From the source: Justin Dry, Vinomofo
BIO: Justin Dry
Justin Dry launched online wine retail store Vinomofo with his brother-in-law Andre Eikmeier six years ago from a garage in Adelaide. Dry comes from a family with a wine background and holds a wine marketing degree from the University of Adelaide.
COMPANY PROFILE: Launched in 2011, Vinomofo is a members-only wine online retailer that has turned over $50 million annual revenue in the last six years. In the last financial year, the business sold more than 4.5 million bottles and now has a tribe of 550,000 ‘mofos’ around the world. Last year, the business launched its first global markets in New Zealand and Singapore, with Hong Kong, China, Europe and the US to follow.
IRW: How have things been going at Vinomofo lately?
JD: The past year has been super exciting, because a year ago, we launched our first overseas market in New Zealand. I just got back from there, where we had a one-year party for our mofos. We have over 20,000 mofos in New Zealand from that first year, which is awesome.
We also launched in Singapore in last year. We’ve just spent a week over there, meeting up with our mofos again – we held a party for our top 200 mofos, the start-up community, media and friends and held it on top of an amazing commercial building in the middle of the city, an open rooftop carpark with a small indoor park, where we had food, a great graffiti artist dong live artwork, great music, great wine, great people – it was just one of those epic parties, just to celebrate and say thank you to our mofos in Singapore.
We’re about to launch in Hong Kong in November and the next month after that is China. So a year ago, we started our global move, now we’re two countries in and we’re about to see another two, which is exciting.
Australia is still growing really nicely and it’s profitable. The team’s energised about what we’re doing and they’re reinvigorated around a global move, they’re not separated teams – we’re all working on the whole thing together. Andre’s focusing on Australia and our team here and getting transformation projects going, like the delivery transformation – we’ve taken on our own warehousing, which means we control that part of the business, which we’ve always wanted to do and soon, we’ll have our own drivers and delivery.
Once we’ve gone through that transformation project in delivery and warehousing, we are working through the rest of the features we want to deliver to our community in Australia, which will then be rolled out globally, like a better mobile experience and an extension of our loyalty experience.
IRW: How would you compare selling wine in Australia to Asia? What have you learnt about the Asian market since entering Singapore?
JD: I’ve only spent five days in the last two months in Melbourne, because I want to be in the market, know our mofos and the locals and understand the media and wine space. What’s exciting is the energy and passion around the wine and food scene throughout Asia. It’s super cool.
There’s a misconception in the industry that some parts of Asia aren’t as developed in the wine space. They might not have as many years of experience, but the excitement and desire about wine and food is really electric in those markets, and that’s perfect for us. It’s starting to become part of everyone’s lifestyle – they’re super adventurous and open to trying new things and that’s exactly who our mofos are – young, enthusiastic, openminded and wine and foodie people.
There’s a difference between countries that produce wine and those that don’t, like Singapore versus Australia or Hong Kong versus New Zealand. In markets that produce their own wine, there is a very high percentage of the wine that’s consumed that’s from their own country. For example, it’s harder to sell American wine into Australia than it is to sell Australian wine to Australians. It’s the same in New Zealand, whereas when you go into Asian market like Singapore, they’re really open.
Because they’re not producing their own wine and they don’t have a long history in it, they’re like, ‘Show us, we want to taste, know and experience whatever you think is great wine or a great food’. So I think there’s a more openness there to trying things from all over the world.
IRW: You guys just launched a new subscription offering called The Club. What was the thinking behind that?
JD: On Monday, we’ll launch the Club is a premium subscription club. You don’t know what you’re getting, but they’re super premium wines, they will probably be on average 46 per cent off the regular retail price and they’re going to be $179 for the mixed dozen, $199 for the red dozen, $159 for white. We’re launching another subscription club for the other end of the market later in the year.
IRW: It can be difficult for subscription models to work though, because you need to keep customers interested, don’t you? After receiving a few deliveries with some wines they don’t really like, they might not be as engaged as before.
