Robert Joseph on wine tourism

This post is part of a series of posts about le Vin 2.0 2011 where Robert Joseph presented on the topic of wine tourism and consumer psychology.

Wine Tourism

Oenotourism is the other big subject Robert Joseph tackled. The presentation was similar to the one Vitisphere reported on in October. And it definitely falls in line with some of the wine tourism concepts I wrote about earlier this year. The gist of the presentation is that we have to change a lot of things in the wine tourism business. But really it’s a big sprawling topic so you might want to look through the slides embedded below:

Here are some random observations I’d like to make:

There are people who want to visit vineyards even though they’re not obsessed with wine.  Wine tourism is supposed to be entertainment.  I agree with all of this and talk about it a lot (most recently in the conclusion of my five minute story at the EWBC).  Visiting a winery should not be a task. It should be fun and entertaining.  It can also be educational and informative, but those are all secondary to the entertainment.  And then he does a semantic analysis of trip advisor reviews (again, I’m getting deja vu here as I just did this type of analysis with the O’Vineyards tripadvisor reviews this year)

Although he also argues that wineries should have pools and movie theaters and daycares and all kinds of peripheral activities.  I think this is smart, but it’s also important to note that not every winery will do all of this.  It’s up to each winemaker to figure out how to intelligently expand their tourism offer without overstretching themselves or falling into a job they don’t actually want to do.

Slide 17 is hilarious/tragic… 99% of Napa wine producers find tourism to be financially viable while 60% of Florentines do not find it financially viable even though the average shopping cart size is actually smaller in Napa (according to this study).  Is this because there are far more visitors at a time in Napa?  Or are Italians/Europeans/Mediterraneans just predisposed to being unhappy about our tourism activity? ;D

The question of merchandise is also raised.  Here too I wholeheartedly agree with Robert.  My parents and I really make a lot of sacrifices to create delicious, unique, life-altering wines and we sometimes make pennies per bottle.  On the other hand, I can buy glassware, corkscrews and hoodies with our logo or Carcassonne written on them and sell those at 400% markup.  It’s absurd, but I make more money selling a bar of soap with my logo (ordered online) than on the bottle of wine that I spent three years on.  And this is a point of contention.  Some people say that a winemaker exists to sell wine, not to sell soap.  I’m not sure, but I think a winemaker exists to make wine.  If I have to sell soap to subsidize my wine sales, then I will sell soap.  It’s what I have to do to make wine.  And I don’t want to imagine a world where I’m not making wine.  So sell soap.

Joseph also cites this article about tasting room sales and it’s pretty interesting.

I don’t really have a well organized mailing list (which is terrible of me. it’s one of the things I need to change in 2012) or any wine club (something I might change).  This was a big topic and I am ashamed at the end of it. :-/

Then he also talked about the R&D potential of visitors at the vineyard.  Why not ask your visitors to try new blends and see if they like it.  Test out ideas on your tourists because they are your final market.  This sparked some controversy in the talks afterwards as many winemakers find it unthinkable that you would make a wine to cater to the public (essentially to the lowest common denominator the way record labels pick singles to go on the radio).  At this extreme, you end up with bland, inoffensive wines that nobody hates (and nobody loves) that can appeal to all markets.  But that is an extreme.  If you actually have a steady flow of tourists, you can draw information from them and choose to use it or ignore it the same way you would use an oenologist or winemaking consultant.  Furthermore, I’d argue that my tourists are not the same as a random sample from the  global population.  People who visit my vineyard tend to be a little like me, weird sense of humor, interested in learning, like a large range of different wine styles, and so on.  Taking their opinions into count is not the same as trying to cater to everybody.

Sorry this post is so rambly.  Hard act to follow.

This post is part of a series of posts about le Vin 2.0 2011 where Robert Joseph presented on the topic of wine tourism and consumer psychology.

