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Online, the channel that “saved” wine in lockdown, facing “restoration”

After the boom of 2020, the end of the pandemic and the return to normality redesign e-commerce scenarios in a multichannel logic
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15 months that have revolutionized the online world, according to the producers

A little less than 15 months have passed since the beginning of the lockdown that, in March 2020, plunged Italy into a surreal and dramatic climate, necessary to fight the pandemic of Covid-19, the virus arrived from the East that has long brought the West to its knees, finally about to rise again. In the meantime, many daily behaviors, social and otherwise, have changed. We greet each other from afar, we have learned to recognize each other by our eyes, and to buy anything online. Not that this is a real novelty, as the boom of Amazon has been going on for some years now, but in the sector we are most interested in, that of wine, it is. E-commerce, however in constant growth, have always had to reckon with the “physical” pleasure of buying wine in a wine shop, in a winery or on the shelf of a supermarket, without considering the specific weight of consumption outside the home, at a bar or at a restaurant. Those two months in which people went shopping twice a week, one at a time, made online wine purchases literally explode, a channel which suddenly became important, on the domestic market, to put a patch on the collapse of Horeca.

Today, 15 months later, things are finally, albeit slowly, returning to normal, and this, in all likelihood, will lead to a slowdown in the exceptional growth of online sales. A slowdown that, in many cases, companies have already started to record in these early months of 2021. There is a desire to take back one’s own life, one’s own sociality, one’s own relationships, to be rebuilt in front of a glass of wine at the table of a bar or a restaurant, and not toasting virtually as we have done for too long. This, however, does not mean e-commerce is going back to a marginal role, on the contrary: it is now a very important channel, which integrates traditional channels in a logic of multichannel without taking anything away from anyone. The possibility of buying online one’s own bottle of wine, after all, has brought new consumers to the world of wine, widening the audience, especially among young people, with a good spending capacity, as shown by the evolution of the average price. Talking about price, being able to keep it under control, for wineries, is a fundamental aspect, but not the easiest one, even though there is the possibility, granted by online sales, to trace data and profiles of wine lovers, in a marketing and commercial logic finally capable of looking at the future.

Future that, therefore, will be towards increasing integration of the many sales channels needed to reach the wine lover, which is the ultimate goal of every winery. Even through the online, whether it is represented by the direct platform of each winery or by professional shops, such as Tannico, Vino.com, Callmewine. com and Xtrawine (which in 2020 had a combined turnover of 200 million euros) do not limit themselves to sales alone, but aim at building loyalty by guaranteeing training, in-depth information and dedicated services to customers and companies, such as the “WinePlatform” of Tannico, a “turnkey” shop which simplifies and organizes the many needs of wineries that want to sell online, in Italy and abroad.

At WineNews, some of the most representative producers and entrepreneurs of Italian wine take stock and imagine the future of online, from a purely commercial point of view. From Sandro Boscaini, at the head of the Valpolicella brand Masi Agricola, to Wolfgang Klotz, commercial director of Cantina Tramin, from Alessandro Vella, general manager of Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene to Antonio Rallo, at the head of the Sicilian brand Donnafugata, from Giuseppe Bursi, president of Mandrarossa, wine cooperative of reference on the island, to Alberto Tasca, head of Tasca d’Almerita, from Valentina Abbona, commercial reference and side by side with her father Ernesto at Marchesi di Barolo, in Langa, to Giovanni Folonari, at the head of Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, from Sandro Sartor, managing director of Ruffino, to Maria Sabrina Tedeschi, one of the reference points of wine in Valpolicella, from Primo Franco, managing director of Nino Franco, griffe of Cartizze and Valdobbiadene, to Roberta Corrà, president of Gruppo Italiano Vini - Giv, from Francesco Giovannini, managing director of Gruppo Mezzacorona, to Andrea Ferraioli, winemaker together with his wife Marisa Cuomo on the Amalfi Coast, from Marchese Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga, last generation at the helm of Tenuta San Leonardo, to Francesco Zonin, with properties all over Italy, and Tommaso Chiarli, last generation of Cleto Chiarli, reference point of Lambrusco di Modena.

