VineNotes: Data-capture best practices boost direct-to-consumer wine sales

According to a report by Wines & Vines and ShipCompliant, U.S. wineries shipped 3.18 million cases directly to consumers in 2012. Of that volume, direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales have grown by 12 percent annually, almost three times faster than total industry sales.

DTC sales can be as much as 30 percent to 50 percent more profitable for wineries than conventional wholesale channels with true relationship-based selling emerging as the fastest growing segment of all DTC sales.

Over the next year, VinoPro will use this quarterly column to explore DTC best practices gleaned from our years of success in the business of selling premium and ultrapremium wine.Importance of data capture

I’ll start with tackling the (lack of) data collection. Data collection or “data capture” is crucial to effective customer relationship management (CRM) and DTC sales, as these functions are completely dependent on being able to connect with your customer on an ongoing basis. Simply put, without accurate contact information, you can’t connect.

If your customer leaves your tasting room without giving you personal data, you are virtually watching years of lucrative sales walk out the door. Make sure your entire tasting room staff is educated to be acutely aware of this. Make data collection a quintessential part of every visitor’s experience and every tasting room employee’s responsibility.What kind of data to collect

"It's far more valuable to get a phone number from a customer (versus an email) because you can initiate a personal relationship over the phone, and personal relationships are what sell premium wines," says Tim Wallace, president of Benziger Family Winery. Make phone number data capture a top priority. While emails are still valuable, most customers experience email burnout.

Phone numbers, on the other hand, are of high value since they open the door for connecting with customers on an ongoing and very personal level. The higher the price of the wine the more important a personal shopper experience is for customers. You simply cannot deliver a personal shopper experience via email.Make it a win-win

The challenge, especially in an era where personal privacy is so highly valued, is how to motivate your tasting room customer to willingly, even happily, surrender their personal information?

“Whether in the form of fun, entertainment, or incentive, the key is: You have to give your customers something in order to get them to do something. There must be an exchange of value,” says Devin Joshua of Judd’s Hill Winery.

At Judd’s Hill, data is collected using a formal “reservation confirmation” that each guest is asked to complete upon their arrival for a reserved tasting. Whether it’s a tasting card that is fun to complete, complimentary shipping on their next order, or a special reserve pour they get just by filling out a customer information card, use incentives to motivate visitors to leave their contact information.Make it fun

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