Robert Joseph at le vin 2.0

Robert Joseph at le vin 2.0

Consumer Psychology

Robert Joseph started with a 2 minute biography of himself and then made a funny point. So far, 2 minutes about him and 0 minutes about wine drinkers. How typical of the wine industry! The rest of his presentation focused on consumers, their habits, and what they want in wine.

A large point he made was that we need to treat like wine like every other beverage.  It’s a tough pill to swallow because everybody in the audience loved wine.  But his point is that the majority of consumers don’t revere wine the way we do.  There are split second decisions that people make to have a glass of wine or a beer or a coke or some water.  The majority of consumers are simply pleasure-seekers and wine should try to deliver that pleasure.

The good news is that wine tastes great!  So all we have to do is market its wonderful tastes.  The bad news is that we are awful at conveying how good wine is.  Instead of reassuring our potential customers that the wine they are thinking of purchasing is delicious, we plague them with esoteric region names, unpronounceable words, and intimidating etchings of our estates.  Instead of promising a good time, many wines fill their potential clients with anxiety and dread.

As a result, many people would rather avoid wine entirely (which Joseph uses to explain the dwindling wine consumption numbers in France).  Other people will simply seek different wines that are marketed more simply.  He picks the example of Cupcake Wines who are inanely simple in their marketing.  Everything is Cupcake Merlot or Cupcake Chardonnay or Cupcake Vodka (because once you launch a successful brand, you might as well run with it!)

On the bright side, it doesn’t have to be quite as simple as Cupcake.  We can still try to deliver actual information to the consumer, but we have to be smart about it.  Joseph cites a study he conducted where they put a QR code on a wine bottleneck.  The QR code could send the shopper to a variety of different presentations.  And then people were asked if that information made them want to get the wine or not.  Here are the different presentations starting with the most popular (the number in parentheses is the percentage of people who said it was good information):

  • how it tastes (47%)
  • grape varieties (44%)
  • food & wine pairings (41%)
  • how can you save money on it (39%)
  • where to buy it (38%)
  • how to serve it (38%)
  • information about where it was made (38%)
  • information about how it was made (28%)
  • information about the producer (18%)
  • video of the winemaker (12%)
  • video of the winery (9%)

People almost don’t care about where the wine is from, who made it, what drives us.  Really, most consumers in this study wanted to know what the wine tasted like.

And the next step is a big ongoing research project called doilikeit that studies the relationship between wine preferences and other food/beverage preferences.  And with that data, one day, we’ll be able to recommend wines based on what sort of food you like or what kind of soda you drink.  Oh you like ginger ale? Try a riesling.  Part of this terrifies me but part of it is also really cool.  Like a last.fm for food.  Oh and why stop there?  Why not combine the last.fm data with doilikeit data!  People who like Tom Waits Bone Machine era looovve O’Vineyards.  Oh you like Tom Waits?  Try some O’Vineyards O’Syrah.

And then combine rottentomatoes data and all the data on your TESCO shopping card.  And suddenly you can tell potential drinkers that if you like Tom Waits AND bought The Muppet Movie there is an 86% chance you’ll enjoy O’Syrah 2009.  Brave new world.

I attended the second edition of a conference/seminar in Paris called Le Vin 2.0  This post will link to the various pieces written about Le Vin 2.0 2011.


View the story “Le Vin 2.0 2011” on Storify

This post is part of a series of posts about le Vin 2.0 2011 where I presented on the topic of mobile technology opportunities for winemakers.  Here’s a video of the presentation (in French) and a summary in English.

Link to powerpoint slides

Don’t make an app

When a company decides to develop a mobile strategy, their first instinct is often to make a smartphone application.  But applications are actually one of the heaviest investments you can make with some of the most limited returns.  Apps seem really cool and they seem like the most *mobile* thing you can do because that’s what you always hear about on the news, but you can make an application and then wake up the morning after next to that 10,000€ app and realize you don’t really have the same ambitions in life.  This metaphor got weird.

All I’m trying to say is that most winemakers shouldn’t even think about making an application.