JD: Our retention rate is incredibly high, but it’s because wine subscriptions are like the traditional way of signing up with a cellar door. That’s a massive part of the market and generally, it’s the older generation that have been part of that, because it’s been around for so long.
But what other players have traditionally done is that it’s all about sign-up and making it as hard to leave. Today, no-one puts up with that. Not the younger, savvy online generation of consumers. They don’t put up with that – it needs to be easy to join, to leave, to skip a month – they don’t want barriers. There’s a real shift happening from traditional players to new players, including us, because we are all about the user-first experience and it’s about putting the user first – how will they want to use the product, what options would they like to have? How would they like to interact with The Club? How will their experiences be great?
I think that’s the important thing, that’s the shift that’s happening in the space. Join up, it’s easy, if you want to skip, easy, if you want to leave, easy – if you want to put it on hold, anything you want is available. That’s the way that space has evolved in the years, particularly with us. Anyone coming into the market has got to provide a greater service than before, then it needs to be really sticky outside of those things – you need to offer things that blows people’s minds. It’s not just on value, but on availability of product and stuff they won’t get elsewhere, like unique access.
The product you offer needs to be unique and not mass production, which is the opposite of what we are anyway – we’re about a small batch of cool producers, and I think if you can hone in on that, it’ll work. You just need to absolutely smash customers’ expectations around what they’re going to get. You need to delight and inspire, you need that moment where customers have the ‘fuck me!’ moment, where they’re not sure what they’re getting, they know it’ll be great, but once they open the case, they’ll be, ‘oh my effing god!’ That’s what The Club will be.
IRW: I know Vinomofo’s been working on logistics lately – in a way, most online retailers end up almost being logistics companies.
JD: Ever since the start, we’ve put so much love and energy into crafting an incredible user experience, from the moment people sign up with us, the way we promote what we do and moment they interact with us online to becoming a member, receiving the first welcome email to making the first purchase and the second purchase – the entire experience.
All those things have so much love, energy and thought behind them, then you hand it to someone else to deliver it, and they’re not part of your culture or team, they’re not trained by you and they don’t speak like you or treat customers like you. We’ve always found it challenging to put this love into the business and then at the final point, the interaction with our mofo is with someone else, and it’s always felt wrong.
So we’ve taken on our own warehouse, which means we can be more agile with our options for our mofos – if they have a special request, we can do it. It also enables us to do click-and-collect from our Port Melbourne warehouse, which means we can hold warehouse sales and we have a retail space which we open for special events.
It allows us to specially package and add in extras that we weren’t able to do using 3PLs. We can also launch our own metro vans, which means we can take control of the experience from the very beginning to the very end. The challenge around that in Australia is its sparsely populated, it’s a large country and you have to get to a certain size before it’s feasible to get a warehouse, then you need to be a certain size before you get your own drivers. So now we’re starting to roll out those extra services. You have to keep reaching certain milestones to make it feasible.
IRW: You guys have done a lot of great pop-up events in the past, but are you looking at possibly opening a bricks-and-mortar store one day?
JD: Definitely, but the plan has always been to do what we do best, then take that global. Then the next lot of plans may look at [a physical store]. It’s definitely on the radar and has been for long time, it’s just a question of when’s an appropriate time for us, compared to other opportunities.
We’ve never run a retail store. It’s definitely on the radar and the pop-ups that we do in our warehouse retail store and we’ve done them external to that, in other warehouses, like one in Richmond a couple of years ago before we had our own, they’re great. It gives you an opportunity outside of the wine/food-based events to interact with your mofos. Being an online business, you look for those opportunities to connect, you really want an opportunity to meet people in person – it’s a different experience and a different learning you can get in person, which is why we’ve been so excited by going, going to all the parties, getting to the grassroots and understanding individuals and what they love and find more challenging. You can feel how they’re feeling, as opposed to just being on email or online chat. There’s something very powerful about it.