There’s good news and bad news about the way Covid-19 has impacted business around the globe since the world first felt its impacts earlier this year.
The bad news is that it has shaken work paradigms at their core, forcing companies large and small to restructure the way they operate or to face the prospect of shuttering their doors.
The good news, particularly for the wine industry, is that online sales have skyrocketed, proving that a strong customer base still exists if businesses are savvy enough to access it during these challenging times.
“With DTC (direct to consumer) there’s lots of potential to transferring from physical to online,” affirms Mario Dussurget, Senior Experience Manager at Newton Vineyard, located outside St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley. “What we all need to do is and what we are doing is transferring customers from the Visitor Center to other ways, other channels.”
Achieving that transfer may be trickier than it sounds.
Customers who have long relied on the tradition of visiting their favorite winery as a prerequisite for developing brand loyalty may require some convincing to shift into Zoom wine tasting experiences and online sales now that the landscape has changed.
The ticket, it appears, is to foster communication via phone, emails and other online formats in a way that maintains connection right in the customer’s own home.
“We refocused our communications strategy to reach customers where they are to be more relevant to them, while, of course, also providing seamless methods of delivering wine to their door,” confirms Alexandra Evans, Digital Experience Manager at Domaine Chandon in Napa. “Giving them flexibility has been really important … being empathetic (to the customer’s situation) is kind of a difficult thing to transfer digitally, but now it’s more valued than ever.”
“We’re trying to look now at what can be sustainable as a virtual experience,” adds Dussurget. “The big learning for us, if we are doing digital sales, we cannot reach out to people every time to sell them something. We need to talk about something else. Not just wine sales, but wine. We need to create content beyond transactional communication … we give them the opportunity to have the wine at home, enjoy the experience and to hear from us differently.”
Both Dussurget and Evans emphasize that technological readiness is essential to any possible success wineries can realize in this Covid-era climate.
“Performant CRM tools (we had already developed) made it easier to adapt fast to this crisis,” explains Dussurget. “We’re quite lucky we anticipated this transition and everything is complete. We’re not blocked by technology.”
“Given how reliant customers are for digital fulfillment, if you don’t have tools that are current, you’ll need exceptional brand loyalty for your customers to convert,” Evans points out. “If you’re able to make that funnel frictionless and more relevant to them, you’re more likely to secure the sale. Ideally, of course, you have both.
“If you want to grow, you need to understand that consumer expectations are changing … the tools that you used in 2012 or even 2015 might not be appropriate anymore … don’t underestimate how challenging (technological adaptation) can be. But you can do it. You need to do it and you can do it.”
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