Winemaking is one of the oldest industries in the world, and selling wine is one of the oldest mercantile trades there is. But despite the venerable traditions that run deep in the industry, there have been a number of ways in which new technologies are revolutionizing wine sales.
The connections are not obvious at first, however. Sure, terms like AI, ChatGPT, NFTs, and gamification have been all over the news in recent years. It’s hard to miss the excitement around them as their proponents lay out a vision for their future use. But how, exactly, would AI be used to sell wine? What does a chatbot have to do with wine marketing? How could a technology for selling digital art relate to investments in wine?
Technology is in our DNA here at Copper Peak, so we’ve been keeping up with the buzz around these futuristic trends. Here’s how we see them affecting the art of selling wine in years to come.
Using Artificial Intelligence in Wine Sales and Marketing
Artificial intelligence is a broad category of technologies that includes machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, and more. It’s those first two that have captured the attention of sales teams generally, and they both hold promise for transforming how wineries interact with their customers.
Machine Learning. Machine learning algorithms are able to pore through mountains of data, catching patterns a human might miss, or that might simply take a lot of time (and math). For example, AI tools are now being used for things like sales forecasting and pipeline analysis. This could become a big thing for the wine industry, as wineries try to predict potential sales volume across different channels (in the tasting room, shipped DTC, or through 3-tier networks).
Natural Language Processing. We’ve all heard of ChatGPT by now and have probably run across some content that has been generated with it. ChatGPT and similar tools are able not only to produce natural-sounding language, but also to hold entire conversations and give (mostly correct) answers to questions. It can even refine its answers based on further user input. Such tools are being used in customer service, for example, to power those pop-up chat windows one sees on websites. They can also be used to create compelling email and social media copy for a winery’s digital marketing efforts.
A Little of Both: AI-Powered CRMs. At the end of the day, the most useful thing technology can do is automate and speed up the most repetitive tasks a person performs. In the past two centuries, those were manual labor tasks. Today, they are increasingly administrative tasks. AI-powered CRMS, for example, help to capture contact data and activity automatically, drastically reducing manual data entry. Those points of contact can then be mapped to opportunities—for example, flagging customers who might appreciate a certain seasonal special, or automating birthday messages and gifts.
NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and “Investment” Wines
“NFT” simply stands for “non-fungible token,” which means that something is unique and thus cannot be exchanged for something of equal value. (By contrast, money is highly fungible; you can trade the $10 bill in your pocket for any other $10 bill, and it would amount to the same thing.) NFTs were originally used for digital art, the idea being that each piece could then be uniquely identified and its ownership traced using blockchain technology.
NFTs gained a foothold in the wine industry when companies started selling NFTs to trace ownership of cases of wine. The idea works when you think of wine as an investment: People will pay good money for a bottle of wine that will likely appreciate in value in the future. (Wine isn’t a bad investment, either—the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index has risen over 270% over the past two decades, outperforming the S&P 500 by 8 percentage points.)
Wine investing itself is not a new idea, but using NFTs to record and trace the transaction is. The idea is that the investor can buy a case of wine without worrying about the wine’s authenticity or provenance, as that is recorded in the NFT. The wine can then be kept in a temperature-controlled warehouse, and the investor need not worry about shipping, storage, or logistics. The NFT comes with a certificate of ownership and authenticity which, theoretically, cannot be hacked, thereby safeguarding the investor’s ownership.
But Do NFTs Help Sell Wine? That’s the big question. There is obviously a business model where wines can be sold as a kind of investment vehicle, and several businesses have cropped up that do just that. But this kind of business is more focused on premium wines, seeing them as something to buy and trade, not as something to drink with friends. Can NFTs be used to sell your “everyday” kind of wine? It remains to be seen.
Gamification and the Social Aspect of Wine
We’ve discussed before the importance of digital marketing for wine sales DTC (and spoken with several experts on the topic). Today, these efforts have gone beyond simple sales and outreach, with technology creating a whole digital and social experience around wine.
One of the biggest barriers to enjoying wine that consumers experience is the “learning curve” associated with it. Not only is the vocabulary of wine intimidating (though it shouldn’t be); there are also thousands of varietals, and even more brands, to try.
That learning curve (and intimidation factor) is being turned into an opportunity. For example, there are many apps now (that many wineries have a presence on as well) that allow customers to snap a picture of a wine label and add their own ratings and tasting notes as they try new wines. The app will keep tabs on what the customer likes, making it easy to find and order those wines again—and recommending other wines that would be worth trying. The customer can also tag friends, share their notes, or see what other friends have said about wines they’ve tried.
These kinds of apps are helping to “gamify” wine appreciation; they make the experience of trying wines more social and more purposeful. As consumers discover what they like and further refine their palates, wine makers will benefit from a growing customer base. And who knows? Someday, wineries themselves might be able to access some of the data gathered this way to inform not only their marketing, but their wine-making itself.
Are These Technologies Just Hype?
It’s easy to be impressed by cool new technologies. It’s also just as easy to dismiss a newer, untested technology because of the perceived hype. Which of these technologies will really transform how wine is bought and sold?
That’s hard to predict. The best we can do is monitor how these technologies are successfully used, and to continue to develop tools that make all aspects of the wine selling process easier. As far as that second part goes, we advise readers to stay tuned. 🙂