Vivino’s Head of APAC Morten Fillipsen tells us how the wine app fuses big data and artificial intelligence to help consumers make better wine choices.
Gone are the days where you stood cross-armed in front of countless wine bottles at the store, unable to make a decision on which wine to buy. Since its inception in 2010, the Vivino app has helped millions not only find the right wine for the right occasion but also discover new wines suitable to their palate. We sit down with Vivino's Head of APAC Morten Fillipsen to find out how the app is breaking barriers in the wine world.
How is Vivino helping wine enthusiasts navigate the complex world of wine?
We want to be there for the entire journey. First you have the exploration step, where you learn about the wine you want to drink or you have a wine in front of you and want to know how good it is. That’s how it all started, with the scanning of the wine labels, which searches through our database to tell you how it’s rated.
The next step is purchasing. In Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Japan…18 countries in the world, we work with local merchants and we connect them directly to the app, and you can buy directly from them.
The last part is the consumption, the enjoyment of wine. Journal your wine journey, rate the ones you drink, write your comments. The more you drink and rate with us, the better we get at suggesting wines going forward, which goes back to the exploration stage. It’s a full circle.
What are some of the key features of the app that have made Vivino users better versed in wine?
If you’re looking at two bottles of wine you have no idea what the difference is without previous wine knowledge. We have 14 million wines and over 220 million ratings, which will help you figure out if this is a wine for you.
We have features like taste characteristics where we highlight basic tasting notes from the wine based on what the people have reviewed. We also create characteristics to show whether the wine is bold, smooth, tannic…etc because you at least have an idea of whether you like a full body wine or a lighter one.
One thing that makes the platform unique is its algorithm that generates a personalised match score for each individual, how is Vivino using big data and artificial intelligence to help consumers make their purchasing decisions?
The “match for you” feature was a pivotal step for us, because at some point a 4.5 white wine doesn't mean anything to someone who doesn’t drink white wine, so the next logical step is to figure out which wine that person would actually enjoy. A lot of our efforts are going into this personalisation, where the ratings are great and will tell you something about the quality of the wine, but whether it’s right for you will depend on how much you’ve interacted with Vivino, what you scan, what you buy…everything you do will helps us build a better profile.
You recently launched Vivino in the APAC region. Coming from a Fintech background, what about Vivino’s business model and the Asian wine market made you want to make the switch?
Fintech is all about disrupting an old, stable, very established industry which is what we are doing. Being at the intersection of wine, technology, and trying to change things is an amazing place to be. I grew up in Asia and being able to do that here means a lot to me.
Vivino is a COVID success story, with Asia-Pacific sales increasing by 103% over the previous year, do you think those consumer buying habits are here to stay?
Absolutely. Hong Kong has been a little bit slow when it comes to e-commerce but it really picked up during COVID. Even if we are able to enjoy wine outside, the app is still showing those growth numbers due to the convenience, the availability of choice and the possibility of picking better wines.
How do you think this will shape the future of wine retail in Hong Kong?
There are two sides to wine retail: the very well-known retailers, then the more specialty, primarily online retailers. Those guys have had a hard time getting an audience, because people usually go to the wine shop or supermarket, so through us they get more exposure. Pricing is transparent on the app, so this leaves more room for retailers that have great pricing, great sourcing and great products instead of just the ones that have nice real estate. And hopefully less buying at the supermarket because people tend to not like those wines.
This year Vivino launched the Vivino Community Awards, giving the people a say in what they thought was the best wine, while historically we listened to the wine critics’ opinion. How has this landscape changed?
It is revolutionary in that way because the wine critics have had their way of the wine world for a long time. But they only review, say, about 20,000 wines a year, whereas our community reviews 20,000 every day. If you only rely on critics, you rely on their style, and a very small subset of the wines out there. If you widen the playing field to 14 million wines, you can discover amazing wines reviewed by the people who love them.
On the global Vivino Community Awards list, it was a Portuguese wine that was rated the best wine, but I’m sure a lot of the critics wouldn’t have found it. It becomes more unbiased. A few years ago we compared the scores to the wine critics, and it was interesting because we correlated more to the critics than how the critics correlated to each other, because of how subjective wine is.
Red wine dominated Hong Kong’s top 25 list. Why do you think it surpassed white wine in favourites?The list is so very quintessentially Hong Kong. Kind of traditional, heavily influenced by red and established big name brands, and if there is sparkling wine it’s champagne. Hong Kong is very brand-driven, we do spend more on wine than any other market, so it’s more high-end. Our audience is on the curious to enthusiast level, you need to love wine to a certain level to want to download the Vivino app.
Were there particular wines that made it to the top 25 list that were surprising?
The Lebanese wine: 1998 Rouge (Gaston Hochar) from Château Musar in Bekaa Valley. It’s hard to find a ‘98 Bordeaux-style wine for about $300.
The holidays are coming up, could you list a few wines that you think would be crowd-pleasers?
If only there was an app for that! You can search for a wine by putting a rating of 4 and above and you’re guaranteed to find something everyone will like. Personally, I like a California Syrah and champagne for the holidays.