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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lees

Complete Solution to Digital Tasting Conundrum

Interview with Celine Boutellier, Otaria Communications working with Wines from Spain

A digital solution to tastings in a post-covid world.

  • Bespoke search functionality to suit specific DO requirements

  • Frictionless collection and hosting of wine information

  • QR code hosting to take recipients of samples to comprehensive tech sheets

  • In-APP ordering for real-life tasting; Covid-19 secure service

“I couldn’t have done it without working with Bottlebooks ...we had an understanding that both of us really wanted the project to be successful ...Bottlebooks was ahead in many ways.”

Celine Bouteiller is Director of the highly successful wine PR and events agency, Otaria Communications. Wines from Spain is one of their most valued clients. Every year, Otaria Communications have been responsible for running their hotly attended UK showstopper event.

“When the Covid crisis hit, we were scheduled to go ahead with the event in March 2020, the lockdown was announced 2-3 weeks prior to the event; we were event ready.”

The event was to be a ‘classic wine tasting fair’. Catalogues had been printed, a guest list was confirmed, promotion was done. A tried and tested format that had been ‘put under pressure over the last couple of years’, as Celine explains, displaying her firm grasp of the understatement.

“In a normal year, we would organise a one-day event which would gather 1,000 people throughout the course of the day. "

The event would call together 200 producers represented by 50 Spanish producers; the already established and imported, and those that were hot-off-the-press, looking to get snapped up by hungry distributors.

With everyone’s year focussed on growth, the possibility of not having such an event go-ahead could be devastating. Not just for the producers, but also the UK market where wine imports are worth $4.4 billion of which 70% are from European producers with Spain accounting for a massive 10% of that share. (Matthew Desoutter, Co-Founder of Desoutter & James’ Simply Spanish Wine published on LinkedIn February 2021)

“You have to be ready to throw your event in the bin.”

Covid-19 social distancing measures hit and the event was pulled. Autumn came and went and still no decision had been made on cancellation or postponement for however long it would take to flatten the curves of viral spread around the world.

Talking to the trade, the feedback Celine received from the UK buyers was that there was still a very present need. A need for information, for wines to taste, and for “all those little conversations”’ that move the business forward.

“A key off-trade buyer contacted me and said, ‘What are your plans?’... they either waited for yet another year, or we pivot and try to do the job we normally do but in a completely new way.”

Despite the facts, there is still a reluctancy to change within the trade when a crisis hits. Tight margins and lack of budget meet, passion and drive to create a heady cocktail of stubbornness. However, there are mountains to move and Celine uses her passion and drive to create change rather than stagnation.

“The covid crisis accelerated a development that would have taken 10 years and within a year it was done. If we hadn’t been faced with ‘you’re going to have to go digital or do nothing’ we wouldn’t have done it.”

There must always be a commitment to finding a way that makes improvements like this possible. Celine is that person, the professional who recognises the opportunity to grow in the face of adversity.

Turning a one-day event into a fully digital festival programme that gets results

Making the necessary moves from a one-day event that could see 600 trade professionals taste 1,000 wines, to a 3-month long digital programme that saw attendance of 2,000 fully-vetted, trade pros to taste 4,000 samples.

“With the help and support of Jonathan (BB) and other suppliers, we developed a new model. If people can’t come to the wine, how can the wine go to them and how can we supplement that with information?”

Anyone who has ever attended a tasting knows, just tasting wine is not enough. Context and information is required. The challenge for those that don’t see the opportunities to use tech well is the assumption that without being in the room it’s not possible. Celine describes the ways in which, used correctly, Bottlebooks helped create the necessary digital environment that made the impossible not just possible, but look easy.

“Here are all the wines, here is all the information, we are working with BB and we’ve developed a really interactive, exciting platform where you can search by DO, varietals, producers, new products, who’s looking for distribution etc.
You can also select some of the wines and get them delivered to your home. That allowed us to try to create opportunities for visitors to connect to exhibitors.”

With the Bottlebooks as a digital partner, Celine and Otaria Communications had turned themselves into a pop-up wine merchant complete with customer care and order fulfillment.

“We worked really closely with Bottlebooks to make sure there could be as much automation as possible, and that’s where all of the improvement and tech kicked in. Bottlebooks had always provided us with an online catalogue, which we jazzed up a lot this year because it was our only shop window.”

With the addition of a wider media library presented in a sleek manner the platform now hosted videos, ‘contact Importer’ buttons, and bespoke search functionality.

“But that isn’t where it made a difference from an organisation point of view…”

The necessary templates and APIs were also put in place to ensure that the order systems spoke to the warehouse and logistics to ensure a 100% success rate with order fulfillment.

“Anyone can have an online ordering process but you have to make sure that people are receiving the wines they’ve ordered, at the right address, in the right condition, at the right time.”

Delivery of something special to scan

“A really cute bit of tech that Bottlebooks developed was the use of QR codes on each rebottled sample to take the taster to the right page for each wine. That was key, because we couldn’t afford to add to the cost of each mixed sample pack. We printed on flyers explaining how the tasting worked, ‘log on and explore’ etc. but each bottle was connected to a specific page that the taster could find all the information on each wine by following the QR codes. They all worked. It was very easy for people to get hold of the information.”

They had a 100% success rate with the QR codes. Making information access completely frictionless for the user. Again, making the complex look simple.

Going above and beyond

Celine is the type of person that goes the extra mile. She also expects the same from any professionals she works with; be clear, be flexible, and make sure you can work with the other key stakeholders or third-parties to deliver success.

“I couldn’t have done it without working with Bottlebooks in the way that we did. There was an understanding that both of us really wanted the project to be successful and that if there were tweaks and adjustments that needed to be made along the way and invested in ...then we were going to do that.”
In the end the project was super interesting because it kept evolving. Bottlebooks was ahead in many ways. It was a very good working relationship; if we needed to go back or to adapt or evolve, we did.”

Reporting on Success; the producer feedback loop

With over 2,000 unique users for a digital event that usually attracts 600 trade visitors in the room, the event was a clear success.

“What it also gives us, all this ‘digital stuff’, is the ability to report accurately, down to which wine got how many visits in a month, back to the exhibitor. You need to report, otherwise they don’t understand what’s going on, they can feel removed from the project.”

Celine describes how crucial it is to give their stakeholders detailed feedback on the activity that was so pertinent to them. Bottlebooks collection and hosting of this kind of data allowed Celine key analysis that she could give feedback to producers and brand-owners to ensure they felt connected to the whole process.

She describes how with the right partner, this use of data has grown the relationships that benefit from ‘in-the-room’ tastings, perhaps more so than with the traditional style of tastings.

Proof that if you are brave enough, make it look simple, and make it intuitive for people to use, digital events are success.

Celine Bouteiller, interviewed by Clara Rubin for Bottlebooks on 16/07/2021

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1 Comment

Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith
Sep 21, 2022

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