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Boom in wine DTC sales prompts expansions at Napa Valley firms WineDirect, Out of the Box

Amid an unprecedented surge in wine direct-to-consumer sales over the past 14 months of the coronavirus pandemic, one North Coast pioneer in the business has just inked a big technology deal with a company that powers top consumer brand webstores.

At the same time, St. Helena startup Out of the Box has entered the busy fray of fulfilling vintners’ shipments to consumers’ doors.

Napa-based WineDirect, with a legacy through predecessors going back to the early wine e-commerce days, last week announced a deal with Texas-based BigCommerce (Nasdaq: BIGC) to provide the technology backbone for WineDirect’s forthcoming “significant upgrade” to its online wine store solution for the over 2,000 brands produced by winery customers.

“WineDirect powered by BigCommerce allows us to provide our winery clients with all the tools needed to meet the demands of modern consumers,” Andrea Smalling, WineDirect vice president of marketing and sales.

Key features to be added are fast, one-page checkout for orders from winery websites, modern “headless” e-commerce architecture that allows more freedom for site design, greater flexibility and easier winery website design, and over 5,000 BigCommerce apps such ventures such as opening new sales channels and managing social selling.

The features are set to roll out in WineDirect’s new e-commerce platform in time for the holiday season this year, with full migration starting early next year.

BigCommerce’s open software as a service powers tens of thousands of business-to-business and business-to-consumer websites for brands such as diverse as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Sony entertainment products.

“As consumer buying behavior continues to evolve, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, wineries have the opportunity to significantly enhance their online sales,” said Russell Klein, chief commercial officer for BigCommerce, in the deal announcement.

The first weeks of the pandemic saw a consumer buying spree often called “pantry stuffing,” with a surge in sales for certain goods such as toilet paper and beverage alcohol. As shelter-at-home orders shuttered restaurants and winery tasting rooms, sales of libations online soared 42% last year to $24 billion, with 44% of buyers doing so online for the first time, according to International Wine & Spirit Research.

WineDirect alone accounted for DTC wine sales of over $2 billion last year, and the transactions through the company’s systems “continue to be strong” so far this year, according to Jim Agger, senior vice president of e-commerce.

Out of the Box just opened in St. Helena. The work of John and Nat Komes and April Damron, the focus is on helping upvalley vintners, which have relatively few close-by order fulfillment services, with daily orders and periodic club shipments.

Those orders come to Out of the Box from WineDirect and several other major wine e-commerce platforms such as ShipCompliant, Commerce7, Vinespring, OrderPort, eCellar, via application programming interchanges, or APIs, built by FORT Systems.

The company is located right next to Napa Valley Wine Warehouse, allowing vintners that store there to quickly move cases out to shipments, according to Out of the Box.

The company also offers sales and marketing consultation such as wine club strategy and processing, plus mailings of media samples and collateral and tasting notes.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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