In an effort to broaden our communication channels, Robert and I are back with a first podcast for some time, this time for the new Wine Conversation. In this episode we talk about an exciting project we have lined up for the Access Zone at the London International Wine Fair. Called “Disrupt”, the idea is to create wine at the London International Wine Fair in 3 days, from blending to putting it on sale for all of you to be able to buy. Take a listen and let us know what you think!
People don’t want to waste their time walking around for 3 days, with sore feet and bad food, unless there is a something to be gained from it. Whether you’re a winemaker selling your wines, a wine retailer looking for new discoveries or wine writer looking for the next big story to pitch, we all have £ signs in our eyes. Our end goal is: Doing business.
Today the fact is that, more and more, business is going online. From this people have made the jump to say that you don’t even need a wine fair if you can just do it “virtually”. Unfortunately for us, this quickly falls apart when we ask for a taste of a wine … I, for one, find licking my laptop screen a non-starter. So we’re back to mailing samples, organizing ourselves a bit more and doing the work piece-meal.
Wine fairs are great at one thing: Bringing people together. Heck the work “fair” is exciting, evoking dreams of ferris wheels, candy floss and adrenaline-rushes from impossibly-named roller coasters, but none the less a fair is a fair. With hundreds of people wandering about there is an opportunity for all wine buyers, sellers and communicators to find some business. But again, maybe a ‘one or other’ mentality is just a bit too passe.
We host a conference each year and we limit ourselves to 200 participants. We are a small focused group of individuals who come together to talk in person, face to face. Funny thing is that we also talk online during the whole conference with each other, including those who could not be there. During big tastings, where we sit quietly and listen to a speaker walk us through a selection of wines, behind the deferential murmur is a wild cacophony of twitter and Facebook conversations. Opinions are exchanged & dialogs fomented.
Imagine if you did that on a much larger scale.
That is what the Access Zone is all about at this year’s London International Wine Fair (#LIWF). A place to discuss the internet, to track the conversation and to encourage dialog. With free wifi for all, plus power points (outlets for you non-Brits) galore, we offer a location to learn about the web, share your stories with other curious folks and get your questions answered.
This year, working with MadCatMedia, we are bringing you 3 days of live video from the fair. Live video that will not just share a message, but encourage a dialog about wine, wine communications and much, much more. With an open door policy and the ability to be watched online or in person, our desire is to show people that the world is not a place of black and white but a prism of colors that stand within.
We’ll come back and explain more about what we are doing in the coming days, but for now let us know what you think. Will you stop by? You can check all our events at the official schedule: http://vrazon.com/accesszone and even watch a recap from last year.
See you at the fair!
Recently I was talking to a friend who was doing project management on a mobile phone app for a department within the Catalan government. Voicing his many general frustrations with working for the government, there was one particular issue that caught my ear.
He stated that all they seemed to know about the project when they approached him was that they “needed” an app. Loosely, they knew they could do something with maps in the city of Barcelona, but most importantly they “needed” an app.
Let me be absolutely clear, no one needs an app.
What people do need is to solve problems, or simplify elements of one’s business or job. These are the starting points. No one would say “I need a shovel”, then go out and buy a shovel without knowing what you’re going to use it for. If you need to dig a small hole, you buy a shovel. That said once you know the size of the hole you need, you might decide that a shovel is the wrong tool.
I know “apps” are in fashion but a useless app built only for the sake of “having an app” is not only a waste of money, but can reflect negatively on your product overall. Asking your consumers to download an app when they visit your site builds expectations, and if when they decide to download it all they get is the same content you have on your website already, but in a smaller, less convenient form, you’re not thinking of your consumer, but rather your ego.
That said, there are a lot of things today that could and would benefit from having an app, but rather than thinking about the app first, figure out the problem, develop a solution and consider whether an “app” is the best way to solve the problem.
Oddbins is in trouble, and it needs a new lease of life, and probably a new investor, to survive, but brands CAN survive repeated near-death experiences if they have something to live for.
Newspapers and the wine media are full of doom and gloom stories about the future of Oddbins, once the UK’s coolest wine retailer. This week they announced that they were closing 39 shops, losing around 200 staff, and that this was probably just the start. The reality is that once the financial situation reaches a state of crisis, trust evaporates and things only get worse. Of course many of us working in the wine business either grew up working or shopping there, so many people are very upset.
What seems to be missing from the discussion are positive suggestions on the future for this brand.
I know nothing of the financial or management discussions going on at the moment, but I thought I’d say something that has been on my mind since the current owners, under the management of Simon Baile, bought the business from Castel in 2008.
Let’s face it, the future of mass wine retail on the high street is either finished, or extremely uncertain*. We don’t shop there as often and margins don’t cover extremely high rents and staff costs. This is not the full story though. The Telegraph points out that wine is not alone here:
Every bottle of wine we’ve bought in the supermarket over the last year has been a bottle we haven’t bought from Oddbins and its rapidly diminishing off-licence peers. … Oddbins’ troubles are exactly those that have hit booksellers and record shops nationwide. Let’s hope that there’s not about to be another casualty to add to the list.
We have not stopped buying music, books or films have we? We just stopped buying them on the high street.
I know, I KNOW! Books and music can be ‘consumed’ digitally, but that just made them the first to move the shopping experience online. Our lives are changing and a lot of our shopping is now online. I don’t know about you, but our household rarely visits supermarkets anymore and orders stuff with excellent companies such as Ocado.
Wine is no different. Can you imagine an investor buying into a chain of high street bookshops, music shops or video stores in 2008? I’m sorry, but why did Oddbins try to save hundreds of shops? While they were doing that, people like Rowan Gormley were doing the opposite and establishing businesses like Naked Wines.
Oddbins established its reputation because it made wine accessible to people when the only alternative was “stuffy old wine merchants” – even supermarkets were hardly in the game in those days. The reputation was not really built on “convenience” of high street retail but on the knowledge of staff, the quirkiness of the range, the “coolness” of the Ralph Steadman brand image and the general excitement of discovery. I think I’m right in daying, however, that despite this, even at its peak, Oddbins was never greatly profitable even then!
It’s not death, it is moving on to a better place
Where can you best make that happen today, and try and do it profitably? Not in shops, but online.
The future of the Oddbins brand is to “ascend to a higher plane” and move its MAIN business online and keep a small number of outlets as “experience stores” (in the way Apple & Nike have done so well, and Laithwaites is already doing in wine).
I know it will be a tough transition, and I’m sorry to the many fine folks that will lose their retail jobs, but this would also create a whole new category of online advisor jobs where staff could actually use their wine knowledge and spend less time stacking shelves and dusting bottles.
Threshers tried to cling on to its retail model, and after a protracted series of death throws, it eventually collapsed. That brand didn’t have much to live for. Oddbins is different. I believe, along with many others, that it deserves to continue, but it must go back to its ‘Odd’ roots and embrace the future, not cling to the past.
* Real local shops will survive, but big brands are unlikely to. Even Majestic avoids the actual ‘high street’ and their model is based on finding other local sites.