Winesolation: How Australian wineries have pivoted to online sales during COVID-19

Dean Taylor, founder and CEO of WineDepot, sees challenge and resilience for the industry in the face of the pandemic.

The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the toughest years for Australian wine producers. First suffering at the flames of Australia’s worst bushfires, then just as they were getting back on their feet COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown.

All the family-owned boutique wineries that relied on cellar door sales suddenly were forced to close. However, when one door closes, another opens.

What could have been a story of sour grapes, has instead been a story of resilience and creativity. For many, it has been the push they needed to reimagine their digital presence.

While bottle shops enforced limits to reduce panic buying, many wineries pivoted to meet the huge market demand for online, direct, same-day deliveries.

This demand is not new; rather, it has been amplified by the pandemic. An IBIS World report revealed that online liquor sales were worth an estimated

$569.4 million in 2019 with 14 per cent annual growth on average for the past five years. More customers are shopping online and 80% of them want same-day shipping.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the inefficiencies of the existing Australian wine supply chain – something WineDepot has partnered with Australia Post to solve.

Waiting two weeks for the delivery of something people buy as an immediate purchase no longer makes sense.

With physical ‘depots’ in each state, wineries can now promise their customers same-day, free delivery.

For all the boutique wineries who don’t have the volume of production to sell through major retailers, their customers on the other side of the country no longer have to wait two weeks for their purchase to arrive.

This is a game-changer for the Australian wine industry and in the face of crisis, has been a service WineDepot offered at a heavily reduced rate to help Aussie wineries see this period through.

As well as transforming their entire direct-to-consumer sales channels from cellar-doors to online-only, we’ve seen countless examples of creativity through crisis.

Australian wineries have innovated to deliver toilet paper, partner with food outlets to offer drive-through pizza and wine, sell fresh produce as supermarket shelves were emptied, deliver online wine masterclasses and even craft a unique wine-tasting sample pack.

In my 20 years in the wine industry, I’ve never seen anything like it. Nothing has come close to presenting such a challenge, but the industry as a whole has demonstrated its resilience.

Wine brings people together, even in isolation. For many sharing a glass with their nearest and dearest provides an escape from the COVID-19 emotional rollercoaster – instantly transporting them back to that beautiful cellar door they visited.

When this passes, I look forward to seeing wineries re-open their cellar doors with greater ownership of their customer base, vastly improved communications, and ready to exceed new customers’ expectations.

About Dean Taylor
Named one of the 50 Stars of Wine and Top 50 People in Ecommerce, Dean Taylor is the founder and CEO of WineDepot, and a highly regarded wine technology entrepreneur with eight successful online wine ventures under his belt. WineDepot is set to disrupt the Australian wine industry, partnering with Australia Post, to provide an online end-to-end trading and logistics solution for Australia’s $6 billion wine industry.

This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker. To find out more about our monthly magazine, or to subscribe, click here!

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