“We have recorded comforting numbers in the first quarter of 2021 as far as online is concerned, for all wines, with an increase in value of 144%, for PDO wines of 155% and for sparkling wines of 198%”, says Sandro Boscaini. “However, having said that, I would make some deeper considerations. As it opens up, the desire to go and buy in the winery, in the territories, returns and this is not only physiological, it is also beautiful. Online is cleared through customs, and it will remain, of course it will not be the only channel, but one of the many ways. There is no doubt that this game has been played by the specialists, the companies born to make wine online. They were very good at realizing that they needed better services, quality and information, because in the meantime, the online channels of large-scale retail stores and wine shops were also born, and they found their own space in this complexity. At a certain point, the most shrewd companies launched their own platforms, going out with their flagship and talking directly to the final consumer. Now, the channel is getting more refined and diversified, and the raw data expresses many peculiarities”, continues Sandro Boscaini.

“Overall, enterprise platforms are not yet too competitive with industry specialists. But it’s a theme that is emerging here too. More interesting is what concerns large-scale retail trade, which has not made much effort, it is just a different modality, already experimented for years with food. This is also true for wine shops, for which, after all, it was simple. There is another important thing: the average selling price is increasing, therefore there is a refinement in the choice of bottles. For example, for still wines in the first quarter of 2021 the average price is growing by 6.3%, for DOC wines by +3%, for IGT wines by +5% and for sparkling wines by +2.3%. You can find more and more quality and interesting bottles online”, says Mister Amarone, at the helm of Masi Agricola. “In the end, this new articulation says a lot about the fact that while in the beginning it was a necessity, today it is a qualified means to get information, to be able to choose, to make a purchase not only on impulse but thoughtfully”.

“As far as we're concerned, online sales through our e-commerce channel, which we’ve managed entirely from within since 2010, grew a total of 20% in the year of the pandemic. In the first lockdown our online shop reached growth peaks of over 90%, and then normalized, while maintaining a generally steady positive trend. At the moment, however, the weight is limited to less than 2% of our total turnover, but we have every intention of investing to increase it to 5% within the next 5 years”, explains Alessandro Vella, General Manager of Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene. “will see a decline from the peaks above, but it will still be an important growth compared to the pre-pandemic period. If at the beginning this growth was caused by an emergency, in the course of the months online purchasing has slowly become part of the habits and, we noticed, by analyzing the data of our customers, not only for young people accustomed to digital, but also for a more and more mature public. It is not by chance that our winery has invested in an e-commerce already in 2010. In this respect, too, we can claim to have had an intuition. The decision to manage it from within and to have years of experience in the direct management of customer relations allowed us to be ready to respond in a structured way when the pandemic caused online purchases to explode. The emergency accelerated a process of change that would have taken place anyway and that will remain”.

A pondered choice, which has paid off, continues Alessandro Vella. “Strategically, we decided to focus on online sales only through our e-commerce, which we manage entirely from inside, with our people, who guarantee to the buying experience the same care, attention, presence, preparation we reserve to customers who also buy directly from our wine center attached to the winery. We noticed - in particular during the pandemic - that these aspects really made the difference in the appreciation we received from customers. Several years ago we decided to leave the big e-commerce platforms in order to dedicate ourselves to the care of the direct relationship with our customers and to have a complete control of the distribution chain. This also allows us to know very well those who choose our products. At the moment we are focused on the domestic market, but our growth objectives include internationalization and we are evaluating ways to sell online in the rest of the world”.

The future, concludes the general manager of Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene, is “multichannel is a fact and we are convinced that it will continue to consolidate. On the other hand, we do not believe that it should necessarily result in a resounding loss for one or the other channel. These are different experiences, which can also add up. As far as we're concerned, during the pandemic we still saw our sales grow in large-scale retail. E-commerce has grown. Horeca suffered because stores and venues were closed. But it is unthinkable that people - having reached the level of safety with vaccines - do not go out, go to the local, to regain possession of rituals such as the aperitif, at the bar or at home with friends bringing a bottle purchased in a wine shop or supermarket”.

