Walk into many successful wine shops and there’s a good chance you’ll be greeted by a “$15 and Under” wall or table with budget bottles for everyday drinking. These are the wines customers snap up for dinner, take to parties, and gift to friends — and these bottles often drive a high percentage of a store’s sales based on volume. 

For retailers, these wines give you an opportunity to “wow” your customers. Your selections offer a window into your shop’s interests and purchasing philosophy, and can drive shop loyalty when customers believe that they’re getting a great value. But how do you translate that sense of excitement and value to your online shop? BevAlc Insights reached out to retailers and industry experts to ask for their advice. 

Stock Top-Selling Brands

Stocking several brands with name recognition can help drive people to your online shop for an initial purchase. Some of the best-selling brands at the $15 and under point on Drizly include Josh Cellars, Barefoot, and Oyster Bay. Overall, the volume of wine brands sold under $15 has risen significantly on the platform year over year, increasing by 229 percent. “This points to consumers looking for variation in their wine purchases,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights.

10 Best-Selling Brands at $15 and Under

  1. Josh Cellars
  2. Barefoot
  3. Oyster Bay
  4. Apothic
  5. Dark Horse Wine
  6. Yellow Tail
  7. 19 Crimes
  8. La Marca
  9. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi
  10. Bogle

Looking at the Top 10 best-selling brands, they have remained mostly consistent in recent years, with Woodbridge and Yellow Tail making a comeback in 2020. However, several new brands have risen to the Top 100 list that retailers may want to consider stocking, including Angeline Winery, Bolla, Fitvine, Il Conte, Papi, Stella Rosa, and The Little Sheep of New Zealand.

While top-selling brands and grape varieties help drive people to your online shop, these shouldn’t be all you stock. Ensure that you have a range of lesser-known grapes and regions represented. These wines can be used to broaden your selection, help express your shop’s unique point of view, and propel users to browse deeper into your online storefront. 

“The Top 10 wine brands on Drizly in 2019 accounted for approximately 35 percent of sales,” Paquette says. “That has started to fall as more unique brands come onto the platform, dropping to approximately 32 percent thus far in 2020.”

The key takeaway? “Retailers should invest in diversifying their selection — we know that a larger selection results in a higher conversion rate,” Paquette says. 

Dive Into the Data

In terms of top-selling varieties, Sauvignon Blanc leads the way, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. These key varieties have been on the best-seller list for a number of years. When wines over $15 are included, Cabernet Sauvignon takes the top spot, which makes sense, given that it’s the best-selling variety in the United States.

Top 10 Varieties at $15 and Under

  1. Sauvignon Blanc: 16%
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon: 14%
  3. Chardonnay: 10%
  4. Pinot Grigio: 8%
  5. Pinot Noir: 7%
  6. Malbec: 4%
  7. Merlot: 4%
  8. Moscato: 2%
  9. Riesling: 2%
  10. Syrah: 2%

Sauvignon Blanc’s leading performance on Drizly is influenced by a few key factors.  The first is consumer demand, as Sauvignon Blanc continues to be a top performing varietal across North America across all price points. 

The second key factor is selection size. On Drizly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc have the highest volume of SKUs, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. In addition, there are two Sauvignon Blanc brands under $15 in particular that perform incredibly well on the platform: Oyster Bay and Kim Crawford. “When there is greater selection, this positively influences conversion,” Paquette reiterates. 

Top 10 Countries of Origin at $15 and Under

  1. United States
  2. Italy
  3. New Zealand
  4. Australia
  5. France
  6. Argentina
  7. Spain
  8. Chile
  9. Portugal
  10. Germany

In terms of sales representation by country, those seeing positive share increases in 2020 on Drizly include the U.S., Australia, Italy, Germany and Portugal. Additionally, since 2019, Australia has overtaken France in terms of share, and both Portugal and Germany pushed South Africa out of the Top 10. 

Retailers should consider a ranger of data sources to stay ahead of consumer purchasing trends like these. Tariq Amin of King Keg in Hawthorne, Calif., says he reads trade resources and consumer data reports, and supplements this research with Drizly’s sales trend resources to gain a competitive edge. He regularly reviews Drizly’s top sellers in California in the $15 and under segment to make sure he isn’t missing a potential opportunity to stock up on a top brand, grape, or category. 

He also recommends a potentially underutilized source of data for online sales research: Your retail delivery team. “These days, our drivers are our main customer touch point,” Amin says. Members of King Keg’s delivery team are trained to relay feedback to the in-store team. This intel provides insight into what customers are enjoying, and to their plans for future purchases.  

Mix Up Your Offerings

Offering alternative styles from lesser known varieties is a way to offer further value and an unexpected twist for customers looking for a bit of adventure. These wines can also help increase margins. Because price competition among shops will be less fierce, you can charge a higher price — and still offer good value.

Though their overall share is still quite small, several varieties are making upward gains towards the best-seller list on Drizly. The varieties with the greatest year over year gains include Albarino, Gewurtztraminer, Nebbiolo, Malvasia, and Vermentino. 

“We like to introduce customers to unexpected grapes and regions that offer up the style that they are already looking for,” says Lily Peachin, founder of Dandelion Wine in Brooklyn. “For example, we might recommend a Roussanne from southern France instead of a full-bodied California Chardonnay.” 

In store, this sort of hand-selling is second nature for a good sales person, and an important part of the appeal of a $15 and under selection. To replicate this behavior online, take advantage of all the tools your digital presence offers. Include bottle shots online, and spend time writing marketing copy that will excite your audience. Then, feature these wines in your newsletters and on social media channels. In the case of Dandelion Wine’s Roussanne, that might include newsletter offer or a social media post recommending the wine as a top pick — and an exceptional value — for lovers of California Chardonnay. 

Buy in Large Quantities

Because delivery sales generally have a higher cost than your in-store business, it’s especially important to analyze the dollar and percentage margins of your $15 and under selections. At this price point, even excess margins will translate to small dollar amounts, so delivery minimums and fees need to take this data into account. 

One strategy to improve margins for lower cost products is to buy in large volumes. “We buy as deep as we can given space and cash flow considerations and use bill hand hold when available,” says Jed Boyer, a buyer and manager at Dandelion Wines. 

King Keg’s Amin also recommends using the Drizly retailer dashboard. There, he keeps track of top movers at his shop, combining this data with information from his drivers and other research sources, to plan out his weekly buys and work with his suppliers to get the best possible price. Purchases can also be coordinated with Drizly’s promotion schedule to ensure there’s enough stock on hand to meet potential increases in demand. 

These are among the strategies and tactics that helped King Keg optimize its $15 and under bottle selections online — ideas that wine and spirits retailers elsewhere can use to grow their sales of value-priced bottles.