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5 Takeaways From the 2021 DTC Wine Symposium

By  Kari Scott
January 28, 2021

The DTC Wine Symposium took the stage virtual this year, bringing us 4 full days of industry insights and innovative ideas as we move into the new DTC landscape of 2021 and beyond. With a year of mastering Zoom under our belts, this symposium saw the highest attendance and the most geographical diversity, yet. While reminiscing about the fun events that typically take place at the live event in Concord, our team was busy attending virtual sessions gathering what you need to know!

Here are our key takeaways from the 2021 DTC Wine Symposium:

1. The time to invest in digital is now

One of the best things that wineries can do right now is invest in digital, as demonstrated by the data from 2020. Opening the digital door allows wineries to talk with their customers when the tasting room door is closed. The opportunity is there: today, wineries in the US have access to most of the US adult population, thanks to the efforts of organizations such as Free The Grapes. However, in the digital space, wineries face more competition than ever, emerging from new business models (such as Drizly or Winc) or increased market share of RTD and spirit producers. Wineries will have to carve their own unique strategies to stay top of mind and relevant. Investing time in digital can look like levelling-up social media presence with use of video media strategy, highlighted by the session from Astra Digital Marketing. Through strategic digital presence, you can effectively touch all three cohorts of the wine consuming demographics. Here’s a quick insight we learned from the live panel of 5 wine consumers, each offering unique engagements with the wine industry: they all had a preference for shopping through digital means such as Instagram and email marketing (leading to a website to checkout).

2. Email Marketing: things that used to be “nice to have” are now “must have”

Speaking of email marketing, WineDirect’s Adrienne Stillman spoke on a panel discussing its importance and relevance, and how wineries can make emails more engaging and effective. Marketing professionals consider email marketing to be the single most effective channel, above all others, especially with direct response marketing (aka asking for a sale). Erica Walter's session, Email Marketing - Set It but Don’t Forget It, explored the importance of sending automatic emails that passively generate revenue and keep consumers in your sales funnel. Setting up basic automation logic to trigger welcome emails or abandoned cart notifications used to be considered optional or ‘nice to have’, however these have now become necessary. Consumers have come to expect these communications from businesses, but it is up to the winery to start the conversation. Start to increase your engagement with these emails by segmenting your data to send the most relevant and personalized content to your consumers. This can be as easy as “Dear <<firstname>>”, or sending different versions of an email to club vs non club members.


The panel reminded us that when it comes to email marketing, don’t always (or only ever) ask for the sale! Your subscribers care about your brand’s story, so try to send fun and/or educational content. Ed Feuchuk of Farm Collective shared that one technique they use to capture attention is use of animation and video, making their emails come to life. The results? These emails saw double the viewing time and an increase in clicks by 25%. Other suggestions to spice up your content mix were letters from the winemaker, recipes with wine pairings, and even Spotify playlists! With these ideas in mind, you are well on your way of achieving the panelists advice of sending emails at least once per month.

3. Marketplaces offer an effective way to reach new consumers

While relatively new, marketplaces offer a distinct sales channel that cannot be ignored, capturing 50% of all global ecommerce sales. Operating complementary to your DTC program, marketplaces (think eBay, Etsy and Vivino) can serve your winery by offering reach to new people, vast brand awareness, as well as new sales opportunities. During this critical ecommerce moment, WineDirect Marketplace sales are up 300% YoY. Who are the customers that you will find on marketplaces? They are people who enjoy wine with a discovery mindset, high purchase intent, looking for a solution to their specific parameter search - such as California Pinot Noir. Our premier marketplace partner Vivino, with over 10 million users in the US alone, presents an opportunity for wineries to present their wines directly to these consumers and share their story. By selling in marketplaces, wineries can benefit from the data being collected from the users, and execute effective target marketing to consumers who are already looking for ‘your’ wines, but just haven’t found ‘you’ yet.

Fill out the form on the right to watch our full session about marketplaces!

4. Virtual tastings offer real returns

Born out of necessity, wineries have developed new and evolving DTC revenue channels through Virtual Tastings. Many wineries have found great success taking their tastings online, both financially and with customer engagement.


In one example, WineDirect client Round Pond Estate shared their experiences with their Private Virtual Tastings and their sales data reaped from virtual tastings and online events in 2020:

  • Tasting Pack Sales (mostly 3btl packs): $110,000
  • Post Tasting Sales: $66,000
  • Club Membership Enrollment: 18 members

Another benefit revealed for wineries through Virtual Tastings was the ability to showcase to the consumer the value of winery exclusive DTC programs and wine collections versus wholesale access.

Expanding beyond the financial rewards of virtual tastings, wineries were able to deliver intimate experiences in homes, offices, and kitchens across the nation; engaging in meaningful and powerful interactions that both consumers and brands were craving. This has led to deepened relationships with brand loyalists and increased annual spend within this segment. Chelsea Sprague of Booker Wines shared how effective Word of Mouth marketing was for Virtual Tastings. Virtual tastings can also serve as an opportunity to strengthen partnerships outside of the wine industry, for example with complementary lifestyle brands, both regional and distant.

This new means of connection is not going to, nor should it, go away following the lifts of lockdowns and shelter in place restrictions. Just like any of the experiences that a winery offers, Virtual Tastings will need to undergo evaluation. Remember to take a step back to check in on what areas are or are not working, and what could you evolve to increase engagement and conversion rates?

5. Never let a good crisis go to waste

In ‘normal’ times, or through times of change and unpredictability, creating new ideas for your business will likely feel uncomfortable. An underlying theme of the 2021 DTC Wine Symposium was mastering change management and maintaining flexibility and resiliency. The presenters provided valuable tips and tools for success. Starting with how framing the challenge at hand in different ways in your mind can make a difference on the outcomes you generate. By asking yourself questions like, what could we combine, what could we eliminate, what could be substituted, your mind is opened to new possibilities. Stephanie Wycoff of Crimson Wine Group discussed thinking outside the box when it comes to morale and motivation techniques, with examples such as public recognition and personal thank-yous, when businesses cannot pay out financial incentives. We were also reminded to look for inspiration or resolution in places you would least expect it, such as nature, or looking to other geographical regions for their innovations.

Our team had a blast virtually connecting with clients and partners at the DTC Wine Symposium. Looking for more key insights from the DTC Wine Symposium? Fill out the form on the right to watch a recording of WineDirect’s Sponsor Session, “How to Leverage Marketplaces to to Acquire New Customers."

Watch Our Session:

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