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Cultivating tailored subscription experiences for wine club members

Industry

Food and beverage

42%

Subscriber growth: month over month

25%

Revenue growth: month over month

81%

Subscription growth: 2021

68%

Revenue growth: 2021

The company

There was one year when Kilikanoon chose NOT to produce wine. That’s how seriously the winemakers take their “uncompromised commitment to quality and style,” says Jason Cane, Global Sales Manager for the Australian vineyard.

If the weather and soil conditions in the dynamic, but complex winemaking region of Clare Valley aren’t ideal enough to produce rich Cabernet blends, fresh Rieslings, classic Grenache varietals and more — they’re not willing to produce less-than-premium products, he explains.

The result: A consistency in value that customers have come to trust. And increasingly, are subscribing to. In 2021 alone, subscriptions to Kilikanoon’s Wine Club increased by 81%, generating an impressive 68% growth in subscription revenue in that same time period.

Customers know, when they commit to two cases or more of Kilikanoon wine, they can count on every bottle to reflect the unique taste profile and quality experience the wine brand has offered, since the day it was founded by a father and son duo in 1997, says Cane.

Located about an hour and a half outside Adelaide, the high-altitude region features an extreme day to night temperature shift that aids in delivering the balance of sweetness and acidity characteristic to wines produced in the region

Blistering hot during the day in summer, it can reach up to 40C degrees, he says. At which point, grapes “ basically go into stress mode, they go into lockdown and they try to survive…they convert the water in the grapes into sugar, so you get that sweetness in the fruit.”

Then at night, when the temperature cools down by 10C or 15C degrees, their vines can pull even more water out of the ground, contributing to a unique acidity makeup, says Cane.

Kilikanoon customers may initially be attracted to the well-cultivated vintages this region (and expert winemakers) produce, but what inspires them to continue purchasing wine and on-site experiences from the vintner, is a tailored subscription offering that drives ongoing loyalty and engagement.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s back up to four years ago, when the company first wanted to launch their wine club.

The challenge

A personalized gift with subscription offer requires advanced customization capabilities

Kilikanoon has long been a destination experience, welcoming and winning over customers eager to try their on-site Cellar Door tasting menus.

Visitors are given the option to either pay for these 30 to 60 minute experiences, or simply buy a bottle of wine at the end and have their tasting fee applied to the cost of the vintage purchased.

In 2018, the company wanted to start capturing data, and more importantly, the opportunity to upsell these wine tasting customers, by enrolling them in one of two subscription options.

The first would be fully complimentary, called “The Collective,” and would provide privileged pricing as well as special offers. Meanwhile, “The Covenant” would see subscribers commit to a minimum number of purchases at a discounted rate, while accessing bonus bottles, free wine tastings and more.

“We've got an internal house policy that we want to recruit everyone that visits us [to a wine club],” Cane says.

But the launch (or not) of a subscription program was centered around finding a software suite that could not only manage membership, but be tailored to provide bonus bottles for Covenant subscribers. They were set to receive one bottle free of charge after purchasing eleven.

What differentiated Kilikanoon’s bonus plan though — and made it more complex — was the free bottle would always be an upgrade, based on the average cost of the other wine they purchased.

“If you bought eleven $60 bottles we would give you a $250 bottle, so we always make sure that twelfth bottle is an absolute surprise and delight,” says Cane. It would also need to be handpicked and personalized for each customer.

"We were never going to start our commitment club without having a process of managing it. I can't imagine trying to run this through an excel spreadsheet."

Enter: Integrated ecommerce and subscription solutions to make this membership dream a reality.

The solution

Simple ecommerce integration meets customizable, recurring billing + discounts

The Kilikanoon team are experts in wine and creating experiences around it., without much in-house tech support. So they knew exactly what experience they wanted to offer, but needed to find the right partner.

The subscription solution “had to be something that was plug and play because I wasn't going to build another website,” says Cane.

Since integration with the ecommerce platform was key, his team asked Shopify for a recommendation — and that’s how they first met Bold.

After learning who Bold was, and what Bold Subscriptions could offer, the choice was simple.

“The biggest thing was that they were willing to be flexible, because we had a very unique offering. The twelfth bottle was free, and we had to do a lot of troubleshooting around how we were going to make this work.”

Even though Bold Subscriptions (featuring headless APIs and webhooks) is indeed plug and play, it was the customer — and customization — support that really sold Kilikanoon.

"They were willing to help us configure a subscription experience that we as non-tech people believed was going to cost us $50K, and were going to be able to do it for a couple grand.”"

Some of the key solutions Bold helped them access include:

Automating payments and managing tiered discounts

“Bold does an amazing job of automating the whole process of the subscription,” Cane says. Auto-reminder emails get sent out ten and four days before a card is charged, on the date a subscription is set up to renew.

The actual payment process is a breeze as well, thanks to Bold Checkout, that seamlessly and securely manages every element of the transaction.

Both Collective and Covenant members access privileged pricing, but the latter gets the most significant bottle discounts Kilikanoon offers. Fortunately, tiered pricing is a breeze with the Price Rules API.

Seamless integration with ecommerce platforms

Once orders are processed, they’re automatically integrated with Shopify via easy to manage product options and subscription apps (specifically built for the platform). No fuss, no muss.

“We’re probably one of the few Australian wine brands that now have our warehouse attached to Shopify. So from there it goes straight across via API to our warehouse,” says Cane.

This integration is particularly valuable for a wine brand, he explains, because when a wine label is restocked the vintage has changed. So customers are buying the same type of wine, but the production year has rolled over.

Customization to personalize the subscription experience

While subscribers can login to their Shopify account — supported by the Bold Subscriptions and Product Options apps — to pick and choose the bottles they’d like to order, the twelfth bottle is always a personalized surprise.

Thanks to the extra solution Bold engineers put together, the Kilikanoon team can easily pick, choose and assign that special bottle to an order, on their end of the transaction.

The result

The secret to successful subscriptions? Customer choice.

When Kilikanoon first launched their Wine Club, Covenant subscribers did have to commit to a two-year membership agreement when they signed on. The thinking was, once people joined the community the wine brand would do whatever was necessary to encourage them to stay.

But it turns out, being able to leave whenever you want is a key subscription selling point. The last thing you want is for your members to feel trapped, says Cane.

So they got rid of all subscription tenure requirements, and don’t charge membership fees either.

“That's the biggest thing about commitment clubs, if you can’t go ‘I lost my job and I can't pay for this now’ and that sort of thing, I think it just terrifies people if they feel they don't have the flexibility to be able to get out,” he explains.

Instead, Kilikanoon focuses their Wine Club efforts on all the reasons why people would want to join in the first place.

An easy, hassle-free subscription experience. Amazing quality wine. Free wine tastings that you can also bring your friends to. First access to try new products. The chance to meet winemakers at intimate dinners in every state. The best possible discounts for members only. And go-the-extra-mile, personalized customer engagement via handpicked, upgraded bonus bottles.

It’s working.

Month over month, the company is seeing 42% growth rates for their Wine Club program, and 20% of their revenue is earned from subscription orders.

They’ve got big plans for the future too, ranging from a whole new, ultra-premium membership tier to perks when you celebrate multi-year membership with the club, and referral bonuses.

As long as the customer is centered in your subscription model and you have the right software support to make membership an efficient, friction-free experience, “It’s the best way to get wine — and everyone needs wine,” concludes Cane.