The DTC Sales Doctor

Notes From WineDirect's Presentation at The Wine DTC Symposium.  

It was super exciting to be back in person at the Wine DTC Symposium. I enjoyed meeting as many people as I did(wish I’d met more) and hearing about everyone’s experience navigating the last several years. I don’t know how you felt, but it is apparent to me that the DTC wine industry is all growed up! 🙂

There were great discussions, insights, and general overall rockstar marketing actions from a diverse set of wineries.  

These findings were presented by Jim Agger, Vice President of Ecommerce, WineDirect; Andrea Smalling, CMO, WineDirect; Jim Secord, SVP of Product, WineDirect; and Alex Jones, Digital Marketing Manager at Gary Ferrel.  I didn’t break out who said what, but just distilled the information into eight different buckets. 

I’ve pulled a few items that stuck with me from the Wine Direct panel. As I process my notes from the other panels, I will share my thoughts on those as well. I’ve added clarity, pro tips, and notes that are called out, so you know what they presented versus my take on it. I’m sure I missed some key points, so feel free to let me know, and I can add them!


  • 2022 has brought an unusual shift in wine club signups – for the first time. Q4 2022 net new wine club signups plunged to negative levels
  • It’s clear that this issue is directly correlated to declining tasting room visitation and serves as a red alert warning call for wineries. 
  • Other channel sales helped to prop up the business – 56 percent of wines sold through other channels are bought by existing members, while only 13 percent originate from first-time web visitors. 

Carin’s CLARITY: The definition of a first-time web visitor from Wine Direct is someone who had to create an account for the first time. This doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been in your tasting room or had another brand experience. For example, my husband makes the reservations and pays for our winery visits, and I typically go back to the site to purchase. In that scenario, I am a first-time buyer. While wineries can and do sell wine to consumers who have never had a brand experience, it is a more protracted sale that costs more, and your ROAS is smaller. 

Many wineries  believe eComm will increase if they advertise to customers who haven’t had a brand experience. The strategy is much more complex and the investment is significantly more.  It is exceedingly rare for most wineries to have eComm sales out of the blue. It does happen, but infrequently. 

While the panel released a statistic that paid advertising pales compared to organic search and social, this needs a finer point. 

Paid advertising,  and the panel wasn’t clear whether it was paid search, display, out-of-home, etc., so it’s a bit challenging to respond directly to that.  However, paid search and display are indeed tools to get more people into the top of the funnel. 

But, let me shed some light on this. 

Carin’s PRO TIP + CLARITY: Search is great and it is imperative to incorporate it into your sales and marketing strategy. But it can be a longer sales cycle. Much of the organic search that comes into winery websites are from branded terms. This means that they are actively typing in your winery name, they already know about your winery, click on it, and arrive on your site to complete their desired action, whether that’s a bottle purchase or to visit. In terms of the sales funnel, they are closer to the sales, so of course, they will convert at a higher rate. Just like visitors who arrive from Yelp convert at a higher rate and velocity than some other channels. 

If you are only using search to get consumers in the door, that may not be enough. Depending on your SEO & marketing strategy, you may be passively waiting around for people to find you. And that is not an excellent plan for predictable winery revenue. 

The piece that I do agree with (and don’t need to split hairs on) is that social channels are great for discovery. Social services all parts of the consumer journey from discovery through to the sale.  So definitely invest smartly here. 



With an increasing number of shoppers transitioning to mobile purchases, it’s essential for businesses to create a smooth and seamless buyer experience that allows consumers to move between devices conveniently.  Mobile shopping experiences can make or break a customer’s opinion of your business, and with 68% shopping cart abandonment rate due to long-form fills at checkout.

Recommendations from the panel include:

  • Multiple ways to pay
  • Formatting websites for Android or iOS
    • Enable customers who are browsing on their phones to quickly buy what they want without having to start over again should they switch from mobile to desktop and back again.
  • Cut out lengthy forms
    • The multiple ways to pay can help reduce consumers having to fill out lengthy forms
  • Persistent Carts
    • Make sure personalized carts remain persistent across platforms!
  • Reduce unnecessary steps

Carin’s CLARITY:  For the majority of my clients across all verticals, most are seeing more than 75% of their web traffic originating from mobile. In some cases, there is a 20-point gap between desktop and mobile conversion rates. If you just add back into your projections that gap, you will make up a ton of revenue. A goal for all of my clients is to close the gap between the mobile and the desktop conversion rate. Buying on mobile (everywhere actually)should be as easy and frictionless as possible. 



eCommerce =


Now is the perfect time to consider an interconnected approach between the tasting room and e-commerce. When approached holistically, wineries can better engage consumers throughout the brand/buyer ecosystem. 

