Exit 9 Wine and Liquor

The Background

Exit 9 Wine and Spirits is a single-location retailer located in Upstate New York that was established in 2001 by Mark & Sharon O’Callaghan. From the outset, Exit 9 focused on recruiting highly knowledgeable and experienced wine and spirits industry professionals to provide a curated selection for both regular customers and seasoned sommeliers. To further enhance their customer experience, Exit 9 built a temperature-controlled fine wine cellar, a classroom for wine and spirits tastings, and even a fully-functional wine bar. Despite these improvements and increasing in-store revenue, Exit 9 struggled to convert its in-store successes into e-commerce sales.

Quick Hits

  • While using WineFetch, Exit 9 generated an “insignificant” amount of sales online, but after switching to City Hive, they now generate well over $1M in yearly e-commerce sales.
  • For Exit 9, Creating and marketing a whiskey club with City Hive that “increase[d] its number of subscribers every quarter” was both simple and presented Exit 9 with many other benefits.
  • Using City Hive’s marketing and logistics tools, Exit 9 was able to create and promote profitable events that drive hundreds of customers into their retail location every week.
  • As more customers demand a mobile e-commerce option, the Exit 9 app has seen rapid growth, with the brand now doing more than 40% of its e-commerce sales through its branded City Hive app.

The Pain

Exit 9 has maintained an online presence for over a decade, with its website first launching in 2011. However, their first nine years of online operations were not fruitful as they should have been. Despite Exit 9’s wealth of industry expertise, they struggled to generate satisfactory sales figures, and their previous e-Commerce solution, WineFetch, lacked the necessary tools to convert in-store value to online profits. When Tyler Duma, Exit 9’s E-Commerce Manager, raised these concerns with WineFetch, he was met with a customer experience that left him feeling dissatisfied. In fact, one of his biggest complaints was the fact that WineFetch was extremely reactionary, unable to provide them with the features they needed without being asked directly and constantly, but that was all about to change.

The Solution

In 2020, Exit 9 received a recommendation from a member of the Wine and Spirits Guild of America (WSGA) to switch from WineFetch to City Hive. After a short demo call and a painless integration, Exit 9 had gone live. This decision brought a complete website refresh, unified marketing on a single platform, and the addition of an app to expand their digital presence. After the switch, the benefits were massive and immediate. By using City Hive’s Events and Subscription Club tools, as well as their unified marketing platform, Exit 9 was able to generate over $1M in annual revenue, a significant improvement from their previous online sales. 

Previously, despite having knowledgeable staff members and an optimized in-person retail experience, their attempts at hosting tastings and other events did not yield the desired results. However, once they began using City Hive’s Events Tool to create and promote events with featured products and brands, their attendance surged. 

With attendance and sales up, Tyler began to see additional benefits as well, including creating “lasting connections with brands” and “super loyal customers.” Furthermore, the integration of product cards into their marketing communications enabled Exit 9 to promote featured products to customers who couldn’t attend the events, boosting their sales and eventually becoming an integral part of their marketing strategy. With City Hive, not only did their attendance and sales increase, but according to Tyler, it was easier on their staff, saying that “having the City Hive platform makes it easy for us to manage those [events] and push them out to the masses.” He continued, “whether we’re marketing it via email or push notification… it’s super intuitive.” 

As Exit 9’s events continued to succeed and drive traffic of customers who valued the Exit 9 staff’s expertise into their store, customers began asking if there were any other ways Exit 9 could provide recommendations for their purchases. 

After raising this question with their customer success manager Thelma and discussing potential options, Exit 9 decided to launch their first Subscription Club – the Whiskey Well. After the success of their events, Tyler knew he wanted to continue to breed a sense of trust among his customers in the expertise of the staff at Exit 9. That’s why Tyler used a wide variety of City Hive’s powerful customer communication tools to create a truly curated experience. First, Tyler created a custom autopilot automated marketing sequence so that when a customer purchases a subscription to the Whiskey Well they’re instantly and automatically sent an email welcoming them to the club and giving them an outline of what they can expect. Then, 15 minutes later, another email is sent with a link to a form for customers to let Tyler and the team know their likes, dislikes, and anything else that might be important to curating a delicious tasting experience.

If we weren't on the City Hive platform, I don't know that we would have the club that we do.

The Results

With such a personalized experience, combined with the expertise of Exit 9’s team, it was easy to attract and retain customers, and the club’s growth has been rapid. According to Tyler, “in terms of driving sales, it’s been awesome. We’ve continued to increase the number of subscribers every quarter. And it’s definitely translated in terms of sales.” What’s most exciting for Tyler, is that the customers they attract have been “completely new customers to us. They’re people that presumably were shopping elsewhere.” And these customers don’t only purchase the subscription, Exit 9 has “seen a pretty substantial increase in the amount of money that those people spend with us, you know, since they’ve signed up for or for the for the club.” 

Another benefit of running their club through City Hive has been the ability to curate products for their customers that not only taste good, but also have a “high overall margin.” In fact, Exit 9’s club has been so successful that the Whiskey Well’s margin has “outpaced the margin on whiskey as as a whole category.” This success, Tyler argues, has been due in large part to the City Hive platform. Saying, “if we weren’t on the City Hive platform, I don’t know that we would have the club that we do in the capacity that it exists.” Furthermore, the response from their customers has been overwhelmingly positive, with many customers “telling us [Exit 9] that they enjoyed the bottles that they received, and an affirmation of I did really enjoy this and I’m going to continue to shop with you now.”

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