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With the pandemic in place, many wineries that were not at the digital forefront incurred huge losses due to low or no sales. However, wineries that made the most of the pandemic were the ones that had a strong DTC (Direct-To-Consumer) channel that was digitally well equipped. Thus, this period forced many wineries to focus on their DTC channels and build meaningful relationships with their consumers thereby increasing customer loyalty. The direct-to-consumer wine sales in the U.S. outperformed the $4 billion mark in 2021, according to DTC Wine Shipping Report 2022 from Sovos ShipComplaint and Wines Vine Analytics. These statistics show a sudden rise in DTC wine sales during the pandemic. Worldwide lockdown and restrictions led to consumers supporting their wineries by increasing their sales directly from them. However, the first year of the pandemic allowed many wineries to learn and develop their DTC channel strategically which was lacking before.
A snippet from Direct-To-Consumer Wine Shipping Report 2022 depicts the increase of various aspects in the DTC sales of wines in 2021; Image Source - Sovos ShipComplaint
There are several avenues for a wine brand to directly build a customer base that can enable it to tap into growing its DTC channel. These avenues might be digitalized or not but have the full potential to increase a winery’s sales if designed strategically. Here are some of the common DTC channels of a winery and the methods to tap into these channels.
A very important part of your winery, Tasting Room is where it all starts and ends for the customer. A tasting room is a room in the winery where you as a winemaker or owner can interact with the guest, make them taste your wines, talk about your wines with them and get to know them better. This is where you interpret your brand identity and your guest gains the most knowledge about your wines and winery. An engaging interaction here can lead to sales as well as a loyal customer eventually. Here’s how you can leverage the tasting room as a great DTC wine sales channel.
- Create an Effective ambiance with the right lighting, music, and smell, which leaves a positive impact on your guest’s mind.
- Train your staff well and provide them with daily sales training as they are in direct contact with the consumer. Make sure they have the right amount of knowledge and are ready to take up queries.
- Takedown details of your guests including their email, phone number, address, and some basic questions about their wine consumption and choices so you know your consumer well. This can help you in maintaining a database and reach out to them with various offers, releases, and events that can help you to build a greater connection with them.
- Hold proper Vineyard Visits and Wine Tastings and teach them about what goes into the wine so they are aware of what they are trying and eventually buying.
- Offer them to Join the Wine Club so you can deliver a personalized experience to them in the future. This is another one of the DTC channels we will be talking about.
- Involve your Winemaker in the tastings as your guests can directly ask them questions and get to know more about what they are tasting.
- Help the consumer in purchasing wine. Offer them advice and help them select the right wine for them.
- Offer Your or the server's email and ask them to share their experience personally once they purchase the wine and try it.
A wine club as the name suggests is a group of people who sign up to be a part of the winery and take part in regular tastings, events, and other offerings. It is an extension of a winery and each club can differ in offerings from a winery to a winery. It helps in telling a compelling story about your wine, enables you to meet customer demands in a more sorted manner, and also increases revenues. They account for up to 33% of the DTC wine sales profits. A wine club can help in building a strong customer base and provide strong word-of-mouth for your brand. Some wineries offer the consumers to join the wine club at no cost and that does not include many offerings. While some wineries charge a nominal monthly cost for their wine club memberships and provide an array of offerings. Here’s how the wine club can be leveraged to increase DTC wine sales.
- Personalize their experience with the help of data. Their personal data can help you understand what they like and dislike and that can help you build a tailor-made experience for your wine club member.
- Run a Palate Profile Quiz during the wine club events so you know the flavor profiles that your members prefer. This can help you in building a personalized offering.
- Offer same-day deliveries, discounts, or low or no shipping costs to your wine club members, so it leads to repetitive sales.
- Hold Virtual tastings for them especially when they can not move out of their houses. Create a set of a few bottles and send them over to them for the virtual tastings.
Virtual Wine Tasting held by St. Francis Winery; Image Source - St. Francis Winery
- Arrange a Wine and Food Pairing night where you can educate your members about the different pairings and how they can do that themselves as well.
- Acknowledge their Birthdays and Anniversaries by offering them a special discount or sending over a bottle and making them feel special. These small efforts for your consumers go a long way and help you gain a loyal customer.
