The meaning of Brand in Wine Ecommerce

Here we go with another wine article. Wine provides an example of a unique balance between industry, tradition, and art. In addition, wine is a pleasure for many, too.

It provides an interesting showcase to understand the fluid reality of the concept of a brand, how a brand gets leveraged in an online search, and to what extent a brand operates in the wine industry.

The origins of branding

According to the Free Dictionary, brand is a trademark or distinctive name identifying a product, and according to Wikipedia, a brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good as distinct from those of other sellers.

The term derives from the Old Norse word brandr or “to burn,” and refers to the practice of branding livestock, which dates back more than 4,000 years to the Indus Valley.

Over time, brand helped artisans and traders claim credit for their work and products, and brands were visibly stamped on pottery, bricks, houses, artwork, coffee imports, and of course, wine barrels. During centuries, brand has helped customers recognize and associate products to specific values, such as quality, origin, composition, and production.

It is important to highlight that brand has been mainly associated with a producer or importer. This leads to the question: how does brand work with wine?

So what is actually a brand in wine?

How do users´ minds operate when shopping for wine? Are wineries, the producers, the brand? Is the specific wine label, the product, the brand? How relevant is the brand when shopping for wine?

To get some perspective, I conducted a short experiment in another industry, sport shoes. I began by going to the Footlocker website and tried to identify how many brands I knew.

I came up with 25 brands that were, in one way or another, familiar to me: Adidas, Asics, Berghaus, Casio, Champion, Converse, Diadora, Ellesse, Fila, Helly Hansen, Kappa, K-Swiss, Lacoste, Le Coq Sportif, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Sergio Tacchini, Skechers, Superga, Reebok, Timberland, UGG, Umbro and Vans. 25 brands out of 54: I knew 45% of the brand spectrum. Out of those, no less than 16 would make it to the consideration phase if I were in purchase mode. So I was open to buy from only 30% of the displayed manufacturers.

Going back to wine and following the same logic, the question becomes how many wineries can the average customer like me recognize? What about wine names? I went to Vinopremier and counted more than 320 wineries, out of which I was familiar with 18, a mere 5%. My consideration went down to roughly 2-3%.

Things got a bit worse when I tried to extrapolate how many wines I knew out of the 1.500+ in their catalogue, which was around 2 or 3 for every 100 wines. I was definitely equipped with few awareness tools to make my wine shopping decisions.

However, the aided awareness I had of grape variety in the red wine section was 18%, since I could recall 8 varieties out of 43. Region provided a promising 36% (25 out of 68). Aging, which gives wines a distinctive character and note, was much easier, and I could mentally classify the whole offer (100%). Now I felt much more confident!

The fact is that in wines, brand becomes a blurred concept. As in other industries, brand is a key factor for a customer‘s decision, but the real meaning of brand takes on a new meaning for wine lovers. For some the grape variety provides such a distinctive tasting and specific food pairing that it becomes a brand in itself: “I like to think of Syrah as juicy, savory and spicy, you get blooms of black and blue fruit punch backed by tannin and cracked pepper spice

Others will see a true wine brand in a region: “Sonoma Valley, the mountains give you surprising delicate, round notes. This wine is plush, for sure. Great color. Great concentration.“ or “Rioja produces wines of medium grade, high acidity, perfect for barrel aging“. Speaking of aging: this is a key selection criteria for many: “most wine drinkers have strong feelings about oaked wines & unoaked wines; people either love or hate oaked wines“. Experts may seek a combination of region and year as aspirational. Others rely on ratings by established magazines such as Wine Spectator when choosing their next wine.

No other consumer category ilustrates better the concept of brand acting as a beacon that sheds light on the plethora of wines, which helps guide users towards making a decision.

The joy of discovery

I think of wine drinking very much like socializing: sometimes we need to meet our good old friends, other times we are in the mood to mix with new people, having stimulating conversations and obtaining different perspectives… 

Similarly, there is a joy component in discovering new flavors and combinations, travelling to new sensorial territories, challenging ourselves to discover and dig in our memory for archived tasting notes, and understanding that specific wine personality.

That is why E-tailers should focus on offering users effective tools to help with the discovery process and not just the search part. When a user searches, he already knows what he wants; but when he is in discovery mode, he needs additional tools to obtain inspiration.

As we have seen, this is a key aspect to the wine shopping process. Customers have some preconceived notions to guide their selection, but are open to new experiences, and do not necessarily want to drink what they already know.

That is why we developed Visual Finder, the Discovery Engine and is why we enjoy the value it provides to wine aficionados and websites. If you want to know how your Ecommerce can offer customers a superb discovery experience and increase sales, check our Visual Finder website for more information.

Photo 1 in text by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

Photo 2 in text by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash.