Digitalization in the wine industry during the first COVID-19 lockdown. An Italian survey-based study of consumers and wineries experience


Digitalization in the wine industry during the first COVID-19 lockdown. An Italian survey-based study of consumers and wineries experience


Objectives. In the last decade, digital transformation has widely changed organizational culture in several industries worldwide (Bender & Wilmott, 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization pace even among traditional industries, such as the wine industry (Blackburn et al., 2020). During the restrictive measures (e.g., the lockdown), digital interactions have become the sole and only possible, and also those companies that hesitated to pursue digital actions in the past, realized that this was the right time to move toward a digital agenda (Blackburn et al., 2020).

The ongoing challenging context requires to examine how COVID-19 pandemic changed the wine industry in terms of digitalization, from the perspective of both consumers and wineries. The present research study aims indeed to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the related restrictive measures adopted accordingly, have affected the dynamics of the wine industry. This work focuses on digital customer experience and companies’ strategic approach to digitalization. The nature of interactions between producers and customers has changed remarkably in the last decades, in the attempt of reducing their distance and creating an intimate relationship (Keller, 2009, Saba et al., 2017). Digital means have assumed an increasingly relevant role, and wineries have implemented a digital dimension to strengthen customer engagement (Forbes et al., 2015; Viana, 2016; Wilson et al., 2018). However, the literature has still poor investigated the best practices of digitalization adopted by wineries. So far, only few studies attempted to analyze customer behavior and firm strategy simultaneously (Pucci et al., 2019; Saba et al., 2017). The authors of the present study intended to explore the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, and the related restrictive measures (e.g. the first lockdown), on the wine industry, considering the digital customer experience point of view (Büyüközkan & Göçer, 2018; Hausberg et al., 2019), and thus shedding light on consumer behavior and company strategy before and since the pandemic started. Also, the authors aim to evaluate whether the exceptional circumstances that pertain to the limited time window of the first lockdown encouraged wineries to adopt digital practices to connect with the customers, and whether wine customers changed their purchase habits accordingly. Targets of the study are Italian consumers and small and medium wineries of the region Trentino-Alto Adige.

On the consumer’s side, the authors hypothesise that: (i) wine customers started collecting information about wine through social networks during the lockdown; (ii) the likelihood to experiment with digital immersive experiences with wineries was influenced by customer’s wine expertise; and (iii) that wine purchases have slightly increased during the lockdown, in particular due the increasing demand from expert wine customers.

#Consumer Behavior #consumer profiling #Covid-19 #digital connections #digital customer experience #Digitalization #online wine sales #Pandemic #wine education #wine industry