By Dawn Dolan
Playing to a sold-out 500 seat audience, the two-day Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium struck a new high point for its ten-year lifetime. Hitting such topics as global marketing, white-glove VIP treatment, why statistics matter to your winery sales, and an uplifting state-of-the -DTC union, the conference was a winner among attendees.
The state of the DTC address by Ken Nowlin of SOVOS, owners of Ship Compliant, was a happy one for the wine industry, with some areas shifting spots, but all doing quite well. Cracking the 5 million case mark in 2016, sales also set a new high at over $2 billion. Sonoma County was the focus of his praise, with their price per bottle moving up even as supply increased, something not normally found.
Day one of the conference included a variety of sponsor sessions and feature talks, one on creating the best DTC team and DTC happenings outside of California. Highlights included keynote speaker Lulie Halstead, of the London-based Wine Intelligence, a marketing, branding and research firm, marking global trends in the wine industry.
Halstead broke wine consumer trends down into parcels of We, You, and Us, to help understand how consumers think about products, with the concepts of effortless, instant, and individual as what needs to be focused on for marketing and delivering goods.
When asked what the biggest take away for the day should be for the attendees, Halstead replied, “Think about what you are offering from your consumer’s perspective, instead of your own. Take yourself outside of your viewpoint. Think about how you feel when you are reacting to other companies marketing to you.”
In her address, Halstead emphasized that it is about making the consumer feel special, either for choosing your product, or choosing your brand. “What are you doing to make your product and service more individualized,” she asked, “what are you doing as part of your local community to gain their respect?”
Keynote speaker Drew Huening, digital marketing master to the stars (Google, Facebook, Amazon) spoke to the many without large marketing budgets, explaining how to utilize an often-untapped resource: Facebook analytics. “Facebook analytic tools are as easy to use as Facebook is,” Drew said. “They are newer, and more user-friendly than Google Analytics, which are now ten years old.”
While going through how to use segmentation of lists and loading them into Facebook analytics, he was asked how you convince a rather slow-moving and suspicious industry to put their jealously guarded data base of names into Facebook? He explained that Facebook uses encryption just like online banking platforms use, and that people shouldn’t be worried about abuses. “The last thing Facebook wants to do is to alienate all the small businesses that are buying ads,” he quips. “Small business ads pay for much of how Facebook operates.”
Afternoon sessions included Reservations Revealed, a discussion for wineries using a reservations system, or wanting to do so. Before the session, Sandra Hess, Founder of DTC Wine Workshops, laid out its objective, “Wine consumers of all ages want more high touch tasting experiences and events. Winery teams are exploring whether or not reservation management tools are a good fit to keep up with consumer demand. In this lively discussion, industry specialists will share best practices for leveraging reservation management tools to better stay connected with club members in between visits and to also attract new audiences with advance reservations. Attendees will learn the dos and don’ts for setting up tasting experiences that require reservations.”
In the Leveraging Metrics session, Tammy Boatright of VingDirect, one of this year’s panelists, told the packed room that using metrics translates into the three AAA’s: Audience, Activity and Avenue, “It’s all about creating the right offer, at the right time, to the right people.”
In a private interview, Boatright elaborated on how important it is that wineries and their tasting rooms only track information that they are going to use, “Do they need to know how many people also bought a cheese plate while they tasted? If there is not an actionable result going to come of it, don’t track it. Your staff is already busy enough. Track things that will make a difference to your sales goals.”
During the White Glove Service panel, which had experts in that market talking about their experiences, panelist Chloe Tyer of Plumpjack sparked interest with her comment, “Set your environment; don’t let your employees set it, or you won’t like the results.” This led into a discussion for the need to train employees on how you want them to act, talk, and present your brand, with interviewing and hiring for the right fit; the front-end piece of successful high-end service that companies often ignore. Many tips were given, but the overall theme was stated most succinctly by panelist David Dodrow of Copper Peak Logistics, “Deliver on your promise.”
The Symposium also included a small trade show with a focus on products to help with DTC sales, which was pertinent and manageable. FedEx was doing private shipping consultations, VingDirect talking about the benefit of their performance tracker, Sandra Hess showed off her complement of consultants, and the POS and telemarketing groups were teaching interested parties how they can help improve sales.
Comments about the symposium complimented the fantastic array of useful talks, with take-aways that attendees were excited to put into practice. Although a pricey conference, the laser-focus on direct-to-consumer issues is impossible to get anywhere else, and so for most, a cost well spent.