I just returned from Verona, Italy for the Wine2Wine event. Organized by Stevie Kim it’s become the premiere European B2B wine industry event. I was so glad to see so many colleagues that I respect and adore: Alice Fiering, Rebecca Hopkins, wine thinker, Reka Haros, Elisabetta Tosi, Giampiero Nadali, Kristina Kelley, Steve Raye, Per Karlsson and Melissa Sutherland. I also got to meet some wine personalities that I have known online for years but never met in person: Felicity Carter, Sarah Abbott, Adam Teeter, and especially Cruz Liljegren (if you are looking to source wine from Europe — he’s your man).
And finally I made some incredible new friends Hayley Black (1/9 people to ever achieve the new Italian Wine Expert status IN THE WORLD), Ian Dai, Deborah Brenner, Gino Colangelo, Ian Ford (super cool guy), Kevin Gagnon (also super cool), Claire Hennessy, Logan Lee, Mike Madaio, Monty Waldin (hilarious and kind), and Paul Howard.
A few quick notes about the conference. It was well attended with great tracks. All speeches were 20 min and, in my humble opinion, some of the talks were too short and others, strangely, were too long despite the same amount of time. But overall every speech was engaging, interesting, and of great value. The Wine2Wine team rocked it and pulled it off flawlessly and graciously. I learned an Italian phrase which was, “in Italy nothing works but everything works out.” I would highly recommend the event in upcoming years.
Of course there was lots of conversations about the US market, digital and more but one company was spoken about more than any in the conference; Vivino. It was everywhere and everyone was trying to figure out how to capitalize on the burgeoning giant platform for wine drinkers. I think we’ve reached a turning point for wine + digital led by Vivino.
First I moderated three speeches (all about wine + digital) —
We started with Michael Madaio did a great job talking about the new age of wine apps from a consumers perspective. He particularly focused on the strengths and weaknesses of Delectable and Vivino. HIs speech here — https://www.facebook.com/wine2wine/videos/923679447807564/
Paul Howard followed explaining a complex and challenging subject of how Blockchain will help the wine industry. I actually think he did a great job and although he painted a utopian vision of Blockchain for wine, I know he’s working on an e-book for wineries that prescriptively help them use this cool new technology. His speech here — https://www.facebook.com/wine2wine/videos/923709421137900/.
Finalized by Adam Teeter who did a great job sharing how his company has become the top wine site online +. He also leaned in heavily to explain the use of native advertising and how it help wine companies get their message out in a crowded world. Super pleased to see his success and progress with VinePair and really looking to see how it continues to grow going forward. — His speech here: https://www.facebook.com/wine2wine/videos/923739981134844/.
I then did a quick chat about the Future of DTC in the US market. I quickly jumped through the Age of the Consumer and how, especially for DTC sales of wine, it is strongly coupled with the Experience Economy and the Subscription Economy. I warned of the four factors that could negatively affect winery DTC as the four horsemen of the apocalypse: market saturation w/o differentiation, retailer parity, Fakers not Makers (which will be my post tomorrow), and inaction leading to Digital Darwinism. The key to wineries success going forward will NOT be new technology, new schemes, or new wines. It will be how they map the customer journey, how they collect and understand a 360 degrees of a customer and how they segment customers for service, marketing, messaging and benefits. It will be the way they use technology to herald to times past where the customer was the center of the universe. The difference is that every customer is important, not every customer has the same importance and how to we facilitate treating them differently at scale. If you want more than the Cliff Notes you can watch for yourself here — https://www.facebook.com/wine2wine/videos/923903147785194/.
I then had the opportunity to close down the conference as the final speaker. My topic was Digital Catalysts in the wine industry and in only a short 20 minutes I attempted to run through all tiers of the wine industry. My speech has a few overlaps with Steve Raye so I avoided going too deep and hoped that my reiteration of the topics would impress the value of these companies. A quick outline of the catalysts:
- Using big data featuring Emetry.io* and Enolytics. I find this one of the most fascinating new areas for wineries since we are so obfuscated from knowing consumer insights due to the three-tier system. I am VERY passionate about the possibilities for our industry to finally participate in deep data driven decisions.
