Your wine brand requires skilled hands to succeed at every level. From the vineyard to the tasting room and beyond, each endeavor necessitates mastery in order to hit the mark. And your website is no exception — especially if you want to avoid a website that leaves you indistinguishable from other wine brands. Both the storytelling and the commerce experience, whether open cart, wine club, allocation, or a combination, should exude your brand.

But crafting a custom website that accurately reflects your brand and desired customer experience is a tall order. Brand expression, differentiation, and return on investment are just a few concerns you’ll have to deal with.

Why go through all this effort? There are plenty of platforms you can use to make a website quickly and on a tight budget, right? At Offset, our flexible modular websites are often the best path for smaller and mid-sized wine businesses, as they allow the majority of your budget to be allocated towards content, basic marketing integration, and extending your visual identity elements to digital. But there are certainly cases where a fully custom website is not only warranted but the responsible path. It’s worth doing your due diligence first to know what path is best for your brand and your customer’s experience. And, we are here to help in that evaluation process.

When a custom website is the right direction, designing one that portrays the nuance of your brand with fine-tuned accuracy, propels your direct-to-consumer goals, and pushes your brand forward in the process is entirely within reach.

With a deeply engaged discovery process and treating each brand as the unique entity it is, this is how a custom website is done at Offset.

Outside perspectives allow for diverse ideas for your wine brand’s website

In an industry saturated with similar surface-level narratives, it’s a challenge to tell stories in a unique way. But we come with fresh, inside and outside-the-industry perspectives that expand the realm of storytelling possibilities.

One of our favorite avenues for exploring storytelling opportunities is looking to other industries for inspiration. As the wine industry continues to grow with people from all walks of life, there are countless anecdotes to be told. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s eye and a hit of inspiration from beyond the world of wine to recognize what that story is and how to tell it.

Then, dovetail that storytelling with how customers will engage during a purchase or allocation offer and you have a recipe for a truly top-notch commerce experience that sings in harmony with who you are.

Your website isn’t a means to an end. It’s where your brand’s story is captured and told far and wide all hours of the day. It’s what engages your customers, sparks relationships, and furthers your brand.

5 steps to designing your wine brand’s trademark website

No two wine brands are the same, which means no two brands’ websites should look or feel the same. We are steadfast in that belief, and it’s where we begin every brand’s custom website journey.

To entrust your brand to our expertise means diving deep with us into your story and your brand’s sales strategy. There will be a lot of black and white questions you will answer. But it’s the gray area in between that truly allows us to extract insight into who your brand really is and how you are unique.

Here’s what happens.

1. Each stakeholder completes an independent questionnaire

Each stakeholder on your team (especially those who’ll be signing off on any part of the project) completes a questionnaire. It’s how we get to know where everyone stands as they face this new project for the brand. Through reviewing the answers of this questionnaire, we’re better equipped to enter the project with insights about your team and vision. One of the first questions we often ask people is how they would describe their brand to a stranger sitting next to them on a plane? To a distributor? To a member of the press?

2. We get to know your brand through an immersive experience

Sometimes it’s walking through the vineyards with you, learning about the history of your land. Other times it’s joining your team for a harvest dinner, relaxed and rich with conversation. Or, maybe it’s a club event to see how your customers interact with you. The point is, we get to know your team and your brand. It’s how we soak up information and get a feel for all your brand is.

3. Together we engage in visual research

There are few things as subjective as what each of us like and respond to visually, such as colors, typefaces, and stylistic trends. At Offset, we understand that each of us brings our own experiential bias toward one visual element or style over the other. It’s critical for us to learn what imagery, themes, and motifs inspire and resonate from your brand and personal perspectives; what ‘modern’ means to us may have a different interpretation amongst your team. We’ll explore with your team a wide variety of books, websites, and brands to learn what resonates and just as importantly what does not resonate with your team. This is just an initial step though, our goal is not to walk away with a defined path to exclusively explore but to get a sense of points of inspiration, potential personal biases, and shared brand-appropriate sensibilities that can inform your project.

