Wine Club Memberships:
Know the Details

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Most long-standing wine clubs build their success on offering attractive wine club memberships at reasonable prices, with emphasis on providing the best wines and the hard-to-find varieties. Much of the effort that goes into operating a successful wine club program is spent on traveling, visiting wineries, sampling wines and maintaining a fresh, exciting collection for members.

But there is another sector of the wine club industry that is just as important, though this part of the work often goes unseen. In fact, if the membership program is operating the way it should, members will see very little of the organization and record-keeping that goes on behind the scenes.

Many of the veterans in the wine club world rely on dedicated and detailed software to keep track of member information, wine orders, shipping and so on. Hundreds of wineries make use of this type of computer program, allowing members to access Web sites, place orders, make changes and update their own financial information.

But the straightforward recordkeeping and order tracking handled by the computer and the staff isn't the only benefit of a sound wine club memberships program.

Happy wine club customers drinking red wine.

Happy woman drinking red wine.

Most of the merchants and wine clubs are able to personalize a membership or individual order based on their past selections. Many clubs have experts on staff who search for and recommend particular wines, targeting some wines to a handful of members while suggesting yet another variety to a different group.

According to one of the most active wine club/winery software companies, Nexternal, the process can initially be outlined in five steps.

These include

  1. identifying individual members,

  2. establishing the sign-up process as "a product in the store,"

  3. order processing,

  4. creating the shipment based on the type of wine club

  5. and finally, processing the order.

Establishing a customer file according to customer type involves choosing a particular customer type based on the membership level and wine preferences. Members can be added to each type of club by allowing the potential customer or repeat customer to choose a membership dollar amount and wine selection just as they would any other individual wine or accessory on the site.

Filling glass of red wine.

Filling in a glass of red wine.

If winery and wine-club staff members have to work with each member individually the process is much less efficient. However, the best wine clubs and online suppliers don't skip the details of customer service!

They make sure that phone numbers and email addresses are readily available for members who wish to order through a "live" individual. This same hands-on process is used for those with questions or ordering difficulties.

As a potential customer of an online merchant or a potential wine club member, make sure that you understand the charges for joining the club and receiving wine on a regular basis. It's common to have wineries and wine club merchants sign up new members without an initial charge.

The cost to the member comes when selected wines are shipped. Some clubs, of course, take an upfront fee for the first month or for another period time (three months, one year etc.) and allow the customer/member to decide if they want to stop a selection in a future month. This is a crucial detail for wine club memberships.

Monthly wine membership - shipping process

Woman receiving a package of wine bottles.

The process of filling and shipping membership orders involves both standard shipments as outlined in each club and "custom" shipments for new members and customer who have changed their selection.

Most of the top-shelf merchants and wineries have streamlined this process as well, using just two or three quick steps to find out what the customer/member needs this time around.

At this point in the process, the club or wine supplier can work with shipping address changes and payment changes along with making changes in wine orders.

In most clubs, the staff member filling the order simply has to read the information and enter it, if there are changes or, if no changes have been made, arrange to send out the selections for that month.

Finally, many of the best wine club memberships come with an added benefit – discounts on orders apart from the usual membership selections. If you don’t see this feature, make sure to ask.

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