Blacksburg VA based university instructor Gustavo Ferriera prepared The Virginia Wineries’ Websites: An Evaluation for presentation at the Feb 2013 Annual Meeting of the Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
A total of 182 wineries were analyzed, and the quality of their website was measured based on four broad dimensions involving features, information about wine tourism, marketing and education, each of which add value to a business, reduce marketing costs, and increase sales and profitability.
The research concluded the power of a website has not been fully exploited by many Virginia wineries. Web-based marketing is a good alternative to more traditional forms of promotion and advertising, and due its lower cost, it can be implemented especially by the smallest wineries.
I would argue since the publication of this research, the potential of the website as the tool to attract winery visitors has increased exponentially. Since the April 2015 change in algorithm implemented by Google that penalizes the rank of websites that are not mobile friendly, ranking on mobile searches of many small business websites have suffered.
With over 60% of web searches being conducted on tablets and smartphones, the tourists searching for options en route more readily find the wineries with mobile friendly sites.
Responsive, mobile friendly design has become a priority characteristic in the 2015 redesign of the Virginia Wine Board site, and should be the most important characteristic of every winery with the objective of increasing direct in-winery sales.
The researcher states, “Website quality is a significant predictor of increased trust in the winery and a good indicator of the quality of the wine.”
First impressions are critical in any type of business, and in the case of wineries, it is imperative to develop and maintain an attractive and user friendly site. Consumers formulate beliefs and attitudes about the organization and its products from the representation on its website.
“While a well-designed site will give people a positive image of your business,” the researcher states, “a poorly designed website will project a negative image of your winery and give people the impression that your business is likewise disorganized or poorly managed.”
Wine drinkers and wine tourists are characterized by high education and high incomes, are interested in the quality of wine and are eager to enjoy new travel experiences. Most small wineries rely heavily on direct cellar door sales for profitability, so wine tourism has an important financial impact.
The research found many wineries fail to capitalize from regional tourism attractions by not including links to tourism attractions in the area. Further, mobile friendly responsive design should be used to increase visibility on search engines for tourists searching on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
In terms of marketing potential, a winery website should be geared toward important goals – providing information about the product, providing a secure e-commerce channel, establishing and nurturing relationships with customers and attracting visitors to the winery.
Wineries, in particular the smallest ones, should use websites as a marketing tool to overcome limitations at the distribution channels and to expand both direct and retail sales. These sites should include positive press articles or customer testimonials.
The researcher states, “a single story in a newspaper or magazine may not only help sales, but it can also establish a reputation and will project an image of quality and recognition by other professionals.”
Educational features such as the history of the business can establish the story of the organization. Very few websites are used as an educational platform on basic wine-related issues such as, tips on wine drinking, storage, tasting, etc.
Another important omission is the profile of the winemaker – with only 50 percent of the wineries including it. Good professionals make good products, thus the accumulated experience of a winemaker should be highlighted.
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The full research can be accessed here https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/142795/2/The%20Virginia%20Wineries’%20Website%20An%20Evaluation.pdf
Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Here’s Google’s website test. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/