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Wine Club Acquisition — improving your online approach to member acquisition 

by | Sep 18, 2023

As you know, ever since wineries had to quickly learn to conduct wine tastings virtually, tasting rooms have been facing some fresh challenges.

With fewer visitors in our tasting rooms, and many of those visitors now exploring alternative forms of refreshments over wine, our wine club sign-ups have also been taking a hit.

Wine Chemistry Creative conducted a study to see what wineries are doing to take their wine club acquisition online. Read on to see how we’re doing.

Digital is the new wine club acquisition strategy

Findings from the recently released Silicon Valley Bank 2023 Direct-to-Consumer Survey show that tasting room sales have been trending downward while wine club sales have been trending upward.

Currently, between 80% and 90% of new members joining the wine clubs of small U.S. wineries are gained through non-digital sources. Those non-digital sources, it turns out, are almost exclusively the tasting room.

2022 appears to be the first year where wine club sales exceeded tasting room sales. Rob McMillan believes there is every reason to expect this trend to continue.

And if Rob McMillan believes it, then so do I.

Moving forward, tracking and driving growth in club memberships outside of the tasting room should be a goal of all wineries with clubs.

Rob McMillan


What are wineries doing to increase wine club membership online?

Seeing the declining tasting room numbers, I wondered: what are wineries doing to increase wine club memberships from outside of the tasting room?

New member acquisition is naturally vastly different through a website than in the tasting room.

The tasting room, after-all, is designed to make your visitors feel they belong. We treat guests to wine country hospitality, pour them wines, share stories, create chemistry, offer to waive their tasting fees … before we know it, they’re asking where to sign.

Not so easy on a website.

So, how are wineries managing in the online arena, to give visitors a sense of their wines, create a connection, and compel them to join the wine club?

To find out how wine clubs were being presented, and the kinds of incentives being offered for new sign-ups, I did what any normal person would do, and conducted a study of more than 100 websites of small U.S. wineries to check out their new member acquisition strategies.

Here is what I discovered:

The current state of wine club member acquisition online

#1. Wine Club Link in Main Navigation

Displaying links to your website’s most important pages in your main navigation is considered standard operating procedure in user experience design. Findings from this study showed just 76% of wineries following this convention.

At one-quarter of winery websites, users will not see a link to the wine club in the main navigation. This is a missed opportunity in online wine club member acquisition.

Strikingly, 24% of the wineries in our study do not provide a visible link to the wine club in the main navigation of their website. On these websites, the link was either absent or hidden behind a second click, requiring the user to click on “Wines” or “Acquire” or to uncollapse a hamburger menu. More on hamburger menus >

Where's the beef:

Go easy on the burgers

Hamburger menus: not always the best approach for navigation

The use of a “hamburger menu,” three short horizontal lines which, when clicked, uncollapses to reveal a menu is a stylistic choice often used to support an aesthetic of minimalism.

Although hamburger menus can effectively aid design on a website’s second-level pages, they can diminish user experience when used on the homepage.

In a recent usability study by the Nielson Norman Group, hidden menus were used by roughly only half of users compared to visible or combo menus.

Choosing hamburger menus can be a whopper of a mistake for certain audiences.

#2. Wine Club Call-to-Action on the Homepage

38% of wineries use a wine club call-to-action (CTA) on the homepage for new member acquisition.

On websites displaying a wine club CTA on the homepage, every instance but one (the one exception led, incidently, to a 404 Page Not Found error) was hidden “below the fold,” requiring users to scroll almost to the bottom of the homepage for the offer to be visible. More on homepage calls-to-action >

One website contained a “Membership” button within the hero image, but lacked a main navigation item indicating a membership page.

Hompage CTAs:

Using visual prominence for new member acquisition

Creating visual promince using graphical elements versus position.

Although the role of the homepage is not to singularly funnel all users to the Wine Club page, links to the Club page do deserve visual prominence, and to effectively aid new member acquisition, they must be compelling.

Visual prominence is achieved through the use of design elements such as placement on page, imagery, color, contrast, layout, scale, typography, and compelling messaging.

Links in the main navigation benefit from their prominent location, but as text-only links, they are not compelling. Users will only click on a link in the main nav if the link matches what the user is looking for. If a website user is not able to find what they are looking for *quickly* they are likely to leave.

Graphically-supported calls-to-action, which present the user with a benefit and a required action, funneling site visitors toward the club page, are currently being underutilized for wine club acquisition.

Keep your wine club member acquisition CTAs above the fold.

Recent eye-tracking studies show that although website users have learned to scroll better than they did back in 2010, 57% of visitors still don’t look below the fold, and only 26% will go further than twice the screen height. In other words, don’t assume your new member acquisition CTA at the bottom of your homepage is being seen by your visitors.

How are wineries moving web visitors to their wine club page?

Wine club acquisition pie chart

Is there an opportunity for wineries to improve new member acquisition online?

#3. Presenting Site Visitors With a Compelling Offer

I came across one winery using a pop-up to display a wine club call-to-action when the homepage loads, offering a discount on the visitor’s next order if they join, which they can do by entering their email address and clicking “Join.”

