Direct to consumer sales will snare ‘significant revenues’ for US wineries: Wine Intelligence


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A visit to Lynfred Winery in Illinois (Photo: H.Michael Miley/Flickr)
A visit to Lynfred Winery in Illinois (Photo: H.Michael Miley/Flickr)

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US direct to consumer wine sales grew 15% in 2014 off a relatively low base, but will become a significant future revenue source for small to mid-sized wineries, according to Wine Intelligence.

The research company’s new report, US Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) January 2015, notes that DTC has four principal channels – tasting room sales, mail order, wine clubs and online retail – and netted US wineries $1.9bn in 2014 with 3.9m cases sold.

The main channel is winery visits, which Wine Intelligence estimates have led to 22.5m US wine buyers over the past six months; it is also the DTC channel where consumers are most likely to spend most per bottle, albeit they are likely to buy fewer bottles than in other DTC channels.

Despite different consumer demographics across the four different DTC channels, Wine Intelligence US country manager, Erica Donoho said there was still a significant overlap.

“On the whole…we are targeting a younger, affluent, engaged population of wine drinkers. They are very frequent wine drinkers who enjoy drinking a broad range of wine styles,”​ she wrote.

They are also more likely to be men and under 45 than the average US wine drinker.”

Heavy weighting towards men and under 45s

66% of people who recently bought wine via a wine store’s website are men, Donoho adds, while 81% are under-45, significantly higher proportions than are found within the total US wine drinking population.

Breaking out the statistics in more detail, Wine Intelligence reports (extrapolating the results of a survey of 2,010 regular US wine drinkers in October 2014 across the US wine drinking population of 90m) that 22.5m regular wine drinkers bought wine from a winery during a visit in the last six months.

14.4m ordered via mail or online, 12.6 ordered from a wine store’s website and 9.9m bought via a newspaper wine club or ‘similar’; in total these purchases account for 4% of total US wine sales.

Beyond the fact that DTC buyers are more likely to be male and under 45, and that obvious restrictions on “sizable growth”​ in these channels will depend on reform of the States’ three-tier distribution system, what else can Wine Intelligence tell us about similarities between DTC wine buyers?

Firstly that they are very frequent wine drinkers with above average incomes, who tend to be from the most involved wine drinker segments – ‘Experienced Explorers’ (higher spending affluent wine consumers) ‘Premium Brand Suburbans’ (younger, higher spending Millennials) or ‘Millennial Treaters’ (very frequent, brand savvy everyday wine drinkers).

Adventurous drinkers take the plunge, but will the rest follow?

They tend to be are adventurous drinkers who drink a range of varietals from a range of regions, countries and brands, Wine Intelligence adds.

DTC wine buyers are more likely to be married and to live with a partner and children at home, and, if they shop in one DTC channel, they’re more likely than standard US wine consumers to shop in other DTC channels.

Although winery visits are an important sales channel in DTC, Wine Intelligence cited a couple of missed opportunities here – less than a third of visitors join a given winery’s mailing list, and (perhaps more glaringly) two thirds would have liked to have tasted more wine during their visit.

Wine Intelligence said that discount vouchers for future wine purchases were a top motivator for repeat winery visits.

Turning to online sales, the research firm found that shoppers liked the convenience of this channel, but 25% of US wine drinkers cited shipping costs as a barrier to remote buying, while the inability to see the bottle before purchase was another disadvantage.

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