Vinify are not only looking to change the way people buy wine, but also want to empower wine lovers to choose the wine that suits them best. Founded last year by a 4-man cofounder team including Antoine Ayoub, Benjamin Pipat, Felix Le Chevallier and Michael Fillion, and now a part TheFamily, Vinify have recently come out beta phase and launched a smart app that guides wine lovers to wines that best match their tastes.
The way Vinify works is that the consumer downloads the app or goes to Vinify’s website to fill-out a quick survey evaluating their wine tastes. From there they can sign-up to receive for €69 + shipping their ‘vinibar’, which includes 6 bottles tailor-selected according to their tastes by Vinify’s oeneologist. Once they’ve received the bottles and had a chance to taste them, the consumer just needs to quickly rate the wines via the app. The app gets smarter as it receives more info from the consumer and, as a result, future ‘vinibar’ orders and wine advice are even better tailored to the consumer’s tastes.
Many startups have tried to disrupt the wine sector which, while enormous and growing in several strategic markets, can be quite traditional and skeptical about the importance of the internet and technology to the sector. I caught up with the Vinify cofounders to get more details around how they’re looking to shake-up the wine market.
What’s not working about how people are choosing wine today?
We’ve all experienced some kind of helplessness in front of a wine section, having no idea which bottle to choose. In France, 80% of wine purchases are made in supermarkets where very little guidance is offered to the customer. The consequence is that once the customer has chosen his price-point, the majority of wine purchases end up being entirely driven by marketing aspects (labels, names…).
Our goal is to make sure that our customers will never again be disappointed with a bottle of wine. One part of our work is to select the best wines in France and from around the world. The second part of our work and what makes Vinify unique, is to handpick from our highly curated stock the wines which, based on your ratings and feedback, will best fit your tastes. We believe this is the ideal way to help our customers understand what they like and how to better choose wine.
Winemakers, particularly in Europe, are known to be quite old school, being quite a bit slower to adopt technology and the internet. What has their response to Vinify been like? Do you find it difficult to bring them on-board?
The attitude pertaining to new technology among our partners greatly varies, some of them being tech savvy and always looking for new opportunities while others are either indifferent or reluctant. Their response towards Vinify will fluctuate from sheer enthusiasm to careful curiosity!
One challenge we face is to convince our partners we are not some other online wine marketplace where customers choose their wine somewhat blindly. Quite to the contrary, we will sell their wine to people who will actually love it, thus driving sales and customer feedback.
We only partner with independent winemakers whose work is nothing short of an art. The very nature of their work calls for much closer and more human relationships, which is why two of our co-founders are in direct contact with them. Michael is in charge of tasting and selecting the wine, while Antoine manages the operations to streamline supplies.
We have a lot of projects in the ‘pipeline’ which will enhance these partner relationships and we are convinced that value perceived by winemakers will grow exponentially with our scale.
The US, now the world’s biggest wine market, and Asia are well-known fast-growing, big opportunity wine markets. What are your plans around expanding to these or other wine markets outside of France. What opportunities and challenges do see?
Having a Vinibar in every country in the world is rather tempting indeed and we do plan on expanding our offer to other markets, first in Europe (2015) and then around the world.
We have chosen to focus on France first which, although it is the market we know the best, is definitely not the easiest one to tackle! We are grateful to have the right people in our team to do so… and good wine to reward ourselves at the end of the day!
There are of course some challenges one runs into when expanding to foreign markets, regulatory issues and cultural variations being the most obvious ones. That being said, many markets present very interesting opportunities for us, such as China where an important segment of amateurs is emerging within the middle class or the U.S., where the demand for quality and a better curated customer experience is on the rise.