Connecting with your customers throughout their journey is essential to success in today’s market. 


Gathering contact information is key to achieving your 2023 financial goals. Without it, prospects will remain just that: mere potential customers and not valuable members of our community. Last year 22% of onsite sales were from guests who gave no details and are now untraceable. 

2020 underscored how vital it is to have organized and secured data. Many discovered that their customer information was riddled with errors, incorrect spelling, missing fields, etc., posing a genuine hurdle towards achieving total efficiency in digital operations. Commit to clean up records so all future endeavors may be supported by accuracy and reliability – creating one formidable source of truth for everyone involved.

With clean and reliable data, segmentation then becomes a powerful tool to put customers into distinct groups based on behavior and buying patterns. By utilizing this strategy in conjunction with personalization tactics, it was possible to increase average order value by 22% over three months – demonstrating just how beneficial effective segmenting can be.

Mapping out your consumer journeys is essential in unlocking omnichannel success.

Carin’s PRO TIP: Map each landing page to your ad creative and visualize how your consumers will move through those pages. Utilize retargeting. 

Take a strategic approach to your marketing by carefully selecting and targeting specific customer segments. Whether it be those who have recently visited but haven’t made an online purchase, former club members, or any of the various RFM (Recency Frequency Monetary) categories, such as at-risk customers or loyal patrons with high spending, you can create customized creative designed to entice them into joining your wine clubs. 

Consumers demand personalized experiences and get highly frustrated when companies fail to deliver. A staggering 76% are put off if the personalization is inadequate, as seen by irrelevant ads being sent out. This makes it easier for customers to switch services with a single click.

So many consumers are hesitant to provide personal information, and companies must go above and beyond offering exclusive deals for customers to share their data. It’s not enough just asking them to fill out a survey or checkboxes–companies have the opportunity now to be unique by engaging users on an individual level, such as allowing them to customize what their interests are. 

People will respond if it means receiving tailored content that speaks directly to them!


Carin’s PRO TIP: Know your customer’s WHY, not just RFM data. But also why they buy your brand. You can accomplish this by appending your data and running consumer insights to understand the psychographics of purchasing better and then target similar 3rd & 2nd party data to expand your reach to the right consumer.


Investing a small amount in current customers pays off more than trying to acquire new ones – those 10% loyal consumers will spend 3x as much! Keep them engaged and watch your profits grow through positive customer relationships.

Customers value exclusivity, and loyalty programs are the key to giving them that. For example, offering a unique login area with special content – like an exclusive video of your winemaker tasting a new release – shows customers they’re valued members who get something extra for their patronage. Even smaller perks, such as discounts or points, can boost revenue in meaningful ways.

Loyalty programs play an essential role in encouraging customers to return. But it’s often the little touches that can make a big difference – like recognizing birthdays and purchase anniversaries, sending personalized notes with offers – that help foster loyalty within your customer base. 

Carin’s PRO TIP: Retention is also a key DTC wine trend that I wrote about here. Truly engage. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the all-too-common, “Thanks, hope to see you at the winery soon!”  Write more personalized social responses. Those responses are also a time to reiterate the critical difference between your winery and others.

Test, test, test your email nurture programs. One of my clients solely focused their growth strategy on retention and achieved their sales goals. 

Encouraging customers to spread the love about your product is essential for its success. Give them something in return that incentivizes this generosity, such as complimentary tickets to wine club events or discounts when they bring their friends, offer codes and specialized merchandise just for them so they can share distinctive experiences with your wines. This will allow others to be exposed more deeply to what you have on offer.


Carin’s PRO TIP: Think not just in real life, water cooler referrals, but digital referrals as well. Ask for reviews. They are golden and build equity for your winery for years to come. 


Don’t overlook lapsed buyers – they are one of your most valuable assets! People who have already tasted and enjoyed your product may need a friendly reminder to take up the offer again. A little nudge can be much more time-effective than chasing new consumers, so focus on winning back previous customers first.

CARIN’S PRO TIP: This takes strategy, testing, and patience. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up before the miracle happens. Reengaging customers to get them to purchase again is best approached with a multi-channel strategy. 

What did I miss from the Wine Direct session at the DTC Wine Symposium that you found interesting?

Many thanks to everyone who got us all back in the room together. It was a great experience! See you all next year! 

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