Field Notes from the DTC Wine Symposium and Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
02.12.2019  |  by Dave Dobrow

The start of the year is a busy time when it comes to learning about new trends in the wine industry. As a service to our clients and the industry at large, we present some quick notes on two large symposia that occurred recently: The 2019 DTC Wine Symposium and the 2019 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.

2019 DTC Wine Symposium (Recap)

The DTC Wine Symposium was, again, a sellout event, with more industry people there than ever before. What caught my eye was that there were multiple companies at the event who could be considered “tech players,” including ones offering POS and eCommerce software solutions. One certainly got the vibe that the next generation of technology for wine clubs had arrived and is competing for wineries’ attention.

As for us at Copper Peak, our booth had never been busier, and we enjoyed seeing clients and friends there, both old and new. We felt that our white-glove service, our craftsmanship fulfillment services, and our relationship management were all at the forefront.

Obviously, the SVB and Sovos/Wines & Vines reports were a huge topic of conversation, as they are benchmarks for where the industry is going. Some people were worried about sustained growth; others saw much opportunity in the market. For us, we felt that we had chosen well when we took a path of slower, controlled growth over the past few years. This has allowed us to further strengthen our relationships, provide stellar service even in the face of adversity, and maintain our ability to serve.

We also realized that we were right in thinking Generation X is still growing as a market, and one that wineries should not ignore. They are the new opportunity to grow market share, as much or even more than millennials are. (See our next post on why this is.)

A few other noteworthy announcements:

  • Compli announced that they were acquired by Avalara. We feel this will mean they will become a more competitive threat to Sovos/ShipCompliant.
  • The WISE Academy celebrated their 10th anniversary. Congratulations!
  • There were many new faces in the room this year, and we did not get to talk to all of them. If you are one of those people, feel free to reach out! We’d love to make a connection and talk shop with you.

Unified Wine & Grape Symposium

While the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is traditionally geared more toward production and farming/viniculture, we saw more and more DTC players showing up. There were packaging companies, POS solution providers, winery management software companies, carriers, and more. This says to me that, as the DTC channel has grown, Unified is catering more to the DTC crowd.

And that means that, even if your winery sends representatives to Unified already, it is worthwhile for one of those reps to be your club manager or DTC channel manager, too.

I also noticed more talk about specific topics in marketing and public relations, including one session on customer journey mapping and one on new marketing technologies. There was also a marketing exhibits tour, which was pretty exciting. (The entire 2019 program can be found here.)

So, whether you are an operations director, a wine club manager, a DTC channel manager, an owner, or anyone else with a stake in your winery, you should definitely be at next year’s Unified conference. It was really exciting to see all the new trends and technologies wineries are using today to produce better product and get it into the hands of fans and potential fans more quickly and easily.

If you would like to discuss what some of these trends are in more detail, feel free to peruse our blog or contact us.

Takeaways for wineries:

  1. DTC is growing, and the rest of the industry is taking notice. Wineries without a DTC channel should consider growing one, and those with a DTC channel will need to up their game.
  2. Technology is certainly playing a bigger role in wine-making, from drones that monitor soil for grape growing to eCommerce platforms and messaging apps for DTC wine clubs. It’s obvious that the wineries adopting newer technologies are gaining a competitive advantage!
  3. Wineries should also be paying attention to service and “the final mile” to improve the DTC experience.
  4. Although the industry had obsessively focused on millennials (and we admit that we were a part of this too), they are not yet opening their wallets the way that was predicted. A good medium-term strategy is to cater to the largely untapped Generation X market, which has more spending power and more appetite for wine.
  5. Even if the wine industry is facing some tougher times, there are many opportunities to be had. It’s an exciting time to be in wine!

Dave Dobrow and the Copper Peak Team