According to official figures (read here), global online wine sales exceeded $5bn in 2012 and are continuing to grow at about 30% per year.
Anyways, the majority of consumers continue to buy their wine through traditional channels and online sales account for less than 5% of all sales worldwide. The average is higher in the UK, France and Germany, where the percentage of consumers who buy wine online is increasing (approximately 9/10% out of the total) and lower in the USA, where only 2% of people prefer shopping online.
In a sector in which the majority of consumers continue to buy and producers continue to distribute wine through traditional channels, the Internet sales option is destined to grow, anyways. For this reason, in the last few years, a myriad of startups have launched to revolutionize the industry via flash sales, discounts and auctions models or leveraging the concierge approach, a more customized model with daily offerings of selections of finest product. Have a look of what is happening globally. In the US, NYC-based Lot18 provides access to high-quality wines at attractive prices via experts who work with winemakers around the world to select products that represent the highest quality and value. Each product is offered for a limited time or until members have purchased all available quantity The company has raised $45m in venture financing and acquired Paris-based Vinobest.
In the UK, Norwich-based Naked Wines leverages a particular model: it allows regular customers, who are called angels, to invest into independent winemakers, in exchange for wholesale pricing – 25-50% below retail prices.
In Germany, Mainz-based Vicampohas selected over 25,000 experienced and emerging winemakers nationwide who deliver their wines directly to customers. The quality of wines is tested by experts and customers, who are asked to review products.
In France, the attempt is to make an systemic effort: an association called The Wine Startups was launched in 2013 with the aim to make Bordeaux “the place to be when you have an interest in the wine digital business, wherever you are from”. It currently features 13 startups operating in the wine supply chain.
In Italy, the latest offering comes from wineOwine, a startup (incubated within LUISS ENLABS) that operates an online platform focused on selecting niche wines from small producers and making them available for a limited time at a dicounted price. Other startups are Florence-based Vino75, dedicated to Tuscany-made wines, and Tannico.
Finally, For lovers and hobbists, Danish startup Vivino , which is backed by Balderton Capital, has developed a free wine app to rate and review wine and share it. Users can take a photo of any wine label and shop smarter via a nearby feature to see ratings, tasting notes and pricing on wines sold at retailers near them. It claims to have a community of more than 3 million users.
Given the above, it looks clear that – globally – there is an attempt to disrupt how this traditional industry works, mainly in the distribution phase of the supply chain. These startups are trying hard to do it by leveraging different models but success is not granted. In this old fashioned sector, figures show that acquiring clients, convincing them that online is better, represents the true challenge. Offering a high-quality selection of bottles and good levels of service at the lowest prices can help, of course.