On a similar wavelength is Alberto Tasca d’Almerita, according to whom “e-commerce has now become part of normal purchasing habits, and for this reason it is destined to continue to function in the future, but the real great acceleration lies in multi-channel and its management. The channels are not antagonistic, but each is necessary. It will be increasingly important to control the final price, and even more important to manage the relationship with the consumer, an essential asset for the company. Now the wine lover is looking for direct contact, and this is a theme that should not be underestimated. For us, the online channel has shown enormous growth, but the absolute numbers are not so significant. We don’t have our own e-shop”, says Alberto Tasca, “because we are dedicated to Horeca, which accounts for 90% of our sales, so we preferred to rely on the best traders on the market. Direct e-commerce, however, is more than anything else a way to talk to customers, a very important aspect, even though it is difficult to attract consumers to a mono-brand wine shop. Ours was a conscious choice, because something done well costs a lot, it is another sector, not trivial at all. The real issue, when we talk about online, and which is also faced by Amazon, is the management of data: it is good to talk directly with the consumer, without intermediaries, it is a subject to be faced with caution and professionalism. Having said that, ours is an interesting path that we are taking, and will continue to take, with the best companies in the sector”.

Those who, on the contrary, had already aimed at it, is Wolfgang Klotz, sales director of Cantina Tramin. “It is a channel we had already focused on before the lockdown, a way to reach our wines. For us, the question is how to make our wines desirable, rather than which channel to sell them on. Obviously, channels are all important, provided they are of high level, from Horeca to large-scale retail trade, and this is also true for online, one more possibility, which must be managed, being close to projects such as Tannico since the beginning, in a winning way both for us and for them. In this period, growth has been very strong, also because we started with small numbers, but in Italy, online sales in 2020 were up 100%. In the first five months of 2021, on the other hand, we tripled sales”.

Now, however, the pandemic is almost over, “but online will still remain a reference channel for many, not necessarily at the same levels and with the same growth rates as in the last 15 months”, adds Wolfgang Klotz. “However, it is not a channel that excludes another, it is part of the mix and evolution of the last few years. Think back to 20 years ago when the big brands started to focus heavily on quality labels. During the lockdown we uncorked a few more bottles at home, but the situation is now back to normal, and we are going back to drinking outside more than at home. Anyway, it is a convenient channel, which many people have approached, and for this reason it will have a future”.

Enthusiastic, both for the online numbers and for the recovery that is now at the doorstep, is Antonio Rallo, head of Donnafugata. “We can say that we have a new outlet channel, now consistent, since we are repeating the performance of the first lockdown periods, a clear sign that by now the consumer has chosen online as a new channel to buy his favorite bottles”. At the same time, however, a great deal is expected from “catering, which in the months between June and October, in 2020, achieved numbers never seen before, grinding out record after record. For now, things are slow, with restaurateurs who have neither the opportunity nor the courage, understandably, to make large investments, so many small orders are arriving, but in incredible numbers, a certain fear of tomorrow still persists. Coming back to online, even wine shops, last year, have made their own e-commerce, especially the younger generations, but we can still say the bulk of volumes are moved by players such as Tannico and Callmewine”, concludes Antonio Rallo.

Remaining on the island, Giuseppe Bursi, president of Cantine Settesoli, recounts “a very intense year, in which we grew a lot, but we started with rather low numbers: +300%, but in absolute terms it’s not much, 60,000 euros more, just over 100,000 euros out of 5 million in turnover. It is a secondary channel, but in this period it has proved to be an important alternative to Horeca. In this sense we are happy, we have also changed platform, relying on the Tannico one, the Wine Platform, which allows us to be more punctual in deliveries, which has become an important thing when selling on the web. And, above all, we are able to ship to every country in the world. We are already noticing the drop in online sales, in parallel with the opening of venues and the desire to go back out. I must say that it is impressive to see the bars, even if they are outdoors, full. People will go back to drinking outside, certainly not at home, but it has been interesting to understand that this is an important channel, on which we were already present, useful to understand many dynamics. On the other hand, purchases in the Horeca sector, which is fundamental for us, are going up”. Beware of sending it into the attic, however, because, Giuseppe Bursi resumes, “it is not a residual channel, but the future may hold important implications, with technology supporting traditional channels, integrating them, not replacing them. Human contact is fundamental, but at an economic level it is not excluded that there could be a different business model, and online in this has given important signals, which has demonstrated its importance in this period”.

