I’ve seemed to have kicked up a little bit of a hornet’s nest with my post No, There’s Not an App For That — Winery Visit Rant.
You can read for yourself the responses in the comment section of the article. Additionally, some interesting points came up on the SpitBucket Facebook page as well as from Paul Mabray’s retweeting of the article. There are a few other Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook threads circling around with more. But these will give you the gist of things.
Admittedly, I was surprised at the responses because there was nothing out of the ordinary about my post or situation.
I’m a consumer wanting to give wineries my money.
I want to use technology that doesn’t require me to jump through hoops to facilitate that.
I had assumed that somewhere out in the world there was a happy medium of wineries who wanted my business and tech companies willing to help bring us together in exchange for getting some money themselves.
You know, capitalism.
Why is there is such a disconnect here?
The irony that this all sprang about while I was planning a trip to Napa and Sonoma is not lost on me. It’s almost like Fry and Laurie wrote a skit.
For the past couple of years, the industry has been buzzing about how tasting room visits to these areas are down. Now some of that has been blamed on the wildfires. But, of course, after acts of nature, the next natural culprit to all the ills of the industry are Millennials.
Oh, we are such a pain in the ass, aren’t we? Why don’t we make it easy and play by the same rules as everyone else?!?
How dare we kill off the traditional tasting room with our “immersion experiences,” yoga in the vineyard and picnic settings?
Yet, here I was, a millennial just looking for regular, plain-jane tasting room appointments.
I wasn’t asking for anything crazy. I have no desire to pack my yoga pants. Sure, picnics are lovely but so is enjoying an Impossible Burger at Gott’s or pretty much whatever Chef Cindy makes at Mustards.
The only thing I wanted was simply the same ease and convenience of scheduling winery appointments that I have booking restaurant and hotel reservations, flights, doctor and lawyer visits; ordering take-out, groceries, household items; purchasing movie and event tickets; checking my bank account, moving funds around, paying bills, etc. All the other things in my life that I can do at the touch of my phone.
I am not asking the wine industry to re-invent the wheel. I’m asking them to do the same thing that wine has been doing for thousands of years.
When wine was made only for local consumption, animal skin casks were fine. But then producers wanted to reach larger markets and more consumers. So they developed the amphora, then the barrel and eventually the bottle.
When snags in the supply chain between producers, merchants and consumers emerge, savvy winery owners as far back as the Pontacs of Haut-Brion in the 17th century saw the benefit of “direct-to-consumer sales” and going where their customers were.
When the telephone was invented, I’m sure some winery owners didn’t see the value in the expense of equipment or hiring someone to answer the phone.
We know what happened to those wineries. They eventually adapted or they perished.
What makes this any different?
In response to my last post, one common sentiment was that wineries already have a tough time handling social media. Online reservation systems are another obligation that wineries will struggle to maintain. That’s a very fair point. I’ve lamented many times the piss poor utilization of social media by wineries.
But the fact that the wine industry currently sucks at one thing is not justification for it to keep sucking at everything else. If anything, that should add to the red flags that the industry has a serious problem here.
However, the slow adoption of common technology is not just the wine industry’s folly. It also a reflection of the poor job that tech companies have done in demonstrating the value of their services to wineries.
Yes, wineries historically don’t like to spend money.
This was another common blowback I heard. I get it. It’s hard enough to squeeze extra dollars out for barrels and equipment upgrades–much less for point-of-sale, web and software services.
I also know that there are going to be owners who are overly complacent. Right now they don’t need technology to sell wines and bring visitors to their door. They’ve got the Boomers! They’re going to keep consuming wine and live forever, right?
But tell me. How many successful businesses have ever depended on the status quo….staying the status quo?
Wineries are businesses. They have problems that are in need of solutions. Sometimes they don’t realize they have a problem until they see sales and tasting room visits declining. Or maybe it takes hearing consumers like me complaining about how hard it is to give you our money before the light bulb finally goes on.
And then it goes back off because you can’t pay the electric bill.
This is where the solution providers need to step up. Tech companies, I’m talking to you.
Not only do you need to show wineries that they have a problem but you need to demonstrate your value and effectiveness in solving that problem. You can’t sit back and wait for consumers to get fed up at their needs not being met by your potential clients. Otherwise, the goose will be cooked before it even gets a chance to start laying those golden eggs.
Go and look at some of the feedback to my post.
It’s very clear that many wineries,
A.) Don’t realize they have a problem.
B.) Don’t see the value in the solutions currently being offered for those problems.
That’s not good.
While wineries might not want to spend money on tech now–each and every one of them is going to have to deal with the changing demographics of their consumers. They are going to have to deal with the reality of the world we live in.
Every winery is going to have face the same “inexorable imperative” that wine has dealt with numerous times before.
Adapt or Perish.