What to know: alcohol delivery for wine retailers

22 May 2023
Jenny Molloy

HubBox software can guarantee first-time wine delivery, reduce the cost of returns and keep customers thirsty for your product. Here’s how.

Do you face any of the following?

  • Angry customers being charged extra for their package because of additional customs fees?
  • Having to refund customers for wine deliveries that were broken or spoiled?
  • Customers deflecting to other online retailers that offer more flexible delivery options?

Offering Access Points as an alternative to home shipping could be exactly what you’re looking for. In this article, we’ll cover how the combination of pickup point software can overcome the 5 main challenges faced by wineries operating online.

The opportunities & challenges for selling wine online

The demand for online alcohol sales is booming. Here in the US, it’s anticipated that there are over 11,000 wineries in the United States, a number that’s grown over 50 percent since 2009. Throw in the rising cost of living and it’s no wonder that a growing number of discerning consumers are opting to drink wine at home over the bar or restaurant.

Online retail – why wine is different

If you’re into shipping wine, then you’ll know that the cost associated with failed deliveries is way higher than for the online retail counterparts.

Unlike a light, small t-shirt, which can be shipped relatively cheaply, wine is heavy. It’s more likely to break, and has to be kept in specific conditions. And if that’s not enough to put you off, you’ll need to weave your way through complex shipping rules, which vary between and across states. And of course, wine requires an adult signature on delivery.

If these challenges ring true, then good news – your business is an ideal candidate to take advantage of all the benefits of pickup point software. Let’s get into it…

Challenge #1: You’re charged for double shipping

How many times have you faced a barrage of complaints because the customer unwittingly requested an online wine delivery from your store into a state that didn’t accept it?

The problem with creating these orders yourself, regardless of whether you opt for UPS, FedEx or any of the other carriers, is that you need an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the wine delivery laws relating to each state. According to Forbes, there are 50 separate American alcohol control laws, one for each state, as well as the myriad separate market types spread across 3,000 miles from east to west.


What’s the solution? Pickup point software sits between your POS system and the carrier’s portal, automating the entire shipment process. Starting at the moment you type in the customers’ address, you’ll know in seconds whether it’s OK to ship to that destination. The benefit: you can be sure that the package will be accepted first time, eliminating the risk of returns due to incorrect labelling and shipping information.

Challenge #2: Your customer is stung for custom duties

This is a big one. Related to the above – if you didn’t figure out the correct handling charges that occur when packages cross US states (and even jurisdictions), then your customer may well be charged. In fact, it’s legally acceptable for delivery drivers to request cash or card payment on shoppers’ doorsteps before handing over the goods. Disastrous for your customer services department and your brand reputation.

What’s the solution? Wineries that opt to use pickup software know that, when they create a shipping label, that all the fees and charges of shipping to that destination are factored into the overall cost. Sure, the customer might not like having to fork out the extra, but at least they place their order in full knowledge of what they’re required to pay.

Challenge #3: You’re facing costly returns due to products breakage or spoiling

Wine needs careful handling to arrive in peak condition. Opting for door-to-door deliveries means that the product can be left in the back of a van with many other packages while it waits for its turn in the route. This can increase the likelihood of products overheating.

What’s the solution? Climate controlled collection facilities provide a far superior storage solution when it comes to keeping wine cool. This is particularly important if the recipient isn’t around to collect their goods straightaway. Wine can be left within an agreed window (typically seven days) at the pickup point, safe in the knowledge that when the recipient returns from vacation, the wine is as cool as the day it left your store.

Challenge #4: Wine deliveries are being rejected because an adult wasn’t home

This is the big one. Regardless of shipping laws per–state, the topic of ID is clear. All states require that an adult aged 21 years or over is present to sign for any alcohol purchase.

And that’s an issue. How many adults are home during working hours? How many of these can honestly commit to a delivery slot? As a retailer, missed deliveries are costly enough, but they can be re–attempted (at your cost, of course). But with alcohol shipments, there’s no room for manoeuvre.

What’s the solution? If you’re shipping alcohol already, or are considering it, then offering customers the ability to pick up their package at a secure, convenient pickup location offers huge benefits.

Fewer missed deliveries: by giving customers the flexibility over when they can collect their alcohol, they’re more likely to turn up. No need to frantically rearrange the delivery once the carrier is on the way. No more ‘Sorry we missed you’ notes. The customer literally has the flexibility to collect it when it suits them.

Double down on compliance: the pickup point operator is obliged to request ID before handing over the package, so sellers can be sure that they’re not inadvertently enabling a teenager’s party. Moreover, the best–in–class pickup software can ensure that ID checks are completed at point of sale – not just when they pick up their order.

Challenge #5: Your order process is fragmented and sluggish

Let’s say you’ve run a super successful winery tour and you have a queue of happy customers keen to buy a crate or three…. The only problem is, you need to extract a heap of information before you can ascertain whether you’re even able to deliver it to them legally. Not ideal when you have a queue of eager customers.

What’s the solution? Using HubBox, you simply pull up the software online, create an order on the fly, as if they were going through the process themselves on the internet.

This allows you to create orders fast, giving the customer the ability to select their pickup point at point of sale… all governed by the in-built workflows which, as we’ve discussed, apply the correct shipping procedures and charges at the exact moment you take their credit card details.

How HubBox enhances the customer experience for wineries

HubBox solution for wine retailers is a simple, highly effective software solution for retailers. It sits between your EPOS and the carrier portal to automate all the workflows required to ensure a simple, safe and legal shipping process.

Opting for a pickup solution offers a host of value-added benefits that go way beyond addressing these key pain points, for example:

Increase retention and customer loyalty

It takes just one failed delivery or demand for extra fees to turn customers sour, killing your business reputation in one swig. By implementing HubBox, you can eliminate the things that frustrate your customers, and work on initiatives that increase online spend, such as subscription models, loyalty programs and special offers.

Take advantage of economies of scale

It’s estimated that the average shipping cost for a single 750ml bottle of wine is $21.80, equating to over 40% of the total cost of the order for a bottle priced around $30. (Source: Vinoshipper, 2023). That’s a big obstacle to shipping a few bottles of artisan wine from a tour. However, if you can convince customers that their delivery is going to be quick, convenient and that the product will arrive in peak condition, then that’s a great opportunity to convince them to pack their cart full.

Open the doors to customers

Do you have a production facility or tasting room? With pickup software, you can take a customer order in real life just as easily as if they were online ordering the wine themselves. Imagine if you could offer the customer the convenience to select their pickup point of choice, at the point of sale.

Alternatively, why not offer up your own premises as a pickup point? What better way for people that leave nearby to come visit you and see what else you offer.

In conclusion – why choose HubBox for your winery?

HubBox streamlines and automates key pain points with the customer order workflow. By taking care of shipping destinations and fees at the point of sale, and offering customers flexible pickup options, customers can enjoy a more convenient way to shop.

Moreover, by sending all packages to a pickup point over the residents’ address, pickup points:

  • eliminate the risk of failed delivery due to the recipient not being available
  • reduce the likelihood of returns
  • significantly reducing spoilage/breakage
  • increase upsell and customer loyalty.
  • In short: you offer more than one type of wine – so why box your customers into one delivery option?
    To learn more about HubBox for wineries, request a demo today.