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5 Takeaways From the 2020 DTC Wine Symposium

Dtc Wine Symposium Lounge Dtc Wine Symposium Lounge

With a new decade in full swing, the 2020 DTC Wine Symposium delivered on its promise yet again to explore fresh and compelling DTC topics. Our client success and product teams seized the opportunity to connect with clients and partners in the WineDirect Lounge, new to the event this year. Meanwhile, our sales and marketing team greeted new faces on the trade show floor and gathered insights from discussion panels.

Here are our key takeaways from January 22-23 at the 2020 DTC Wine Symposium:

1. DTC wine sales are on the rise

According to the annual DTC shipping report from Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics, DTC wine shipments in 2019 grew 4.7% in volume and 7.4% in dollar value, to $3.2 billion. And that’s just shipped wine! Let’s consider another fascinating report, Rabobank’s 2020 Alcohol Ecommerce Playbook.

This report synthesizes data from WineDirect’s inaugural DTC Sales Report and the Sovos report, estimating that the DTC wine market was actually worth $5.5 - $6.2 billion in 2019 overall — a figure that takes into account carry-out tasting and event sales on top of shipped wine.

2. Focus on ecommerce

With a high average order value ($282), low penetration (10% of total sales), high average bottles per order (7) and lowest barrier to entry (your website can sell wine 24/7 with no action needed from your team), online sales represent the biggest opportunity for wineries selling direct to consumer today.

We’ve all heard it before: Think of your website as an extension of your tasting room. But how many wineries are actually doing this really, really well? Farm Collective, for one. Not only do they send polished email campaigns reflective of their brand voice, they also make sure to utilize abandoned cart emails to sway buyers who've left wine in their cart. Ed Feuchuk of Farm Collective shared during Customer Service in the Digital Age, moderated by Outshinery's Laurie Millotte, that triggering a chatbot on their website has dramatically improved conversion rates for online club signups and ecommerce sales.


Pisoni Estate is another example of a winery taking the customer experience beyond in-person hospitality. During Hospitality and the Experience Overload, office manager Michele Ross chimed in from the audience, saying that the winery’s Santa Lucia Highlands experience includes touring the property’s insectary and tasting in their vegetable cellar. Guests walk away with a truly unique experience fresh in their mind, and a week or so later, the Pisoni team will find that they’ve hopped online, joined their club and purchased wine.

3. Prioritize efficiency & convenience

“There are a lot of things our industry gets right,”Ed Feuchuk noted during the Digital Age session. “Our CRM game is great,” he said, using WineDirect’s CRM interface as an example, “and we really care about our customers.” But are wineries doing all they can to balance operational efficiency and customer convenience? Investing in tools that allow your team to work smarter and faster while making your customers’ lives easier will pay off dividends.

Ed shared that his team shaved a significant number of hours from their email reply time using the platform Help Scout to organize and assign incoming inquiries. They also implemented live chat through Drift to offer more convenient ways of getting in touch with the winery. Consumers ages 18-54 prefer a text-based conversation to talking on the phone, so why aren’t more wineries meeting these consumers where they prefer to be? “We should start acting on the customer’s schedule, not our own,” Ed pointed out, a sentiment that echoes Sarah Klearman’s recent Napa Register article about chat on the rise among wineries.

Online reservations through partners like Tock are another efficient way wineries can offer convenience — while collecting customer data. During the Experience Overload panel, Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association Executive Director Kim Stemler cited an Apple store as the best guest experience she had recently. She emphasized the importance of integrated service, starting with the ability to make an appointment online.


4. Segmentation isn't optional, it’s required

As flooded as our inboxes are today, how often do you open an email and feel like the content was meant just for you: exactly what you were looking for at that exact moment? Relevant, authentic, and timely messages are the name of the game in the era of personalization. Audience segmentation is a must.

During the session Putting it all Together: Choosing and Optimizing Your Marketing Channels Based on the Customer Journey, Susan DeMatei of WineGlass Marketing shared that she regularly discovers her clients have under-nurtured audience segments in their consumer databases. Contacts who aren’t nurtured represent low hanging fruit! For example, you might focus heavily on club members, but forget to send special offers to non-members with high lifetime value. “With WineDirect’s List Builder,” Susan said, “you can target buyers at the customer journey phases where you’re missing sales.”

Another opportunity for segmentation is the under-utilized Thank You email. Not every email has to be a sales pitch: it’s beneficial to balance promotional offers with informational messages, or even just “Thank you for visiting.” Take a tip from Louis Calli, co-founder of The Find, who during The Experience Overload posed the question “Do you divide your guests into separate email nurture groups after they visit, when you take one group through your garden and the other group through your cellar?” You can even "think about wholesale channels as new customer acquisition," as suggested by Tablas Creek GM and Partner Jason Haas. When you have a new restaurant placement, for example, send a targeted email to local members who may refer their friends.

5. Consider unboxing part of the experience

At the same time that wineries are focusing on ways to meet their customers in digital spaces, they’re also working to pump up their unboxing game.

In the Customer Journey session, digital storyteller Shana Bull remarked, “Right now we have to think like ecommerce brands.” She pointed out that part of that is remembering the importance of packaging, citing Gary Vaynerchuk’s online-only wine brand as an example of a great unboxing experience. From each shipment’s custom-branded exterior to a greeting message on the inside flap plus a high quality paper insert, this unboxing experience helps the ecommerce brand stand out in a tangible way, even if it doesn’t have a physical tasting room.


Wine club and allocation shipments are another opportunity to impress. Louis Calli noted that “if you’re a club member, the experience of getting a shipment is critical — take that person back to why they joined in the first place.” He shared the story of visiting a winery with a lavender field on its property, which stood out in his memory of that day. A few months after joining the club, his first shipment arrived — with fragrant lavender in the box alongside his wines. So get creative! By working with an experienced fulfillment partner, you too can deliver delightful unboxing experiences.

As always, our team had a blast connecting with clients and partners at the DTC Wine Symposium. We met plenty of new friends, too! If you’re interested in learning how our software and fulfillment solutions can help address the challenges and opportunities covered at the conference, we’d love to connect.

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