The redesigned SilverOak.com surrounds its premium wines with rich photos of its California vineyards and stories of how its wine is made. It also plays up Silver Oaks Cellars’ investment in sustainable agriculture, while using a mix of traditional and contemporary typefaces to highlight the winery’s focus on both taste and high-tech.

Relatively few wineries have invested heavily in ecommerce. But with its newly redesigned website, Silver Oak Cellars has borrowed from top retail websites showcasing its new priority. It incorporated imagery and design elements that bring to life a family-run winery that’s gone high-tech in such areas as environmental building construction and sustainable irrigation.

Visitors to the new SilverOak.com, which debuted in May, are greeted by a blank page that then spells out the name Silver Oak letter by letter in an elegant font. The brand name dissolves into a homepage where three full-screen images rotate: One depicts one of the company’s California wineries, another a bottle of its premium cabernet sauvignon and the third a bottle of its new Timeless label of wines set to be released in September.

Discreet navigation tabs across the top of the page invite the consumer to shop the company’s wine, plan a visit, “explore” behind the scenes or learn more about matching food with wine.

Subtle micro-interactions and animated transitions lead users down the page as the full story behind the wine unfolds.

“There’s a really clear separation among page themes and a way for people to find what they’re looking for but also shop across brands and discover more,” says Ian Leggat, chief marketing officer. “Aesthetically, our site imagery feels very Instagram, in that it emphasizes textures and micro-moments that transport the user to the winery.”

Inviting visitors to take the next step

As an example, Leggat points to the product page for one of the winemaker’s signature products, its 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, wines that are priced at $80 a bottle and up.

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Scrolling down the page reveals images of the wine and the vineyard interspersed with information about the vintage. (Click video below to see how that looks as the visitor scrolls.)

The image of the wine bottle increases slightly at times, creating a subtle sense of motion that, Leggat says, invites the visitor to take the next action. That could be making a purchase, scheduling a visit or learning more about Silver Oak’s wines.

Silver Oak Cellars cabernet sauvignon

The product detail page for Silver Oak’s flagship cabernet sauvignon.

The product pages for Silver Oak’s Napa Valley and Alexander Valley cabernets include “subtle micro-interactions and animated transitions to lead users down the page as the full story behind the wine unfolds,” says Matt Faulk, CEO of the web design agency Basic that developed SilverOak.com. “An approach such as this brings a level of sophistication to the page that does the brand justice through elegant and unexpected subtleties that elevate product presentation and romance purchase intent.”

Basic also chose different typefaces to highlight the contrast between Silver Oak’s more traditional Napa winery and its more modern Alexander Valley facility in California’s Sonoma County, adjacent to Napa County. Headline text typically employs the GT Super type font that includes serifs, or decorative extensions to letters, a type of font often used by established firms and publications. Subheadings and body text is in the more contemporary sans-serif font Roboto.

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“These design decisions were chosen to not only contribute to the feeling and legacy of the Silver Oak brand experience but to provide clarity and hierarchy for users as well through increased readability, visual rhythm and structure,” Faulk says.

Leggat gives Basic credit for capturing the essence of Silver Oak, which he describes as “casual yet elegant, aspirational yet exclusive.”

Beyond aesthetics, Silver Oak also wanted to incorporate features it saw on leading retail sites. One example is the ability for a consumer to move easily across the brand websites of a single retailer—such as the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy sites of Gap Inc.—and check out in a single shopping cart if they are logged in to their account.

The unified checkout is now available for two of Silver Oak’s wine sites, SilverOak.com and Twomey.com. When Silver Oak launches a new label called Timeless, a debut scheduled for September, that feature will be extended to Timeless.com.

Already, each of those three sites features tabs at the top of web pages that link to the other two brands’ sites.

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Silver Oak also owns a fourth brand, Ovid, a super-premium label that has a waiting list for consumers who want to purchase the limited quantities produced. Because Ovid is available only to registered subscribers, it doesn’t have the standard shopping cart of an ecommerce site and is not part of the unified checkout service, nor is it linked to the other sites.

