We are a direct-to-consumer natural wine importer and online retailer. The way our business model works is that we find wine from small producers in Europe (currently France, Austria, Spain, and Italy), import the wines to a fulfillment center, then sell them via a monthly wine club and traditional online retailer.
🇺🇸 Washington, DC
📅 My partner, Holly, started the company in 2017, but we only started actually acquiring inventory and generating sales and revenue in January 2019. Before that we were getting licenses, building relationships, and building our social media presence.
💵 $10-50k MRR
How Nic Jansson co-founded Through the Grapevine, a D2C natural wine importer and online retailer, some insights into their marketing strategy and some advice for other entrepreneurs.
Who are you and tell us about Through the Grapevine.
What makes your business unique?
Marketing with Shopify
Walk us through your marketing startegy for Through the Grapevine.
Which are the best Shopify SEO apps?
Where did you learn about Shopify SEO?
What are you marketing plans for next year?
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
How are things today with Through the Grapevine and what are your plans for the future?
Where can we learn more about Through the Grapevine?
My name is Nic Jansson. I graduated Uni with an Economics degree and English minor in early 2013 and worked for a CPG company in Stamford, CT as a marketing associate before moving to a paid digital ad agency about a year later. I worked there for about 3 years and then moved to a full-scale sales and marketing agency to get more exposure outside of paid digital. There I was running email campaigns, ad campaigns, web development, and sales programs before moving to Through the Grapevine in early 2019.
Wine itself isn’t unique. What’s different about us is a couple things:
We’re importing direct-to-consumer, meaning our products don’t have to go through the traditional “3-tier system” of importer, distributor, and retailer markup.
Buying directly from an importer allows a customer to have more trust in what they’re getting, feel closer to the product, and support small business.
We’re focusing on a subset of wine called ‘Natural Wine”, which is a wine made organically or biodynamically, with minimal added sulfites, native yeast, and unfined/unfiltered. This allows us to focus our marketing on a specific consumer and provides us with some differential.
I designed the website using the Venue theme from the Theme Store. Our traffic (and sales) mostly come from SEO & PPC. We have about 15k followers on Instagram that we’re working hard to turn into a revenue-generating channel as well. SEO is the most profitable channel, as we don’t have to pay for the traffic (other than our own time). That said, PPC (split between Facebook/Instagram and Google Ads is definitely our largest share of margin. Our initial conversion actually isn’t profitable when accounting for ad spend, but we are selling people into a recurring subscription product (using Bold Recurring Orders), and thus we’re seeing profitability after a certain number of orders – this is still up in the air as we haven’t been around long enough to have a true idea of LTV.
Email is also doing quite well for us using Klaviyo, but we’re still working on growing our list so that we have enough volume to make it a larger part of our revenue stream.
Honestly, we don’t spend as much time as we should on SEO/PPC. We’re a two-person company doing every thing (including sourcing all our wines), so probably 10-15%?
I don’t think there are any good SEO apps. Choosing a good, fast theme and linking it to Search Console is your best bet. There’s no quick fixes for a good SEO foundation.
Not related to SEO, but I have a few friends from my PPC agency days that are working for big players in the industry that I stay in touch with to keep abreast of trends, things I should test, etc.
We expect paid digital to continue to be the largest driver of new customer acquisition for us in 2020. A big focus for us will be increasing customer LTV and reducing churn rate. The cost of acquiring a new customer is high, and there’s a lot of opportunity in upselling, increasing order frequency, and increasing margins there. A lot of that will be done using email and we’re building out a Facebook community with learning modules and other engaging content. We want people to think immediately of us when they’re shopping for wine, and staying top of mind is the most important way to do that.
We definitely made some mistakes when we started with inventory management, expensive tools that weren’t a good fit, etc., which definitely hurt our profitability in 2019. That said, those are lessons that I believe need to be learned for start up founders. The trick is learning from them so that you can make better decisions moving forward, and that’s something that’s definitely stuck with us.
I also couldn’t imagine doing it without a partner. There’s so much stress, so many things that need to happen, and so many curveballs that doing it solo seems incredibly difficult. Finding a partner that you can work well with, play to each other’s strengths, and share the load with has been hugely beneficial for me.
Right now we’re averaing in the 10-50k range. Our Natural Wine Club is our most popular product, we sell between 20-50/month. We are constantly working on adding new inventory and sourcing more wines so that our existing customer base can experience fun, new, and exciting wines.