According to Valentina Abbona, from Marchesi di Barolo, there will be an “inevitable contraction in the long run, also because if before there were few wineries and few players, now the platforms have multiplied, and even small companies are online, increasing competition and pulverizing earnings. So the pie, while continuing to grow and making overall sales even higher than 12 months ago, guarantees smaller and smaller margins to the single producer. And then there are the reopenings and the displacements: people like to go and buy a bottle outside, and this can lead to a contraction of the online channel. Let’s see how the new habits will combine with the old ones. There will still be a strong presence - says Valentina Abbona - but it will be divided differently, especially in terms of players. If until a year ago there was only Tannico, today there are many others, capable of competing, even at a local level. It remains a parallel channel, not competitive with the world of Horeca, but maybe not even with physical wine shops, as many e-shops are connected to wine shops. It is not a real competition, because in large-scale retail trade there are different prices and labels, and I believe it is the same for many other big companies such as Marchesi di Barolo. At the moment - concludes Valentina Abbona - we are stabilizing on 5% of total sales on the online channel, which make the difference on the Italian turnover, but considering that exports exceed 50%, the incidence, it goes without saying, is not so great. This new opportunity, in my opinion, allows us to have a greater control of the selling prices to the public, and therefore to have a greater control by the winery on the bottles coming out of the cellar”.

From the heart of Tuscany, Giovanni Folonari starts with a general consideration. “Online is the future of all things, but it needs to be managed, and it certainly can’t supplant retail, which remains indispensable, and with which online must learn to coexist, as well as with Horeca. It takes a pricing policy that is not in competition with other channels. Horeca has always been afraid, but last year the need for the online channel was a major force, which we implemented rationally, both with specialized sites and with our own site. The numbers are not comparable to other channels, but they are still important. We do not want the online channel to exclude or overshadow the traditional channels, but to integrate them, because many people, for the sake of convenience, will continue to buy a good bottle of wine at home”.

The most delicate aspect to manage, according to Giovanni Folonari, “essentially concerns prices. As for the composition of our online sales, we are talking about minimal percentages on our website, but on the specialized ones the increases have been 100%, even though starting from low numbers. Besides online, it has been important to enhance the brand in large-scale distribution: quality wines must be managed with quality, as we did with Coop and Esselunga, defending the price and taking care of the presentation. The work of the online store - concludes Giovanni Folonari - also intersects with that of the agent, but the human aspect remains important: explaining wines, helping the client, is an approach that is disappearing, but not in high quality wine, and we want it to stay that way. In order to be understood, these products need education and an ambassador who will talk about wine and history and bring customers to the winery. With Covid we received the stimulus to develop more the other channels, but we want the two things to coexist, for this reason our pricing policy must be the same in every channel”.

Staying in Tuscany, at Ruffino, CEO Sandro Sartor recalls how “between 2019 and 2020 the weight of the e-commerce channel for Ruffino has more than doubled. Today the sale of our wines on e-shops dedicated to wine represents about 5% of the total sales in the Italian market. It is not rhetorical to say the pandemic has also created opportunities. We believe there is a great desire to go back to normality, even more participated and experienced, and therefore the Horeca channel can go back to the role it had before, and maybe even more. We are convinced, however, that the exponential growth of online is destined to slow down, continuing to maintain the important role it has had in this period. We strongly believe in a 360-degree Direct to Consumer approach”. Analyzing the numbers, “the sales of the online shop are calculated together with the direct sales of the physical shop at Tenuta Poggio Casciano," Sandro Sartor continues. "Overall, direct sales weigh about 7% of sales in the Italian market and we are in the process of further strengthening the channel through the launch of a new Wine Club. If we combine the weight of sales on the various online shops (5%) with the overall weight of direct sales (7%), we can conclude that for Ruffino online sales plus direct sales account for about 12% of sales in Italy. In the last year we witnessed a constant growth of large-scale retail trade, therefore we believe this channel was not damaged at all by the advancement of online. Traditional wine shops have certainly had more difficulties, but the ones that will be able to integrate physical sales with other types of services, will surely be able to remain competitive in the market”, concludes Ruffino's managing director.

