“DTC Done Right” Conference, Hall Wines – Event Recap

[February 24, 2014 – Sandra Hess] The Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco, in partnership with Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Vintners and CANVAS hosted a one-day Boot Camp for sales, marketing and hospitality personnel yesterday at Hall Wines in St. Helena.  A little over 300 winery attendees turned out for this informative and well organized event.  I was asked to participate in the E-Commerce and DTC Technology Panel along with: Miryam Chae, Director, Direct to Consumer Marketing, Constellation Wines, U.S. – Mary Jo Dale, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Consumer Sales, Crimson Wine Group –  Karen Fass, CEO & Founder, FEAST – Chris Towt, Vintner and Founder, VineSpring.

I enjoyed listening to direct to consumer managers a variety of wineries and learned how each continuously caters to their customers and adjust strategies based on buying habits.  I was particularly impressed with the insights shared by Sally Srok, Vice President of Hospitality, Francis Ford Coppola Winery.  This high-profile winery has catered to 600,000 visitors over the past four years.  Every staff member is trained to deliver an exceptional customer service experience whether it is the life guard in the beautiful pool/cabana area or a hostess at a VIP event in the tasting room.  Tom Blackwood, Director of Retail Operations, Boisset Family Estates shared Raymond’s DTC strategy and how the visitor experience dazzles and delights.  Raymond offers several experiences to choose from and is a fun, sexy, and exciting wine brand. Visitors can choose from the bubble lounge, custom blending sessions or VIP experiences. Tom explained that many times visitors will book an “experience” and return the next day after seeing all that is available.

Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco did a great job putting together an excellent mix of topics and speakers for this event. If you haven’t visited Hall Wines in St. Helena, I encourage you to schedule a visit.  The newly built, two-story facility is stunning and wines are delicious. In case you missed the event, I have shared notes from my panel presentation below and you can find the full Conference Agenda at:  http://www.luxesf.com/luxe-events/current-programs/.

Please share your background before you entered the wine industry.

>> Business development of compliance management software that supports national and international law firms and corporations for six years, then made the move to MS Dynamics CRM “The Winery CRM” supporting one of the largest wineries in the world to mid and small wineries. Moved to DTC e-Commerce space and provided business development for e-winery and Vin65. Started DTCWW to help wineries implement ideal mix of technology and processes to reflect unique brand, grow DTC sales and build customer loyalty.

What is your e-commerce philosophy? How do you think about e-commerce with respect to all of the other DTC tools?

>> Usability, Scalability and Security.  3.47 million cases of wine shipped in 2013 – an increase of 9.3% over 2012 resulting in $1.57 billion of DTC wine shipped in US – an increase of 7.5% in 2012. E-commerce site needs to be intuitive and provide clean navigation. Back end systems and processes must be streamlined so that majority of staff time is spent interacting with visitors and members.

• For consultant panelists: often wineries have a hard time defining their business requirements and instead let the system’s features dictate the requirements. What should be documented?

>> Usability, Scalability and Security. Usability: It is important to evaluate how technology enhances the customer experience at every touch point. So instead of starting from business side out, start by looking at customer side in. Ensure that the e-commerce experience reflects the tasting room experience and that technology selected provides easy shopping navigation. Document requirements from a user perspective. Scalability: Are systems built with an open API and a published library of resources? As DTC sales channel grows and evolves, how you serve online customers will constantly evolve and change. While every e-commerce system has different pro’s and con’s, if built with a proper foundation, most of the “out of box” features should be easy to configure and tailored to your unique brand and needs. Can the e-commerce system integrate with QB on small to mid side or ERP systems on the larger multi brand side? Can the e-commerce system integrate with e-marketing and social media monitoring systems? Having customer data reside in too many databases will cause internal confusion but most importantly CUSTOMER CONFUSION. Decide on which system of record will be used for reporting and analytics and ensure fields can be customized and mapped to external systems so that you have a consolidated view of customer metrics, compliancy data and buying trends. Security: Customers are expecting the same experience as shopping on Amazon, Zappos, Target, etc. and must TRUST that your e-commerce site will process orders securely and efficiently. Most e-commerce solutions in the wine space are PCI compliant but it is important to include specific requirements around how customer information will be stored and shared among systems. Some words of advice here: try to record online training sessions or request training manuals for “train the trainer” sessions as staff turn over happens and this valuable information needs to stored for future reference.

• Why is switching e-commerce systems so prevalent in the wine industry? Is the grass really greener?

>> E-Commerce tools in the wine DTC space have organically grown over the past 10 years. Initial requirements were much less sophisticated up until about five years ago when Amazon and others paved the way for online shopping. E-Commerce providers had to start somewhere but unfortunately not all built with a proper foundation that would allow flexibility, scalability and the ability to customize and configure as business grows and changes. Vin65 and VinTank have both done a great job building solid foundations and have continued to innovate as customer needs have changed.  Mobile e-commerce is on the rise and these two vendors are delivering mobile solutions.  

• What tips or tricks can you share with the audience? What are some changes they could make to maximize results?

>> Preference based marketing and email personalization for both prospects and customers increase conversion rates. Recommendations and Search Bars decrease cart abandonment. Analyze website traffic data weekly through Google Analytics or AB testing to better understand which pages and navigation tools work and which ones don’t.

• What innovative practices, have you seen, used or heard about with regard to DTC technology?

>> Mobile POS to maximize tasting room and event experiences and increase average cost per sale. Wineries can offer VIP tasting experiences away from the busy tasting room and guest can check out in their lounge space   Vin65 has done a great job in this regard as the Mobile POS includes all CRM and Social CRM data from VinTank.  Winery staff have complete insight into a customer or member record and are equipped to have more meaningful conversations.

• Mobile e-commerce? Are customers buying wine through their mobile devices?

>> Vin65 shared latest data from last Holiday season and in December, 2013 – 27.4% of Vin65 traffic came from mobile.  (this is not tablet – this is strictly mobile).  Some other mobile shopping FACTS: This past Holiday Season, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in history with a 20.6 percent increase in online sales, according to the latest cloud-based analytics findings from IBM (NYSE: IBM)Mobile shopping led the way in the US this past December with an increase of 55.4% year over year. Mobile sales led the way, exceeding 17 percent of total online sales, an increase of 55.4 percent year-over-year. http://digby.com/mobile-statistics/

To learn more about DTC Wine Workshops and how to grow your Direct to Consumer sales division, contact:  [email protected].