I recently had the opportunity to interview Julien Miquel, the founder of internationally acclaimed wine blog Social Vignerons. Here he gives us some insight and his point of view on the fascinating world of wine apps and e-commerce in the wine industry.
This interview was made for the Wine App Research Project, led by Gerard Spatafora and undertaken by the international MBA team at Bordeaux's Wine Institute of INSEEC Business School. This study aims at creating a white paper on wine apps and e-commerce in the wine industry.
Q- When did you first get the idea of starting Social Vignerons and how did it change since its creation?A-Early 2014. While living in New Zealand in a job that was getting too narrow for me, I needed an outlet to share my passion for wine and knowledge with the rest of the world. So I started to build the website and launched Social Vignerons in December 2014. From a blogging hobby, it’s become a lifestyle, sharing wine content and passion every day on social media and other digital platforms. It’s also on its way to become a viable business, helping wine producers share their story through digital marketing and quality content.
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Q-Do you think that in the following years e-commerce will challenge the traditional way of buying wines in a shop or supermarket?
A-Of course. Online wine sales have been growing for nearly twenty years now, and everyone can see how e-commerce is disrupting many industries, one after the other. It is happening now for wine too, slowly but surely. All sorts of products are being bought online nowadays. It is simply a more convenient way of shopping and saves everyone’s number 1 asset in life: time. So virtually, and practically, the web is the best place to select your next bottle of wine. The only downside is that you cannot try it beforehand. But most places that sell wine do not offer you to taste the wine before you’ve paid for it either!
Q-What do you think could be the reasons behind the recent boom in on-line sales of wines?A- The online platforms that make the effort of offering a good wine selection and give useful information about the wines (such as good online wine merchants, or wine apps with a solid community of tasters) provide more value to the consumer that most wine shops. Prices are often competitive as well because online wine merchants sometimes have the advantage of volume AND they carefully observe the markets with tools such as wine-searcher, making sure to be competitive. Better service + good price = growth.
Wine E-CommercePhoto Credit: WineNews.
Q- Is there more consumers' confidence now towards shipping of wines and on-line purchasing?A- Of course, as consumers are getting used to ordering more online with quality customer service, buying wine through the web becomes more and more natural. This has also gone together with the wine’s quality getting very significantly more consistent over the past 20 years since Google has changed our lives. Hardly do you ever pick a bottle of wine today only to find out that it is very badly made and tastes awful! Shipping is most generally not a problem, outside of hot summer periods. Serious online wine merchants don’t ship in the heart of summer without taking the appropriate precautions.
Q- Do you see the expansion of platforms as Ebay and Amazon in the wine trade as a positive development for the wine industry?A- For the industry as a whole, I am not sure! Disruptivity means a few middle-man’s jobs will be lost, in distribution, sales, and retail. But more direct-to-consumer sales would mean that producers would get a better margin on their sales, which would in turn allow them to invest more and quicker in their production methods, therefore improve further the quality of their wines. Eventually, consumers would get better wines. If consumers AND producers are happier, I would consider this as “a positive development for the wine industry’. That said, Ebay and Amazon specifically are here to help and serve consumers access products at better prices, but they will not necessarily help producers as well in the process! What they do allow though, is the development of more niche markets. And a big part of the wine industry is a market of niches.
Amazon Wine CommercialPhoto credit: CNET.
Q- What sort of changes might they bring to the wine trade?A-They may allow more wine producers to sell more wine themselves, directly to consumers. The wineries that will combine these new platforms of distribution with good digital marketing strategies may win markets.
Q- Can Ebay and Amazon correctly inform the consumers about the complexity of the wines and terroir?A- Honestly, I don’t think they can. Many other platforms such as quality websites that have accumulated information and data for many years, or some good wine apps, are much more advanced in this process. Ebay and Amazon specifically will never catch up, and it would be too costly for them to do so. I don’t think it will make much business sense for them to invest in building wine content in the short term. As we know, a big part of their model relies on affiliation rather.
Ebay Wine ShopPhoto credit: Business Insider.
Q- Do you think that apps as Vivino could play a major role in influencing consumers’ decisions when purchasing wines?A-Yes, absolutely. My feeling is that we are only starting to see this. I think Vivino has just very recently started to have accumulated enough quality data, a big-enough user base, and enough consumer reviews about enough wines for everyone to start seeing the value it can bring to consumers. The amount of consumer review data available in Vivino is truly outstanding. As more and more people realize you can actually rely reasonably safely on a large community’s opinion to select your wine, more and more consumers will do. But making this information visible and standout on a crowded market takes time. SEO (Search Engine Optimization --Ed.) will play a big part in it. And SEO takes time. Not many wine apps will win at this game.
Vivino: The Leading App on Tracking WinesPhoto credit: Xda Developers.