Thought Leader Q&A with Andreas Biebl, CMO at Winc

Winc’s unique approach to the wine retail category has redefined the wine club for the modern age. Their use of technology to customize wine recommendations for a customer’s personal taste, and flexibility for customer’s to choose what they want, has earned Winc a legion of loyal Millennial and Gen X subscribers. Winc’s application of design thinking methods, and data-driven decision making, has been instrumental to their success.

This is a post in our Thought Leader Q&A series in which we interview leaders from innovative companies. We’ll draw on Andreas’s approaches and experience at Winc to learn how they've built a successful business.

For those unfamiliar, tell us about Winc

Our vision is a great bottle on every table and a great story in every bottle. Through Winc’s digital expertise, and our ability to put wine in the context of life, we’re breaking down barriers to an often complex world. Winc introduces consumers to new wines, flavors, and regions through our membership, and we’ve been able to provide context and education around each glass.

How is your approach different from the other online retailers in the wine category?

Millennials and Gen X make up the fastest growing part of the market sector. With wine sales in the United States approaching $62 billion annually, millennials are consuming an estimated 42 percent of wine. Millenials make up 75% of Winc’s customer base and our model and products cater directly to this group - empowering a new generation of wine drinkers through wines tailored to their tastes.

Instead of the classic model of going from the vineyard out to the consumer, Winc has flipped the paradigm - focusing on the customer first and using this direct relationship to back into the vineyards. We like to think of this as the future of winemaking and product creation.

Tell us about your role at Winc

As CMO I oversee all acquisition and retention marketing and business insights. I also work closely with the product and creative teams to drive Winc’s overall brand strategy and wine sales. From an acquisition perspective, we constantly test new channels and improve the funnel mix to acquire more customers at the lowest marginal cost. It is paramount to continuously work on attribution methodologies to better understand how spend across different channels impacts the customer journey and when and how they sign up to become members. In terms of segmentation, we are starting to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning more so that we can engage with consumers in a more personalized way both from a product and price perspective.

Tell us about your experience developing the customer experience you have today

Every brand wants to be as connected to their consumers as possible, but many other companies can only dream of the kind of authentic, engaged conversations that Winc has with our members every day. This kind of closeness and engagement opens up greater opportunities to become more experimental and leverage new tools so that we can deliver more customized and innovative experiences.

Real time customer feedback and data is something almost non-existent in the wine industry so we go to great lengths to understand these signals. We gather initial information from consumers via a palate profile quiz, asking them 6 questions about their taste preferences related to citrus, minerality, earthiness and more. Beyond that, we’re able to look at all types of behavior, from ratings, to cart abandonment, reorders, social listening and surveys. Each bottle delivered is an opportunity to interact with an engaged wine consumer. Behind the scenes, each bottle represents an intersection between a consumer and a wine. We track data on both the wine and consumer preference to constantly optimize for better wines and targeted recommendations.

What have been the challenges in developing the service?

The direct shipping of alcohol has its share of challenges, but we’ve been able to successfully navigate those challenges and now have the largest fully-compliant DTC footprint for a wine company.

How do you involve your customers in the process of developing new features and content for your membership program?

We consider various customer insights for ideas including yelp reviews, social media comments and customer surveys. The ideas are then translated into hypotheses with measurable impact and effort scores. We’re currently looking at new and interesting ways to use UGC on our website.

What solutions does your team have for customer retention?

Retention is two parts for us: creating a great customer experience that keeps customers coming back, and when something in that experience breaks, providing solutions as quickly as possible. Everyone at Winc works hard to make every part of the Winc membership the best it can be, whether it's our customers' experience on our website, the delivery process, or the taste of the wine when they drink it. Should something go wrong, we have an incredible customer service team that can do everything from tracking down lost orders to making personalized wine recommendations for the customer's next order.

How much does today’s Winc customer value food & recipe content?

Winc is focused on putting wine in the context of life, so that great bottles can be more easily shared and enjoyed. Our team values the importance of creating fresh content that does just that. Content related to food pairings or recipes performs very well in terms of engagement from our members. Every time a customer receives an order, we send them recipes specifically chosen to pair with the wines in their box. We also have recommended food pairings on our website for every wine.

What are the key disrupters impacting your business over the coming 5 years?

One obvious and major disruptor is the practice of “racing to the bottom” as far as offering discounts. Because there is an abundance of supply these days — in every product category — customers are naturally inundated with options, special offers and slick marketing tactics. As a result, focusing on the company’s unique selling propositions and echoing the same when it comes to our top products is more paramount than ever. Customer service is also vital but today’s consumer will remain loyal to a brand if given a legitimate “reason why” to vote with their dollars. The strongest reason to buy ideally starts with a good product. Having a related social cause or a culturally aligned mission is of course a powerful complement.

What’s your current favorite bottle for pizza night?

Right now it’s our Baseline Pinot Noir.