The global pandemic has had so many impacts that it will probably take many years to sort through, and properly reflect on how deep, and widespread.
Even though growth in customer-driven demand for e-commerce and other forms of digital commercial interface had been on an upward swing for years, Covid was clearly the accelerant as everyone was at home and unable to shop, and consume, in person, which has greatly expanded sales channels.
“We’re at a point now with change; its omnichannel,” said Rob McMillan, the executive vice president and founder of the Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, in a SVB-sponsored webinar on DTC, held on May 25.
The other wine industry panelists on the webinar, consisting of two wineries and a wine platform, were in agreement on the multiplicity of selling channels being the new reality, although they acknowledged the inherent challenges that wine sellers are facing in order to get up to speed with digital transformation.
“It can be very overwhelming as you start moving into these digital investments—it is not just money, but time,” said Janiene Ullrich, direct-to-consumer executive vice president for The Family Coppola.
However, don’t be afraid to test, and experiment, said Ullrich. Her peer on the virtual stage, Aileen Sevier, vice president of strategy and marketing for Virginia-based Early Mountain Vineyards, agreed.
“Start with what you have and see what will work,” said Sevier.
“We’re a small winery with limited resources. As we were transitioning from a hospitality winery to an e-commerce winery, we experimented—getting our email marketing to work really effectively, and social media,” she said.
An example of trying out a new sales channel and audience is how Early Mountain Vineyards launched their second wine club offering at the end of 2020, which is a collaboration with other Virginia wineries under the aegis of Taste of Virginia, that ships small-batch, experimental wines to members, opening up a new customer base, Sevier said.
Digital transformation is not just impacting the wine industry, but many other industries, all of which are grappling with how to chart the best path forward in response to the intense demand for digital solutions.
For example, “One of our Achilles heels is our IT stack is not quite what it should be,” said Jay Taylor, chief operating officer of Vancouver BC-based outdoor gear retailer, Mountain Equipment Company, during the recent Distribution Logistics Summit virtual event.
“Our challenge for our supply chain and last mile delivery is living up to our customers’ demands,“ he remarked, adding that, “There’s a ton of pressure” to deliver through whatever delivery means are available.”
At the same time, “Consumers are more impatient than ever,” concurred Liza Amlani, principal and founder of the Retail Strategy Group.
“The inventory planning and systems that many retailers have out there now are legacy systems, so it’s difficult for retailers to react, but real-time visibility from data is needed. There needs to be a change of retailers’ behavior,” she said.
“Post-pandemic, customers will be shopping more through digital and social platform commerce as there are so many more of these types of options available to them,” said Amlani.
Ryan Ernst, who leads the supply chain and manufacturing operations and ground transportation advisory practice at Deloitte, said there is a need for more and better data across the supply chain eco-system.
“There’s been a shift from the hording of data. [There are] platforms that open up visibility, such as for analytics on what is happening ‘in the now’ and being able to share that with your customers to give them opportunities to digest that info and react,” he said.
One key hotspot in the supply chain that has intensified is last mile delivery to consumers.
“Order orchestration for the last mile delivery itself is its own area,” said Ernst.
“There’s a lot of investment now—billions and billions of dollars—in last mile technologies,” he said.
As to how to make your digital supply chain more sustainable, Ernst queried: “Can you incite grouping of orders? Can you automate further? There’s a significant technology aspect to these types of decisions, [which represent] a significant uptick for retailers, direct-to-consumer manufacturers, and logistics providers.”
Being faced with what can seem like almost insurmountable challenges when contemplating digital transformation was not lost on the panelists of the SVB wine webinar, who stressed that doing so is about more than making the right technological investments.
“It’s not just the money investment, but investing the time and mindset,” said The Coppola Family’s Janiene Ullrich. “Whatever data you have, [it’s about] evangelizing that data throughout your organization.”
Paul Mabray, CEO of Pix, a wine discovery platform, agreed. “It’s more about people and process. It’s not about doing all of this at once; crawl, walk, run.”