As consumers move further into the digital age, small and large wine, spirits, and beer retailers alike are more often creating personalized, hands-on digital advertising strategies to boost sales. One size does not fit all, and retailers are customizing a mix that works best for them. From posting stories on Instagram to blasting out daily emails, they’re taking creative, grassroots approaches to digitally hand-sell products. “Digital advertising allows creativity and customization, helping us tell a story and have our own voice,” says Michael Drapkin, owner of Kingston Wine Co., a boutique retail establishment in upstate New York. “I can craft my message daily, so consumers don’t have stagnant information.”
Instagram, email blasts, and wine search engines such as Vivino and Wine Searcher are part of the digital strategy for Kingston Wine Co., which opened five years ago. “Instagram is incredibly effective for telling our story,” Drapkin says. “If I’m touting Gemischter Satz from Austria, I can inform the customers about it immediately when it arrives.”
This strategy allows the small business to capture an audience outside of its local area. “On a weekly basis, people come in and mention our Instagram, where they saw something or say they’re visiting from Montreal or Boston because of it,” Drapkin says.
A weekly email from Kingston Wine Co. reaches 8,000 customers, and wine search engines are also effective for business. “You can reach a customer who is bored on a Tuesday morning, sitting in their cubicle in Palo Alto and searching for a wine they had the previous weekend,” Drapkin says.
Napa, California-based First Bottle Wines blasts out a daily email to 150,000 subscribers about its wine of the day special on sister site Last Bottle. Last Bottle offers one wine per day until it’s out of stock, typically selling about 400 9-liter cases daily. The daily email is the key strategy. “Within an hour of sending the email we usually have about 60% of our sales for that day,” says Cory Wagner, co-owner of Blicker Pierce Wagner Wine Merchants LLC, the parent company of Last Bottle and First Bottle. Meanwhile, First Bottle offers about 300 wines on a rotating basis.
The company also uses co-branded emails, Facebook ads, search engines, and podcasts to target customers, who then help boost business. “You can target Facebook advertising to different groups of people—you can get down to people’s interests,” Wagner says. The overall strategy creates a buzz. “Our biggest growth is from word of mouth from our customers.”
Fine Wine & Good Spirits retail stores in Pennsylvania also engage consumers on social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. “Each is beneficial from a business standpoint in its unique way, but from a sales perspective, we see the most impact from Facebook,” says Tim Holden, chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.