Friday, April 15, 2011

A lasting impression - direct to consumer wine sales.

Still shaking off the jet-lag and detoxing from my fabulous 2 weeks in France, I am in the midst of a few more posts about the trip, so stay tuned for those shortly.   

This week however, my new boss at Wine Country Connect, David Studdert - was profiled by Jordan Mackay (one of my  favorite wine & spirits writers) in the NY Times. Since 2006, David has been quietly leading a BEHEMOTH direct sales channel for wineries to reach a national market - with very mindful effort. 

I admit, I wasn't familiar with Amazon's Wine.Woot! until an industry consultant helping Pellegrini Family Vineyards turned me onto Woot! last fall.  Notice the word "help", you all know by now that I'm in the business of wine and my passion for "helping" family owned wineries is what gets me out of bed in the morning.  After running my first campaign with Wine.Woot! and Pellegrini - I was hooked.  Smart marketing and even smarter direct sales.

In all my years of agonizing over National FOB's, begging for more allocations, fighting over margins, creating incentives for reps that work (then seeing them fail), waiting for PO's, calling for payment on the PO's,  picking up winemakers from the airport at dawn, planning every minute of a market visit, driving 5 hours to stand in a store for a demo to then stay awake for a midnight staff training at a restaurant, receiving calls from key sales reps @3pm on Friday asking if I had any samples at my home that their best on-premise account was short and needs more - (oh and can you meet me 1.5 hours away with them too), printing a forest of marketing materials - sales sheets, shelf talkers, reviews, prices, paying for lunch, paying for breakfast tacos, paying for a steak dinner and kickoff meeting for 30, paying $4 a gallon in gas to drive 2-3,000 a month around Texas to finally & hopefully sell a few boxes of wine.  Whew.  It's takes an expensive army and an ambitious leader to move millions of dollars of wine through the traditional supply chain - exhausting and a money pit.     

Room for both.  

Yes, savvy wineries have been getting this for years now.  Utilizing sites such as Wine.Woot! and Rue La La for direct sales is a smart, fast and efficient way to brand the winery to a new customer base and ultimately move some boxes.  I've heard of a few "whiny-baby" distributors attempt to bully wineries when featured on these sites, what they don't get is that these 2 channels are actually helping build the brands in their local region too.  Often on the Wine.Woot! community forums page, members ask where the wines are being poured in restaurants and what local wine shops carry the wine.  On Rue La La - well over 3.5 million members are now eyeballing the wine collections - worth more than any BTG placement at the hottest restaurant in any American town. For a winemaker it may not sound as "cool" as having your wine placed on Gary Danko's list, but you can't deposit your ego in the bank either. Also, most likely a member of Rue La La who bought a large format of your wine will jump at the chance of ordering your brand off a sexy wine list too.  Wineries have been selling direct to consumers for years through their tasting rooms, wine clubs and mailing lists - this avenue is no different except it's in the world's view - for all to see, learn from and most likely spend their money on!

White Noise. 

Wine.Woot! began in 2006, since then similar "flash sites" have popped up but nothing to shake a stick at in regards to building a lasting and loyal impression on wine consumers.  Wine.Woot! is one-of-a kind and after a few months now of getting to know the members, it feels like family.  They love a good discount (who doesn't?), love hearing from the winemakers, offer honest opinions (love it or hate it), create wine gatherings all over the nation to share their Wine.Woot! bottles with each other and spread the love for the brands they have discovered like no other group of wine lovers I've ever encountered.  Oh, and they are buying a few pallets of wine - a day! 


Big plans are in full swing for Wine.Woot! and Rue La La.  Luxury wineries are utilizing high-end features on Rue La La to drive visitors to their winery (literally) and many are using Wine.Woot! as a new release and launching pad to kick off new wines for the season.  Yes, you'll still see a good value in price but don't expect to always see 2 vintages-past featured each day.  If you are a winery and haven't incorporated these two channels into your annual sales strategy - get on it, what are you waiting for?  If you are a wine consumer - CHEERS to you with each and every click!   - Ali

PS. I'm working on mid-summer features for Wine.Woot! & Rue La La now, reach me direct

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