4. We dive into a content work session to explore your story and goals even further

When we get to the content work session, some clients assume it means a site map or working outline. Not so. While we of course need to address the big picture parameters for the website, we focus more on the not-so-obvious opportunities that could lead to different expressions of your brand with both marketing and commerce goals front of mind. We gently prod at potentially delicate issues that could have a wide-reaching impact if not addressed. If we don’t take those into account early on, we could be designing an end-product with a lot of gaps and not even know it.

For example, you could have some major opportunities for your brand in the next five years, like expanding your offerings through elevated tier structures. Those plans, even if they’re tiny seeds, might make a difference in both structural decisions like site organization, to more specific executions such as the copy and functionality with which to present your wines. Ultimately, this is about alignment about both questions and opportunities rather than consensus on a direction.

5. You’re presented one holistic website design concept

After our discovery sessions, we immerse ourselves with everything we have learned during our time with your team to come up with one holistic website design concept, that will give you a good sense of site organization, commerce and marketing integration, brand expression, and storytelling. The intent is not to have an approved concept that we immediately begin executing, rather we look at this stage as aligning on a conceptual foundation that we can evolve together. We always budget for a second concept if the first concept is not right (although it’s very rare that we don’t have concept approval on the first round, which is a testament to our robust discovery phase). In the case that we pursue a second concept, we make sure there haven’t been any shifts since Discovery and then get to work on another concept that will take into account the learnings from the first.

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Distinguish Your Wine Brand’s Commerce Website with an Immersive Experience

Working with any creative agency to build your custom website is a time-intensive project. But it’s also one of the most important investments you can make.

After all, your website isn’t a means to an end. It’s where your brand’s story is captured and told far and wide at all hours of the day. It’s what engages your customers, sparks relationships, and can even work as a forcing function to improve your brand elements that need work. If your website doesn’t reflect who you are, you’re losing out in many ways, beyond just potential purchases.

This is why your website needs to have your brand’s fingerprints all over it. Every element should contribute to telling the story of your brand and feel harmonious, compelling your customers to engage with you over and over again.

Of course, this is done through crafting a thoughtful user interface. But we like to take it a step further by giving your customers a truly immersive experience — one that takes them to another place. Somewhere different, interesting, and truly one-of-a-kind. And not just with photos and words, but with the subtleties of how a customer moves through your website to learn and then transact (and then beyond the website with emails).

Take our work with CHEV. We knew we had something special when we learned about CHEV winemaker and proprietor Michael Browne’s affinity for classic American craftsmanship.

On the home page, instead of leading with a story about the land, or the hands that have nurtured the vineyards, you learn about the winemaker’s father and his love of working with his hands. You see black and white imagery of a workshop and weathered hands working with wood.

You start to get a sense that the CHEV website isn’t just a place to buy wine. It’s a place that tells stories that speak to the motivations of the people behind the brand. Or maybe it reminds your customer of someone they know, bringing back a fond memory and the smell of fresh sawdust. Either way, you’ve created a forum for a more personal, emotional, relationship between your brand and your customers.

This type of immersive experience — where the authenticity of the brand is palpable — is imbued into every custom website project we take on, from the homepage to the order confirmation email.

Working with Offset means collaborating with more than a design agency

Don’t be mistaken. While we come with outside perspectives, we have deeply embedded expertise in wine brand development and e-commerce.

That’s why, when you work with Offset, you get the best of many worlds: outsiders with ideas to push your brand further as well as insiders equipped with institutional knowledge to walk you through the stickiest of challenges all the while never losing focus on what makes your brand unique. Integrated with our ecommerce and content management platform, we can create a seamless, engaging end-to-end customer experience. When it comes to crafting the best custom website for your wine brand, think about it as your #1 employee working 24-7 for you.

If you’d like to explore if a custom website is right for your winery, let’s talk.