The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, with Danni Lin Founder and CEO of Great Wine Inc.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My love for wine ignited during my years at University of Washington (UW). So, I started the education in the discipline of wine and spirit. I thought about how my knowledge about wine and critics’ opinions affected my likes and dislikes. Moreover, as a consumer, I am also getting lost in massive selections of products and ads. Then, I was introduced about the scientific concept of “vinotype” by Tim Hanni, Master of Wine. This concept of wine preferences and sensory abilities of people had transformed me from a wine novice to a wine educator who encouraged consumers to speak their mind about their wine preferences and experiences. It is the beginning of my journey of finding GREAT WINE. I hope that GREAT WINE will become a place that inspires individuals to find the perfect wine for their taste.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I began leading the company, I host a lot of wine tasting sections. There was this group in which two people had totally opposite preferences, one liked intense flavors and one liked sweet flavors. So, I began joking by saying, “in this group, I believe that you guys understand each other the most.” They looked at me in confusion. Then, I continued, “people tend to prefer not to drink with both of you, because you’re the ‘hard-to-please’ drinkers and you’re the ‘child-like’ drinkers.” Everyone started nodding because it was so true for their group. I told them that, “everyone was so unique and in wine tasting, there was no right or wrong, you just need a few more bottles on your table.” And, they all laughed. It is the story that I tell people every time to let them know that knowing others’ personal preferences is the key to create a wonderful wine time for everyone.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting was being too formal during our tasting sessions. I was afraid to do icebreaker because I thought that It would come across as unprofessional. However, because of that, people easily lost interest in the tasting session and our concept. After realizing that, the company decided to use personalization tools to understand our customers. The company collaborates with myVinotype (https://www.myvinotype.com/en/), a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ wine personalities. Our representatives communicate closely with the customers to learn more about their personalities and the atmosphere they want to experience at the wine tasting session. Lastly, GREAT WINE, Inc. creates different key messages for each groups of target audience to spotlight the uniqueness of each audience group. With all the personalization tools, I understand with different customers, different atmospheres have to be delivered. It is also how I train our wine specialist to help them create suitable wine tasting experience for our customers.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
GREAT WINE, Inc.’s mission is “let customers define what great wine is.” Keeping this in mind, we built our tasting room as “a destination for people to freely express their personal preferences of wine.” I can say that our company’s standout point is that we work to restate the uniqueness of individuals and uniqueness of each wine.
Besides adopting groundbreaking technology in winemaking, GREAT WINE also collaborates with myVinotype — a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ “vinotype.” Most of our clients are very surprised when they found out that they had been tricking their taste bud, training themselves to like the wine that did not taste good to them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
There will be ups and downs in the progress of setting up a business. At the up times, you may want to ride on the tides and go faster. At down times, remain confident and work hard to achieve your goals. Successful entrepreneurs are people who do not give up. I keep a notebook and handwrite great quote whenever I see one. When I feel tired, I will read the quotes and rethink my business directions. Then, I will come back to work with a clear mind and loads of energy!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would like to dedicate my gratitude to Tim Hanni, one of the first Masters of Wine in the USA, and our team at GREAT WINE, Inc. Tim is not only my business partner, but also my mentor. He brought with him into the business over 35 years of experience working in the wine industry. We worked together to determine the wine styles, targeted consumer group, and finding the best deals to make wines. In addition, I am very fortunate to have an excellent team at GREAT WINE, Inc. They are the key members who contribute to all of our achievements.
In our first year of business, GREAT WINE, Inc. was named National Recognition as an American Small Business Champion by SCORE and The Bronze Stevie® Winner in Startup of the Year in The 16th Annual American Business Awards®. It was a team effort. Our marketing team has been presenting our company story to different media outlets. The team has done a fantastic work to increase our brand awareness. The financial department lead the company to be financially healthy for sustainable growth. Lastly, our advisory board are the minds of the company and the “marrow” that connects the “minds” to different dynamic parts of a company. Thanks to all the teams’ hard work, GREAT WINE, Inc.’s significant growth is recognized, consequently, we received these prestigious awards.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
GREAT WINE, Inc. is opening its first tasting room in China at the end of 2018. The tasting room is the foundation to promote the concept of “vinotype”, the discovery of individual wine taste and preferences based on individual sensory abilities, to Chinese consumers and clients.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We still see many women living under gender stereotyping and gender inequality. The biggest social assumption is that family should always be a woman’s top and only priority in life, not her career or passion. I have never stopped being amazed by how women shine their beauty in life and in their professional fields. I see myself as an active member of the business world. I frequently attend entrepreneurial and tech discussions, panels or conference for women to learn from other women and to support more women to remain confident of their life choices.
Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
Retail is going under enormous transformation. The growth of e-commerce causes various issues for retail companies. Most people should have heard about retail apocalypse which have caused serious concerns for many people. However, the future of retail in the U.S. is more promising than how some news headlines describe it. According to National Retail Federation (2017), despite economic conditions, retail sales is growing over the last decade. In addition, Pew Research Center Survey of Online Shopping and E-commerce indicates that 64% of Americans prefer buying from physical stores to buying online. From my point of view, here are five ways of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years.
Firstly, in my opinion, in the new era, retailers should not focus only on brick-and-mortar store or online store, but developing both to provide seamless and convenient experience for the consumers. GREAT WINE, Inc. utilize omni-channel marketing to enhance the interconnectedness between the channels, and between channels and customers. Customers learn about a product via omni-channel marketing, a multi-path experience that seeks to provide the customer with a convenient and seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar storeas a tool to communicate with customers. This method provides a seamless, consistent, and convenient communicating channel between the company and customers. Omni-channel marketing creates 1:1 experience between the company and customers. Our wine specialists and even our CEO are just few clicks away from clients. As a result, GREAT WINE, Inc. successfully builds brand awareness and connects personally with customers.
Secondly, retail companies should understand their biggest consumer base. Different demographics will have different preferences for where and how they shop. Factors, such as socioeconomic status, geographical location, age, and gender, are crucial determinants that influent customers’ behaviors. Because of this retail companies should conduct detailed customer analysis to understand their consumers.
Moreover, even though online shopping is extending, retailers should understand that consumers come to stores for more than just purchasing products. For example, consumers come to the store because of their need to try and test the products. For GREAT WINE, Inc., we understand that consumers come to our tasting room to enjoy their time with family or friends, and to learn about different wine tasting concepts.
Furthermore, retail companies should be aware of customers’ experience both in-store and online. Customers’ feedback is effective word-of-mouth (WOM) that helps the companies attract new customers. These companies should not only offer review for their products, but also conduct customer’s experience surveys. These surveys will allow them to build a more effective strategy in the future. GREAT WINE, Inc.’s website also contains functions of reviewing products and providing educational resources to wine club members. All these features are supported the company to be more client-oriented.
Lastly, analytics will help us personalized clients’ experiences. Taste in wine cannot be determined via an algorithm. However, we can understand wine drinkers more via big data and data analytics. Our experience tells us that taste cannot be determined, but certain wine preferences and even personal behavior can be predicted. For example, in our scientific study of the four “vinotypes,” the tolerant “vinotype” is often a whiskey lover because alcohol may taste sweet but not irritating to them! They also enjoy strong smoky flavors of a drink. In sum, we cannot determine what people like — people’s exploration of wine can start from GREAT WINE, but should not end at GREAT WINE. However, with statistical methods, we are certainly in a better position to understand our clients.
Therefore, the increase of online shopping is not a threat. Retailers should think of it as an opportunity to extend retailing opportunities.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could inspire a movement that would inspire social good, I would inspire environmental movement and working sustainably development. Both are challenged at many levels, such as political, economic and social. I realize that both prevent people from acknowledging and receiving their rights. In wine industry, we often discuss about sustainability and the important of it in the industry. We acknowledge that in order to success, we have to work hard to improve the quality of the environment, working environment, and quality of life of our workers. So, I am working actively to support movements related these areas.
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