In Valpolicella, Maria Sabrina Tedeschi, starts precisely from the numbers for her analysis. “Online sales represent 10% of total sales in Italy and of this only a small part (10%) is sold through the company's online channel. We have always paid attention to the value of the product, keeping online sales prices under control: prices are visible to everyone and excessively discounted prices in exchange for large volumes can alter historical and solid markets created over time. Buyers of food & wine products - continues Maria Sabrina Tedeschi - have now developed a strong awareness of online purchases. Certainly the pandemic has accelerated the process and the predisposition towards purchases from remote, dropping atavistic fears and insecurities”.

In the near future, concludes Maria Sabrina Tedeschi, “we should expect an adjustment in online sales, certainly not a reduction. The difference will be marked by the usability of platforms, by the services offered and by the specificity of the proposal. Buying a wine in a wine shop or in a supermarket will be an experience apart. The same consumer will be able to buy wines online, in a wine shop or in a supermarket according to the occasion of purchase and consumption, according to the type of wine, according to the experience he or she wants to live in that moment. It seems evident that the sale in a wine shop or in a supermarket will go more and more in the direction of integrating other types of services, besides the sale of the bottle, such as, for example, tastings, consumption on the spot, meetings with producers”.

From the rows of Prosecco di Cartizze, Primo Franco (Nino Franco), relied “on Tannico’s WinePlatform. It is a start, but we have not invested money or effort to communicate it. After that, we are on Tannico with Meregalli’s management, with limited numbers. The problem is we are not able to understand where the bottles on the other platforms come from, there is no e-shop that does not have a bottle of our wine inside”. Starting with the most important ones in the world, as “we are one of the 100 companies on wine.com that must always be available because of the success our wine has had in the USA, where we sell 20,000 bottles every year. I have the impression that there have been important changes in these 14 months, and there will be other equally important ones in the next 14. The client is adapting to change, and if in Italy we have not done much to encourage sales to private individuals, in the USA restaurants have been allowed to sell bottles of wine to clear their warehouses and make liquidity, and thus start over with low inventories. Here, no one worried about this, but the Pinchiorri auction made us understand the real needs of the restaurant industry, with an international vision of the moment, through an extraordinary operation. This was then done by other important clients around the world. However, online is a difficult channel to manage, even if we do not have dedicated resources, and this is probably a limitation of ours, but it is essential not to take steps backwards on price”, says Primo Franco.

From the Trentino cooperative Mezzacorona, general manager Francesco Giovannini, claims a choice made some time ago. “We have had our own corporate e-commerce for years, it wasn’t a novelty. Percentually it was not very relevant in the diversification of sales channels, but with Covid, especially between March and April 2020, the online has grown exponentially with a real boom in sales. We’ve always had the corporate site, so we only marginally go to other shops, but in the summer the growth of online has slowed, while remaining a valuable support, of which clearly the pandemic has increased the importance. All in all, it remains an interesting thing, but it hasn't affected the Horeca market too much, let alone the large-scale retail trade, where a different product line ends up”. Certainly, Mezzacorona’s core is not e-commerce, as Giovannini points out. “We have a strong sales network, and our policy is to consolidate the sales network, while still seeking a new balance between the sales network and e-commerce. Having a distribution network is basic, but we are happy that e-commerce has grown, because it increases the notoriety of our products, and I believe that growth will continue in the future, thanks to new consumers who are now accustomed to using the e-shop tool, which, however, in terms of turnover still has a secondary weight”, concludes the general manager of Mezzacorona.

