Direct to Consumer for small wineries

direct to consumer

At the conference organized by the Wine Industry Network in September, one of the main topics was the Direct to Consumer model and how to improve it.

In the conference, marketing numbers for this channel was been showed, and the importance of data for the winery was underlined. Of course, the first seven months of this year were heavily influenced by the pandemic. Commerce7’s General Manager Zach Kamphuis stressed the importance of online sales using data from over 400 customers buying wine straight to wineries. Market has to get this users in.


Market needs early adopters and their purchases: 63% of web orders in these seven months was from new customers; the model that worked best was the online subscription. Winc, for example, had a 578% increase over the same period last year. During the conference, three aspects of improvement were highlighted for those who want to start with this business model. Subscription model is a winner one. 

From website to e-mail

As a first observation, enthusiasts of the subscription-based Direct to Consumer model demonstrate the importance of improving the website experience. The ease of navigation leads to a greater number of clicks on the CTA (Call To Action) button. Integration with common payment platform is a must, of course.

They must also allow a personalized experience in the conditions of sale, for example the choice of delivery times or the place of collection. Offering free or discounted delivery makes all the difference. Improving User eXperience is still the best way to keep in touch the customer.

A second point was the use and optimization of data. In the pre-Covid period, only 47% of wineries systematically collected emails from their customers. There is therefore a lot of space for improvement, and tasting room is the best place to acquire customer information. These data can be used to create the fan group and learn their tastes. No product is good for everyone, and knowing what our customers like to drink is really important. 

The DTC to engage the fans

In the second session, Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops, suggests to creating a tribe. Involvement is the best way to attract new customers and keep loyal ones always active. The tools to use are simple and free, like Google My Business or a chat system. But above all to create a robust Direct to Consumer model, it is important to create a post-sale plan, both in the cellar and on the site. Thanks to data analysis, it is possible to know what buyers like, the time it takes to choose, the cart abandonment rate. This is the model’s analytical power.

The newsletter, if well structured, allows you to improve the knowledge of your consumers, who will therefore feel closer to the winery.

A winner strategy for small wineries

Online sales, according to Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops, are useful also to get customers to the cellar; here, however, a work on hospitality is needed. Building a network of partners such as hotels, tourist agencies or even other wineries is one of the opportunities to make your company’s brand remember. In conclusione, online tasting also  is a good way to engage the customers and to find new ones.

As a result, the take away of the conference is a baskets with 5 suggestions:

  • create your tribe
  • subsctiption services
  • improve visitors experience
  • post-visit engagement
  • retention strategy

These points are typical for small wineries because the already does it; with a little effort they can realize all step of this strategy. It’s in their nature to engage customers. And digital channels and platforms can improve their work to sell more wine and host more wine lovers.

Engage, engage and engage

The conclusions we  can draw from this conference regarding the Direct to Consumer model for wine are therefore the use of customer purchase data and their involvement. A mix of online and offline market has an even more important value than the sale of one or two more cases of wine. As in many other sectors, even in the wine market the pandemic has highlighted the limitations of previous systems, and emergency solutions could become the norm for the near future.

This is how wineries get to know who actually buys and drinks their wine. Learn the habits, tastes, spending budget. The two methods, DTC and the classic Horeca channels, are not mutually exclusive and do not overlap, but integrate. They can run on parallel lines, and one can feed the other. The online channel will become increasingly important and easy to navigate for small wineries, precisely those ones that often struggle to find a distributor for restaurants and supermarkets.

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