Here are several reasons why:

Application development is expensive.  The lowest dev cost I’ve ever seen for even a simple application that was basically just a PDF that you could flip through was 6,000€.

Application development is restricted to specific platforms. If you make an iPhone app, it only works on iPhones.  And then you need a different app for Android phones.  And you need to constantly maintain the app as the technology changes.  I use a Samsung Wave which has the Bada platform and basically nobody makes apps for me.  I feel left out and end up resenting everybody who is ignoring my phone platform.

The most successful applications are Universal in scope, and most winemakers don’t have the resources to maintain this kind of app.  Almost nobody wants an O’Vineyards app that just tells them about O’Vineyards.  They will open that once and then forget it’s on their phone.  On the other hand, a Love That Languedoc app that tells them about all the Languedoc wines .. that’s a little more interesting, but still not ideal.  Then if you think of a Guide Hachette app that has all French wines.  That’s getting interesting.  Or something like Wine Demon that does all wines available in the UK.  Now you’re providing something useful for your app user and they will come back to it repeatedly and regularly.  But most winemakers don’t have the resources (or motivation) to do that kind of big picture app.

Instead, optimize your website

It makes more sense to make a mobile friendly website.  A good web site can be optimized for all mobile phone users.  It can be done pretty inexpensively.  I have some minor technical skills so I made a separate CSS for this website (heavily based on iPhonsta, a free wordpress theme).  But even if you know nothing about computers, you can hire somebody to make a mobile version of your site for less than 1000€.  The mobile site will also be a good testing ground where you can learn about your mobile users’ habits by watching your site analytics.

In the near future, I imagine mobile commerce will become a realistic option for wineries (Although we’ll face the same issue of universal scope… most consumers would rather be regular shoppers at amazon.com than shop at 28 separate publisher websites).  You can also imagine microlocation once HTML 5 kicks in.  Today, my website detects you’re using a cell phone and I show you my mobile site.  In the near future, I will see you’re using a cell phone and you’re within 20 kilometers of the vineyard so I’ll prominently display a map with directions on arriving at my vineyard.  Or I’ll see you’re on my vineyard and I’ll show you information about the parcel where you’re standing.  Or I’ll see you’re in the UK and I’ll prominently display links to Naked Wines where you can buy my wine online and have it delivered to your home.

The counterargument: Apps are awesome

Several people at Vin 2.0 pointed out that they have very successful applications.  Notably, le Guide Hachette, mentioned above, Intermarché, and idealwine.  While I make apps sound pretty terrible, they pointed out that the app store is a very well-viewed platform.  With the right kind of app and the right kind of PR/marketing, you can get your app featured in one of the app stores’ Top Lists.  And that’s a lot of exposure.  Again, I think this is an unrealistic endeavor for most winemakers.  It’s more appropriate for a universally-scoped guidebook or retailer (with a bit more budget than O’Vineyards).  But I do appreciate that there is this great opportunity to be seen by lots of eyeballs if you play the app game right so I should mention the argument here.

Piggybacking instead of developing your own app

Personally, I’d rather piggyback on already existing applications.  Take Wine Demon for instance.  It’s a customer review database for all wines available in the UK.  Anybody can leave a review and it should be like a tripadvisor for wine that also shows availability.    That’s a great tool that can drive my UK sales if I get good reviews.  Instead of developing my own application to do this (which will cost tons of time and money), I can just spend a tiny bit of time optimizing my presence on Wine Demon.  Encourage people who like my wines to use the app and it will effectively bring my average scores up.  I can make sure there are nice photos of my bottles on the site and all the information is correct and up to date.  This takes little time and I’ll probably reap more from this small expenditure than if I launched my own application that does basically the same thing.

Same with tripadvisor strategy.  Tripadvisor has become really important for hotels, lodging and tourism.  Now how do I react to that?  I don’t try to launch a competing website.  I just try to optimize my presence on the already existing site. 🙂

 

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

O’Vineyards
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing

North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.
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