DTCWW Good to Great Series #5 – Leverage Authoritative Data Sources to Build Direct to Consumer Business

[August 29, 2023 – Sandra Beals]

Now is the time to leverage smart data sources and measures of success to shape 2024 direct sales and marketing plans. In today’s Good to Great Series #5, I provide the top five tools for how to leverage authoritative data sources to develop winning strategies and proven methods. I launched DTC Wine Workshops consulting firm in 2013 and we now have ten years of client success stories as well as solid reporting from wine regions across the nation. The ability to cross-reference a variety of direct to consumer sales strategies against credible industry reports has helped our clients go from good to great this past decade. On the flip side, we are helping winery teams course correct because authoritative data sources weren’t leveraged to plot out effective sales and engagement strategies. I hope that you will find this information helpful as your direct to consumer team leads sharpen tools in the days to come. Reach out to share your thoughts and perspectives. Cheers! Sandra

#1 – Define your approved list of Authoritative Data Sources

It is essential to leverage proper surveys and reports when making smart business decisions. Too often, I am reading news headlines that are slanted and crafted to attract attention BUT the meat of the story doesn’t contain facts, figures, or sources. Too often, surveys are being published and shared BUT lack a proper sample size to be meaningful. According to Wines Vines Analytics, there are 11,546 wineries in the United States today. To glean meaningful data from a direct to consumer survey, we require a 25% response rate (at minimum) at 2,877 winery responses across the nation. And with that sample size, we need to further segment the information shared by winery size, maturity, region, sales model, and average price points. I have provided a list of authoritative data sources below and encourage winery stakeholders to define a set list of reports when making important business decisions across the organization.

  • Annual Direct Shipping Report – Sovos and Wines & Vines
  • WineDirect Annual Report
  • Wine Institute Reports
  • Wine Market Council Reports
  • Nielsen Data
  • Regional Association Studies
  • US Chamber of Commerce Consumer Surveys

#2 – Measure Success Quarterly/Seasonally

Once the list of authoritative data sources has been designed, I encourage department heads to gather and revisit the list of key performance indicators and measures of success by sales channel. As wine consumer buying and engagement trends continue to evolve, it is important to stay on top of key measures of success. For example, Private Client Services via phone, text, IM, and live chat has become one of the fastest growing sales channels for most of our winery clients across the nation over the past five years. How has this new sales channel, changed to way brand loyalists reengage in between tasting room and event visits? When updating Reengagement Strategies and Customer Journey Maps, be sure to set realistic goals for when and what the next sale/engagement should look like based on consumer proximity to the tasting room as well as customer type. And be sure to define relevant Measures of Success for Private Client Managers and Live Chat/IM Specialists based on data points shared by local industry peers as well as authoritative industry reports.

#3 – Course Correct if needed by asking the Right Questions

An area of correction we have helped many clients work through when it comes to sales reporting, is the ability to track tasting room sales by customer type. When asking key questions about who tasting room visitors are, we can correct average order value and conversion ratio tracking to accurately reflect what really occurred from month to month. For example, if a winery team reported 2000 tasting room visitors for the month of July with a conversion to club ratio of 8%, we need to ask the right question about who made up the 1500 visitors reported. If 50% of the visitors were actually members, then only 1000 visitors were potential members that month. The conversion to club ratio jumps to 16% in this case and is a valuable data point when measuring tasting room host effectiveness. When reviewing industry reports and survey data, it is critical to ask the right questions about how information is being collected to reflect the above.

Training the frontline on how to accurately report the guest count by visitor type against each transaction is an essential step in course correction in this example. Be sure to also track member guest conversion ratios and average order values to measure effectiveness of sales strategies as well as host sales skills.

#4 – Develop Updated Offerings, Tools, and Communication Methods

Perhaps it’s time to rethink how your wine brand is inviting guests to explore in person and online options. Today, wine enthusiasts have more options than ever and we have seen a higher percentage of club cancellations over the past 12 months than in years prior. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, Americans now hold $1 trillion in credit card debt. This represents the highest credit card debt the country has held since the great depression, according to the Federal Reserve. At the height of winery membership growth in the US between 2017 and 2021, we learned through member surveys, that many club members belonged to 3-5 winery membership programs simultaneously. When membership teams gathered feedback from canceled members this past quarter, a large number reported that they needed to drop 2-3 clubs due to “too much wine” and “financial changes”. I have coached winery stakeholders about the need to nurture long time consumer relationships at this time. In some cases, this could mean honoring club privileges as a courtesy while the member takes a break from receiving the annual club releases. Retaining brand loyalists during trying times will result in long-term business success.

Communication preferences greatly changed during the pandemic period in the US. Consumer trust increased as many of our clients leveraged virtual tasting experiences and events to best engage and sell wine direct. Mobile and e-commerce shopping experiences improved as winery stakeholders needed to quickly shift from the tasting room sales model to online and remote. We helped many wine brands implement website live chat, text communication programs, and private client services during this period. Now is the time to leverage credible peer and industry reports to accurately establish goals and measures of success for the eComm and Inside Sales channels.

#5 – Confirm Proven Methods and Repeat

With the evolvement of new direct sales channels and communication methods, it is important to confirm which of these methods will continue to support business goals an meet consumer demands. Take time each quarter to meet with department heads to review your business outcomes against what your peers are reporting locally. Regional winery association directors can provide essential insights into what other winery teams are doing to create proven methods. The DTC Director can also join up with a group of 5-10 directors representing complimentary wine brands in your region each quarter to stay on top of visitation and communication trends. The second sale/engagement and beyond is an important measure of success when establishing proven models. Customer Journey Maps by channel as well as Visitor Surveys via text message are two tools that have helped our winery teams go from good to great when building their unique, models of success. Defining credible and authoritative data sources will keep your wine brand on the right path with repeatable models of success.

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