Virgin Wines ups content marketing

Virgin Wines is to ramp up its content marketing and use of technology after appointing a new chief marketing officer.

Speaking to db, Virgin Wine boss Jay Wright said the business would continue to focus on customer service, but was keen to expand on the way that it communicates with customers.

New CMO Chris Lawson joined the company last month from gaming company Inspired Gaming Group, where he was vice president of marketing & customer experience, replacing Paul Adam, who left the company in June. Lawson previously worked at Which?, as director of content sales & marketing at Guardian News & Media and before that as brand director of Absolute Radio.

“Tech continues to move at an eye-watering pace and it is up to the trade to take advantage of those technological advances to make life easier for customers and to improve efficiency in the business,” Wright said.

“Our new CMO has a fantastic knowledge [of digital and social marketing] which is where we will expand over the next few years.”

The website is set to be relaunched in the Spring, Wright confirmed, with further developments and roll outs in planning “It has been a long process but we were determined not to launch before we’re ready”, he said.

The wine retailer is also looking at ways to expand is product lines, both above and below its key £7.50 – 12.30 heartland. “There are still opportunities to do more up and down from that key price point and we are looking to develop that,” he said. “Obviously there is some uncertainty in the market, but it is our job to offer customers a great offer in a range of price that they want.

Before Christmas, Wright vowed to hold pricing until Christmas in the wake of competitors raising prices after suffering cost pressure on the back of Sterling’s volatility and he said pricing was set to be an “ongoing process”. Any products that were sold by Virgin before Christmas are set to remain the same, but new wines in which have higher cost prices will see rises, he confirmed. At the time, Wright warned the UK drinks trade against denting consumer confidence by running down market in the wake of the volatile exchange rate and Brexit, saying the industry needed to “Get a grip” and be more positive.

But he said that “people haven’t stopped moaning” about it.

“We have had bad and fluctuating exchange rate before, but we’re an industry that needs to deal with it,” he noted, adding that there was a “massive opportunity” in the post-Brexit world, despite undoubted pressures.“A lot is around attitudes and grasping opportunities and being innovative.”

“We went into Christmas saying won’t put prices up and we still had fantastic trading,” he said.

Corporate sales

Wright is also eyeing up expanding the B2B business, after seeing sales of £1.3m over the Christmas period – up from £395k for the whole of the 2015 financial year.

“We can see how that has real momentum which will build on,” he said. “At the moment it accounts for £2 million out of £41m this financial year, and it is an area where we can see growth. If it is not at £2.5 million in 2 years (FY18) I would be disappointed. The aim, he notes is £5 million by FY20.

The strong B2B was a key success of the company’s biggest-ever Christmas trading, alongside its increased membership, and strong Prosecco sales.

Wright said he had been very pleased with the festive sales, which were in line with the business’s expectations. “We’re building customer base well, products are strong and seeing very good trading including average order value and growing revenue per customers.”

“Moving forward, will be carrying on with the growth channels we’ve been targeting, including developing the Wine Bank further to grow its customer base by around 15k people net in a sustainable way that was “more than just about the numbers”.

Wright pointed out that the recruiting price had been raised to £59.88 in order to target a more loyal demographic. “We haven’t got a high churn model and with this new price, it give clarity of the [ongoing] case price. Most of our competitors are below that at £38.99, and although it brings customers in, we have a clear strategy that customers understand where the price points are. We don’t want 100k new customers but only 50k trading with us.”


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