Digital future for wine sales: Vinexpo
I, Robot: Max le Sommelier
Digital technology is driving a sea change in the way retailers engage with wine drinkers, said the Chief Operating Officer of research group Wine Intelligence, Richard Halstead.
Speaking at a briefing hosted by trade show Vinexpo, Halstead highlighted several techniques already being used by retailers around the world.
These include 'Max le Sommelier', who is navigating shoppers through mind-boggling wine aisles in French hypermarkets, and an initiative in Total Wine & More stores in the US, which allows drinkers to tweet live with a winemaker and view live link-ups to vineyards on screens.
Mobile phone apps and social media are also set to become much bigger tools for helping wine drinkers to decipher which bottle to pick.
'The internet is allowing consumers to access wine in an unprecedented way,' Halstead said. However, he also warned of the danger of 'information overload'.
In terms of actual online sales, China has the biggest number of drinkers who buy at least some of their wine via the internet, currently at 27%, according to Wine Intelligence data. This is set to hit 47% by 2020.
In comparison, by the same year, the UK will have 26% of wine drinkers buying online, while France is only expected to have 8%.
More generally, the briefing highlighted a trend away from drinking wine in bars, pubs and restaurants in several countries, including the UK, US and France.
The off-trade, which includes the internet, supermarkets, hypermarkets and specialist shops, already accounts for 60% of world wine sales.