Wine eCommerce is experiencing robust year-over-year (YoY) growth and isn’t expected to slow down any time soon. The United States’ market is over $3 billion with an expected online wine industry growth rate of 15-16%.
Wine is also a great direct to consumer market to be in, similarly to selling coffee online. Millions of people buy wine for parties, graduations, engagements, and gifts, not to mention regular dining. Wine pairs well with dozens of foods and presents good cross selling opportunities, especially if you’re also learning how to sell food online.
If you love wine and are considering starting an eCommerce business around it, we’ve got all the strategies you need. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of selling wine online.
Sell Wine Online
There is a lot of structural and legal work involved in opening a business, and wine is no exception to this. However, getting everything ready to sell wine online isn’t as hard as you may think.
As long as you’re a licensed dealer of alcohol and are following all state regulations, the rest is largely fun and engaging. Here is the process to follow for getting your eCommerce wine venture launched.
Decide What Wine You Want to Sell
Just as if you were starting a wholesale business, you would want to figure out which wholesale items to sell, an online wine sales business starts with deciding what wine to sell. This is an important question because there are over 200 types of wine, thousands of wine names and wine varietals, and hundreds of more brands that sell wine!
There are five basic types of wine:
Not only is each type of wine used in different meals and food and wine pairings, there are thousands of individual wine variations that constitute any flavor. Wine flavors are crafted with a multitude of fruits, including the following:
- Acai berries
- Fruit jams
- Dragon fruit
- Candied berries
You don’t need to sell or avoid a particular type of wine to be successful. Many brands sell multiple varieties of wine because they know their customers use them for different purposes.
The main idea is to select some flavors and start building a business around them. If you’re passionate about dry reds or sparkling whites and feel confident about getting your name out there, this is all you need to start.
Decide on a Supplier
If you won’t be selling your own wine, you’ll need to source products from a supplier. Many restaurants and retailers get their wine from a wine négotiant, which is French for wine trader (see what is a wine négotiant).
Wholesale suppliers are another quality source of affordable wine for business owners. If you’ve always wondered, “Where do bars buy liquor?” It’s often from wholesalers. Knowing how to find vendors is a necessary skill for this stage of your business. You can browse a wholesale directory and read up on how to buy wholesale goods. Learn everything else you need to know about this industry in our wholesale management guide.
Think About Your Branding
Wine is an industry with a lot of opportunity, but because there are so many wine sellers already, you need to stand out. It’s no longer enough to have a great product when customers can easily browse hundreds of wine brands at the grocery store. You can use America’s wine lists to jumpstart your branding if you’re feeling stuck.
Your case of wine should have one or more distinct characteristics. Flavor is important, but so is your eCommerce packaging. Some customers will select a wine because the bottle or packaging looks exciting to them.
Many wine drinkers tend to be higher income, interested in excellence, and focused on quality. Use these characteristics and those found in the best wine lists to guide the type of wine you want to sell. You can also use the following to clarify how you want to be seen by customers:
- What kind of imagery and wording best represent my wine?
- What type of experience are those who buy my wine looking for?
- What wine price is a good fit for my products?
- Is there anything about my wine or its packaging that conveys a message that’s inconsistent with my branding?
Your brand doesn’t need to be fully materialized before you launch your website, but it should be represented clearly. Using a consistent color scheme, hosting an easy-to-use website, and providing answers to FAQs are important factors to include.
Complete Necessary Paperwork
There are multiple documents the government requires for businesses to operate legally. At a minimum, this includes a business license, a retail and shipping license, business insurance, food handling certification (if applicable), and any zoning permits or licenses.
It may seem like there’s a mountain of forms to complete when starting a business, and that’s right. While it’s exciting to think about the money you’re going to make, focus first on meeting legal requirements. The profit you generate from your eCommerce wine business can be wiped out if you haven’t set your business up responsibly.
Write a Business Plan
A business plan is a comprehensive document that details and guides all of your core business activities. It prepares you for the multitude of business decisions you’ll need to make and uncovers any weak spots that need to be addressed.
An eCommerce business plan is even more important to an online venture than an offline one. You’ll need to establish a clear and compelling roadmap for all of your business activities.
Your business plan should include the following:
- Business purpose and mission statement
- Products and/or services offered
- Cost of goods sold (COGS), profit, and projected profit margin
- Sources of funding
- Marketing, branding, and restaurant KPIs
- eCommerce analytics tools you’ll need and why
- Equipment, like wine storage cabinets and racks
- Warehouse organization and merchandise inventory plans
- Sales plan and projected quarterly revenue
Put Together a Marketing Strategy
Your business won’t be successful for long without an eCommerce marketing strategy. Every business is unique, too, so you need to use an approach that’s different or better than your competition (ideally both).
