Updated: Oct 6, 2022
As Seen on Hearst Bay
A decade ago, trips to wine country started with a stop at a visitor center along the highway.
Tourists and travelers browsed shelves filled with colorful brochures.
Wineries were chosen based on the marketing in these collateral pieces and any word-of-mouth recommendations they had collected from friends or coworkers.
Then it was time to map out a route.
Wineries and tasting rooms on the main drag were likely to be on the itinerary, but for those off the beaten track, there was no Google Maps, Waze, or even GPS to help customers find their way through miles of windy roads and rows of bucolic vines.
Competition was high in areas like downtown Napa and along the Silverado Trail, but get outside the highly trafficked routes, and not only was the competition gone, so were the customers.
The Internet existed, but it wasn’t mobile, and websites were expensive and difficult to maintain.
The Mobile Era
Today, visitors to wine country are more likely to stop at Starbucks than a visitor center.
Instead of ogling old-fashioned brochures, you’ll find them browsing winery websites on their iPhones while waiting in line for a latte. For wineries off the beaten track, this is good news.
The playing field just got leveled.
Yes, tasting rooms in highly trafficked areas are still more likely to get drop-in visitors who were just passing by, but for a minimal cost, you can optimize the online experience to differentiate your tasting room, promote your products, and attract more customers.
Why User Functionality is Key
Think back to your first website for a moment.
I bet it contained little more than a few photos, your address and phone number, and hours of operation.
That was enough when simply having a website was a differentiator. Now that web design DIY services or even hiring a designer is easy and affordable, you don't have an excuse not to update your site. If your website isn’t user-friendly, it definitely costs you sales.
Statistically, nearly half of all visitors will leave your site and go somewhere else if the user experience doesn’t match expectations. It’s the digital equivalent of someone walking into your tasting room, glancing at the décor, and walking right back out.
At the most basic level, when a potential customer visits your website, the first thing they want to know is whether or not they will get enough bang for their buck. This means high definition, artistic photos, modern layout and design, and clear branding. If your website looks unprofessional, the implicit message you are sending is “We are not the luxury brand you are looking for.”
But, what if your site looks great? Does that mean the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are up to standard?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. No one is visiting your site to look at photos—they are coming for
information, and they have user expectations about how accessible that information should be.
Common User Expectations
So what are some of the most common user expectations for a winery website? To find the answer, we’ll need to know a little bit about the average consumer.
Who are they? What do they want from you? Why are they visiting your website?
Using data from Napa and the surrounding areas, statistically, your visitor is likely:
from the United States (79.2%)
a day tripper (64.5%)
spending $81.77 per day at an average of 3.5 wineries/tasting rooms
traveling in a group of 4 people
unwilling to go beyond Napa and St. Helena for a tasting
has been to Napa 2.9 times in the last 12 months
is not a member of a wine club
What do these statistics tell us about user expectations?
With most people coming for a day trip, they are likely visiting your site looking for information about hours of operation, tasting fees, and your address. Within 2.5 seconds, a visitor to your website should be able to see when you are open.
If you’re open earlier or later than your competitors, your winery becomes attractive as a first or last stop.
Visitnapavalley.com lists the tasting fee range as somewhere between $5-$50 per tasting. This is too broad to be very useful, but as one of the more popular websites providing information about the wine industry in the Napa area, it sets visitor expectations.
Your prices should be clearly visible on your main webpage and should highlight the value consumers receive.
How many wines are included in a tasting flight? Is there happy hour pricing? Are you offering any deals?
Remember, most visitors arrive in groups of four and spend an average of $93 per group, so offers like “Buy 2, get 1 free” may help draw people in, while still allowing you to keep a significant margin on all sales.
Most people are navigating around the valley using smartphones, which means they are simply typing in winery names and following the step-by-step directions. Occasionally though, your address may be hard to find, particularly if you just moved, or if you have more than one location, like a winery and a tasting room.
To prevent confusion, ensure that your address is easily visible at the bottom of your main page and that visitors can click on the link and have it automatically open in their preferred navigation app.
Keep It Simple
Now, at this point, you might be tempted to cram as much information as you can onto your main page. Don’t.
That would be a mistake.
Your differentiator is not going to be the story of your founders and how they came over from Italy in the 1800s with old-world Primitivo seedlings, as impressive as that may be (nor is it likely to be the fact that a celebrity owns the tasting room down the road, so no need to worry if you don’t have star power backing your vines).
Similarly, you don’t need to have in-depth explanations of all your blends, or even tasting notes on your main page.
Keeping your user interface simple means setting the mood with stunning photographs that fit your brand strategy, providing clear information about hours and prices (see above), and then being very strategic about any additional items you include.
For example, if you are working on a digital marketing strategy and you want to increase your email list to push out advertisements, you may want to include an email capture that includes a coupon for signing up.
If you are hosting events, be sure to feature a prominent “Events” button and consider a pop-up when new visitors come to the site.
And, for wine club members, make sure that online access to their account is easy to access and easy to use. In other words, don’t hide “Wine Club” under a drop-down menu that says “About” or anything other than “Wine Club.”
Particularly for wineries outside of Napa and St. Helena, consider getting together with neighboring tasting rooms to offer a special group discount or at least a map of super local destinations.
Heavy traffic is the top complaint of visitors to Napa, so showcasing a cluster of wine tasting opportunities at a great price in a less-frequented area may boost the number of amateur sommeliers who come your way.
For visitors to wine country this year, your website is functioning as the new visitor center and should act as the cornerstone of your wine marketing strategy.
By using simple design features and providing clear information about what your customers want to know, you can increase the number of visits to your tasting room and it won't cost an arm and a leg.