When I talk with friends, family, and colleagues about buying wine online, the conversation inevitably turns to shipping. There is a perception that: (1) shipping is expensive and so (2) why bother looking for a deal when shipping will erase any savings? The reality is, shipping costs can often be avoided or minimized; you just need to know where and when to look. Here are a few ways to mitigate (or even eliminate) the dreaded shipping fees.
1. Annual Subscriptions
Some online retailers have taken a page from Amazon’s playbook and instituted an annual shipping subscription. These are retailers that deal in huge volume and realize the value (to customers and them!) in free shipping. Two notable retailers featured on Wine Bounty that offer this service are Wine.com and Wine Library. Wine.com’s program, called “StewardShip”, costs $49/year and Wine Library’s program, called “Library Pass”, costs $99/year.
If you like the freedom of not waiting around for free shipping promotions, picking and choosing a bottle at any time regardless of cost and quantity, and having it delivered directly to you — a shipping subscription might be for you. Both Wine.com and Wine Library offer a huge selection of wines at great prices. I was a StewardShip member last year and saved a ton, not only on shipping costs, but off the wine itself. StewardShip gave me the flexibility to jump on a deal without having to do the shipping calculation. I held off on Library Pass at the time because membership was more expensive, but I quickly realized I missed out on some great deals through Wine Library. I’ve decided to give Library Pass a try this year, and I am happy to report that I’ve already recouped my investment on shipping costs.
An added perk to an annual subscription is being first in line for deals before the general public. You’ve made an investment with the retailer and they want to reward your loyalty. Indeed, as a “thank you” for being part of the StewardShip program, Wine.com even comped tickets for me to James Sucklings’ Great Wines of Italy Tour last month (a savings of $250!).
2. Minimum Dollar Spend
Besides subscriptions, some retailers offer free shipping on orders above a certain dollar amount. While not as exciting as free shipping on the first bottle, if you’re looking to do a sizable order (or purchase a single prized bottle for that special occasion or to cellar), this is a good option. Retailers on Vivino’s Marketplace utilize this option regularly. For example, of the 70+ Vivino retailers that ship to California, the vast majority offer free shipping for orders of $175 or more. Six Vivino retailers offer free shipping on orders of $150 or more:
- Jackson Wines & Spirits
- Studio Beverage Group
- Vintage Berkeley
- Hope Family Wines
- World of Wine, Ltd.
Most online retailers that choose this path seem to fall within the $150-$175 range. A notable exception featured on Wine Bounty is, WineSlash, which starts free shipping on orders of $99 or more!
3. Minimum Bottles
Another opportunity to find free shipping are retailers which focus on the number of bottles rather than price. This is a popular option for flash sale sites. Indeed, all the flash sale sites on Wine Bounty follow this approach. The cheaper the wine, the more bottles may be required (say 4-6 bottles), but pricier wines may get free shipping from the first bottle. (Hot Tip: If you don’t want 4-6 bottles of a single wine, set up a small network of friends where you can purchase together, split the allotment, and get free shipping).
Non-flash sale sites also take advantage of this approach. A common strategy is free shipping on a case order (and many retailers allow you to mix and match wines). Some online retailers offer free shipping on fewer bottles, such as First Bottle Wines, which gives free shipping on six bottles. And some sites, such as Wine Anthology, provide free shipping on the first bottle for selected wines and provide a handy search function to locate them.
4. Special Offers
This is the bucket where many of us go down rabbit holes looking for a good deal. These are one-off free shipping deals that could be tied to a particular bottle, holiday sale, or category of wine (such as inventory reduction). It could also be an offer uniquely available to you (e.g., a promo code) or available only to first-time purchasers. Special free shipping offers can make your head spin searching for them. Fortunately, Wine Bounty has you covered. In addition to the regular one-off promo codes, all of the online retailers listed on Wine Bounty fit into one of the free shipping buckets listed above. And should we come across a crazy free shipping deal on another site (or want to highlight an unheard of offer on the sites we follow regularly), we’ll be sure to include them on our “Wine Bounty Picks” section of the homepage.
5. Final Thoughts
Shipping isn’t a mountain to overcome and so it shouldn’t be an obstacle keeping you from all the great deals online. There will always be free shipping opportunities online and fortunately Wine Bounty helps bring many of them to you, in one convenient location. Happy Hunting!
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