The nice thing about marketing is it can be customized to suit your budget and timeline. If possible, you should employ a combination of both paid and free marketing methods. Examples of paid marketing include social media advertising, eCommerce PPC, retargeting, and eCommerce email marketing. Examples of free marketing include eCommerce SEO, referrals, and eCommerce content marketing.
Starting a new business often means you don’t have access to unlimited capital. You can work this in your favor if you know how to. A wise marketing practice is to set a monthly budget for the funding you do have. This will prevent you from going overboard on spend and also simplify analytics and reporting at the end of every month.
Create Your eCommerce Platform
Setting up an attractive and user-friendly eCommerce platform is a must for any business owner. Your website is responsible for almost everything in your business: receiving traffic, generating leads, order processing, offering content, displaying products, and accepting payments through an eCommerce payment gateway. It can even help you with setting up flat rate shipping.
BlueCart’s eCommerce platform is a simple, SEO-friendly option for food and drink sellers. Customize your site with just a few clicks and use our built-in eCommerce marketing automation tools to generate sales. Schedule a demo today to see the convenience of our platform for yourself.
Start Building a Network
Building momentum with your business relies on having people know about it. In order for people to know about your products, they often need to see them in a context they’re familiar with.
Common contexts for buyers include their existing shopping outlets, their circle of friends, and people who influence them. By creating business relationships that can reach each of these areas, you’ll be in a position to create real traction for your business.
There are at least three types of networks you should build:
- Leads and customers. Individuals who are interested in your business are what will generate engagement and sales. You should make customer satisfaction and delivering value a prominent focus of your weekly work.
- Partnerships and those you can influence. If you’re friends with the owner of another food business, discuss the potential of a partnership. Offering buyers complementary products is a great way to introduce customers from both audiences to each other’s business.
- Influencers who can act on behalf of your business. Influencer marketing is a fast-growing trend in the business world and for good reason. People are more likely to buy from those they trust, and people trust those they like. Look for opportunities to get your product in the hands of influencers who will be both honest and bold.
Over time, the networks you’ve built become passive sales engines for your business. People who love a product inherently tend to share it with others, which creates a ripple effect to new people. A lead today could be a customer in a couple weeks. All of this is possible by providing intuitive ways for people to interact with your products.
Focus on Sales
Once the foundation of your business is in place, it’s time to increase eCommerce sales! A strong sales plan relies on these principles:
- Understanding prospects’ desires and needs
- Matching the right product to relevant customers
- Being open-minded to customers’ suggestions
- Remaining persistent and looking for opportunities to win
- Running deals, discounts, and limited-time offers
The first of these four principles is the most important. If you take the time to understand what customers want most, your products will stand out to them. Customers also appreciate not being directly sold to. It’s important to think about what makes your product a natural pick and align your branding with these features.
As you work all of these principles into your sales approach, pay attention to what works well. You can shift more of your energy and time into what’s producing results and less into what is attracting tire-kickers.
What Do I Need to Sell Wine Online?
Becoming familiar with how to sell wine legally means learning about the licenses to acquire and paperwork to complete. Prepare some funding and personal time to complete all of the forms for your business.
Here are the forms and licenses required to start an online wine business:
- An eCommerce business license. Getting an eCommerce business license is essential for having any type of Internet-based business. This document indicates to the government that taxes can be collected from your sales and that you’re a law-abiding seller.
- An employer identification number (EIN) or federal tax identification number (FTID). An EIN is a number the government uses to track the income and business activity of any employees you hire. Completing this form is necessary even if you don’t hire employees. This is because the government still uses EINs for tax and refund purposes.
- Your alcohol dealer registration (ADR). An ADR allows you to be a lawful dealer of alcohol in any area that you wish to do business, including online. You must obtain your ADR from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) before your business can legally operate. The TTB collects all of your business and tax information and assigns it to the dealer class your business adheres to.
- A wine manufacturer’s license. If you’re producing and selling your own wine, you’ll also need a manufacturer’s license. This demonstrates to the government that you have the means to grow and ferment your own wine. If you’re a wine reseller, you won’t need this license.
- State winery license. Each state requires wine sellers to fill out this form when learning how to ship wine. This license is important because it may be used by someone who doesn’t manufacture wine, but ships the wine of a manufacturer.
- State retail license. The government requires this document from anyone who plans to commercially sell wine. Commercial sales channels for wine include catering, bartending, pubs, shops, malls, and eCommerce. Bear in mind that even if you already have local licensing or permits to sell wine, your state’s laws for eCommerce may be different.
- Shipping license for each applicable state. This document demonstrates that you are licensed for shipping alcohol to multiple states. If you only sell in your home state, you won’t need to acquire additional eCommerce shipping licenses. Research the local laws of each state you plan to ship to, which ensures your business complies everywhere your products are headed.
If you have your own winery, consider selling your products wholesale. The wholesale industry requires familiarity with a number of processes as well. Gather the starting knowledge and strategies you need in our wholesale management guide.
