Industry News

Top Takeaways from the 2023 DTC Wine Symposium

By  Brandon Harvie
January 25, 2023

The Direct-To-Consumer Wine Symposium was back in-person this year for the first time in three years, packing two days full of industry insights and innovative ideas for wineries facing a new DTC landscape. This summit event benefits wineries across North America and is the primary fundraiser for Free The Grapes! - a national grassroots coalition of wine lovers and wineries who seek to remove bans and streamline restrictions in states that prevent consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries. WineDirect has proudly supported the DTCWS for years, and today, we will share our top takeaways. 

Takeaway #1: Ideas for selling wine through tough times

Wineries have all the skills and tools to power through the challenges of the last 3 years and come out on the other side with deeper consumer relationships and a thriving DTC business. In 2020, wineries leveraged existing client relationships to sell online while their tasting room was shut down. Those skills and strategies will be needed again as the world wrestles with a slowing economy. 

By focusing on the three buckets of the modern customer journey, wineries can keep their sales funnel strong and nurture growth for their DTC business for years to come. 

Modern Customer Journey Wineries DTC

Let’s focus a bit more on each bucket: 

Attract

  • Elevating the customer experience – Wineries and wine consumers are all about the experience. A good website enables wineries to tell their story and replicate the winery experience online. 
  • Master SEO - SEO, or search engine optimization, may seem like a mysterious and intimidating concept. But with a little up-front work, you can make SEO a key element of your winery's digital marketing strategy and a DTC revenue driver – with zero media dollars needed!
  • Share Your News! - Do you have some exciting news, such as a new wine you are about to release that you want to share? Spend some time reaching out to your connections, industry referrals, press, and whoever you think may be interested in sharing with their audience.

Convert

  • Collect contact information! - In 2022, 22% of online sales were from a guest account. Educate your staff on the importance of gathering guest information and then incentivize them to do it. It’s the only way to re-market to your buyers once they leave the tasting room. 
  • Segmentation is king – Customer segmentation helps you identify how to market and sell existing offerings more effectively. It helps you develop a better understanding of your customers’ preferences and allows you to give them a personalized experience. 
  • Make it easy to buy on mobile – Offer persistent shopping carts that stay with a customer no matter the platform they use. 
  • Simple checkout with digital wallets - Digital wallet integration streamlines the checkout process, increases security and decreases cart abandonment for mobile and desktop shoppers. 

Retain

  • Make them feel special – VIP lounge onsite or a tailored promotion for exclusive wines. 
  • Reward them for their loyaltyLoyalty programs work! Recognize birthdays or even purchase anniversaries with a personal note and an offer. 
  • Incentivize them to share with friends – Free guest passes to events, offer codes to share with friends, and access to exclusive swag, so they share the story of their experience with your wines. 
  • Don’t forget lapsed buyers - Reengaging lapsed or inactive buyers should be an important part of any retention strategy. Use segmentation, meeting them where they are, and personalization based on past purchases to nudge them back to you. 

Takeaway #2: Increase engagement with text message marketing

While email marketing is considered the king of engaging with your customers and a high ROI, text message (SMS) marketing continues to grow and is one of the best ways to connect customers of a younger demographic. 

Here are 5 proven text messaging strategies for DTC wineries, presented by our friends at RedChirp

  • Customer support – Easily multi-task different customers with your customer support team. Questions can be assigned and answered almost instantly, instead of days at a time with email. 
  • Collect payment information – Remove friction to increase convenience and speed. This strategy is also great for wine club, as credit cards can expire. 
  • Club communications – Keep your most valuable customers informed about their club and the latest and greatest. 
  • Promotions – Cut through the noise and get your promotions seen by your winery customers. This can include event tickets, promotions on new or low-quantity items, limited-time sales, and more! 
  • Automation – Make life easier for your winery with this text messaging strategy for things such as when cards get declined or sending tracking numbers. 

Takeaway #3: Keep an open mind to cutting-edge technologies

A comment from the crowd reminded us that only a few years ago, the DTC Wine Symposium broached the first conversation about how wineries needed to consider using TikTok for marketing, however; at that time, it seemed far irrelevant and unlikely. The same sentiment whispered across the room as the Modern Consumer panel discussed NFTs and Augmented Reality, new technologies that are delivering results to savvy and exploratory consumers. While wineries are still gaining momentum with TikTok, ignoring its relevance and accessibility with young consumers would be a loss.  Does the same go for the technologies presented in 2023? Read on to find out.

  • Whether it's issuing NFTs rather than futures or selling NFTs of your unique label art, Adam Ghahramani, Co-Found & President of Hello Fam, encouraged wineries to consider leveraging NFTs as a new stream of revenue. Plus, for wineries aligned with climate consciousness, Adam claimed that due to recent environmental investments, NFTs are now more efficient than social media.  
Living Wines Tactic 19 Crimes
  • Peter Oberdorfer, Founder & President of Tactic, shared the expansive reach available by leveraging Augmented Reality, a perfect solution for your wine bottle packaging. Each consumer that engages with your label can be transported into a personalized experience where they are immersed in your brand story or facility – plus, no special equipment is needed (just use your phone!).  

Both technologies were quoted at a high entry price point (I believe I heard around $100K), so they may not be accessible to everyone right now but are worth keeping an eye on as they continue to develop and be adopted. Sounds like the metaverse is calling? 

Takeaway # 4: Sell your brand, not your product 

Gaynor, Director of Strategic Planning from WineGlass Marketing, dove into how GenZ and Millennials are flexing their purchasing power while shaping new buying behavior for luxury goods. She introduced us to the HENRY’s (High Earners Not Rich Yet), how their values differ from Boomers and why your winery needs to start nurturing this segment. Looking forward now, instead of the past, ensures your winery does not miss the future. Marketing luxury products to Millennials is a bit different than Boomers and even GenX. We’re replacing the traditional 4Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) with the 4E’s (Experience, Exchange, Everyplace, and Evangelism). Let’s dive in a little deeper: 

  • Experience – Whole customer journey, buying the product – unboxing – customer experience follow-up – communication. 
  • Exchange – Value their time, respect their values, and acknowledge them with genuineness. 
  • Everyplace – Be everywhere they are, and that means heavy digital media. 
  • Evangelism – Convert consumers to advocates; recommending the brand actively through social media and telling their friends. Use reviews to build trust. 

One thing that’s important to note is that GenZ and Millenial consumers choose the brand first, then the product. It’s the brand that occupies the real estate the space in a consumer’s mind – its consistent and recognizable. Quality is implied. Luxury brands don’t typically see the need to discount. Wineries need to tend more deliberately to their brand – look at your marketing efforts as a whole, and how it introduces and communicate consumers to your brand. 

Modern luxury marketing best practices: 

  • Email campaigns 
  • Google Ads 
  • Influencers/Ambassadors 
  • Collaboration and partnerships 
  • Social media presence 
  • Social media ads 
  • Evaluate your tasting room as well (using the 4E approach) 
    • What else can people do while they’re there? 
    • Reinvention of the private club – these are spaces that feel like a second home, comfortable and social, events, food, art. 

Now is the time to court these generations and future-proof your business. 

If you attended the DTCWS this year in-person, or virtually, we hope you got a lot out of the event. We loved seeing all of you at our booth and in the WineDirect lounge after three long years. As we look to 2023 and beyond, we are working together to elevate the wine industry for current buyers and future buyers. We hope you include some of the tips above in your 2023 marketing strategy.  

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