Italy’s winemaking industry held fast despite the pandemic, according to Assoenologi, Ismea and the Italian Wine Union, showing a slight drop of 1% of the 20% harvested compared to 2019, a sign of a leadership that is difficult to break even in times of severe crisis. Yet it was precisely the health emergency that revealed some of the sector’s critical points, highlighting the urgent need to adapt rapidly to change, especially technological change. While producing excellent wine is certainly not difficult in our country, there is a challenge in selling, promoting and making it known to a wider public. In short, while it was once enough to be a winemaker or sommelier, today you also need to be a computer scientist, a social media manager, a marketing expert and, at the same time, a hospitality expert. Because in an extremely fragmented and competitive market like the wine market, the only way to stand out and differentiate oneself is the ability to communicate and fascinate customers.
“Wine Italy. New trends for an innovative market“, a PHYD event held this past 5 July as a snapshot of the current conditions of the wine and food tourism market in Italy, and an opportunity to learn about some of the main trends in which companies should invest in the near future. Journalist Silvia Pagliuca hosts two experts in the field: Slawka Scarso, Wine Marketing and Food and Wine Tourism consultant and lecturer, and Filippo Galanti, co-founder and business development director at Divinea, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) entity that digitalises the customer experience of wineries.
Wine sector macro-trends
To get a better understanding of where the market is headed, Slawka Scarso shares some of the economic macro-trends relevant to the sector:
- An ageing of the population: this trend translates into the assumption of very specific lifestyles and consumption patterns, driven by greater possibilities of spending and time. Wine drinkers usually like to consume away from home, often preferring expensive wines.
- Consumer environmental awareness: there is a growing number of wineries choosing to invest in more sustainable and lightweight packaging or in production processes with a lower environmental impact to match this sentiment.
- The search for experience beyond the product, such as tastings at wineries or restaurants
- The need for consumer personalisation and listening.
According to Scarso, Italian companies are mainly lacking in the last point:
The wine market is still very product-oriented. And yet we cannot forget about consumers. And today consumers are online.
It is therefore essential for anyone involved in wine and food tourism to follow consumers through all the different stages of the customer journey, from perceived need to post-purchase. A journey that unfolds predominantly online and through social networks.
The importance of digital
And we focus precisely on the digital world and opportunities afforded by technology with Filippo Galanti, who graduated as an electronic engineer and had a career in finance before moving on to his first love: wine. His startup Divinea was initially created as a wine tourism portal to encourage dialogue between companies and direct consumers, but when the lockdown came and changed all the rules of the game, it also revealed a new way forward. This is how smart-testing was born. “We brought the wine to people’s homes so they could interact with the producer online and taste it in their own glass as if they were at a winery“. The pandemic no doubt rewrote the rules of wine sales, but it opened up new possibilities, such as digital channels for communicating more effectively with consumers, collecting data on buying behaviour and consumption habits, selling without intermediaries, harnessing the power of e-commerce and thus increasing sales margins.
We brought the wine to people’s homes so they could interact with the producer online and taste it in their own glass as if they were at a winery.
It is, as we all realise by now, a cultural challenge even before it became a technological one. It is therefore necessary to awaken the smallest enterprises or even just the most wary of these tools and marketing approaches to adopt a digital mindset and equip themselves with new skills. As Galanti points out, “people working in wineries no longer need to have an intrinsic knowledge of the wine product, but must inevitably also be familiar with the use of digital tools, for data collection for example. They must merge with the company’s sales and communication strategy and be sensitive to consumer demands”.
A consumer who doesn’t just want to drink wine, but wants to see what’s behind the bottle, what values and ideas that wine holds and tells, to be drunk on stories and life.
To watch the event, simply register on the PHYD website.