In all the winery websites I studied, this seemed the most compelling case for considering the wine club.

However, this is still not the most ideal online approach to member acquisition, as Google regards the use of pop-ups which appear when the page initially loads, as interfering with the visitor’s ability to access the site’s content. Accordingly, Google imposes page rank penalties on sites that display pop-up ads when the page loads, something it refers to as “intrusive interstitials.”

Fortunately, there are other ways of triggering pop-up offers which avoid invoking negative ranking consequences from Google, and other tools you can include in your customer acquisition strategy besides pop-up CTAs.

#4. Other Member Acquisition Strategies

12% of wineries in this sampling offer allocation lists in place of wine clubs, using  the suggestion of limited availability as the hook for new member acquisition.

Examples of the navigation label to join the Allocation Club include “Wait List” (seems unappealing), “Join our List” (which might be confused with subscribing to a marketing newsletter), and “Acquire” (which some users might interpret as meaning Purchase). 

Online customer acquisition: adjusting to a new paradigm

In the tasting room, the tool for convincing visitors to join the wine club is hospitality. Online, the tool is user experience. It’s a new model for wineries to adjust to.

What we need to change

Wine club offerings appear indistinguishable from one website to the next, with little to arouse the senses.

Visitors are asked for a one-year commitment, even if they haven’t tasted our wines.

Wines are described by mentioning our degree from Davis, fog layers, and notes of corn silk. None of these are flavors.

Visitors are being offered very little beyond regular shipments of “wine” (generic term) at a discount, with a one-year commitment.

The online analog of tasting room hospitality is user experience.

Moving towards online wine club member acquisition

Moving forward, wineries must acknowledge what has been working well with guests in the tasting room, and strive to creatively replicate those new member acquisition efforts in the online space, using currently accepted best practices in online user experience design.



In the tasting room, you find out which wines your guests like, and those are the wines you present.

Online, this can be achieved using different landing pages that are linked to from page-specific calls-to-action. A call-to-action appealing to Pinot lovers, for example, takes the user to a page for your Pinot Club.

If you use this approach, remember to link from your Pinot club page to your other club pages to avoid requiring visitors to use the Back button.



In the tasting room, you describe the wines using language which fits the guests’ wine knowledge.

Online, users can be directed to pages containing content designed for their understanding of wine. There are many simple, clever, and engaging ways to accomplish this, and if pages with similar content are canonicalized correctly, it can enhance your SEO efforts.



In the tasting room, when members are selecting several bottles to purchase, you might remind them of the discount they would receive if they were club members.

Online, this can be achieved by listing the member price below the retail price for each wine on your store page, alongside a “Join” button.



In the tasting room, visitors can ask the host a question and get an immediate answer.

Online, this can be accomplished with live chat functionality. 11% of wineries in our study are using chat (LiveChat, Avochato) or text (RedChirp, Podium) functionality on their websites.



In the tasting room, visitors are amongst other guests who are enjoying the wines, laughing, having good conversations and soaking up the experience. Seeing these behaviors by those around you is a form of social proof.

Online, social proof is demonstrated through customer reviews of your wines along with wine club reviews.



In the tasting room, when a visitor is ready to join the club, we hand them a pen and ask for a signature and a credit card.

Online, many wineries are still asking users to send an email request to join. With wine club member acquisition moving online, it’s time for wineries to install web functionality for users to complete the sign-up process online.



Unfortunately, we haven’t yet come up with the technology to pour tastes of wine for our online visitors before deciding to join the club, so asking them to commit to a year of purchasing wines can seem likely to produce disappointing results.

But from the widely accepted conventions of e-commerce, we know that overcoming objections is key, and one way of doing this is to offer a low-risk option.

Wine clubs can offer the low-risk option of trying out the club for one month. Trial members can receive an introductory discount of 10% which goes up to 15% when they commit to a full year.

Similarly, a “cancel anytime” policy might induce visitors to take a chance with your wine club, boosting your customer acquisition strategy.



There are many more approaches you can try for your own specific winery, incorporating email marketing ideas, omni-channel marketing, social media campaigns, and targeted paid advertising.

To get more ideas for your specific winery, contact Wine Chemistry Creative or view some of the ways you can get help with your wine club’s customer acquisition strategy.

Continuing the online conversation

What’s the next step in the conversation after you’ve made sure your visitors understand what your wines are about?

Remember, the online analog of tasting room hospitality is user experience. Wineries need to create chemistry with their online visitors by creating a positive user experience, answering their questions, responding to their actions, and providing the information they need — at the right moment.

This is what’s known as user experience design. It may not be your area of expertise, but you need to make sure you have someone for whom it is.

Get a wine industry user experience expert here and start improving your new member acquisition.


Bradley Squires


Bradley Squires, the founder of Wine Chemistry Creative, helps wineries get discovered and be remembered. He thinks of this as “Creating Chemistry with a winery’s customers and future customers.” Bradley provided marketing services for some of America’s largest (and smallest) brands such as AT&T, Wells Fargo, Ericcson, UCSF, The Nature Conservancy before earning degrees in Oenology, Viticulture, and Wine Marketing. He doesn’t have a dog.

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