April 23, 2020

Wash Down: Digital Wine Sales, a COVID inconvenience or a disruption here to stay?

By Angela Oemcke

With the ever changing landscape resulting from the COVID19 pandemic there has been a plethora of content around what this social distancing means for our Wine Industry. One of the articles that really stood out the team at Cellr was one that Abbe Hyde, the Co-founder @Winely, wrote with the subject “Virtual winemaking: a COVID inconvenience or a disruption here to stay?” 

We encourage you to give it a read here.

The reason Abbe’s piece stood out to us is because it highlights the fact that the wine industry has long deferred the digital disruption that other industries embraced (whether by force or necessity) long ago. 

As with the necessity to virtualise winemaking as social distancing laws took full effect mid  Vintage 2020, wineries have also had to digitally pivot their approach to sales as cellar door closures were enforced. This resulted in wineries scrambling to create new Direct to Consumer (DTC) engagement channels entirely to direct consumers to their online stores.  

This is because most wineries focussed all their attention on their Cellar Door for DTC and revenue, and failed to diversify their DTC channels other than through their wine club mailing lists. However, for wineries even the customer lists for these digital DTC channels tend to be built on the back of cellar door visitation. The result being that as their direct sales through visitation decline, wineries have to create ways to engage with customers offsite. 

Imagine being able to connect with consumers globally from the comfort of your winery? For years other industries have been establishing DTC channels through combinations of online and offline mediums to connect with customers outside their stores. This is because multiple points of contact with consumers in the market increases revenues, brand exposure and also in-store visits. 

With current events we are now seeing wineries jump to their social media channels, dabble in online advertising and even create content (virtual tastings, bogs etc.) to successfully drive online sales. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, with more tech emerging and endless digital channels to explore your next wine buyer is essentially a click away. 

As with the wineries adopting technology to make their cellar door experience accessible to anyone online through virtual tastings, wineries can continue to utilise modern innovations to create experiences at any point. Why not engage with customers buying your wine in a bottle shop or at a restaurant? Beyond running competitions, events or collaborations to connect with people in the real world market wineries also have technology at their disposal to make these digital experiences too. With NFC packaging, like what we do at Cellr, producers could directly connect with customers looking at their wine in any way they want. Imagine a customer being able to tap their phone over your wine bottle and being sent a video message from a winemaker? Or even being notified that they have won a competition?

True DTC allows wineries to access consumers in other markets that might not know their brand, or are geographically unable to access the cellar door experience wineries used to rely on. It also has the effect of enhancing existing consumer engagement channels, such as increasing visitation. We imagine that the Cellar Door will continue to be the DTC channel of choice  for wineries as it is undoubtedly a fantastic way to create a customer experience, but we expect to see wineries branching out to find other DTC channels to connect with consumers in the market. 

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