When Norway went into lockdown on March 12, we didn’t know what was ahead of us. How long would this last? Would things get worse or better — and how soon?
It was challenging for everyone, including Aftenposten’s loyalty programme, A-kortet (the Aftenposten Card). How could we plan normal physical activities for spring and summer when travel agents were calling us crying over cancellations, and all other events were cancelled because of physical distancing and the lockdown?
A new twist to a popular in-person experience
Normally A-kortet would arrange wine tastings throughout the year. This is very popular activity attracting a mature and affluent audience. The business model was great because we use the rooftop at Akersgata, Aftenposten’s main office, which is a suitable location. This location also lets us use local in-house waiters and security during the tasting and Aftenposten’s platforms for advertising. Depending on the wine expert, 60-200 people attend each tasting, with a total of 4,000 people each year.
A-kortet and Aftenposten’s Wine Club have always worked closely together, trying to expand the interest around wine with relevant offers and editorial content for subscribers. For a while, Aftenposten’s Wine Club tried to offer digital wine tastings, but they never launched. The live wine tastings were going so well, and the timing just never seemed quite right.
Seemingly overnight, we found ourselves in a lockdown situation, and it seemed to be the perfect moment to offer our subscribers new events they could enjoy from home. People were starving for new experiences after just a couple weeks of staying at home.
How digital wine tastings work
The idea is simple. We sold and produced four digital wine tastings with Ingvild Tennfjord, our most popular wine expert and host of the tastings. Aftenposten Events helped us set up one live show and three recorded wine tastings in a studio. The subscribers received a shopping list in advance so they could buy and taste the wines from home.
During the live show, participants could log in to a chatting service called Sli.do, where they asked questions and participated in the tasting with Tennfjord. She read them aloud and answered some of their questions during the live show. It became an interaction between the subscribers at home and Tennfjord in the studio, as close to a normal wine tasting as we could come.
It was also important that the courses were priced fairly so everyone could participate. We also wanted sessions to be about popular wine subjects so it would be suitable for a wide audience. We set the limit for the wines at US$40 total and the admission for the wine course at US$10.
We worked closely with the CRM department to get the right segment for the e-mail marketing. We also published print ads in Aftenposten, posted ads on Facebook, and marketed through Aftenposten Wine Club’s channels.
Because the subscribers had to buy the wine themselves, we marketed for two weeks so people had plenty of time to shop for the wine in advance. Additionally, we only marketed one wine tasting at a time.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. For the first live wine tasting, we sold 1,267 tickets, then 300 more bought the recording of the wine tasting. This is a huge jump from our live wine tastings, which normally have between 60 and 200 people.
In total, we have sold more than 7,300 wine tasting tickets, and that was before summer set in. It was an easy choice to produce more digital shows and expand with one more wine expert.
One of our most interesting and surprising discoveries was that we found a new target group for the loyalty programme, of which the Aftenposten Wine Club is a part. Overall, we saw a younger average age in the digital tastings than what the physical wine tastings attracted. These new participants included young parents who have a hard time prioritising social events, people living outside of the big cities where the normal wine tastings are, and single people who invited their friends.
In addition, we had a very high percentage of repurchasers from this same segment, so we basically sent e-mail marketing messages to subscribers who had previously bought a wine tasting.
Our hypothesis now is that digital wine tastings work like Foodora does in the restaurant market. The restaurants feared people would stop eating out if they could get their best dishes delivered home. But Foodora would prove them wrong with its own research, which showed the people who ordered in would never have visited the restaurant in the first place. People eat out for more reasons than the food itself, so the restaurants got both — income from guests eating in and more revenue from people ordering take away.
It appears digital wine tastings have a similar effect in that they actually broaden the offering for our subscribers with both digital and in-person wine tastings. The different tastings attract two different target groups and probably won’t cannibalise each other.
We will find out soon when we begin having digital and in-person wine tastings at the same time.
We learned several things from launching the digital wine offerings.
Either keep the wines affordable or keep them expensive. Marketing-wise, you attract either/or audiences. We went for affordable because it suits the broadness of our subscribers who are mostly seeking to learn the basics of wine and receive seasonal recommendations. If an advanced audience is closer to your core subscriber, you need different (and more expensive) wines.
• Market one digital tasting at a time. Too many options doesn’t convince people to try several tastings; you only sell half the tickets to each tasting. Several options only make potential buyers choose one tasting or none at all.
• Make sure the audience can interact with the wine expert during the wine tasting. Digital live tastings sell approximately three to four times as many tickets as a recorded one.
• Make sure it’s super easy to get the shopping list for the wines and the link where the live show will be airing from. If not, customers will use the chat service during the tasting or customer service to help them, and it will delay the show. We made a unique Web page for each tasting, which included the shopping list, access to the chatting service, and the link for the live wine tasting. Participants received this link on their e-mail receipt and on the SMS receipt.