Easier, faster, more approachable wine? Border lockdowns? 2020 has been a year! What does it mean for you and the wine industry?
Let’s start with online delivery. Even in 2019, online sales made up a tiny fraction of wine delivery. Most people shopped at the supermarket, which obviously wasn’t a thing during the quarantine. That means that people had to order alcohol online. In fact, some online companies like Wine.com or Vivino reported crazy growth by like 300%! Overall, sales were up 22% from 2019-2020, which seems low, but in the past, we only saw about a 3% growth year over year.
Shopping for wine online did cause some friction, as many people are used to either buying the same brands from the supermarket or going to their local shop and talking to the wine specialist who can help them find what they want. It’s much much harder to navigate buying wine online, especially when someone isn’t there to guide you. Plus, shipping costs can be pretty high, as containers need to be temperature-controlled, and wine is heavy.
Nonetheless, most experts agree now that people have gotten used to buying wine online, it is going to stick around, although maybe not with the same crazy numbers that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
Virtual Tastings & Webinars
One of the biggest trends during the global pandemic was the rise of virtual tastings. It seemed like every sommelier, and every winery was jumping on IGTV and sharing a tasting. What’s crazy about this was that people really caught on as people have made these virtual happy hours part of their social life. This was a complete pivot with the traditional thinking that wine was so subjective that it could only be experienced in person. Some wineries even offered virtual tours of their wineries.
The struggle here is that it can be hard to get everyone the same wine (in comes online wine shopping again). But, when an expert is there to guide you, it can be a really fun and educational experience. It also means that more people can try your wine or feel an immersive experience with a winery without actually needing to travel there. Most companies that were adopting this during the pandemic seem to keep it on their schedule, even adding in webinars with wine experts. These are definitely here to stay for a while, as more people are celebrating this easy and inexpensive connection that they have with a wine expert online.
More Consumer Power
The effects of COVID on restaurants have been devastating. Many have closed, converted to takeout, or are operating at minimal capacity. Drinking “on-premise” or at a restaurant, hotel, or resort had become increasingly popular in the past decade, but for now, that is not really an option.
We all want restaurants to come back, but we also want wineries to survive too. Many had a distribution channel that focused on selling to restaurants who might buy in large quantities or help increase brand advocacy. Now, wineries who may not have focused on selling directly to the consumer have to pivot to keep sales up. This means that you, the wine buyer, may see opportunities to buy from harder-to-source wineries, or get better deals on direct-to-consumer pricing. For sure, selling directly to the customer is going to be much more prevalent soon, and like the other two trends, I think that we could see it stick around for years to come.
Wine is still shipping between borders and being delivered worldwide. In short, while people have been stuck at home, the wine industry has adapted to meet their needs. Now more than ever we need that connection with friends and family over a glass of wine!