Retention Pays Off Big in DtC Wine Shipping

February 16, 2022

andrew adams wine vine analytics headshotBy Andrew Adams, Editor, Wine Analytics Report

This year’s annual Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report featured an additional set of data to help put the past two years of unprecedented winery shipment growth in context. Since the surge of shipment volume in March and April 2020, there has been sustained interest in trying to understand just how much of the increase in DtC shipping can be attributed to new consumers.

Based on internal Sovos ShipCompliant data on consumers who purchase for the first time from one of the company’s winery clients, these new buyers did have a larger than normal impact in 2020, but it was balanced out in 2021 as the channel reverted to a fairly pre-pandemic normal.

In 2019, the share of first-time buyers of all purchases was at nearly 56%. In 2020, that share jumped to 65%, yet by the end of 2021 it had fallen back to 57%. While the data relate only to Sovos ShipCompliant clients and not the entire DtC channel, these figures confirm that some of the DtC surge in 2020 was a short-term effect of the early months of the pandemic.

chart of first time buyers share dtc wine shipping

The plunge in average bottle prices in 2020, therefore, may have partly been fueled by these new shoppers who were buying at prices similar to what they were used to in grocery stores, but it’s more likely to have been from winery discounts and volume incentives (nearly-free shipping on six-packs or full-case orders, for example). Another factor was the uncertainty of what the pandemic would bring. As the pandemic began, many regular DtC consumers likely held back on buying pricier wines or deferred club shipments as they waited to see how their lives and household budgets would be impacted.

By the summer of 2020, consumers had found a new routine of working from home when it became clear that the pandemic would be for the long haul. However, it did not bring as much economic disruption as initially feared, so the average bottle price began to recover.

Throughout the past two years, wineries have consistently reported that their best DtC sales have come from existing customers rather than chasing new ones. Those new consumers remain vital to grow a program as well as offset member churn, but the Sovos ShipCompliant data provide some indication on the rewards of maintaining customer loyalty.

chart of orders per buyer over time dtc wine shipping

According to Sovos ShipCompliant’s analysis of the first-time buyer data, new customers will typically make around two orders per year. In 2019, the orders per new customer averaged 1.7, but in 2020 this metric jumped to 1.9, and the order rate remained at that level for first-time buyers in 2021.

If a winery can hang onto those consumers, however, the orders and order volume can increase dramatically. Sovos ShipCompliant’s analysis found that a new customer in 2020 bought 0.9 cases but purchased 1.9 in 2021. Maintaining a relationship for even longer pays off even more. A first-time buyer in 2010 was making around four orders by 2021, which accounted for 2.5 cases.

chart of cases per buyer over time dtc wine shipping

There are a wealth of new digital marketing strategies and techniques available to wineries to help them secure new customers, but using that same outreach to keep your most loyal consumers engaged could yield even better returns or balance marketing dollars spent trying to acquire new ones.

The behavior of established DtC consumers also shows the value of customer recommendations. Part of the reason why virtual tastings are likely to remain a key sales tactic this year and beyond is they help wineries leverage their existing customers by having them host virtual tastings in their homes. One assumes a new consumer brought in by a loyal one is likely to show the same purchasing patterns.

Andrew Adams is the editor of the Wine Analytics Report and a regular contributor to Wine Business Monthly magazine. Adams grew up in the city of Sonoma, Calif., and graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. In addition to working at daily newspapers for more than a decade, Adams worked for more than two years (three harvests) in the cellar and lab at a winery in Napa Valley.

Sign up for Email Updates

Stay up to date with the latest tax and compliance updates that may impact your business.



Sovos was built to solve the complexities of the digital transformation of tax, with complete, connected offerings for tax determination, continuous transaction controls, tax reporting and more. Sovos customers include half the Fortune 500, as well as businesses of every size operating in more than 70 countries. The company’s SaaS products and proprietary Sovos S1 Platform integrate with a wide variety of business applications and government compliance processes. Sovos has employees throughout the Americas and Europe, and is owned by Hg and TA Associates.
Share This Post

North America Sales & Use Tax
June 1, 2023
3 Things to Remember if You Get a Sales Tax Notice

Have you ever received a sales tax notice from a state department of revenue? Whether you answered yes or no, there are important things to keep top of mind to help keep your business prepared. Finding out that you have failed to comply with one or more of your sales tax obligations can be startling. […]

North America Unclaimed Property
May 30, 2023
How to Set Up a Successful Unclaimed Property Program

Unclaimed property compliance can be difficult and overwhelming. Clients often ask what they should be doing to ensure they are compliant with the various laws and regulations. It isn’t easy, especially if you have multiple property types such as checks, credits or customer accounts that have the potential to become unclaimed property in multiple states. […]

North America ShipCompliant
May 30, 2023
How Hold At Locations Improve Your Customers’ Wine Delivery Experience

Direct-to-consumer shipping wine lovers enjoy the convenience of having their favorite vinos shipped to their front door. But what happens when, for whatever reason, they aren’t available to accept their wine deliveries? Whether they aren’t available during the day or they don’t have someone 21 or older available to sign for their package, these challenges […]

North America Sales & Use Tax
May 30, 2023
Identifying Sales Tax Liabilities and Why They Matter

By Steve Claflin, CLA It’s incredible that it has now been five years since the landmark Wayfair decision. It seems like just yesterday we were reading the case, alerting clients and tracking the ever-developing state guidance. Unfortunately, many companies still are not familiar with their sales tax filing obligations caused by economic nexus, or they […]

North America ShipCompliant
May 25, 2023
Out-of-State Breweries Gain Self Distribution, DtC Rights in Oregon

Under a settlement agreement, breweries located outside of Oregon now have more options for selling into the Beaver State, including direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping and self-distribution to retailers. The settlement arose out of a lawsuit filed by a group of Washington breweries last year challenging Oregon laws that limited beer self-distribution to in-state breweries and DtC […]