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Allegrini 2018
WINE AND THE PANDEMIC

“The glass is half full”, said the optimistic Stephanie Gallo, marketing manager of Gallo Winery

Optimism and digital against the crisis. The US wine giant’s vision: “Don’t be afraid to change”
DIGITAL, FUTURE, GALLO, optimism, WINE, News
“The glass is half full”, said Stephanie Gallo, marketing manager of Gallo Winery

“The mentality of the glass half full has always characterized the history of the Gallo family. Humility, optimism and the ability to build a well-organized team have always been our strengths. We dealt with and got through the Prohibition and the 1929 crisis. Today, we are in the era of a pandemic, and optimism is the only engine that can drive our efforts and enable us to face challenges”. These are the words of Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer for the Californian E. & J. Gallo Winery, the top-selling wine brand in the world, which resonate like an anthem to positivity. Barefoot and Gallo are the top wine brands of this proper wine industry, which sells more than 450 million bottles each year, and its turnover (as of 2018) totaled 4.36 billion euros. These are absolutely dizzying numbers (almost out of context, compared to the infinitely smaller average size of Italian wineries, ed.), and the company has had to deal with the pandemic and consequent closures around the world.
“From one day to the next”, said Stephanie Gallo, at Wine2Wine, the business forum organized by Veronafiere and Vinitaly, “we had to reorganize the entire structure. Following the Covid-19 emergency, studies on wine consumption in America showed that the consumer pool was defining itself into three categories, with different tendencies of consumption: “Baby boomers” have been replaced by “Millennials” and “Generation Z”, who are consuming less than their predecessors. Therefore, it is important for us to innovate the way we engage these new consumers. In other words, our company must reflect on the world we are living in”.
Consumption habits and circumstances have, therefore, certainly changed, especially in the United States, where the Covid-19 health emergency situation is still at a very dangerous level, as the numbers of infections are still growing. This period of stalemate in consumption outside the home has allowed us, as Stephanie remarked, however, to study and deepen our knowledge of the potential of digital tools, and implement the revolution of online wine communication. Consequently, “the glass half full” is the California giant’s motto, while creativity in organizing initiatives to promote its wines is also a mantra, which is insisting on the search for new solutions. “I’d like to talk to you about a case history that happened in August 2020. We collaborated with DJs, who from their homes in quarantine, each presented hour and a half long DJ sets in live streaming on Instagram. It was an enormous success as many new generation users were connected, and in addition, they had the opportunity to buy wine and subscribe to our newsletter”.
The company has implemented initiatives on social medias, opportunities that the digital world makes available in terms of online sales, and has registered a massive boom in specialized sites. Stephanie also talked about how her company was not caught unprepared. “We know that, to date, 53% of online consumers are activating their first shopping experience. That being said, in addition to being able to meet their demands, we must also be able to support all communication through social medias, advertising, public relations, online events, storytelling and traditional digital tools. In the meantime, we must take into account that the consumer wants to have an experience, especially at home, and in small groups. Consequently, a wine company must learn how to be relevant in the home environment. Our brands wanted to engage consumers at home or in stores. So, what did we do? We provided an augmented reality Application. The consumer can get to exclusive content by scanning the label. In this case, they found the musical group, Black Eyed Peas, who have developed forms of entertainment focusing on a younger target. E-commerce is growing exponentially. Online sales have increased 75%, and moreover, these consumers are easy to retain and keep loyal, and they also have a tendency to spend three times more than the traditional channel consumers. This market will continue to thrive even when the pandemic is over”.
The digital world and the tools it provides are not only an instrument to be used for sales and promotion. They also provide, according to Stephanie, an opportunity to improve the organization of corporate work and to make up for the lack of in person B2B events. Dinners and online tastings are on the agenda nowadays. “The digital transition has affected many areas of our work. The tools that technology has made available are useful for improving the workflow and staying at a distance, while at the same time, being in contact with the whole team. Furthermore, thanks to virtual technologies we can still continue to “travel” around the world, meeting our customers in Italy or Sweden, for instance. We have also organized virtual dinners in Asia. The wine world has been totally readjusting itself to virtual systems. In person events cannot be replaced, of course, but virtual is now a very present reality”.
The hotel and restaurant industry is one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, and Stephanie made it very clear that even in America restaurants have been dealt an unfortunately heavy blow. It is difficult to look at the glass half full when this fundamental supply chain for the wine trade as well as for the many Italian wine companies on restaurants’ wine lists on the other side of the ocean, have been closed down. However, even in this case, Stephanie has taken the positive aspects into consideration, especially from the take away standpoint. “The pandemic has hit the restaurant sector hard, which is where wine is mainly sold. Looking to find a positive meaning in this situation, in which many restaurants have had to close down, we have found that one in five take-away orders also includes wine. This, then, is an opportunity to raise awareness for food and wine pairings. We have to, nonetheless, always take into consideration the consumer’s needs”.

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