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  • The challenges of selling wine online
  • The challenges of selling wine online
The latest edition of ImaginextRioja’s in Logroño focused on selling wine online. Photo credits: Amaya Cervera and Diario La Rioja.

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The challenges of selling wine online

Amaya Cervera | February 28th, 2016

As news broke last week that Jack Ma, owner of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and one of the richest men on earth, had purchased Château de Sours in Bordeaux, wine professionals in Rioja listened how to sell wine on Ma’s giant online site, the world’s fastest growing online shopping market.

The 2016 edition of the wine and technology encounter ImaginextRioja hosted by local newspaper Diario La Rioja focused on selling wine online.

China, the leading e-commerce market 

Fernando Aparicio talked about the extensive opportunities offered by the mammoth B2B (Business to Business) digital market created by Alibaba in Asia and its sister sites — Tmall, which is aimed at consumers (B2C) and requires a trade licence to operate in China, and Taobao, a retail website where sellers can be based overseas.

With just half the population having Internet access, the Chinese online market overtook the US in 2013, with 400m buyers compared to 330m in Europe and 15m in Spain, according to data provided by Aparicio, who highlighted the increasing number of online purchases in China done through social media. Alibaba’s executive tales about the new value chain where producers and distributors compete with each other and provided the example of a software and computer supplier who also sold wine on Alibaba.

Wine experts vs digital experts

Amazon Spain, the country’s leading online retailer since 2013, launched its food department in 2014 with roughly 4,000 wines on offer. The company boasts about its consumers’ rewarding online shopping experience worldwide, which stands as the perfect hook to lure consumers onto new product categories. Premium services like Prime Now allow members across many US and European cities to receive deliveries in either two hours or one hour for an extra charge, a service which is not available in Spain yet. It seems an appealing way to enjoy wine whenever you feel like without having to stock it or plan in advance.

What will consumers look for in the future —the rewarding online shopping experience or the wine specialist? Lucas Llaurado, deputy manager at online wine merchant Vinissimus (7,500 wines on offer in 2015 of which 4,500 were Spanish) talked about the strengths and weaknesses of Spanin’s online wine retailers, from large players like Amazon to traditional wine shops managing their own online store, supermarkets, wine clubs or wine producers selling wine on their websites. 

According to Llaurado, Spain’s online wine market is worth between €20 to €40 million and could reach €70 million. The key point, he says, is to ensure the best possible shopping experience.

Wine loves smartphones and social networks

José Luis Pulpón, Google country head for Spain & Portugal, confirmed the significant increase in wine-related searches, particularly on smartphones (+45%) against other devices (+9% for desktops and tablets) and the huge potential of wine purchases via mobile phones —people check their smartphones up to 150 times a day!

Obviously, changes in consumer habits and the way they interact with their environment are likely to have an impact on almost all sectors of activity. Former winemaker at Toro’s Burdingala and Campo Elíseo and wine team manager at winesearcher.com Julien Miquel started his own blog Social Vignerons and has gained an important  presence in social media. In his intervention via Skype Miquel talked about the social web, where websites and social media are all one.  

Julien encouraged producers to consider “what consumers want to hear” and to offer them frequent, consistent, clear messages that lead to a conversation, but he insisted that the presence on social media should be part of a global communication strategy.

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