- Enhance their winery and wine tasting experience by offering Member Only Perks.
- Give them Loyalty or Credit points on every purchase which can help them earn a discount. This will lead to repeat purchases.
- Purchase a wine club software that can be integrated with your database. This can help you maintain a record along with all the data of all your members and allow you to personally reach out and cater to them.
- Give them access to unreleased vintages which you have not yet released to the public so they can have special access to it and might end up purchasing most of it.
- Let them be the Winemaker for a day and experience the winemaking through vineyard tours, blending classes, and in-depth winery knowledge. This will help them to increase their knowledge about how their favorite wines are made.
- Offer a minimum discount to new members when they sign up for the wine club, so more and more people want to be a part of it.
Viansa Wine in Sonoma Valley offers a 15% discount every time someone joins their mailing list; Image Source - Viansa
- Leverage the new technologies like AR, VR, AI, and a lot more by integrating them into the experiences you offer to your members.
- If they have been a member of your wine club for a long time, offer them to Invest in certain vintages.
The hardest-working member of your team, your website makes or breaks the perception of the brand in the mind of the consumer before they visit the winery. Your customer will always check your cellar door or winery online before visiting it. Thus, it is important to have a consistent, updated, and correct online presence. You should be able to create an authentic personality for your brand and then capture that personality in a digital format to communicate your brand through your website. Not just this, it will also reflect your marketing and sales strategies and will also help you gain a major chunk of DTC sales through it. Here are some of the strategies to increase your DTC wine sales through your website.
- Always have an Easy-to-use interface so your consumer does not get confused while they are browsing through your website. A website should be always Mobile-friendly.
- Use unique designs, templates, high-quality imagery, and phenomenally demonstrate your brand so the visitor wants to learn about it. Your website should be able to breathe life into your winery.
- Update your website once a quarter and spend time on it. Mention the new changes in your winery or the new wines that are coming up.
- Create an Easy-to-find website so when a consumer puts in your winery or wine’s name in the Google search engine, your website appears on top of the search results.
- Use SEO Tools and relevant words on your website so it gains traction on the internet and gets more taps.
- It should Prompt the visitor for action. In case the cart has 2 products, it should remind the visitor to check out or if the user has searched for a certain wine, they are prompted with a similar wine.
- The e-commerce section of the website should be easy to use and offer a smooth shopping experience for the consumer. Not just this, it should also offer the privacy of information provided and assure it to the consumer.
- Offer ease of cart usage and low-cost or free shipping when a customer shops directly from the website instead of other retailers.
- It should be connected to the brand’s social media channels so the consumer is also connected to the brand through their social media.
- A Live bot or automatic chatbox should be available on the website with pre-loaded answers to frequent queries so the consumer can ask a question at any time.
- A Pop-up form to collect the email of the visitor should be available while leaving the website or on the top of the website. This depends on the layout and experience of the website.
An essential part of communicating with your consumers is through social media channels and constant email marketing. Staying in touch with your consumers and sending them timely emails can not only enable you to build a strong network but also achieve lucrative sales from them. With the focus of increasing DTC sales through your social media channels and emails, you can incorporate the following strategies.
- Send Weekly emails with offers on wines or any upcoming offers
- Send out Invites for events at the winery or run email automation campaigns
- Share a set of Occasion specific wines through email and offer discount codes on them.
- Provide the link to sign up for the wine club at the bottom of the email signature
- Send out Wine Club campaign emails stating the benefits of joining the wine club along with the link to join it.
- Personalize the email by addressing them with their names
- Interact with your consumers through Instagram, Facebook, and other channels.
- Collaborate with restaurants, bars, and pubs through referral schemes and promote them on your social media channels, and create a barter where they promote your brand too.
- Hold Giveaways to engage more consumers with your brand
- Finally, make sure your Social media channels are linked to your website.
Growing your winery’s DTC sales can help you gain a major share of the profits and generate greater revenue. Although, the investment of time and money that goes into various DTC channels is high, so is the return on investment from them. Thus, build a solid and strategic plan to tap into your winery’s DTC market.
Article by Shreya Kohli, Beverage Trade Network
Header Image Source - Sfgate