Checking in with Alexis Traverso, Director of Digital Marketing, Delicato Family Wines
With total sales of more than 16 million cases per year and over a decade of sustained double-digit growth, Delicato Family Wines is the fifth-largest winery in America and the third-largest exporter of branded wine from the USA. Delicato is one of the fastest-growing wine companies in the U.S.—a family-owned winery with nearly a century of history farming grapes in California and crafting superior quality wines. Anchored by a long-term focus, the Indelicato family has infused their culture of integrity, hard work, and high standards into the fabric of the dynamic wine company they’ve built.
The company is organized into eight main areas:
- Finance and Administration
- Hospitality/Food Service
- Human Resources
- Supply Chain and Logistics
- Winemaking and Enology
- Winery Operations
Today’s interview focuses on the marketing side of Delicato’s business, and it’s interesting to note that they are currently advertising for four marketing positions—from brand management to e-commerce to consumer insights—key positions in all types of consumer products companies. We recently had a chance to talk with Alexis Traverso, Delicato’s Director of Digital Marketing. Here’s her take on the role of digital marketing.
Q: Alexis, thank you for talking with us today. Marketing in the wine industry is a fast-growing profession. Please tell us about your early days at Delicato and how your department has evolved.
A: I started at Delicato in 2015 as the company’s first employee dedicated to digital marketing. Digital marketing in the wine industry was in its infancy compared to today, and because I was a team of one, the scope of my responsibilities was broad by necessity. I was responsible personally for executing everything from website updates to mobile offers to text-to-win sweepstakes and, of course, social media management. Over the past seven years, there has been a pendulum shift in the wine industry’s digital business, fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a robust digital marketing program has become essential to success for a wine brand today. My department has grown to a team of five, focused on supporting the traditional “Digital 1.0” initiatives (digital advertising, social, websites, mobile marketing) as well as sales and trade-focused digital marketing and support.
Q: What exactly does a digital marketing professional in wine do on a day-to-day basis?
A: Goodness, no two days are the same! You jump from one meeting or project about a particular discipline in digital marketing (say, a review of a digital advertising campaign) to another (a discussion about our content syndication process) to another (a pitch from a new digital vendor or service). It keeps you on your toes because you always want to remain at the forefront of digital, but at the same time, the technology we use is rapidly changing—as are the regulations around how we can and cannot use these digital tools. Think about all the digital apps, websites, services, and mediums you use daily or hourly. My goal is to market our brands on as many of those channels as possible.
Q: That sounds interesting and also exciting! I’ll bet that you have had some out-of-the-box assignments and unexpected outcomes. Please share one of those with our readers.
A: The most significant “unexpected outcome” was the year 2020. Covid-19 brought a dramatic shift in alcohol e-commerce. Nielsen data showed that alcohol e-commerce sales dollars grew by 232% in 2020, with wine at 198% growth vs. 2019.* In many ways, the shift felt like a tidal wave, but we were well-positioned to take advantage of our consumers’ move to e-commerce in 2020. We started a transformative effort to align our business with e-commerce needs in late 2018. We were ready when our retailer and distributor partners were growing their digital wine aisles at the start of the pandemic and when consumers started to turn to curbside pickup and delivery for their groceries.
We focused on our product accuracy and upgrading the digital content, including bottle shots, videos, and product descriptions. And then, we invested in syndicating our content across a wide-scale retail e-commerce network and partnering with a leading content service provider.
We also focused on shopper marketing and syndicating consumer product reviews, which drives purchase intent. We had pre-existing and established relationships with leading marketplaces like Drizly and Instacart before 2020, so we could further market our products on these platforms as they grew dramatically during the pandemic.
I don’t think that anyone could have predicted what would happen in 2020, but at least we were prepared for it. Above is an example of what was posted on Delicato’s social media accounts during the height of the pandemic encouraging followers to order their wines via Drizly. This demonstrates the need to be nimble and agile with your digital media at all times.
Q: As you are hiring to expand your team (I see that there was recently a job opening for a Digital Marketing Manager), what special skills or experience are you looking for? What would make a candidate rise above the rest?
A: First and foremost, I am looking for someone with passion. I know that it sounds cliché, but you have to be passionate about what you are marketing, or it will appear inauthentic and canned. Consumers, especially tech-savvy ones, expect more from a brand, so you as a marketer must believe in and love what you are promoting. Aside from that, I look for someone who is not afraid to get their hands dirty and understand a system’s inner workings, the line of code, or the end-to-end development process. If a candidate has a background working in a startup environment, that’s always a plus for me. There is a sense of “hustle” and a need for individuals to take on many different roles and responsibilities with startups.
Q: Delicato is a very large company with multiple brands and locations yet many wineries are smaller producers. What is the difference in working with a Delicato vs. a small wine company?
A: I have worked in both environments and recommend that anyone interested in working in the wine industry try working for both a large and a small winery. I would say that a primary difference is that there are likely more resources available at a large wine company than at a smaller one. There may be more defined roles and responsibilities at a larger wine company, and a smaller producer may require you to wear many different hats. Both are fantastic and necessary for the wine business to succeed, and you can learn so much from your colleagues and leadership, no matter the winery’s size.
Q: How did you come to the wine industry? What’s your background and education?
A: I was fortunate to grow up in the wine industry in beautiful Sonoma County, California. My great-grandfather started a gourmet food and wine store in 1922, and we imported foods, wines, and liquors from Italy. In the 1970s, my father took over all of the wine buying for the store, started teaching Wine Sales & Marketing Courses at the Santa Rosa Junior College, and served as a professional wine judge. As a result, wine was always on the dinner table, and my siblings and I were taught at a young age how to appreciate it and “sell” it to consumers of varying knowledge levels and budgets.
I received a B.A. from UC Irvine and a Winery Business Management Certificate from Sonoma State University for my formal education.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in entering the industry in a marketing capacity?
A: Start in the cellar or in a tasting room. You must learn from the ground floor what it takes to make and sell wine, and then witness how consumers react to it. And never stop learning!
Thank you, Alexis!
*Source: NielsenIQ E-Commerce measurement powered by Rakuten intelligence: 53 weeks ending 12/31/2020 vs. previous (YAGO ending 12/31/2019).
NOTE: Delicato Family Wines is the first corporate sponsor of MajoringInWine.com and we will continue to feature interviews with its key team members across all areas of the company. Let us know if there’s a specific area you are most interested in learning more about. For an up-to-date listing of job opportunities, visit Delicato’s Careers web page.