More than 300 customers, partners and industry luminaries joined us at this year’s ShipCompliant by Sovos annual Wine Summit in Napa. If you were there, you know it featured a rich exchange of ideas about how wineries can manage compliance and improve customer experience in the digital age. And if you missed it, here’s a glimpse of the event:
From wine tourism experiences to regulatory updates
Keynote speaker Robin Shaw, a specialist in wine tourism development and consultant for Wine Tourism Australia, emphasized the winery experience in the opening session. Robin worked for decades to help wineries improve their consumer experiences and grow their businesses. She showcased a number of standout wineries from around the world that have improved consumer experiences by establishing relaxed and friendly attitudes, installing unique and alluring artwork, providing kid-friendly or alternative entertainment options, and incorporating local environment and culture into tasting rooms.
One of the other highlights of the event was the regulators panel, where attendees heard directly from the agencies governing the wine industry. This year’s panel included Janelle Christian, industry outreach program manager with the TTB; Matthew Botting, general counsel for the California ABC; and Kelly Routt, director of administrative policy and process for the Oregon LCC. They discussed a range of issues affecting the wine industry, including how wineries may — and may not — interact with marijuana, what has been happening with recent trade practice enforcement; winery advertising restrictions and social media; and recent changes to wine labeling rules. The regulators stressed caution on emerging topics, like marijuana, while the rules are still developing.
Shipper success and sales tax in the DtC channel
We also announced the ShipCompliant Carrier Compliance portal. FedEx is the first to adopt this new tool, developed to help secure the DtC channel for wineries and carriers alike by managing shippers’ license information. FedEx speakers joined ShipCompliant by Sovos leaders to discuss the development of this solution, why FedEx took this approach, and what wineries and retailers can expect, whether they’re ShipCompliant customers or not.
More than 64 percent of the DtC channel goes to states that require carrier reporting. Without automation or proactive license checks, carriers risk non-compliance, and therefore, wineries are also at risk when delivering to those states.
ShipCompliant streamlines the required data sharing of licensing between FedEx and its shippers. For ShipCompliant clients, the change is minimal. They just need to add their FedEx account numbers to their ShipCompliant accounts. Wineries or retailers that are not using ShipCompliant can create an account in the new License Portal and input their DtC permit information, which is then immediately shared with FedEx. Gone are the days of mailing in copies of permits or lag times in deliveries due to permit review.
We also dove deeply into sales tax, which has long been a source of confusion and complexity. That ratcheted up in the last year, since the Supreme Court ruled in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states have freer rein to require out-of-state businesses to collect sales tax.
Chuck Maniace, Sovos vice president of regulatory analysis and design, explained that the impact of Wayfair has been less traumatic for wineries than it has been for the broader market of remote sellers.This is because DtC wine shippers have long been required to assume a sales tax liability in most states they ship to as a precondition of getting a DtC shipping license.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and Chuck highlighted states that have passed post-Wayfair rules that have changed things for DtC wine shippers. Colorado stands out largely because of how complicated the state’s sales tax regulations are, whereas California is notable as it has implemented a destination-based tax calculation system, meaning wineries shipping within the state must calculate and collect local taxes from many more locations.
Compliance, data and customer experience in the digital age
We hosted several panels focused on the critical issues wineries face in the digital age. For example, ShipCompliant Regulatory Counsel Alex Koral moderated a discussion involving Rebecca Stamey-White, partner at Hinman & Carmichael, and Sean O’Leary, president of O’Leary Legal and Policy Group. Together, they analyzed several major ongoing lawsuits, including Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass’n v. Thomas, which is pending a decision from the Supreme Court. They also provided an advocate’s perspective on the trade practice enforcement actions and the spate of new alternative distributor arrangements that have recently debuted.
They also ranged into the broader question of how suited beverage alcohol regulations are to the modern marketplace, as well as consumer expectations in a world of Amazon and Instagram.
Meanwhile, John Curnutt, revenue and systems specialist at Chateau Montelena, discussed the winery’s process for gathering, analyzing and acting on its data to glean business insights. Adrienne Stillman, marketing director at WineDirect, John Keleher, founder at Community Benchmark, and Andrew Adams, editor, Wines Vines Analytics shared tips on what data is available to wineries to help better understand their customers.
And building off the themes of our opening keynote, Zach Kamphuis from Commerce7, Juli Barron from Opus One and Adam Ivor from Gliding Eagle joined Curry Wilson, strategic partner manager for ShipCompliant, to discuss the most important customer experience tools for wineries to manage their websites, marketing and delivery. Conversation ranged from the importance of making the international channel feel welcome and important to a winery, both in person when they visit, to the need for fast websites, since more than half of potential customers will leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
The wrap up
In addition to lots of learning and networking opportunities, we hosted our first customer awards this year. The Vinners showcased the amazing work our customers have done and set the stage for our annual tradition: wine hour. Honorees included Wine Guerrilla, Del Dotto Vineyards, nakedwines.com and Messina Hof Winery.
We’d also like to thank our sponsors for making this year’s GCS Wine Summit possible:
- Wines Vines Analytics
- Gliding Eagle
- Copper Peak Logistics
- Pack n’ Ship Direct
- Astra Digital
And finally, thank you to Steve Gross, vice president, state relations at the Wine Institute, who helped close the day with his much-anticipated state of the DtC industry.
Our appreciation to all of you who attended. We’re already planning and anticipating next year’s event and hope to see you there.