The crawl, walk, run guide to international shipping
Written by Andrew Kamphuis
International customers represent one of the biggest, if not the biggest DTC growth opportunity for wineries. While it varies by wine region, California had 1.5 million visitors from China alone last year.
Not only are international sales a huge growth opportunity, but starting to focus on international sales assists in reducing lost opportunities in the tasting room, and is step one to building a global brand.
Here is a quick guide to help you get started.
Before you start
Before you start, know that you don’t need to focus on the entire world. Instead hit the big 5. For California wineries this means Canada, China, Japan, UK, Hong Kong. For BC wineries this typically means USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and China.
While China is not number one, it continues to grow faster than other countries and by the end of the decade will surpass Canada in visitors to California.
Start with tasting room visitors. Allow your tasting room visitors to ship wine home easily. If a visitor comes in from out of country, let them know that you can help them ship wine back to their country.
To execute on this you have to figure out fulfillment. If you’re in the Napa area, talk to Gliding Eagle - they are experts at this. Alternatively talk to your FedEx or UPS rep. Figuring out how to ship wine from your tasting room to 5 countries is hard work, but your carriers should be able to help you out.
As an added bonus, you may not need to charge sales tax on some international orders. Make sure to check your mileage depending on where you’re located.
After you have tasting room visitors shipping wine home, start to sell online (on your primary website). Market to visitors before they come to your tasting room and after they leave. International visitors had a great experience in your tasting room, allow them to continue that great experience after they leave.
Start an international wine club. Your visitors paid thousands of dollars to come to your country and to your winery - they will pay to have some of your wine shipped to them on a regular basis.
Mine your database for international customers and start to target out of country visitors.
Work on getting costs down and building volume up.
Keep everything in English, or if you have access, allow partners to translate material. Partners like Gliding Eagle are great for translating material for you.
When you have your shipping and fulfillment mastered, start servicing customers in their own language both on the web and in your tasting room. Staff your tasting room with people who speak your customer's language.
Ensure your website loads fast around the world (this is very important as there is large latency issues for some countries visiting North American websites, and visitors don’t always have great internet. Often China blocks foreign websites).
Ensure messaging, duties, taxes, etc are all clear.
Charge your customers in their local currency and ensure you take their native payment methods (Alipay, WeChat Pay, etc).
Ask your current customers to tell their friends back home about your winery and their experience.
“International customers represent one of the biggest, if not the biggest DTC growth opportunity for wineries.”
Today Opus One has their website in 5 languages, allows customers to ship to 30+ countries, and creates a great experience for international visitors by allowing them to pay duties, taxes, etc upfront.
Successfully implemented, international shipping can greatly empower your winery. Ensuring previous international visitors have great online experiences, expanding into new and emerging markets, and positioning your winery as a international brand are some of the powerful benefits international shipping can offer. Building an international strategy starts out with a crawl walk run. Opus One didn’t do this all in a day, you don’t have to either. Start small and slowly build an international presence.