an astute business guy as well. He had some interesting observations on consumer buying habits and how wineries might adjust their marketing according to seasons.

WWPR: Does weather affect online buying behavior for wine consumers? If yes, why? If no, why not?

PZ: I see weather impact buying in two major ways: the types of wines that do well, and the speed of responsiveness. The types of wines that do well follow a subtle, but noticeable, seasonal pattern.

I don’t think consumers focus on drinking seasonally as much as eating seasonally, but it’s getting there. I see more interest in crisp whites and roses in spring and summer, moving to Pinots and Syrahs and full-bodied whites (Chardonnay, white Rhones) in the autumn, and then more interest in Cabernets and BDX blends as we get into the dark, cold months. These are trends, of course, not absolutes.

I track speed of responsiveness to the e-mail offerings I send out, and it’s like flipping a switch when we hit Memorial Day, and then another switch when we hit Labor Day. When the weather turns nice, everyone goes on vacation, and they’re less inclined to obsessively check e-mail.

I track speed of responsiveness to the e-mail offerings I send out, and it’s like flipping a switch when we hit Memorial Day, and then another switch when we hit Labor Day. When the weather turns nice, everyone goes on vacation, and they’re less inclined to obsessively check e-mail.

In the winter, I hit my max-emails-opened rate after about 36 hours. In summer, it’s more like 4 or 5 days. What this means for my own ordering is that, during the summer, I try to build in a small buffer in my ordering to make up for the vacationing latecomers.

WWPR: Do you adjust your offerings based on weather? I.E., more whites / roses in summer?

PZ: Absolutely! I believe in drinking seasonally, and so that informs what we offer through Full Pull. Late spring is the season for us for offering whites and roses, so that they can be ordered and picked up by the time summer hits.

Now we’re beginning to plan for autumn and early-winter offerings, so our attention turns to the full spectrum of red wines, as well as end-of-year sparkling wines, fortified wines, and stickies.

WWPR: Should wineries tweak their marketing based on the weather? Could they make subtle adjustments in offerings based on the weather?

PZ: I think small tweaks can help. Suggesting in marketing materials that certain wines are “autumnal” or “perfect for the time of year when leaves change color” are subtle ways of conveying the full sensual experience of drinking wine.

WWPR: Finally, if good weather slows down online purchasing, should wineries adjust their sales efforts accordingly?

PZ: I can only speak for myself here, but after three years of data, there is a clear slowdown during the month of July. At Full Pull, we use that time to go on semi-hiatus: fewer offerings, less e-mail traffic.

There are plenty of busy months for wineries (and retailers); why not use a slower month to get out there and enjoy all that beautiful weather yourself?

A quick conclusion:

Winter can be notoriously slow for winemakers and many of them work the market. But this may be the time to develop and implement interesting, sales-oriented promotions and aggressively market them online.

Per Paul’s comments on speed of responsiveness in the winter, those are the times when consumers are at their computers, itching to make purchases. Why not fish when the fish are biting?