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) — digital tools used to help catalyze e-commerce sales from the fear of missing out.
- Retargeting — all those ads that follow you around, yeah, wineries are FINALLY starting to use them.
- Social CRM/Customer 360 degree view — While this is going to be big, wineries still haven’t found the right systems or leaders to fully capitalize on the opportunity. But when we emerge the possibilities for customer understanding, micro-segmentation and more will open up the DTC world to unbelievable opportunities and customer satisfaction. Sadly that will only happen when wineries realize that CRM is not a tool, it is a culture.
- VR/AR — 19 Crimes really did a great job showing the wine industry is could be better. One of the first really innovative digital campaigns from a winery in years.
With 200,000 brands trying to get through 5–10 important wholesalers in the US we know the system is utterly broken. I don’t care about the WSWA rhetoric, the reality is that wines no longer have a frictionless access to market. Hell, most don’t have a snowballs chance in hell to get to market. Now we can debate whether some deserve that chance but regardless, this type of market pressure needs innovative disruptions and digital tools to help companies get noticed in the endless competition.
- LibDib — I am a HUGE fan of LibDib. As the first boot on the ground to help build DTT (Direct to Trade) I know how important and how hard it is to create a new marketplace that allows wineries the much needed market access. LibDib is doing that in two states and for International wineries, this is nothing short of amazing. The big question will be how brands create sales and marketing tools to help retailers/restauranteurs find them on LibDib and/or will there be a new industry of feet on the street that will help brands using this model.
- BevMedia and SevenFiftyGroup— These both are key methods to help wholesalers get your story to retailers and restauranteurs. This is one of those rare instances where I think the incumbent might have the advantage. I didn’t dig too deep into these two platforms because they had just been covered in Steve’s presentation.
Not a lot to share here since this area has been fairly stagnant for over a decade. I had to cut home delivery services like Drizly + due to time.
- Wine.com (and Winelibrary.com, etc, etc, etc) — these are great sites not only as sales channels, but as marketing venues. This is something that the smartest wineries need to understand. Big ONLINE retailers have more value than just inventory depletion. As the great guys from WineAwesomeness.com.
- WTSO (Winestillsoldout.com) — Flash sales sites are great vehicles to move lazy inventory but equally to get your wine into people’s mouths. The concept that they degrade brand integrity is an absurdity and the wine I use as an example is 1 of 1000’s per year that prove that point.
- Fakers not Makers — Again, I reiterated this topic because it is something that continues to press at the integrity of our industry. Again, something for tomorrow’s post.
- Vivino — Their marketplace is very new and in a very short time they have moved into the top 10 of digital wine sales. It will be interesting to continue to watch them evolve.
- Delectable — WholeFoods365 has done an interesting experiment with them adding them into the 365 stores as a kiosk to help with wine selections. More retailers should emulate doing this with them or other platforms.
- New Media Sites — I really featured sites like VinePair, Eater, Punch as the new place where consumers get their wine content. These new digital first zines are really putting out great content but almost more importantly, they are leveraging digital distribution to spread their message long and far.
- Don’t Discount the Bloggers — While we have had a decline in the total number of bloggers, the cream has risen to the top and provide valuable recommendations and stories to wine consumers. Shout out to both Alder Yarrow & Hawk Wakawaka in my speech.
- The Crowd but Especially Vivino — The crowd has become the new critic (although I prefer a blend or crowd/critic ratings like Rotten Tomatoes) but Vivino is TRULY changing consumer behavior AT THE POINT OF PURCHASE. I really pointed this out in my Opus One example
I doled out some good tips, some old anecdotes, a classic use cases and some things I hope that the Vivino team will build to facilitate winery’s use of their platform. In the end though we are fortunate to live in a new era of so many new and innovative opportunities to affect wine sales at every point in the chain. I have never been more excited about the possibilities for wineries as we head into 2018.
*Disclosure, I am on the BOD of Emetry.io.