The platform transforming the direct to consumer market for Australian wineries

January 14, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Direct to consumer wine sales have never been more important, nor has a working and reliable e-commerce platform.

Founder of WithWine, Richard Owens (pictured below right), fell in love with wine some years ago but then found it frustratingly hard to buy direct from the wineries he loved. And so began his mission to create a digital space where wineries could develop a relationship with customers that went beyond a chance encounter at the cellar door.

Conceived in 2015, WithWine was intended to be an app; an online marketplace for wineries. “It was intended to be the ultimate wine experience for customers – an additional direct to consumer (DTC) channel that complimented a winery’s existing DTC infrastructure,” said Owens.

However, when it came to embedding the app, Owens hit an unexpected wall.

“The app needed to integrate with that (DTC) infrastructure. However, that’s when we discovered that wineries did not have the infrastructure or what they had was too old and unable to connect with the app or just wasn’t smart enough. So, we built it,” he said.

In 2018, the scope and ambition for the project expanded and Owens spent the first quarter of last year building a commercial framework that could support the wineries’ commercial business, safely and securely capture customer data and act as a marketing tool when needed.

Former General Manager of Cellarmasters, Ben Copeman-Hill (pictured below left), joined the venture in the middle of last year. He said: “Richard and the team are such a talented and visionary group. What they are doing is changing the face of the wine industry landscape. WithWine’s state-of-the-art technology genuinely supports wineries to help them grow their direct to consumer businesses with best practice data management and gives customers a way to shop winery cellar doors online without feeling daunted and overwhelmed. We have seen during COVID’19 how important this is becoming.”

Traci Ayris from Wine Tourism Australia recently told Drinks Trade that over the past twelve months, circumstances have thrown into relief those wineries managing customer data effectively through online/phone sales and wine clubs versus those who rely on walk-ins. It has been a significant divide.

Today, WithWine has more than sixty wineries signed to its commercial platform, including Henschke, Leeuwin Estate, Derwent Estate and Savannah Wines.

Derwent Estate’s Angela Mason said, “We love WithWine. It is easy to use and to pick up. It runs clean, with no problems. It runs everything and manages our data safely and securely. Our Cellar Club was a disaster before we had it.”

“It has been embraced by wineries because it is easy to use, does everything they want it to and at a price point they can afford,” Owens said.

As a direct to consumer (DTC) channel, the winery travels with the consumer. It turns the DTC channel upside down. It is a far more solid way of doing business than just at the cellar door, to traffic that passes through a website and to the niche channel of a wine club.  Wineries no longer need rely on the possibility that the customer will make their way to the cellar door.

Importantly, it means that wineries can build a database of customers safely, securely and for the long term.

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