On the Amalfi Coast, even a reality like Marisa Cuomo, 40 hectares, of which 31 hectares are fully productive, divided between 13 municipalities of the area and dozens of plots, in its almost artisanal dimension, had to come to terms with reality, as Andrea Ferraioli, winemaker together with his wife Marisa Cuomo, tells us. “We are an anomaly, I was against it, but given the pandemic, which was certainly not in the forecast, no more than the Third World War, as a man of the sea I ran for cover to bring the ship into port. We are aiming at a high target, we sell for assignments, and the online site started off with great sales, giving us an important hand. I had thought that when the pandemic was over, we would abandon e-commerce. Then, I followed the trend of how the territory moved, and I must admit that online proved to be a powerful channel and tool. That, however, past the first wave, went downhill”.

So much so that, Andrea Ferraioli continues, “in the last months of the year, no longer suffering the effects of the pandemic, we closed 2020 without any major problems. In 2021 we saw an awakening, even before the reopenings, at least for us, who are small. I see a road slightly downhill, I’m trying to sensitize the producers of the Coast because there is still room to grow, there are margins, both qualitative and quantitative, in the Park of Cilento there are exceptional areas. We have faced a very difficult period - concludes the winemaker of Costiera Amalfitana - and now we must not give up. We are custodians of a territory, 40 hectares saved from abandonment and degradation or speculation. Going back to online selling, in Marisa Cuomo’s future it will remain in the background: I have never sold to direct platforms, ours is a niche that cannot be “los”" online, it is the result of a sacrifice, it must be in the hands of those who really love wine”.

In Trentino, Marchese Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga, at the helm of the San Leonardo brand, speaks of “a frightening increase, with a proliferation of players, not just the 4-5 big names on the market. It is a channel that we follow with great attention, we sell a lot, even through our website, which does not belong to any platform, it is an independent site, but to which we sell at prices equal to or higher than the market, not to create competition. The growth, by volume of business, is +300% compared to before the pandemic, thanks to the few players with whom we work and with whom we have a very solid relationship, and to whom we ask an average price that does not fuel a downward competition, making everyone work well and all on equal terms. It takes time, we monitor online prices around the world, and we keep open and direct contact with everyone”.

For Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga, “online is good as long as it does not debase the product, and it is not that simple. In general terms, I believe the market has widened, there are many more contact points between customers and wine: the wine shop remains a bulwark to be protected, wine shopkeepers are the ambassadors of wine, people who know customers and can advise them, the most romantic place where to buy wine, especially if it is important. Online will remain, but we need to understand what will happen with all these little online shops, a myriad of them have been created. Sites such as Tannico, which have spent a lot of money in training, should be rewarded, those who just want to make small profits, are not interesting. We need a credible interlocutor”.

But also the capacity to be on the market in the right way. “Even in wine - concludes Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga - there is what I call the “Amazon syndrome”: we need speed, our image needs it. It is a costly service, but we care about our brand, because whoever receives one of our wines receives at home a little piece of San Leonardo, therefore we have a structure that works very well, aware that without economy of scale it would not be easy to sustain certain costs. We preferred to manage everything from our warehouse, even selling old vintages, because it would have been difficult to outsource all this”.

Francesco Zonin, from his observatory that includes estates all over Italy and a fundamental predisposition for exports, describes a situation in which “from July onwards, I am convinced that things will return to normal, even if things are going a little slower than expected. Much will depend on next month, June, and on the vaccination plan, both at Italian and European level. In this context, the restaurant closed for months and the lockdown has given an acceleration by a phenomenon, the online, which is not Italian, but was essentially Anglo-Saxon. Pre Covid 9% of wine sales in Great Britain were online, and today it reaches 16%. Therefore, the acceleration has touched both countries that were already ahead in this channel, and those that were lagging behind, such as Italy. Certainly, online is not enough to balance the losses of a consolidated and important channel like Horeca, but it has been an important phase, not so much for the numbers of this period, but for the dynamics that it has triggered in the future. I never judge this kind of phenomena, which change our approach to consumption and purchasing, we’ll see in what way. It is a great tool, but technically it is not like going to a restaurant or a wine shop. We are in the early stages, we are talking about 5-6% of sales, which must be weighed up carefully, because it specifically targets geographical areas and specific consumer groups, or at least this is my impression”, concludes Francesco Zonin.

