For a non American, the three-tier system of wine distribution is very puzzling. But some wine professionals are now working on improving the system for the benefit of the consumers or at least suggesting some solutions.
First of all, what is the most important component of a marketing strategy for a wine brand? It is to be consumer centric. Every wine brand is in direct competition with the other 55,000 brands.
Then, next question, how to reach this consumer? For Paul, “DTT provides a healthy route to market for small brands or products. It acts as an incubator for brand building”. What is DTT? It means Direct to Trade Sales and refers to a sale made directly by a winery to a restaurant or wine merchant. Wholesalers feel threatened by this cut in the three-tier system. In fact, DTT provides, as Paul pointed out, a way for smaller brands to reach the end consumers, get awareness and then be in a position to push the sale. I’m not an expert on distribution but I’m convinced that the three-tier system has to open up to other routes. Wine brands need to be able to access the end consumers while not only reducing their costs but mostly by providing the end consumers with a brand at a fair price, especially now that Americans are cutting on their restaurants’ meals. It could be a great incentive for them.
DTC is a different story. Most wine drinkers buy a bottle to drink it within the next few hours. E-commerce or wine clubs are more dedicated to wine consumers who are ready to wait for a special brand, cellar it if necessary and let it age. E-commerce provides brands widely recognized by the consumers for their rarity, their price and/or their quality. Wineries clubs help the wineries build the loyalty of their customers and raise the brand awareness.
Paul’s suggestions are roads to be explored widely by wineries and brands. Too many wineries are not yet convinced that Internet is the best and the cheapest way to build awareness, reach potential consumers and interface with customers. Let the people talk between themselves, don’t be afraid of a bad review, get in the conversation, tweet, be on Facebook. But mostly listen to people: you’ll learn a lot on their expectations as consumers and you’ll be able to build a better service to them, answer their needs, cater to their wishes and be recognized as their favorite brand.