However, Silver Oak has begun email marketing that emphasizes the common values of the four brands, including sustainability and innovation. A recent email featuring the logos of the four brands led to 300 consumers signing up for Ovid’s waiting list, even though that was not a call to action featured on the email.

“They might be people that never saw we acquired Ovid 3 years ago,” Leggat says. “Being on the Silver Oak mailing list triggered the behavior where they want to get in line for the Ovid wines.”

Coronavirus sparks online wine buying

While work on the SilverOak.com redesign has been going on for more than 2 years, the launch of the new website in May happened to coincide with the surge in online buying of wine and other products during the coronavirus outbreak. Leggat says Silver Oak’s online sales are up at least 300% over last year. “We feel we have a best-in-class website at just the right time,” he says.

But the impetus for the ecommerce investment stems from underlying trends driving the many family-run wineries like Silver Oak toward direct-to-consumer channels and now ecommerce.

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The typical U.S. winery gets about 60% of its revenue from selling direct to wine drinkers via their tasting rooms, wine clubs and subscriptions, according to Rob McMillan, executive vice president and of the wine division at Silicon Valley Bank, a major lender to wineries. McMillan is also the author of the bank’s annual “State of the US Wine Industry” report.

However, he says the typical winery gets only 2% of its sales from its own website, although that shot up to around 10% when tasting rooms closed due to COVID-19. Digital will have to be a bigger part of wineries’ marketing strategy, he says.

“For the last several years I’ve pointed out how strange it is to expect customers in a digital world, and one that’s becoming increasingly digital, to come to the production facility to buy,” McMillan says. “In the same way we wouldn’t go to Detroit to buy a car, we go to our dealership.”

He says the coronavirus likely will accelerate wineries’ push into ecommerce. “Silver Oak is a little ahead of the crowd in adopting a sleek, current view on their web pages,” McMillan says of the winery’s new ecommerce site.

Winning millennials to wine

Leggat says Silver Oak has taken to heart McMillan’s advice to reach out to wine drinkers who can’t make it to its California wineries.

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At the same time, he notes that the ecommerce initiative is in keeping with Silver Oak’s other investments in technology to protect the environment and conserve water. In May, for example, Silver Oak’s Healdsburg winery became the first production facility to win a “Living Building” certification from the nonprofit International Living Future Institute, based on it producing via 2,595 solar panels 104% of the energy it uses—in other words, becoming a net producer rather than a consumer of energy.

Both Silver Oak’s wineries previously had won LEED Platinum certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Enviromental Design) is a system that rates buildings by their energy efficiency. In addition, Leggat says, Silver Oak has invested in water recycling and in using lasers on the backs of all-terrain vehicles to irrigate more precisely and increase yields.

Leggat says Silver Oak’s investment in sustainable production along with its social media strategy can help the company appeal to millennials, a large group of consumers now in their 20s and 30s that, according to McMillan’s report, is largely moving away from wine to such alternatives as cocktails, craft beer and cannabis.

Silver Oak, however, is going after those consumers. “One area of his report where we are defying macro trends is that we are also bullish on millennial wine drinkers,” Leggat says.

Silver Oak’s social media strategy got a shout-out in a new book, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” In it, author David Meerman Scott notes that after he tweeted a photo of he and his wife enjoying a bottle of 2009 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, @SilverOak responded, “Looks like a beautiful evening. Thanks for sharing with us.”

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“Silver Oak engaged with me, unlike other brands that I tag in a tweet,” Scott noted in his book.

That engagement is what Silver Oak is focused on for social media, Leggat told Scott.

“Our strategy has evolved over the years to be less about pushing out content and more about facilitating dialogue in our social channels and reaching out to influencers and pulling them into those conversations,” Leggat is quoted as saying. “What we really care about is not adding followers as much as the conversations we have with them, and creating the kind of content that facilitates sharing.”

Silver Oak’s social media fan numbers are not huge—63,000 followers on Facebook and 46,000 on Instagram as of the date of publication. But, given the relatively high price of its product, it can generate considerable online sales by wooing the millennials who can afford the $110 2009 Silver Oak cabernet that Scott and his wife posted about on Twitter.

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