The future isn’t what it used to be according to a speaker at the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)(link is external). Instead of the flying cars promised by 20th century science fiction, we have connectivity—with huge implications for wine tourism.
Paul Richer, senior partner of Genesys Digital Transformation, a strategic IT consultancy, began his presentation with a clip from The Jensens, the 1960s cartoon set in a future world of flying cars and pills for dinner.
“What wasn’t predicted is that technological change has led to social change,” he said, speaking to a crowd of wine tourism professionals, who had come to the Basque country in Spain for the conference. “Some of the technological changes were predicted: natural language processing, artificial intelligence, robotics, video phones. What was not predicted at all was pervasive connectivity.”
Richer said the devices we all carry around now mean we are connected to information and one another 24 hours a day. “Is anyone not carrying one?”
What this means is that people have become more impatient and unwilling to wait. “If I want to know something, I just pull out my phone and check immediately. If I get a ding on my phone, I want to know what the email is,” he said. The consequence is that people are “lazier than we used to be. If it’s easy to do, we’ll do it.” Customers are now loyal to whoever makes their life easiest, because they’re less likely to shop around. Immediacy is highly prized.
Richer added that any winery engaged in wine tourism or internet selling must now have certain features, including a fast, mobile-optimised website. “How well do your sites appear on mobiles? If your site isn’t mobile first, you’re missing a trick – and Google penalises websites that aren’t mobile friendly.”
Paradoxically, as the world has become addicted to the internet, authenticity has become more highly prized. Customers want to know exactly who they’re dealing with, which means wineries need to give their people an online presence. “None of this anonymous stuff,” said Richer. “It’s got to be people. Even though we’re in an online world, it’s a people-to-people business. You must be visible as named individuals running your business.”
In other words, a winery should feature photos and an introduction to its owner, cellar door people and other customer service staff.
“We don’t trust the people we’re buying from any more, because they might be giving us marketing spiel,” he went on. “But we trust their customers.” Richer also advised website owners to have customer reviews on their website.
Vibrancy is another key element of a good website, by which Richer meant using video or virtual reality to show people what the property or experience is going to be like.
Of most importance, is what Richer called the “frictionless customer journey”. Test and re-test any offers on the website, to ensure that the customer can make a booking or purchase in as few clicks as possible. “Harness artificial intelligence tools like UnBabel,” which allows websites to offer information and customer support in multiple languages. “The whole customer journey should be frictionless. If people have to think about how they fill in a form on your website, then you’ve potentially lost customers. Your website should have no road blocks at all,” he said.
If businesses remember to be mobile compliant, multi-lingual, personal and frictionless, then “you’re going to be making more money”.
The IWINETC is a three-day event consisting of a two day conference and a one day workshop, held in different wine-related locations each March. Aimed at wine tourism professionals, it offers professional education, talks and networking. The 2020 conference will be held in Friuli, Italy.