How virtual wine-tastings found a surprise new market for Aftenposten

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After its wine-tasting event business tanked during the COVID-19 lockdown, Aftenposten found digital wine tastings attracted an unknown audience.

In an INMA marketing blog, Schibsted Norway sales and marketing head Siri Holstad Johannessen and digital marketing consultant Madeleine Reuterdahl say the publisher was greeted with an "overwhelmingly positive" response.

The lockdown challenged Aftenposten's loyalty programme, A-kortet (Aftenposten Card), which normally arranged wine tastings throughout the year attracting a "mature and affluent" audience.

"The business model was great because we use the rooftop at Akersgata, Aftenposten's main office, with local in-house waiters," they say.

"Depending on the wine expert, 60-200 people attend each tasting, with a total of 4000 people each year."

Aftenposten's wine club had thought of offering digital wine tastings, but "the timing never seemed right", but the pandemic brought "the perfect moment" to offer new events to subscribers. "People were starving for new experiences after just a couple weeks of staying at home."

Four digital wine tastings were sold and produced with popular wine expert and tastings host Ingvild Tennfjord as host. "Aftenposten Events helped us set up one live show and three recorded wine tastings in a studio, and subscribers received a shopping list in advance so they could buy and taste the wines from home."

During the live show, participants could log in to a chatting service called, where they asked questions and participated in the tasting with Tennfjord.

"It became an interaction between the subscribers at home and Tennfjord in the studio, as close to a normal wine tasting as we could come," they say.

Pricing was important - with a limit for wines at US$40 total and admission for the course at US$10 - and they worked closely with CRM to get the right segment for email marketing. "We also published print ads in Aftenposten, posted ads on Facebook, and marketed for two weeks through Aftenposten Wine Club's channels."

Johannessen and Reuterdahl say the response was overwhelmingly positive. "For the first live wine tasting, we sold 1,267 tickets, then 300 more bought the recording of the wine tasting," they say.

"This is a huge jump from our live wine tastings, which normally have between 60 and 200 people."

In total, more than 7,300 wine tasting tickets have been sold, "even before summer set in", making the decision to produce more digital shows and expand with one more wine expert easy.

"One of our most interesting and surprising discoveries was that we found a new target group for the loyalty programme, of which the Aftenposten Wine Club is a part.

"Overall, we saw a younger average age in the digital tastings than what the physical wine tastings attracted. These new participants included young parents who have a hard time prioritising social events, people living outside of the big cities where the normal wine tastings are, and single people who invited their friends.

"In addition, we had a very high percentage of repurchasers from this same segment, so we basically sent email marketing messages to subscribers who had previously bought a wine tasting."

Their hypothesis now is that digital wine tastings work in the same way that Foodora does in the restaurant market; the restaurants feared people would stop eating out if they could get their best dishes delivered home, but Foodora research showed the people who ordered in would never have visited the restaurant in the first place.

"It appears digital wine tastings have a similar effect in that they actually broaden the offering for our subscribers with both digital and in-person wine tastings. The different tastings attract two different target groups and probably won't cannibalise each other, something Aftenposten expects to find out when in-person wine tastings resume.

Key learnings were:

Keep the wines affordable or keep them expensive, as marketing-wise, you attract either/or audiences. "We went for affordable because it suits the broadness of our subscribers who are mostly seeking to learn the basics of wine and receive seasonal recommendations";

Market one digital tasting at a time. Too many options doesn't convince people to try several tastings;

Make sure the audience can interact with the wine expert during the wine tasting, as digital live tastings sell approximately three to four times as many tickets as a recorded one;

Make sure it's super easy to get the shopping list for the wines and the link where the live show will be airing from. If not, customers will use the chat service during the tasting or customer service to help them, and it will delay the show. We made a unique web page for each tasting, which included the shopping list, access to the chatting service, and the link for the live wine tasting. Participants received this link on their e-mail receipt and on the SMS receipt.

-INMA Bottom-line Marketing with thanks

Pictured: Wine expert Ingvild Tennfjord hosted tastings, which drew an audience that wouldn't normally participate in the in-person events

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