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How Three Wine Subscriptions Handle Customer Experience … Not What I Expected!

You won’t believe which one I absolutely loved!

When quarantine news broke and uncertainty took over, people went overboard stocking up on household necessities, water, and food. Another area that heavily benefitted from the news was the alcohol industry, even with bar and restaurant closings. In fact, according to market research firm Nielsen, wine and spirits appear to have benefited the most from widespread stay-at-home orders — those categories were up 29.4% and 32.7%, respectively.

So how did alcohol providers handle this surge in sales, and did their customer experience (CX) efforts meet thirsty consumers’ expectations?

See: How brands adapted to COVID-19

In the spirit of research, I joined three subscription-based wine delivery services over a period of five months: Macy’s Wine Cellar, Bright Cellar and First Leaf. Here’s how my experience went.

How I Found These Companies

I recently published an article on the importance of having a strong social media presence, even when your budget is low. This statement stands true once again, as I found all three wine providers simply scrolling on Facebook.

While Macy’s got me to click by offering a great deal, Bright Cellar and First Leaf offered the uniqueness of personalized orders through a quiz that promised to delight the taker’s taste buds. How could I not take it?

As far as promotional marketing goes, the three did a great job at:

  • Targeting the right audience through the right channel, as they knew I was over 21, a wine drinker and an online shopper
  • Providing an incredibly seamless ordering experience. I was able to click on the Facebook ad and check out all within minutes
  • Sharing easily digestible content that told me what they were offering and how the wine program worked

You can check for yourself at macyswinecellar.com, brightcellars.com and www.firstleaf.club.

Pricing

All three companies offered great introductory pricing. I also kept an eye on shipping, regular pricing after the first month and additional perks, such as friend referrals and coupons.

  • Macy’s sent me 8 bottles of red wine for $39.99 ($42.78 total with taxes and free shipping). Because it was my first order, they also added two gorgeous stemless wine glasses. Normally, they charge $159.99, plus tax for a 12-bottle selection every 3 months.
  • Bright Cellars was my second delivery. I purchased 5 bottles for $40.25. After this, from what I could gather the usual rate is $60 for 4 bottles of wine plus an $8 shipping fee. I did cancel before the second month. They also offer a cheese pairing add-on for an additional $49. It’s all a bit confusing as I struggled to find out exactly how much I would be charged monthly if I were to continue the subscription. You can click here for a $50 credit on your Bright Cellars first order.
  • The final order I received was from First Leaf. I paid $29.95 — YES, so affordable — for 6 bottles. It came down to less than $5 per bottle. Unfortunately, I forgot to cancel my subscription after the second month, which was $89.99 for another 6 bottles. Still a good deal for a great selection. You can get three free bottles here, through my referral.

The Quality of the Product

There are very few wines I’ve tried and absolutely hated. The wine I received through these three subscriptions was no exception.

For the first two I asked for red only, as that’s what my boyfriend and I usually drink. Bright Cellars sent me a complimentary bottle of Rosé that I enjoyed at the beach with friends. With First Leaf, I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried 3 bottles of red and 3 of white. I was incredibly pleased with the selection.

All the wines I received were very unique. Macy’s excelled at including international wines from Spain, Italy and Argentina, whereas the other two stuck to mostly Californian wines. It was nice to get bottles that I wouldn’t normally buy at the store, and based on retail pricing, I knew I was getting a deal.

Something I absolutely loved about Macy’s and First Leaf were the wine cards that came with my delivery. Just an envelope with a card for each bottle explaining what kind of wine it was, where it came from and what it paired well with. I felt so fancy choosing the right wine with dinner every night. This added to the experience and I actually learned a lot.

Customer Experience

Oh boy. Customer experience is something I talk about daily. Maybe because I’m in marketing, and it’s my job to ensure customers are satisfied with the messages I’m creating, or maybe because I’m a mindful consumer, who’s always looking to be delighted by the details.

With these deliveries I had two great experiences and a not-so-good one.

Macy’s Wine Cellar

Macy’s has been in the retail game for a while and it shows. From the minute I opened the first box to their email follow ups after I canceled, Macy’s customer experience was unmatched. When canceling my subscription, they made the process easy and seamless, and even though they did offer me a discounted price to stay, they were understanding and not pushy at all. I absolutely loved this experience and even recommended it to my friend Lani, who has been a member for a few months now. Way to go, Macy’s!

Bright Cellar

Bright Cellar is one of those companies that unfortunately missed the point. Granted, a global pandemic can affect a startup’s customer service, but I dealt with delays in my delivery, little to no communication, and incredible difficulty reaching an expert from the team. I even reached out through Twitter and nothing! I finally was able to cancel my subscription via email, and even though their wine selection was good, I don’t see myself using them again.

First Leaf

Being the most affordable of the three, I was fully expecting First Leaf to give me a lot of trouble when trying to cancel my account. However, this wasn’t difficult at all and it took little to no time to update my subscription. For now, I have plenty to drink, but I will definitely order from them again in the future. They did things right by focusing on the details, asking the right questions and offering a competitive price that made me want to stay.

The Bottom Line

Doing this was incredibly fun and it simply reassured the idea that customer experience can truly make or break a business. Some of the key things to remember are:

  • Customer experience starts from the first interaction a prospect has with your brand, way before they have even purchased the product.
  • Marketing is a huge element to help your customers feel close to your brand. Use social media, email marketing and branding to your benefit.
  • Transparency is key. Let your customers know what you’re getting from the beginning. This will only strengthen your relationships.
  • People are paying attention. Make sure to deliver.

I want to help you get through quarantine! Leave a comment below telling me about a recent subscription-based product you tried. I’ll pick my favorite story and send you a bottle of wine from First Leaf. Winner announced Friday, July 10th. Cheers!

Leave a comment

  1. I did the Macy’s wine subscription (as mentioned in the article) and loved it! Thanks so much 😍

  2. This was such a great read! More wine clubs and wine reviews for sure!!

  3. I have tried the Home Chef service that delivers uncooked meals (recipes and ingredients included) to your doorstep.

    While I have gotten frustrated with some of the instructions in the recipes and some of the meals themselves seemed more complicated than necessary, I’ve found that they usually turn out well and contain a lot of flavor.

    They always seem to offer discounted prices or $35 off when I don’t use the service continuously, so that brings the cost of the meals down to what they should be in the first place 😉

  4. Great post – thanks for the thorough comparison!

    I recently subscribed to BarkBox for my dog and I absolutely love it. Each box is a different theme and it’s such a cute surprise to find out what it is every month! The first month was Scooby Doo themed and last month’s box was French themed. Hudson got French-style treats and a baguette toy to play with 😍 totally recommend for dog owners!