The data is in: the supposed growth in direct-to-consumer (D2C) ecommerce continues to be a myth for most US wineries. I know—people at Vin65, eWinery, WineDirect, Drizly, Vivino, and now eBay, which continue to show growth in overall wine sales, may well cry foul at that claim. And, indeed, some of those players are seeing D2C sales growth. However, it’s not the kind of growth wine producers expected when they built out their ecommerce channels, hired young graduates from Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute, and started tweeting and posting fall vineyard colors.
It’s true that the latest ecommerce sales data shows D2C wine sales continues to be a fast-growing channel in the US, but that growth is still a very small percentage of the overall volume. According to Sovos, in 2018 volume increased by 9 percent to 6 million cases shipped. However—and here’s the rub—that number can be misleading: 36 percent of D2C revenue comes through established wine clubs; 34 percent from point of sale in winery tasting rooms and at winery events; 20 percent from subscription, telephone, corporate, and private-tasting orders; and only 10 percent through what we would think of as traditional etail (the kind of etail we see at Amazon, Etsy, Williams Sonoma, Zappos, and, frankly, everywhere else on the web). Wineries are simply moving their club shipments and tasting room sales processing to the web cart.
D Stands for Direct, Not Digital
D2C numbers are growing because more wine producers are moving their accounting systems to the web. Moreover, some of the best digital channels, such as Vivino or Drizly, are digital but are not D2C.
Put another way, wineries and consumers are not really discovering each other through their websites or social channel reach, except in 10 percent of their overall D2C business. Unless they know the winery beforehand, potential customers are not searching for, finding, and shopping on winery-owned ecommerce channels. They don’t “trial” this way—and likely never will. For the most part, consumer acquisition via traditional etail has been a big dead end for the wine industry. Wineries need to change the way they approach consumer acquisition, engagement, customer service, loyalty, and merchandising. (By the way, clubs are not loyalty to the consumer; they are subscription for the winery—but we’ll get back to that later.)
How Modern Commerce Can Help
From a merchandising perspective, the most successful ecommerce is made possible when the merchandizer leverages customer data to create personal experiences across every branded touchpoint.
Purchase history is the most obvious low-hanging fruit, but vital and usable data exists in non-purchase site behavior and “push” communication actions. That data is collected via marketing automation, social engagement, email interactions, user journey mapping, mobile app usage, and offline engagement at the tasting room. Wineries can then leverage this data by using it to drive one-to-one outbound and inbound communication with consumers that personalizes every relationship to optimize the commerce opportunity.
At Astound, we call this modern commerce—consumers powered by technology. Transaction engines such as vinSuite, Vin65, Commerce 7, and Advanced Management Systems are not enough (and frankly never were). Your business requires an experience-driven digital commerce ecosystem that links ever-evolving technology, data, design, and cross-channel storytelling to maximize business value. It must link each customer touchpoint to provide a unified, holistic view of every customer, so you can create experiences that offer concierge customer service and true loyalty—where the benefit is to the customer even if the relationship is “at distance” from the winery tasting room.
We provide platforms with the etail capabilities of Amazon, Etsy, Williams Sonoma, and Zappos; systems integration to connect point-of-sale and order-management systems, compliance, inventory, and fulfillment; and one-to-one behavioral marketing automation to personalize and optimize every touch. With the power of modern commerce, you’ll know the difference between trophy hunters, destination travelers, foodies, concert goers, party planners, gift givers, and newbies—and you’ll be able to cater to all of their needs, in real time, personally and individually, based on their behaviors. Cheers to that!