After 20 years of researching and reporting on the best practices of email wine marketing, it’s an honor to share VinterActive’s first VinQuest™ Wine Marketing Report on the benchmarks and best practices of SMS marketing in the wine industry. This preliminary analysis draws on five independent wine marketing data sets and confidential interviews with wine marketers using text messaging in 2021.
Our inaugural report is based on the performance of 88 SMS wine marketing campaigns sent to over 25,000 opt-in consumers in 2021 and 2022. And for comparison, this analysis also incorporates the results of millions of wine marketing emails sent to consumers in 2020 and 2021.
The results we found were astonishing:
SMS WINE MARKETING BENCHMARKS
Compared to email benchmarks in the wine industry, SMS marketers averaged 32-times more customer engagement for each text message they sent.
To put it another way, a list of 300 SMS contacts can outperform a list of 10,000 email addresses.
Compared to email, the text messages sent by wine marketers were 4.3-times more likely to be opened and 7.4-times more likely to be clicked.
And SMS marketers who kept track of sales conversion reported 100-times more wine sales for each text message they sent.
SMS WINE MARKETING ANALYSIS
These results compare favorably with industry-wide estimates that report a 20-to-1 advantage for text marketing compared to email. The results reported by wine marketers in this analysis may indicate consumers are more amenable to text messaging from their favorite wine brands.
Or, since the wine industry is new to SMS messaging, initial results could be tempered over time as more wineries adopt text messaging and the wine industry looks more like other retail segments.
But whether text messaging drives 20-times or 30-times more customer engagement than current industry practices, this analysis means that savvy wine businesses would be foolish to ignore this game-changing DTC marketing breakthrough.
BEST PRACTICES OF SMS WINE MARKETING IN 2022
For the innovators using text messaging in the wine industry, best practices are beginning to emerge for the three pillars of SMS marketing success:
1) Growing text marketing lists.
2) Sending text marketing campaigns.
3) Managing 2-way text conversations with
BEST PRACTICES FOR LIST GROWTH
To grow their text marketing lists in 2021, the wine marketers we interviewed found success using:
• Keywords that consumers can text wineries to join their SMS lists.
• Web-Based Signup Forms that website visitors can complete to join a winery’s text marketing list.
• Email Marketing that offered existing customers an opportunity to connect via text.
BEST PRACTICES FOR OUTBOUND CAMPAIGNS
As wineries grew their text marketing lists in 2021, some of the most successful campaigns we measured were:
• Transactional Texts triggered by customer behavior to send order and shipping confirmation messages.
• Preference-Based Content Streams that use keywords to deliver weekly or bi-weekly content, like upcoming winery events.
• Predictive Sales Offers that use purchase history and customer tags to target sales offers personalized for each consumer.
BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING 2-WAY TEXT CONVERSATIONS
In addition to sending outbound marketing messages to many consumers at once, text marketers in the wine industry are also finding immense success in engaging their customers with 2-way text conversations.
Entire hospitality teams are turning to text messaging to conveniently communicate with customers, answer questions in real-time, delight their visitors with personalized service, and sell more wine as a result.
In 2021, the best practices we observed for managing 2-way text conversations were:
• Assigning Trained Staff responsible for each customer conversation.
• Automated Away Messages that instantly reply to customer requests.
• Deploying Mobile Apps so winery staff can message their customers wherever they are.
REACHING BABY BOOMERS WITH TEXT MESSAGING
The wine industry has a Baby Boomer problem, according to some observers.
The thinking goes that since “older, more affluent consumers drive the U.S. wine market,” today’s vintners are helplessly watching their best customers die off slowly. Perhaps that’s true for some.
But for U.S. wineries currently engaging their customers with text messaging, older consumers – Baby Boomers and Gen X – are driving record DTC sales.
Why? The latest research on generational marketing (SendGrid, 2021) shows that email, text messaging, and social media are the top-3 business marketing channels for adult consumers of all ages.
While it’s true that older consumers as a group engage in email marketing more often than text messaging, the older your customers are, the more likely they’ll engage your brand using text messaging.