“Grupp Chiarli, in recent years, has invested heavily in collaboration with dedicated e-shop platforms such as Callmewine, Tannico and Svinando. Also at international level we have undertaken a strategic partnership with the industry leader Vivino. In 2020, due to the pandemic, sales through these channels have more than doubled, positively affecting, and as never before, sales in Italy”, says Tommaso Chiarli, the latest generation of the Lambrusco griffe, which already records, however, a first slowdown. “At the dedicated e-shops we see a slight drop in sales compared to last spring. Surely, the easing of the measures against the pandemic is shifting the attention towards traditional wine shops, but we are sure that, also thanks to our new online shop, this channel will become more and more important for the Group in the years to come. As we recently implemented an e-commerce platform on our website, at the moment we see dedicated e-shops are very strong and they are able to attract a great number of consumers looking for our products. However, in the last few months we have seen a regular increase of sales through our website's platform, proof that consumers are increasingly looking to buy wines for their winery directly from the producer through the company’s e-commerce shops. Our experience with large-scale retail trade and Horeca - concludes Tommaso Chiarli - has taught us these two channels are very different, both in the offer and in the customers. Despite the fact that in the last years large-scale retail trade has greatly improved its offer of wines, wine shops offer their customers niche products, often of high end. E-commerce channel offers products similar to wine shops and for this reason I believe they are the ones who suffer the most from the advancement of online”.

Finally, the point of view of Roberta Corrà, director of Giv - Gruppo Italiano Vini, which controls historic brands of Italian winemaking such as Nino Negri, Cavicchioli, Re Manfredi and many others. “In 2020, online (Vinicum + other e-shops) accounted for 1.41% of our Group's total Italian sales. Almost a 9% on the sales of the Horeca Italy channel. In 2020 Vinicum accounted for 70% of the online sales of Gruppo Italiano Vini. We believe that an adjustment will be physiological. Last year, in many cases, buying online was a necessity. We believe that with the gradual return to normality, users will return to make purchases in the traditional way as well. However, 2020 has undoubtedly brought an acceleration of the global digitalization process. Nielsen surveys testify to an increase in the digital audience (+4.6% month) also among the over 55s, with a variation on 2019 in particular on some thematic areas (instant messaging, food & cooking, home & garden), which highlight the new way of living relationships and everyday life”.

However, this does not mean that the future is marked, on the contrary, according to Roberta Corrà, “certainly in 2021 there is a great desire to return to live experiences in a concrete way, restoring the ritual of the aperitif and dinner at the restaurant, so we expect a decline in online compared to 2020 strongly influenced by contingencies. It is also true, however, that for many online shopping has been a great discovery that goes perfectly with their lifestyle by becoming part of the domestic routine. So if 2020 was the year in which online shopping demonstrated its full potential, 2021 is expected to be the year in which the online channel is consolidated as an integral part of the group's strategy. We are convinced that large-scale retail trade, wine shops, Horeca and online can easily coexist as models. Consistency in positioning, respect for the peculiarities of each channel, physical or virtual, and service represent and will represent more and more a strong point for the final consumer. Also for this reason, both wine shops and large-scale retail trade, which in the year of the pandemic has actually raised the level of its proposal, have been organizing themselves for some time in order to give ready answers to their customers”, adds Roberta Corrà.
“If in the past years we have always distinguished between the online consumer and the consumer who goes to the points of sale, in the post-Covid period it is clear that we are no longer referring to different targets, but we are faced with the same evolved consumer whose purchase path is articulated between a continuous transition between online and offline touch points. Presiding over the online channel means seizing all possible opportunities for interaction with the consumer who increasingly wants to relate to companies both online and offline. In the large-scale retail trade - concludes the director of GIV - Gruppo Italiano Vini - Esselunga’s multi-channel experience is the guide for all the main brands that, by introducing their own e-shops, are starting to look at online with a new overall commercial vision, while maintaining a strong in-store purchase experience, which remains essential. The offline experience will be more and more important also for the Horeca that will enjoy the rediscovery of the on-site experience, because the two channels (on and off line) are to be understood in an indissoluble synergy”.

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