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Go direct and get ambassadors for your brand hears Wine Vision

Published:  21 November, 2013

Selling wine direct to the consumer is one of the best ways of creating brand ambassadors, according to the wine trade.

Speakers at Wine Vision held in London this week said although direct marketing makes good business sense and creates ambassadors, it's not always easy.

David Pearson, chief executive of Californian winery, Opus One, said it's important to strike a balance between selling to visitors and maintaining good relationships with distributors. He also said it's important not to "sell" wine to visitors and not to compete with distributors.

"It's not our job to sell wine - it's our job to share our story and passion for the lifestyle. Then we can be very confident that people will buy the wine," he told the conference.

Mike Ratcliffe, managing director of Warwick Wine Estates in South Africa, said that going direct makes good business sense. His Wine Club concept accounts for 22% of the company's business and he expects it to grow.

"Consumers buy into something bigger than just the wine," he said. "It's a good way to get clients closer."

Matthew Protti, chief executive of Black Square, which provides a direct-to-consumer wine ecommerce platform, said the direct route was gaining real traction.

"Direct-to-consumer wine growth is surging globally, with strikingly similar patterns everywhere," he said.  

"The key to success is offering consumers a brilliant user experience that's truly responsive to how they want to shop for, and buy, wine.  Wineries typically don't employ the right technology or business practices to reach consumers.  Done right, direct-to-consumer wine ecommerce is delightfully attractive to consumers, while building excellent brand value and profits for the wineries."

But Adrian Bridge, chief executive of the Fladgate Partnership in Portugal warned that it's important not to ignore traditional routes to market. He described the kinds of wines people want to buy direct are usually those on allocation. "They want the cherry on top of the cake, but we have to remember there is a whole cake underneath the cherry," said Bridge. He said it's important to support the rest of the portfolio across the supply chain.

Bridge said adding value is key when it comes to selling directly to consumers and he said turnover from food and wine pairings at the company's visitor centre in Porto is worth over 100,000 euros to the business. "This creates brand loyalty through good brand experience," he added. "We don't want to set ourselves up as competitors to retailers."

Ratcliffe said maintaining relationships with consumers through a direct channel means "new customers become brand ambassadors".

Robert Joseph of wine consultancy DoILikeIt said by going direct, wineries have the opportunity to build up close, loyal relationships with their customers which would be hard to replicate by going through traditional distribution channels.