By now, I’m sure a lot of folks have heard about the viral video of two brothers reacting to hearing Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ for the first time. If Tim and Fred Williams want to continue their tour of 80s hits, one song that the wine industry could certainly use a blast from the past of is Lionel Richie’s 1983 classic ‘Hello (Is it Me You’re Looking For?)‘.
That’s because as we stare into a future of more consumers beginning their buying journeys with online searches, many wineries have no clue of how to win the hearts (& wallets) of those consumers.
Even before COVID, a new Wall of Wine was being built that wineries needed to adapt for. But it’s not what we find in brick and mortar settings. It’s the changing way that consumers approach shopping for products to buy–as well as places to travel and visit.
Sleep on Search and Digital at your own peril.
Smartphones have changed the way we live and think about everything. Having a world of knowledge at our fingertips has fundamentally reprioritized how we approach information–what’s important to remember vs. what we can search for on the fly. And while, as a wine geek, I hate to admit this, for a lot of consumers, “wine knowledge” is pretty low on the totem pole of things worth remembering.
Wine Intelligence has noted this trend for some time but points out that this, interestingly, coincides with greater overall consumer confidence in buying wine.
Because a consumer doesn’t need to fret about knowing the difference between Pinot noir in Burgundy compared to Oregon when all they need to do is Google it. The answer is right there–or at least an answer good enough to satisfy their query. While “serious wine people” may quibble at things like Wikipedia and Wine Folly being top results, regular consumers sure don’t. This is the future, so we need to be paying attention to it.
Think of how many wine sales begin with a question. What’s a good Napa Cab to give as a gift? Are there vegan-friendly wines? What’s the best wine to have with chicken marsala? Even at restaurants or wine shops, consumers are just as likely to Google the answer as they are to ask a sommelier or steward. Maybe even more so.
Now think of how many wine sales are missed by wineries not evening trying to be the answer to those questions.
Do you have a spot on the digital Wall of Wine?
Come on, Lionel! People are searching. Are they finding you?
Don’t just Google yourself. Google what you do, what you make and where you are. Think of questions that consumers might ask that could lead them to you. Take a look at this search for California Zinfandel.
The wineries mentioned in first page results (particularly in the very click-coaxing starred articles) definitely have a shelf spot on the digital Wall of Wine. But even if you’re not showing up in results for a high-value search term like “California Zinfandel,” hope is not lost. You could still show up on the first (maybe second) page of results for things like spicy Zins, Zinfandels that aren’t sweet, bold Zins, sustainable Zinfandels, Cheap Zins that don’t taste cheap, etc. While you may not be at prime “eye-level” placement on the digital shelf, finding yourself at least somewhere is better than not being stocked at all.
And don’t forget to check out YouTube as well. More and more people are incorporating video search in their buying journeys. This is an area that is only going to continue to grow–especially with the integration of voice search and smart TVs into our lives.
The importance of this extends far beyond just online shopping.
Even if you don’t want to bother with that “digital stuff,” the digital stuff is certainly going to bother you if your winery is built around tourism and tasting room visits. It’s very likely that one of the long-term impacts of COVID (as well as growing concern about the carbon footprint of traveling) means that folks are going to be more selective about where they go. If people are traveling less, they’re going to be researching more to make those fewer trips really count. And where do you think they’re going to be doing this research?
Picture a Zin-loving consumer at home, sitting on their couch, thinking about taking a trip to Sonoma. They turn on their smart tv, go to YouTube and start researching “Wineries with old vine Zin in Sonoma.” What are they going to find? Is it you they’re looking for?
Do you remember me talking about wineries needing to think BIG about Virtual Tastings and Online Wine Events?
Folks, it was never about selling tasting packs as a short term revenue gap. It was never about trying to replace tasting rooms or just making due until things “got back to normal”. The wineries that took that approach are no better off today than they were before lockdown.
The wine businesses that hit home runs as virtual wine events were taking off were the ones that realized the value in the content they were producing. Content that shows up on searches.
In the last few months, hours upon hours of new wine content have been added to the digital Wall of Wine. And it’s still coming as wineries, wine shops, influencers and educators find more ways to leverage these digital tools. Some of it’s great with strong keywords (not ‘Virtual Tasting May 14th with the Winemaker’ stuff) and captions containing more relevant search terms. Some are pretty blah, showing the half-hearted effort and short-term thinking of the people behind them.
The really savvy folks find ways to use the content from an online event in multiple ways.
Maybe that involves partnering with a digital marketing firm to add a professional flair and slice it up into easily digestible 2 to 4-minute nuggets like what Pour Agency and Outshinery do with their productions. These could be uploaded to places like YouTube and Vimeo where they’re prime to show up on consumer searches–giving you more opportunities to reach consumers.
Plus, don’t forget winery websites (many of which could use some love and touch up). Think about how much more alive and humanized a product detail page could be with a short video clip of the winemaker talking to real people about the wine at a virtual tasting.
Heck, I’m sure that even the most blasé virtual tasting or Instagram Live has at least two to three sound-bite moments. Why not mine these for 20 to 40-second clips that could be used on social media? Lord knows that wineries are never short in need of fresh SM content.
The digital Wall of Wine is only going to get more crowded.
If there is any lesson to be learned from COVID, it’s about how tenuous the old marketing playbook can be. It all works great, up until the point that it doesn’t. Tasting rooms, restaurant sales, they can all be gone in a snap. And retail is certainly not going to get any easier.
With DtC sales the lifeblood of many wineries, it’s never been more critical to keep the blood pumping. It’s not enough to rely on impulse and influence to make a sale. You have to cultivate intent.
Your consumers are already searching for their next bottle to buy or tasting room to visit. Is it you they’re searching for?
And, most importantly, is it you they’re going to find?