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Q&A: Fabrice Mauge, CEO, VinoVirtual

Published:  19 January, 2023

What is VinoVirtual and how does it differ from ‘run-of-the-mill’ trade shows?

The principle of VinoVirtual is to help people to do business, between importers and producers. Where we stand is between the winemaker and the importer. We also work with some distributors, so long as they import themselves, and some wine merchants that have the ability to import themselves.

Obviously, we are a bit different in format from the trade fairs, which are time-consuming, which also have some costs, and you've also got the difficulty to [find] the relevant contacts in the right context. So we wanted to save time, also costs, and to have better access to contacts. Our solution is to have virtual b2b trade shows, lasting three days, sometimes longer, depending on the subject and topic. So added value; it’s a source of growth opportunities for everyone, because you focus on the relevant contacts you may need. – we’ve an optimised way to qualify leads.

And it’s also budget-friendly for the importers because they don’t have to pay, participation is free for them. We target buyers and producers, but also some partners and [generic] ‘committees’.

How does it work?

You register and a week before the show we open the platform to everyone so they have access to their own agenda, and therefore can schedule meetings with whom they want. And after that, during the three days of the show, you have your meetings, which last 25 minutes, and this is done via video conference. The principle is that it helps to have speed meetings, to work really quickly and check whether you can have this business opportunity in the future. If it works well, after the three days of the show, producers send offers and, if that works well, they can send samples to the importers. And they can use the platform again to taste online or have a physical meeting afterwards. They can do this because our next two virtual events are set just before Wine Paris and Vinexpo.

We’ve also got two new services in development. We are going to have a CRM [Customer Relationship Management] to help buyers and producers to follow up their contacts. And we are also going to develop some drink forwarding services for producers. In the future we would like to have a logistics solution to help to save costs in shipping, and to have a factoring service. So the principle point is to have the global digitalisation of export process, that is our plan. We want to do more than provide contacts. We want to have all of the tools that are needed by the trade to do business.

In the future, how do you see the balance between physical and virtual fairs?

The way we see it is that for the future, physical fairs will obviously last because we need to meet, so long as we have a relevant customer base. But it is quite costly to be in attendance, and to have a booth at a physical event. Before that, we believe a tool like ours can definitely help importers and producers to meet in a way that is very qualified. And if you don’t have the size to have that customer base, you can work with a tool like ours to find those partners, avoiding the costs of a physical fair.

How has acceptance and uptake evolved since you launched?

This will be our seventh edition since we started three years ago. [The wine] industry is a very traditional one, but it has certainly opened its eyes with regard to this kind of solution. It has been evolving since the pandemic, it is a little more accepted, which was not the case to start with. Only the early adopters wanted to try, because the technology was not always good, but now it is and you’ve got new commerce, which wants to try. And it’s really interesting now, we’ve got real fans that want to try this solution because they also understand it. It’s new and they understand the opportunities we can provide. Producers can focus on one market, but meet anyone, anywhere, so it’s ideal, especially if you are small. It’s more interesting [than physical fairs], because it can offer wider possibilities.

Are there any other aspects to Vinovirtual that differ from a traditional fair?

We also work with several partners and we plan to expand our coverage in order to help importers to discover and use our web services and other services. And we are partners with Wine Tech, which is a French association – mainly French start-ups – and we all work together to help new technologies to be introduced in the wine industry.

VinoVirtual’s next two virtual events are Champagne & Sparkling, 6-10 February, and the concurrent Organic French Wine & Spirits, 6-10 February. For more information click here.