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NM: Speaking of which, what sort of reception or feedback are you getting from the wineries themselves?
EC: We're getting a lot of great feedback — and this, of course, applies more to the Cruvee for Wineries site. Because of the information we're able to provide to them, they know exactly where their brand is (they're able monitor that), they're able to interact directly with people who are on our site as well as other sites because of the aggregation of information that we put into their dashboard and tools. And we allow them to be the exclusive retailer to sell their wine, because the whole direct-to-consumer market is what we feel is important. We're getting a lot of great feedback from them right now, and it's only a matter of time for them to be able to see even more value [in Cruvee].
NM: Are you getting a sense of how the wineries are using this information?
EC: Looking the sample screenshots for Twisted Oak Winery [below], what we're able to do is show them who are their new fans, their new consumers, along with their demographics and buying patterns and such, as well as what's being said about their brand across the whole web today. We take the information from thousands of blogs, several of the social media outlets, and lot of different forums, and then aggregate that information, providing the winery with a brand-monitoring service, if you will. And then they have the opportunity to interact with [customers online] who are talking about their brand, whether it's negative or positive chatter — they have the opportunity to really connect with them. As you know with [services like] Twitter and everything else, if [a winery] is just a marketing machine, they're going to get kicked out of the water. But now [with Cruvee], they have the opportunity to be a part of the online community, as opposed to just a marketing arm.
NM: Wow, this has some serious implications for market research. Using your tools, a winery can start to gauge attitudes, opinions, and knowledge on the part of consumers who are drinking their wines — the kind of information for which they'd otherwise have to move mountains to get! Let's be honest: traditional means of market research are inherently very inefficient and costly.
EC: Right, absolutely — and we recognize that! Because of that we take the consumer side of the Cruvee site and apply the information from their reviews, along with their demographic information, and give [the wineries] the opportunity to a) connect directly with those consumers through other marketing channels, and b) learn about what's being said about their brand and how their wines are being rated and reviewed over time.
There's another side to the coin here, too, on the social media side. If [a winery's] brand is not being talked about at all, that's actually worse than having negative chatter. So, we give them the opportunity and some guides to getting into social media outlets. Like with Twitter, we'll suggest certain people to 'follow' so it gets to that viral process, without having to make it an actual marketing position. There's a couple of different avenues we're trying to provide to the wineries to get into that social community, as much as access the research behind it.
NM: Now, you mentioned that the information provided through Cruvee will allow wineries to better market and sell their wines directly to consumers — bypassing the entire three-tier system of traditional wine retail. Would you say that consumer-direct sales are what this entire model hinges on and might, in turn, actually strengthen and propagate?
EC: It's definitely one avenue. No winery should have to compete with an online retailer for their own customers. So, why should we have to make them try to compete with those retailers, or even give us commissions? We don't want that type of situation in place. We want it so they have the opportunity to connect directly with consumers, and reap the benefits to consumer-direct sales. It's important, because obviously once you start building the loyalty of a customer directly with a winery, you can start giving him more information and making them feel like they are truly part of a family, as opposed to being a guy who goes to Wineshop X to buy a bottle of wine, whom then you don't anything about later on.