ShipCompliant and Wines & Vines have released their annual DTC report. Here are our top five takeaways – and what they mean for your winery.
1. DTC Growth is Strong … But Unevenly Distributed
With 15.5% growth by value and 15.3% growth by volume, 2017 was a good year overall for wineries selling direct to consumer. This growth was led by dramatic increases in a few key regions – Oregon +31%, Washington +26% and Sonoma +25% - which accounted for 40% of the growth. Napa’s growth underperformed the average at 12.4%, but remains the most dominant region by far shipping nearly 30% of total volume and 50% of total value. Unfortunately many other regions of California did not fare as well, including much of the Central Coast, Sierra Foothills and Mendocino County. Shipments in these areas only grew 3.7% by volume in 2017. The “Rest of US’ which includes everything outside California, Oregon and Washington also saw good gains, growing 17% by volume, evidence that there are opportunities in more emerging regions.
2. Medium Sized Wineries Are Outperforming
In 2017, medium sized wineries (50,000-499,999 cases) significantly outperformed other tiers with a 22% volume growth and 5.6% increase in average bottle price. In 2016, it was the large winery tier (500,000+ cases) that saw outsized gains. Taken together, these two data points show that DTC is no longer reserved for small wineries. As larger wineries realize the potential of direct-to-consumer sales, and as distributors continue to consolidate, they are investing more and more resources into this channel. If you are a small winery, this is an important trend to watch. Larger wineries typically have larger marketing and sales budgets and are investing in more sophisticated tactics like digital advertising, email marketing and social media. As competition gets tougher, it’s more important than ever to make sure your DTC operations are firing on all cylinders.
3. Legislative Changes Have Had a Big Impact
In its first full year after opening up to DTC wine shipping, Pennsylvania saw explosive growth. In 2017, shipments to the Keystone State increased 158% making it the 10th top state by shipping destination. Wyoming and Arizona also saw big gains in 2017, growing 44% and 49% respectively after legislative changes were enacted in both states. Looking forward, however, we are unlikely to see this kind of dramatic growth due to new states coming online. All the major players have now opened up to DTC shipping and the remaining holdouts – Utah, Kentucky, Alabama, Delaware and Mississippi – represent relatively limited wine consumption and aren’t likely to open up in the immediate future.
4. Amazon Is a Threat
We’ve written a lot about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and shuttering of Amazon Wine late last year. Like us, ShipCompliant sees strong potential for them to re-enter the online wine market through Whole Foods. Amazon is a ruthless competitor and should not be taken lightly. The potential for them to create a national online retail presence for wine is strong and could have a significant impact on DTC sales. In our opinion, the best way to guard against this is to A) take advantage of other online marketplaces like eBay to increase your brand exposure to new customers and B) beef up your focus on ecommerce sales, which leads us to our 5th takeaway:
5. Ecommerce is Growing
In line with our own expectations, ShipCompliant expects ecommerce to be a big driver of DTC growth going forward. Total ecommerce sales grew 15.8% in 2017 according to Emarketer and Forrester expects that a full 17% of all retail sales will occur online by 2022. As we’ve already said, there are no new large markets coming online for DTC sales, so to drive growth going forward, wineries will have to look to expand and optimize existing channels. Ecommerce sales represents a major opportunity for wineries, and for many is largely untapped. As we discuss in our study on the Top 20% of Wineries, the most successful wineries sell 26% of their wine online versus only 7% for the bottom 80%. With tourism down in certain regions, it is critical for wineries to look beyond the tasting room and wine club for new DTC sales opportunities.