One of the criticisms most often levied against wine blogs is that they don’t “move the needle” in terms of wine sales.
Let’s forget for a moment that where I come from, coverage that costs me next to nothing for a product that results in even a handful of additional sales (and additional exposure) – that I otherwise would never have seen – counts for something.
The crux of this criticism is that coverage of wines on the virtual pages of wine blogs does not result in materially meaningful and/or measurable differences in the purchase volumes of those wines. Presumably, this is in comparison to similar mentions in print media (however, it’s worth noting that I’ve yet to see any hard evidence in the form of real data to support print media coverage having a sales bump effect, but I have anecdotal evidence from some California winemakers showing that it does not, as well as some from small producers indicating that some wine blog mentions have in fact increased DTC sales… which I can relay to you privately some day if we ever meet and you buy me a beer…).
The counter argument is usually a combination of two things: 1) that it’s extremely difficult to measure the impact of any media coverage on wine sales, regardless of the type of media, and 2) it’s the aggregate of blog and social media mentions (outside of concentrated special events, promotions, and the like) that amount to an increase in mindshare and small, one-consumer-at-a-time sales that otherwise wouldn’t otherwise have happened. In other words, wine blogging and social media mentions result in a stream of sales that are aggregated from tiny, rivulet-like trickles in combination, and so wouldn’t generally amount to a perceivable spike but do, in combination, make a difference. [ For an example of these arguments, see the mini-debate generated on this topic generated in the comments section of one of my recent posts here ].
I can now supply some data in support of that counter argument, by way of one example: namely, 1WineDude.com.
While I will not supply exact numbers (only because don’t have permission from all of the parties involved to do so), I can give you approximations that I think lend some credence and strength to the counter argument, though I strongly suspect it will be ignored by the wine cognoscenti, who have in my experience demonstrated a severe allergic reaction (sulfites got nothin’ on this!) to facts, data, and evidence if those things do not already support their own already-entrenched beliefs…
First, we need to define a target market, which in this case are wine consumers (duh). According to a survey by Wine Opinions, the results of which were recently presented at an MW residential seminar (and reported to me privately by an attendee), there are some passionate wine consumers that both purchase wine frequently and spend enough to worry their spouses when they do purchase. If you’re a wine brand, you want to be on their radar, because they’re the Holy Grail of wine consumers.
And according to Wine Opinion’s survey results, the high spender / high frequency wine buyers (who purchase often and regularly spends over $20 a bottle) do name some blogs among their resources; these include 1WD, JancisRobinson.com, Vinography.com, BiggerThanYourHead.net, and Terroirist.com. In the case of 1WD, 4% of that group said they visit here “regularly,” with 12% visiting “a few times.”
Now, I don’t sell wine here on 1WD (and almost certainyl never will), but what I try to do is give people at least some convenience in finding the wines mentioned here; I do this via affiliate links to Wine-Searcher.com. So, while I cannot tell you with certainty how many of the 20K or so people who come here monthly actually buy a wine mentioned on 1WD, I can get you close: I can tell you what percent, on average, click through on those links, and are therefore taken as far as logically possible online to the doorstep of purchasing those wines. [ You can question the validity of this assumption, of course, but realize it’s tantamount to also questioning the validity of Wine Searcher’s value model, which is based at least in part on people buying once they get connected to a source that has the wine for which they are searching. ]
Let’s call that click-through percent 1WD’s “conversion rate” (since that’s as close as we’ll get at the moment to a literal purchase conversion in which moolah exchanges hands). What is that rate? It’s at least ten percent (and quite often a bit higher).
The average retail / ecommerce conversion rate? About 3%. 1WD beats that by a cozy margin (and it does that with potentially high frequency consumers who are willing to part with more cash than the average when buying juice). It’s interesting to note that 1WD isn’t unique in this regard, either; media of any kind typically converts by about 10%. That puts wine blogs (okay, at least the better-known wine blogs) potentially on par with traditional print outlets in terms of leading individual people to the precipice of parting with their hard-earned money for wine.
Now, I cannot draw absolute conclusions from this, and since you are reading this I’d love to hear from you as to whether or not you’re in that high frequency/high spend quadrant, because, in the immortal words of the late, great Brandt, ” you are in a unique position to confirm or dis-confirm that suspicion.” But, since I think it’s unlikely that zero percent of those clicking through via 1WD are high frequency/high spend purchasers, and because I’m a boorish American loudmouth, here are my thoughts on what all of this tells us:
Can wine blogs move dozens of cases of wine at a clip? No, but I’m not sure what in the wine world does do that (aside from mentions on Oprah).
Do wine blogs matter in terms of wine sales? Yes, if you know where to look, what to look for, and have some idea of how you want to measure it.
Are wine blogs the be-all-and-end-all of wine sales? Of course not, but the situation is probably nowhere near as dire as the critics would have you believe. Do wine blogs matter less because they don’t cause the needles to jump emphatically? Only if you’re selling by extreme volume, and/or living in the past and don’t care about winning the mind-share of consumers that are the ones most likely to buy your product.
The bottom line: if you offer a wine, you probably want it featured on a wine blog like this one, or Vinography, or BTYH, or the wine blog(s) that according to your research (and you are researching the field, aren’t you??) most appeal to your target consumers (that is, unless you just don’t want to sell any more of your wine than you otherwise would through traditional channels).