New Year's resolutions for the wine trade

Robert Joseph has some thoughts about what the wine trade should be hoping for 2019.

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash
Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

As we squeeze the last drops of juice out of 2018, and begin to wonder what the next 12 months may have to offer, I thought it might be worth offering a few New Year’s Resolutions.

Stop paying attention to people who glibly telly you what ‘Millennials’ or Chinese’ or ‘wine drinkers’ or ‘women’ want. Consumers today are far more individual than they have ever been, and the only truth I’ve read about Millennials as a generation, is that they really hate being referred to as though they’re a giant herd of sheep.

Open your mind to the commercial potential of trends you may not personally like. The idea of drinking a wine aged in bourbon barrels with a strength of 16%, or a cloudy natural wine that tastes like cider, or a red blend with 12 grams of residual sugar might be totally repulsive to you, but so might the prospect of watching some highly successful movies aimed at teenagers or reading some very popular celebrity biographies. I’m not saying that you have to make or distribute a product that you don’t like, but don’t pretend they don’t exist, and do accept that they might actually appeal to some of your customers.

Embrace data and information. Today, more than ever before, you don’t have to take anything for granted or on trust. How influential is Billy Blogger or Iolanthe Influencer? What’s happening with sparkling wine in China? What impact might Brexit have on the UK wine market? Half an hour on Google won’t give you all of the answers to these questions, but, without spending a cent, you could be a lot better informed. Google analytics can reveal a lot about how many people are really paying attention to online ‘opinion formers’. Someone almost certainly posted the presentation they gave on Chinese consumer trends in New York last month, and there’s sure to be a Financial Times article on Brexit that’s worth reading. Of course, you won’t know everything, but you’ll know more than your bigger, wealthier neighbour with his head in the sand. And that may be enough.

Focus on the end user. This is predictable, but it needs repeating. Who is buying what you sell? And why? How do you know what you know about them? When someone tells you that people in X or Y market ‘wouldn’t want’ what you are offering, or ‘wouldn’t pay the price’, are you sure that information is correct? Or might someone who doesn’t want to the hassle of trying to sell something new simply be fobbing you off?

What do the people who do buy your wine know about your business? Are they aware of the other wines you offer? Or just the one they are looking at today? When they visit your website, what do they find? Is it what they are looking for?

Finally, at least in your mind, regularly take a trip away from the comfort zone of wine. Look at what’s happening in other sectors, and not just craft beers and spirits. Look at the way people are eating, travelling, or shopping for clothes, for example. Might a pop up shop work for your brand? Or a subscription model? Are there any lessons you could learn from the way a family-owned fashion brand promotes itself?

Whatever you do, embrace 2019 with optimism. This is the most exciting time there has ever been for anyone making or selling anything
Robert Joseph

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