Karen Urquhart 5 minApr 21, 2023
Iola Wines, located in Milton Freewater, Oregon, and based in Seattle, Washington is on a mission to bring the best naturally made wines from French and Italian women winemakers at the top of their game. They’re after nuance and finesse (not funk) – Think gorgeous, old-world wines from France and Italy, made with little-to-no intervention. Captivated by the unwavering dedication of these winemakers, Iola Wines is passionate about sharing what they consistently deliver: wines that are beautiful, unhindered expressions of each grape and the terroir where they are grown.
Led by Marilee Bramhall, Founder of Iola Wines, the team realized the need for a wine club to create a sense of belonging for their customers and a new source of revenue for the business. Despite being a small team, Iola Wines found Commerce7 to be the ideal solution due to its robust feature set, and more specifically the easy-to-use club tools. The implementation of a wine club through Commerce7’s technology resulted in significant revenue growth, improved customer relationships, and a more predictable financial outlook for their ecommerce business. In this case study, we’ll explore the challenges faced by Iola Wines, the solutions provided by Commerce7, and the impressive results achieved by Iola Wines through their successful launch of a wine club.
Prior to adopting Commerce7, Iola Wines devoted considerable time and effort to determining how to expand its audience within a relatively contained market. This involved conducting extensive market research to gain valuable insights into the key factors that drive repeat purchases and the frequency of those purchases in the greater Seattle area. After generating enough data, they realized that there was sufficient demand for wine clubs, and that’s when they knew they needed to take action.
At the time, Iola Wines' sales platform lacked club or subscription tools, making it difficult to expand their audience, form strong relationships with their customers and ultimately create a predictable revenue stream with relative ease. Bramhall explained, "Once a customer opts into a subscription, revenue forecasting becomes easier. On top of that, we can more easily balance our marketing between generating demand, and providing exceptional service, creating a sense of belonging and exclusivity for the customer." These factors highlighted the importance of a club-based sales model for Iola Wines and their need for a solution that would allow them to expand into this sales channel with minimal effort toward implementation and ongoing execution.
After thoroughly evaluating their options, Iola Wines identified Commerce7 as the ideal platform for their business. What led them to choose Commerce7 was its complete end-to-end solution tailored specifically for the wine industry. “We’ve found the platform to be very robust, yet quite easy to work with and implement” said Bramhall. She also emphasized that the exceptional customer service provided by the Commerce7 team, with rapid response times and thorough answers to their questions, made the decision even easier for their team.
Once the migration to Commerce7 was complete, Iola implemented a traditional style wine club, with plans to offer a more modern subscription club in the future. In preparation for the launch of their first club, Iola Wines took an interesting approach to market it to their existing customer base. “We executed an email campaign in a “rolling thunder” style – which was designed to create excitement and anticipation.”
The Rolling Thunder approach is a strategic tactic used to generate momentum and suspense in the market prior to the launch of a new offering or product. It also provides companies with valuable time to refine their products or services and address any potential issues before putting their offering into the spotlight, while still allowing for effective marketing efforts directed towards their customers.
Bramhall also offered the option for customers to secure their club memberships with deposits, with a limited number of slots available. This strategy generated immediate interest, resulting in 40% of their entire customer base signing up for the club preemptively. They also sold out of their Sparkling club membership – twice, “So, all things considered, a very successful launch which exceeded our expectations.”
By leveraging Commerce7's intuitive club tools, the implementation of a wine club proved to be a resounding success for the winery, particularly with regard to revenue. In fact, Iola Wines experienced a staggering 221% year-over-year increase in revenue, and this upward growth trajectory shows no signs of slowing down.
“The club option really helps balance our marketing between aggressively generating demand and providing value added information by helping to educate our customers on grapes, wine making methods, terroirs and so on. It shifts us from ‘dialing for dollars’ to creating an actual relationship – which will undoubtedly increase the lifetime value of each customer.”
The improvements and results were almost immediate, with an increase in subsequent purchases after the initial launch, and continued membership growth each month since. The success of the initial launch has provided the necessary foundation for achieving their goals, and they’re looking forward to building on this momentum and further refining their offerings to appeal to a broader audience.
“We have a long way to go to achieve our business goals, but without a club option, it would be quite difficult to see a successful path forward. The club allows us to flatten our revenue trend – creating a more predictable financial outlook, which enables us to see when and where to make additional investments to generate more demand”.
All in all, Bramhall is excited to see Iola Wines continue to grow with Commerce7. “We have just begun to utilize the capabilities within the C7 platform. Looking at the personalization blocks, the loyalty program, subscription clubs vs traditional clubs… There are numerous things we’ve just not had an opportunity to dive into yet – which I think will help yield even more revenue and more importantly provide our club members with unexpected positive experiences.”
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