How a DTC wine brand is finding first-party data in SMS

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Delivery wine brand Usual Wines has gotten the jump on first-party data by utilizing SMS and text messaging communication in its marketing strategy.

Since its founding in 2019, the direct-to-consumer wine brand has cultivated a two-way relationship with consumers, encouraging wine drinkers to directly ask the brand about everything from wine and cheese pairings to delivery status updates. The company began using text and SMS in 2019. But last year, it generated more than 20% of the brand’s revenue at that time via directly attributed orders, said Usual Wines CEO and co-founder Matt Dukes.

In turn, the brand is able to utilize what it learns from consumers to inform its marketing strategy, blog content and even product development, which most recently led to a new rosé.

Meaning: fans can tell them in real time if it’s something they’re interested in seeing.

“We were able to effectively validate the product even before building and selling it based on having that direct line of communication,” Dukes said.

Phone numbers, email addresses and website reviews are important for the brand as part of its two-fold effort to grow its consumer database and its community. The brand’s strategy is evolving as consumer privacy is getting new attention.

First-party data is becoming increasingly important as privacy regulation will likely continue as Google Chrome is expected to phase out third-party cookies. In turn, first-party data such as phone numbers and email addresses may become the industry’s golden children as it looks to replace cookies, as As Digiday previously reported.

For its strategy, the DTC brand focuses on live text via their Wine Hotline, where consumers can ask questions, and cart recovery, reminding consumers of items in their cart and nudge them to purchase. Outbound communication is a much smaller part of the brand’s strategy.

“We only text customers first when we drop new products or when we have member promos going on,” Dukes said in an email. “If anything, it’s an open forum for the consumer to reach out, and strike a real conversation with Usual.”

For some marketers, SMS and marketing can be daunting. But as technological advances democratize the platforms, marketers should move it out of the experimental media budget and incorporate it into their core strategies, according to Jamie Sutton, general manager at email and SMS marketing automation platform Omnisend.

“The ability to synch that first-party data with Google ads and Facebook ads is something a lot of people leave on the table,” said Sutton.

However, it’s a line that marketers must toe carefully, Sutton said. 

With saturation in the email marketing space, SMS and text messaged-based marketing could allow marketers to stand out from the competition. Transactional messaging (such as updates on an order) can be a good gateway to promotional messaging and data collection to inform marketing strategy and ad spend, he said.

“You’re slowly gaining the trust of that consumer,” Sutton said, discouraging marketers from gaming the system with constant communication. “You can’t treat this as a money maker.”

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Since launching in 2019, DTC wine brand Usual Wines has rooted itself in the digital space, with one third of its ad spend going to Facebook and Instagram, according to Dukes. The brand has a bit of a checks and balances system for its digital ad spend (although Dukes declined to share exact marketing figures) to ensure no one platform takes priority over another. 

Another third of the brand’s budget goes to earned media, emails and resources toward its blog. The final third is dedicated to paid search on Google, sponsored posts and influencer programs.

Currently, the brand is working to diversify its channels and is building content on the site blog.

Looking ahead, SMS technology will continue to become more accessible and consumers will be looking for seamless communication, Sutton predicts. That means more marketers may start to flock to the platform.

“If you don’t do it a year and a half from now, you’re not going to keep up with your consumers,” he said.

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