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5 Key Takeaways from the Rabobank Alcohol Ecommerce Playbook

Adrienne Stillman
Feb 05, 2020   |   Adrienne Stillman Recommended for:   Marketing, Ecommerce
Rabobank Key Takeaways Rabobank Key Takeaways

Looking to up your ecommerce game in 2020? A new report from Rabobank titled The 2020 Alcohol ECommerce Playbook brings together new data, trends and insights to help your winery capitalize on this growing opportunity.

Here are our five key takeaways from the report to help you grow your online reach.

1. The size of the DTC wine market is larger than previously thought

Rabobank confirms what many of us already knew — the DTC wine market is booming.

Each year, the Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report from Sovos and Wines & Vines Analytics estimates the total value of wine shipped DTC. In 2019, that number was $3.2 billion . However, this does not include the significant amount of wine that is picked up or carried out of the tasting room.

Leveraging data from WineDirect's DTC Sales Report, Rabobank estimates that shipped wine only accounts for about 47% of total DTC wine sales. With tasting room, club pickup and event sales considered, they estimate that the overall DTC wine market was worth anywhere from $5.5 billion to $6.2 billion in 2019. This means the DTC wine market is about twice as large as many people previously thought.

2. Time is of the essence

When it comes to expanding into ecommerce, it's important that wineries start investing fast. As ecommerce rapidly expands, wineries without an online sales strategy could quickly get left behind — missing out on crucial revenue both now and in the future.

While wine ecommerce channels are still growing, consumers are forming new shopping habits and building new relationships with alcohol brands. As a winery owner, this presents a rare opportunity to be a part of a pivotal shift in the way consumers look for and purchase wine — but your window of opportunity won't be here for long.

In the long term, the report warns that wineries who do not increase their online presence soon could be crowded out of the market later. Without proper investment, ecommerce could become a wedge that separates wineries from their consumers.

3. Expanding ecommerce beyond the tasting room is critical for growing DTC sales

Currently, most wineries garner ecommerce sales from customers that have previously visited their tasting room. Unfortunately, this model fails to reach the vast audience that could be buying your wine online.

Think of your ecommerce site as your virtual tasting room — you’ll want to make it appealing for visitors, easy to buy from and, most importantly, optimized for visibility online.

Building a better website also helps your business capture more consumer data — particularly emails — which are crucial to creating a strong ecommerce strategy. Rabobank’s report continues, “At this stage, many wineries could vastly improve their business simply by adopting best practices for their ecommerce operations.” There's proof that these best practices work — we found that, among our clients, 20% of wineries accounted for more than 89% of ecommerce sales. What are these wineries doing differently? For one thing, they collect lots of emails and charge way less for shipping.

4. A winery's online presence plays a critical role in driving sales in more traditional channels.

Your online presence influences more than just ecommerce sales. Consumers are now omni-channel, meaning they interact with your brand in numerous ways, both on and offline:

  • In the tasting room
  • On your website
  • On third-party sites (such as Vivino)
  • On social media
  • At restaurants and retail shops
  • At home

With so many opportunities to influence consumers, it's easy to see how your online presence can drive sales in more traditional channels. For example, you can use Instagram to promote tasting room tours and events, boosting attendance and increasing in-person sales. Capitalizing on multiple touchpoints helps consumers build a stronger relationship with your winery — which pays dividends in the long run.

In order to support these omni-channel consumer relationships, it's important to start investing in your ecommerce strategy — and keep investing. When measuring how much to invest, don't just consider the current value of your ecommerce revenue. Instead, the report urges wineries to also account for digitally-influenced sales, the future size of the alcohol ecommerce market, and the annual value of lost sales opportunities.

To put it simply, you'll want to invest enough today to be able to reap the full benefits tomorrow.

5. Online marketplaces are one of the most important channels for ecommerce growth

While alcohol ecommerce encompasses many channels — including online grocery, DTC online, alcohol marketplaces and online liquor stores — one of the most important channels for overall industry growth is alcohol marketplaces. In 2019, sales from this channel grew YOY by 60%.

Unlike retailers, alcohol marketplaces do not own any product. Instead, they provide a platform where other retailers and wineries can sell alcohol online. Through WineDirect, for example, wineries can easily make their products available to consumers on Vivino and eBay. Rabobank estimates that the online marketplace channel has grown from $100 million in 2017 to $265 million in 2019 — and could easily reach $1 billion by 2020.

Online alcohol marketplaces are unique because most of them do not have a liquor license, making them exempt from tied-house laws. This opens up new marketing opportunities that remain off-limits for other channels, such as allowing wineries to direct traffic to these marketplaces and spend money to promote their products on the platform.

With the forecasted growth of this channel in mind, wineries should implement strategies to gain visibility and sales in online marketplaces.


Rabobank’s 2020 Alcohol Ecommerce Playbook presents a compelling argument for why focusing on online sales is critical for DTC sales success. In 2020, wineries should invest in their ecommerce strategy to increase both traditional and digital sales. As the market continues to grow, brands that invest early will enjoy crucial visibility and access to an exciting set of online buyers — paying dividends in the long-run.


Learn how WineDirect can help you take your DTC sales to the next level.

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