It might not seem that way when consumers are challenged by technology in the tasting room. But not all Boomers are the same. So, your opportunity lies in reaching older consumers who enjoy text messaging.
If your goal is to engage older customers and you already use email, SMS marketing is the next best thing you can do. Even better than social media, according to the latest research.
And remember, you don’t need to convert many customers to SMS marketing to profit.
Even if you only persuade 3% of your consumers to join your SMS list, you’ll still succeed in creating a new digital sales channel that generates as much revenue as the other 97% combined.
A RARE GIFT FOR SMALLER WINERIES
Most of the time, the odds are stacked against small wineries.
But for a brief moment in time, the power of SMS wine marketing is now available to help even the smallest wineries achieve DTC sales results that would make larger wineries jealous.
With text messaging generating 32-times more customer engagement than email, growing a list of just 300 SMS contacts can outperform a list of 10,000 email addresses – giving small wineries a rare chance to outcompete larger vintners.
Think about it for a minute.
Do your customers use their phones when they taste your wine? How hard would it be to print a simple QR code inviting wine tasters to join your SMS list?
And as in-person wine tasting regains momentum, do you think you might be able to build a small text marketing list that doesn’t require any awkward conversations or deciphering poor handwriting?
Then, congratulations! You’re ready to leapfrog the competition using SMS marketing.
Across wineries of all sizes, the average email list of 10,000 names generates about the same DTC wine sales as 300 SMS subscribers. And with 1000 SMS subscribers, you’re going to need a bigger warehouse.
While big businesses expend more and more resources squeezing the last remaining revenue from their old email lists, savvy wine marketers focusing on text marketing now can outperform vastly larger competitors by the end of summer.
And wait until the holiday season arrives…
If you start building your SMS wine marketing list now, you’ll have one of the most effective marketing tools any winery can use to maximize holiday sales.
According to wine industry expert Lewis Perdue, the DTC sales boost driven by marketing messages delivered to mobile devices is particularly apparent during the holiday season. The research he shared shows “mobile and desktop about evenly divided for e-purchases, but that changes big-time with the upcoming holidays,” when online sales driven through mobile devices dwarfs the sales generated through desktop or tablet computers.
THE FUTURE OF TEXT MARKETING IN THE WINE INDUSTRY
In the future, as text marketing continues to mature in the wine industry, benchmarks and best practices will surely mature too.
Forward-thinking wineries are already experimenting with QR codes in tasting rooms to grow their text marketing lists, leveraging social media for SMS content, and creating new ways to serve customers with personalized 2-way text messaging.
In 2022, innovation in the use of SMS messaging will give wine marketers even more tools to grow their text marketing lists, manage conversational sales, automate personalized text messages, and harness SMS messaging for B2B sales and employee communication.
Even though wine marketing is one of history’s oldest professions, it’s finally moving at such a rapid pace we can all look forward to what the future holds.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON SMS WINE MARKETING
SMS wine marketing is much like email marketing 20 years ago, with innovative vintners reporting outrageous results that were hard to believe at first but finally fueled the wine industry’s first wave of digital marketing success.
In a world where 90% of online consumers want text messages from their favorite brands, but only 9% of U.S. wineries text their customers, this epic mismatch between consumer preference and industry practice spells nothing but opportunity for wineries focused on growth.
And unless you think text messaging is going away soon, the only choice you have to make is whether you let your competition profit from text messaging before you.
With consumers hungry for brands that engage them with text messaging — and wine marketers hungry for continued success – we hope the benchmarks and best practices we’ve shared in this report can help any winery profit from SMS messaging in 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry. His advice has helped hundreds of wineries across the U.S. grow sales and customer satisfaction by leveraging the best practices of DTC wine marketing.
St. Amant holds an MS from M.I.T. and a BS from U.C. Berkeley. His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars, including CFO Magazine, Inc., CNN Money, eMarketing Magazine, Integrated Direct Marketing, Direct Marketing Association, Wine Marketing Report, and the Wine Industry Network.