It has been four years since Australian wine online retailer Vinomofo launched in Singapore. Here, we chat with general manager Michael Parmeter about the burgeoning liquor sector in the country and how the business has adapted to make it through the pandemic. Inside Retail: What are some of the interesting ways that Covid has impacted Vinomofo and how have you changed the long-term business strategy as a result? Michael Parmeter: The implementation of social distancing measures brought about ch
out changes in the way consumers in Singapore drink, which brought about some changes to our businesses as well. From the start of circuit breaker, we saw a 70 per cent increase in year-on-year sales in Singapore. In spite of the regulations relaxing over the past few months in the country, what has been fantastic is that we have maintained this increase as we continue to keep our mofos happy. We have worked tirelessly to continue to supply incredible wines to our Singapore mofos, sending products from all over the globe to keep up with the demand. We have also collaborated with our local delivery providers to ensure the highest level of safety is upheld, so we can manage this increase in demand without any impact to our loyal customers. Ultimately, we had planned and put the infrastructure in place for this growth in the market. We were just able to realise these plans sooner than expected. Vinomofo has always been more than just a wine sales service, we’re driven by a desire to help people connect with the wine they love, and build a community of wine lovers. That’s translated to our business too – our approach relies heavily on customer referrals and providing a personalised experience. From that perspective, the overall customer experience is how we differentiate ourselves, beyond just our stock list and delivery options. IR: What are the interesting consumer insights that you gathered during the pandemic? MP: At first, what was interesting was the type of wine people ordered changed. We sold two months worth of rose in a week, with varieties which are traditionally chilled becoming ever more popular. We felt that this was down to the fact that our clients would often have cooler drinks in a local venue, before bringing a bottle of our wines to their dinner parties or reservations later on. With everything becoming home consumption, we were called upon to provide wine for all stages of the evening. The feedback we have received from our mofos has been nothing but positive. We have been able to provide the same incredible wine at the same cost to consumers, without any delays or mishaps along the way. With some much for everyone to worry about, it was important that we made sure their wine supply wasn’t added to that list of worries. Like most other consumer products, wine is subject to personalised taste, so it’s important we only send deals to our customers which we know they’ll love. If you’ve placed 20 orders in your lifetime, mostly reds and not one of them Sauvignon Blanc, we can kind of assume this isn’t your thing. Most importantly, with the right tools, all of these insights can be distilled into ways that we can serve our customers better. Before, we had a lot of disjointed systems and no central source of truth for our customer data or communications. What we’ve done is centralise data with platforms such as HubSpot, using their CRM as our single source of truth across our teams, automated communications scale, and created a truly omnichannel experience for our customers. This allows us to personalise at scale. With HubSpot, we could get that source of truth and have everything [fed] into it, and this would allow us to really enhance our customer communications and experience. The more closely aligned with our customers we are, the better results we see. We also expect to leverage these strengthened relationships to build an even stronger Vinomofo community moving ahead. IR: How did Vinomofo pivot quickly to capitalise on increased demand? MP: It helps that Vinomofo has always been a digital-native service, so our customer-facing platforms and channels were already designed to provide an optimal online experience. Beyond that, however, we’ve also made sure that on the back-end, our customer relationship management systems were synced up and aligned with the help of tools – that means we were able to use the insights gained from customers’ shopping activity to get a better understanding of our buyers, their tastes and preferences, and then use that to help us tailor our services for them. Our focus over the years on building a strong community of wine lovers has also given us an edge during this time, with our mofos knowing that they can rely on us to understand their preferences and provide the creature comforts they crave. IR: During the pandemic, there have been reports of an increase in drinking, especially at home. What is Vinomofo’s take on responsible drinking? MP: It’s very simple for us. At Vinomofo, we love our wine, but we like to also lead long and happy lives, and be good to the world and the people in it. We all try to drink responsibly, in moderation, and we really hope you do too. Don’t be that guy… IR: Beyond the pandemic, how is Vinomofo doing since it launched in Singapore and what have been some of the interesting lessons you’ve learnt? MP: Vinomofo is coming up to [its] fourth birthday in Singapore and we are doing better than ever. When moving such a beloved brand to a different market, it is of such importance that each and every day, you try to learn more about who you are selling to. What, when and how people drink wine in Singapore is different to anywhere else in the world, being such a progressive and multicultural country. In our job, it is a daily balancing act of trying to educate our mofos on what is new and popular in the world of wine, while at the same time allowing our mofos to educate us on what they want to drink. At the end of the day, our aim is to build a happy and fulfilled community of mofos, wherever we are. IR: Events and community play significant roles in Vinomofo’s strategy. How does that look for Vinomofo now, given the pandemic? MP: Not being able to have face-to-face time with our beloved mofos has certainly been hard for us, but we have all had to deal with the impacts in one way or another. We have been able to pivot our interactions online, and host virtual wine tasting events, which have been extremely popular with our corporate clients. It’s a great opportunity to get the team together for an afternoon wind down and the general sense is that it’s nearly as good as the real thing. Beyond that, it’s also about considering both on-and offline channels as integral parts of the customer journey and experience. Even before the pandemic, a substantial part of the customer experience with Vinomofo took place online, and it was important for us to make sure it was a pleasant one. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure to provide what your customers need, when they need, where they want to access it. IR: How are the Australian consumers different from Singaporean consumers when it comes to consumer behaviour? MR: The Singaporean consumer is a very well educated one, and they know how to get a good deal. Therefore we always have to make sure we are offering the best wines, at the most epic prices, which thankfully is what we stand for, both in Singapore and in Australia. In terms of what they purchase, due to the endless summer we enjoy here, there is much less seasonality than in places which traditionally get all four seasons. We know our mofos are predominately red wine lovers, seeking varietals from all over the globe, so this is how we curate what we offer. Above all else, we have brought together a community of wine lovers, with the shared ethos that you can be passionate about wines, but you don’t need to bring all the bowties and BS that often comes with it. IR: How would you describe the current liquor and beverage sector right now? There have been a few wine e-commerce players that have launched in recent years, so it seems like a growing category. MP: The liquor industry is currently in full flight, and that makes it the perfect time to be a consumer. There are so many wineries the world over who want to tell their stories and showcase their wines. We thrive off the competition, because a healthy industry only leads to more opportunities. It allows us to continue to evolve and find new ways to unite our tribe of mofos with wine. IR: What are the future plans for Vinomofo in Singapore? MP: We are always looking for new ways to showcase the wines we love in Singapore. We are currently exploring opportunities with bars and restaurants and grocery retailers, as well as offering more education through Wine Clubs and once restrictions ease, more educational events.