Saké & chopsticks

Selling Wine & Spirits Online

Drink This In

This probably goes without saying, but here it is: selling wine is big business. In September 2017 alone, U.S. wine sales totaled $3.6 billion. Naturally, it would follow that there is a huge opportunity for online sales.  Unfortunately, there is a bit of a problem. Shipping any alcohol comes with a dizzying number of rules and regulations and selling spirits online is fraught with complexity, spurred on by laws and taxes that are ever in flux.

For most of our online history, there have been two choices for selling online and neither have been particularly remarkable.

One one side, there is winery management software. When we look at software for creating wine websites, we quickly find that providers have the compliance and club piece down, but lack the sophistication on the design and customization end (which is so critical to storytelling and building up a customer base).

On the other side, there are gems like WooCommerce that make it easy to design beautiful websites full of stories. Alas, going it alone with these systems leaves you in charge of your own compliance and rules. Although some might tell you otherwise, trust us: this is a non-starter.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a custom-built website that has all the desired features on both the backend (compliance) piece and the front-end (storytelling) part? We think so. That’s why we’ve been on the search for a way to get the best of both worlds. And, we’re happy to report that it is absolutely possible.

Here’s the trick.

Design a Beautiful Experience

Almost all of our websites are built in WooCommerce. We choose this e-commerce platform because it works seamlessly with WordPress. This means that we can design an integrated website with fairly advanced interaction between the shop and blog. It means we can create beautiful, unique websites full of personality and information.

Brands that make wine or brew saké have the same need to tell their individual stories as the rest of our clients in the specialty food and drink world. By crafting their websites in WooCommerce as well, we are able to use all of the same tools and creativity with these projects, to much success.

This is where the similarities with traditional online sales end. If we were to build our own checkout for alcohol sales, our lives (and that of our clients) would become miserable.

Button Down the Checkout

The next step is to make sure that sales (including shipping regulations, taxes, and clubs) are handled by the pros. This turns out to be a simple two-step process. First, we turn WooCommerce into a catalogue, effectively disabling the checkout. Then, we let WineDirect (formerly Vin65) do all the heavy lifting from the shopping cart on. This means they are taking care of complicated shipping and tax rules as well as wine clubs and PCI compliance.

SakéOne G Fifty

The cool thing is, we can even design our own product landing pages in our system and use a feature called remote widgets. This allows us to put WineDirect shopping cart, add-to-cart buttons, and sign-up forms on any site without compromising on flexibility or design.

Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

We’ll Drink to That

In a perfect world, selling wine or spirits should be as fun as brewing or sipping them. Selling wine or saké or any other sprit or alcohol online shouldn’t come at the expense of storytelling, flexibility, or design. Now, it doesn’t have to.

SakéOne Hakutsuru

This translates to Penner-Ash’s website being full of beautiful, interactive maps and an ability to wanter through their beautiful wine archives while also selling their wine simply. Or, for SakéOne to tell unique stories of their brewers and have the experience look gorgeous on an iPhone. Through it all, selling is a breeze.

Ready for a website of your own? Check out our projects for Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and SakéOne and then get in touch about your own project.

Kandace Brigleb

Producer, co-founder of Needmore. Currently residing on the left coast.