Sell Vintage Wine Online
Vintage wine is a popular niche of the already booming wine industry. The definition of vintage wine is any wine of which grapes were grown, harvested, and fermented in a single year. Some vintage wines have grapes from different harvests, but most are from a single harvest.
Vintage wine generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually in the US with strong growth predicted. Because wine is generally considered better the older it is, this keeps the vintage wine market strong at all times.
Here are our recommended strategies for selling vintage wine online:
- Get active on collectors’ forums. Wine is a bit of a collector’s sport for many adults. Some enjoy buying vintage wine to eventually consume it; others buy it to build their wine portfolio. There are many people who will consider your wine if they know you’re selling it.
- Look for organizations willing to buy it. Some companies purchase vintage wine to sell it at a profit later on. Conduct your own research to ensure that you’re getting maximum value for your wine.
- Stay persistent. There’s a buyer for just about everything in today’s world if you know where to look. Marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist still offer the sale of wine. These sites are visited by millions of collectors and enthusiasts looking for their next amazing purchase.
Best Place to Sell Wine Online
If you want to expand your wine sales across the largest possible area, it’s worth learning more about where to sell it. Thanks to the ever-growing market for online food and drink sales, there are numerous options available to you.
Here are some channels through which to sell wine online:
- BlueCart online marketplace
- Your own website or eCommerce platform
- Wine trading websites
- Dedicated wine merchants
- Peer-to-peer sites
- Online auction houses (WineBid, Zachys Wine Auctions, CellarBid)
- Wine forums
Email our team now to learn how you can sell your wine (and other products) to over 95,000 buyers on our platform.
Where to Sell Collectible Alcohol: Sell Vintage Wine Online
If you’re a business with vintage wine sitting in your storage or have collectible alcohol at home and you're looking to sell it at peak value, selling online might be a good idea.
Here are four ways to do that:
- Online marketplace. Online wine marketplaces draw in more collectors than in-person auctions. This makes it even easier to sell niche wines and vintages. Some marketplaces also inspect the wine before it's sold to ensure its quality. Whether you’re a business or a private collector looking to sell wine, BlueCart eCommerce is a great choice. It’s an all-in-one online marketplace that handles store design, menus, payment processing, and more.
- DIY sales. Selling online as a solo entity lets you have full control over the price and you can avoid fees charged by third parties. However, it comes with many difficulties. You will need to acquire both a retailer's license and a shipper's license. You also have to handle shipping and marketing, which can be overwhelming for people. Some high-end establishments may also want to add your wine to their wine list.
- Wine brokers. If you only have a small selection of vintage wine to sell, using a broker might be the best choice. These brokers have an existing network of buyers and sellers, and they are well-versed in wine valuation. However, their cut will be higher than a marketplace. They also tend to offer refunds if bottles are broken or corked. Restaurants and bars that use a perpetual inventory system like BinWise Pro don't have to worry about this issue if issues arise after purchase. BinWise Pro can automatically send vendors a Corked Wine report to request a credit or a replacement.
- Social media. Facebook, Reddit, and a few other social media sites all have private wine communities. Many are even secret, or invitation-only. If you do get into one, you'll find many like-minded individuals who are more than willing to pay a premium. Transactions are heavily vetted and done between the parties, not the group. The rules and regulations are strict and failure to comply can get you banned from more than one group since there is community overlap.
How to Sell Wine at Auction
If you're looking to sell wine at an auction, you should research if a similar wine or collection has sold recently. This will give you insight into the current wine bottle price of your wine, and if there's enough interest. If you can't find a price history for your wine, you may still be able to sell it. Ultimately, that decision rests on the auction house.
Next, approach multiple respected auction houses to find the best value for your wine. They will provide you with an estimate based on your collection, vintage, and condition. Once you've chosen the auction house, they will take over from there. You can expect to pay a seller's fee of up to 18% when the sale is finalized.
How to Sell Rare Wine
Selling rare wine is best done by going through an auction house or broker. This is because rare wines should be evaluated and priced by professionals to ensure you make a profit. They also take most of the risk on themselves, so you'll be protected if something goes wrong.
Reach out to experienced companies first to get a rough valuation of your wine or collection. Factor in seller's fees as well, then pick whoever you feel will do the best job of making you money. Then sit back, and wait for them to do the hard work.
No Wine Left Behind
Creating an online wine business is one of the most flexible and predictable eCommerce business models you can have. The industry’s strong demand generates plenty of opportunity while making it exciting to sell new products.
Consider expanding your product range with additional goods over time, like selling cookies online or selling baked goods online. Read all you need to know about how to sell products online with our comprehensive guide.
Focus on your target market and the types of wine they want. This will help you remain competitive in a crowded market and spot new opportunities before they’re public.