A recent Euromonitor report on the Future of Where and How Consumers Shop identified a seismic shift in the way consumers approach the retail landscape. According to the report, consumers who have become used to the advantages of online shopping will expect in-store experiences that are seamless, engaging and flexible. This will likely inaugurate a trend towards smaller, decentralised and well-curated physical stores with a focus on adding value and convenience. With its keen eye for discerning consumers, South African food retail chain Woolworths proceeded with a concept store that aim to achieve just that with the launch of its standalone WCellar liquor store, adjoining the Food Market of their Nicolway branch in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Tapping into the trend
According to Rebecca Constable, senior wine buyer for Woolworths, the WCellar Nicolway project was envisioned before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The launch of this concept store was to focus on creating a complete, credible basket, while maintaining the focus on our wine offer. We recognise it’s been a difficult year for the industry and as Woolies we want to work with our suppliers to provide our customers with a quality beverage offering. The initial reaction to the store has been positive, and with this launch we hope to bring more customers to stores to help drive sales in this category.”
Online wine sales have increased dramatically during the Covid pandemic, and Woolworths reported seeing double-digit online wine sales growth. But their customer research also indicated the need for a store with a complete drinks basket. Woolworths already has a significant wine interest, and aims to use the opportunity to provide their customers with convenience while also expanding their wine business that offers “convenience, quality, value and a curated range for any occasion,” according to Rebecca.
More than a name
Woolworths will be using the WCellar name across all platforms of its wine brand, including digital, regular retail stores and their wine club. “With these elements all sitting under the WCellar umbrella, we aim to have consistency and build a sub-brand identity that our customers will recognise. The aim is to create a seamless experience which highlights our difference and our brand values.”
Rebecca says the goal is to be top of mind for their current customers when it comes to their drinks purchases. The addition of a selection of beers and spirits should also attract customers who may not have made Woolworths their first stop before. “The store has been designed to create a warm and elevated shopping environment, along with a curated range which we hope suits all our customers, from those who are new to wine through to connoisseurs, with the added advantage that you can now buy your favourite beer or spirit at the same time,” she says.
The Nicolway concept store will receive region-specific marketing, while the online elements of WCellar in particular are marketed directly to Woolies customers – in particular to loyalty members and across social media platforms. Although the core wine offering will remain the same, they also curated a small selection of fine wines, presented in a temperature controlled vinotheque. “Woolworths worked with existing suppliers to add a small complement of new wines,” says Rebecca. “This project was focused on beer and spirits from an innovation point of view. Any innovation gaps for wine specifically will be addressed nationally and not just for the Nicolway store.” Rebecca adds they’ll certainly focus on local producers when the time comes to complement the brands on offer.
Wine can be intimidating to shop for, which is why WCellar provides in-store sommelier (WCellar consultant) to assist customers and offer personalised guidance, such as helping to pair wines with specific foods or make suggestions based on budget. “They’re able to provide an elevated and personalised customer service experience.”
Alongside the launch of WCellar, Woolworths also launched a new digital tool called My Wine Match, which enables shoppers to receive personalised wine recommendations and special deals. My Wine Match uses an interactive environment to demystify the experience of wine shopping by giving customers a way to explore the flavours and aromas they enjoy. Users can complete a quiz that suggests six wine options based on the answers.
So when can the Western Cape expect to see its first WCellar? “We have had very positive customer feedback and are currently working on roll-out plans,” says Rebecca. “These will be prioritised to the Gauteng region initially, to enable critical mass and optimal distribution, and thereafter, the idea is to roll out nationally.”
The new WCellar page and new virtual experiences are accessible and available on mobile through the Woolies app and at Woolworths.co.za