Australian wine company Vinomofo differentiates itself in the crowded liquor sales market by taking a members-only approach to wine sales online. Co-founder and chief executive Justin Dry met with The Register on a recent trip to New Zealand as the company seeks to strengthen connections with its 20,000 Kiwi “mofos” in preparation for a bigger push into our market.
New Zealand was Australian-based Vinomofo’s first foreign market when it entered the country a year ago. Dry says the Vinomofo team initially planned to send a container-load of wine to New Zealand and sell it through a temporary online pop-up store, but it performed so well that they “just went all in”.
The company learned from this mistake when entering Singapore six months ago with a strategy of “all in straight away”, and has its sights set on Hong Kong next. An entry into China will follow afterwards. Vinomofo was founded in 2011, and has around 100 staff.
Over the next six months, Dry will be spending more time in New Zealand developing the sense of community that’s at the heart of Vinomofo’s mode. Vinomofo is a closed site – potential browsers must sign up before they can look at the selection of wines on offer.
This is deliberate, Dry says: “It’s a closed site because we want to be a tribe. We didn’t want it to be an open site with everything out there. Jump that fence and come in.”
He feels Vinomofo has the beginnings of a strong tribe in New Zealand.
“Launching was cool, but this time we’re flying in with 20,000 mofos and we have a business here, it feels like a second home,” he says.
His visit in August included a trip to the company’s warehouse in Mangere, and a members-only event at Eat My Lunch’s headquarters. He says he wants to understand more about the New Zealand market: “In New Zealand, we want to go full grassroots.”
Asked how Vinomofo differs from existing ecommerce wine retailers, Dry says his company focuses on premium and super-premium wines with a value upwards of $20, which it sells for less than this due to its model. It offers subscriptions as well as straight sales overseas – the subscriptions facility will launch in New Zealand later this year.
“We’re super-focused on premium, instead of having volume across 20,000 SKUs or more. [Instead], we’re across a few hundred SKUs, which allows us to buy deeper than anyone.”
“We have tremendous volume that means we can out-buy anyone.”
Vinomofo favours small-batch, super-premium wines. Its offering in New Zealand skews towards imported products but it’s also seeking new “interesting” Kiwi wines. The company only sells 5 percent of what it tastes, Dry says.
With Vinomofo’s presence in Singapore and planned entry into Hong Kong and China, Dry sees an opportunity for Kiwi wine producers in Asia.
“New Zealnad has this great reputation for purity of product around the world,” he say. “New Zealand can kill it over there.”