The challenges of selling wine online: how to solve them with conversational marketing?

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By Margot Bonhomme, Marketing Manager @Botfuel

December 15, 2020

Wine is a cultural heritage. Very popular, it delights producers and sellers. His business has always been based on advice, conversation, and exchange. This is why there is such resistance to switching to e-commerce. But it was without counting on the arrival of new players, 100% digitized. They have accelerated the transition to sell wine online. This doesn’t mean consumers have adopted it. How to make them pass the milestone? What solutions can be implemented to support buyers and sellers?

The wine market is attacking e-commerce and attracting overall

Wine e-commerce is strongly growing over the past ten years. Sales have grown by 30% per year since 2008 and stabilized from 2015, with a growth of 6%. According to FranceAgrimer, e-commerce represents 9 to 10% of global wine sales for an estimated value of 500 million euros excluding tax. People buy from 3 to 6 bottles online per year with an average basket between 11 and 22 €. Wine represents 70% of alcoholic beverages sold online. This market is also boosted by millennials and m-commerce. According to FranceAgrimer, 40% have at least one application dedicated to wine on their smartphone or tablet, against 23% for those over 40.

Wine commerce therefore still has a bright future ahead. Both buyers and sellers, who are present with around 400 websites in France. Indeed, many producers have taken the plunge by opening their own e-commerce sites. Generalist e-merchants distributing large sales volumes followed them. Large-scale distribution, a bit later, also went for it.

The arrival of large-scale distribution on this market opens a new phase: maturation. E-commerce sites are becoming more sustainable: the top 20 saw their turnover increase by 17%. One of the consequences is the drop in the turnover of the smallest, which translates into a decrease in the number of players by around 10% per year. The barriers to entry into this activity are increasingly difficult to overcome.

Breakdown of the number of online wine sales sites by segment Breakdown of the number of online wine sales sites by segment Breakdown of online wine sales revenue by segment Breakdown of online wine sales revenue by segment

But it is the Pureplayers who capitalize the bulk of wine e-commerce. They represent an offer of more than 150 sites (around 35% of the offer) and a turnover of around 170 millions. Pureplayers, a historic category of online wine sales sites, are now facing a new competition from new players such as boxes or private sales: 23% of sites referenced in 2016 disappeared in 2019. Players such as Veepee or Bazarchic achieve a turnover of 65 millions €.

This is why many websites are fighting back and investing in the customer experience to differentiate themselves and build loyalty. They deploy several strategies to inform consumers, including shopping assistants, winegrower reviews or wine ratings by oenologists.

What are the doubts of visitors?

The online wine market is buoyant. While they were only 4% in 2010, and 11% in 2011, they are now 31% of the french population buying wine on the internet (according to the Sowine barometer). ⅔ are still not interested in it. But why?

Lack of customer expertise

France may be the homeland of wine, but very few people think they know the subject. According to Bruno Jeanbart, Deputy Director General of the Opinion Way polling institute, “less than 3% of consumers consider themselves to be specialists. They are eagerly awaiting advice! ”. For fear of making a mistake, they don't prefer to buy online. This is also felt in the purchase of gifts: how to be sure to offer a sure value?

Lack of advice

According to Bruno Jeanbart, “28% of consumers like to be spontaneously advised by waiters and sommeliers. 58% prefer to choose on their own but still want the opportunity to seek advice.” This advice is harder to get online. In addition, 44% of buyers prefer the label to choose a bottle. It is therefore important to set up complete and clear product sheets to allow consumers to find all the information they need.

Breakage

According to the sowine barometer, 23% of those who do not buy online do so for fear of breakage. Transport and storage conditions are therefore a hindrance to purchasing.

The allure of novelty

Consumers are not used to buying wine online. 34% of those who don't buy on the internet do so because they just haven't thought about it. In addition, an Internet user who is not used to this will tend to have a higher perception of risk (choice, payment, security, delivery, etc.) and will spend more time comparing websites, looking for the right wine, and therefore doubting.

How to resolve these doubts?

The first step is to reassure the customer. Thus, he will feel more confident and will therefore be more inclined to make purchases on your site. To do this, set up a conversational strategy.

Through conversational campaigns that streamline the purchasing journey, highlight your policy (return, delivery, breakage, etc.). In this way, you prove that you have thought of all the possible scenarios. You allow your customers to easily and quickly find the answer to their doubts.

When your customers arrive at the ordering phase, optimize your payment methods and offer them the most appropriate according to their basket.

Invest in a shopping assistant. This virtual sales advisor will come and connect to your product catalog. He knows therefore your entire cellar and can offer the right product according to the customer's needs. Through an exchange, he will understand the context of the purchase (profile, need, mood, budget ...) and offer him personalized advice. It reproduces as much as possible the experience offered by a wine merchant. This is for example what is doing Federal, the swiss wine project is. With his shopping assistant, he welcomes and accompanies his visitors in the choice of wine.


Wine e-commerce is seeing a bright future ahead of it. Its conversational aspect is not forgotten, on the contrary. Many brands are putting advice and conversation back at the heart of the sales process through AI and conversational marketing, offering consumers a shopping experience similar to in-store.

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