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Cecile Israel, Shenzhen Wine Lady, brings technology into wine education and experience

Written by Amel Rigneau Published on 

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Realizing that the way wine was taught was too technical and complicated, Cecile sought to bring a new experience to wine education.

Cecil Israel, Founder of Easy Bacchus

Interview conducted by Amel Rigneau, Founder of DigitalMind Media.

Hi Cecile, What brought you back to Asia?

Hi everyone! I am the founder of Easy Bacchus, a wine and tech start-up aiming to make wine accessible and fun for everyone through tech usage, especially for the Chinese market. I discovered wine a long time ago when I was 15, back to the French Hotel School of Paris. Realizing that the way wine was taught was too technical and complicated for many people, I wanted to find a way to communicate with people about wine that was meaningful and interesting. 

China is now booming in terms of wine consumption and has a considerable need for wine education. Three years ago, I wanted to go there and lucky me, my life partner, who is working in a French medtech, got an opportunity to expand Chinese market in Shenzhen. I developed some smart wine labels (Scratch & Sniff – 3 patents) knowing that the best printing and packaging factories are there. Currently I am developing a mobile application offering easy selection of wine and discovery in Augmented Reality.

How is it to be an entrepreneur in Shenzhen?

Shenzhen is really at the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship. There are plenty of opportunities here. People are open-minded and it is easy to network but you have to say YES to life opportunities and also NO to some solicitations. Government eased the company creation for foreign entrepreneurs. You just need to find the right people to help you open a bank account and deal with the accounting. My team is remotely based with regards to the app development / AR / design so I am very polyvalent and I need to be multi-skilled.

I have learnt a lot about Chinese habits and I really think that if you want to do business here, you have to be physically here. In Shenzhen, the proximity to Hong-Kong  is a real plus for business development. .

How do Asians and especially Chinese consume wine?

China is about to become the second worldwide wine market by 2022. Today consumers represent only 11% of the urban population aged 18-54, but it is growing fast. Chinese consume on average 1.4 litres of wine by person yearly, which is far from France (20 litres/person/year). China’s population is much bigger so there is room for more demand. 

People have an interest in learning about wine, but it is a complex product. Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

Chinese also do consume mostly red wine and when they do consume white wine, it is mainly women and sweet wines. Consumers tend to be the ones with the highest income, buying wines for the brand. But the growing part of wine consumers is now the youngest one, located in big economic cities (Tiers A-B-C) with higher disposable income (+6% YoY). 

Today customers can only choose based on wine information found online, by origin, price or grape specification but they do not know at all what it means nor how a French Pinot Noir would taste like. Wine represents the “art de vivre” and a way to socialize. They have a high interest in learning but it is still a complex product.

Fake wines is also a big concern with 30% of wine imported being fakes. Bringing trust and high quality sourced products is key. Offline sales still dominate the market but Chinese customers are connected and go more and more online to purchase wine (20% of online sales are made by young consumers). Asia accounts for 11% of the world’s wine consumption. Other south-east Asia countries’ consumption is also growing fast: mainly Vietnam and Thailand (4.4% and 5% CAGR 2019-2023). We hope to establish there soon.

How tech has transformed the wine industry? 

New generations and social media force the whole industry to pivot accordingly. E-commerce is now very important in terms of wine sales, representing 10% of worldwide sales, but this is much higher in China (20%). 

Online experience offers more choices and information. Social media platforms also play a key role in user recommendation and brand image. We see many mobile applications nowadays in the wine market (BtoB or BtoC) advising on wine purchase by providing different key data. But unfortunately there is not yet a unique platform covering all consumer experiences from purchase to tasting, not compromising on the educational value.

Mobile users are more engaged, using mobile applications for information and guide them in their purchase decision. Mobile conversion is consequent, for online but also offline purchases. 84% of smartphone shoppers use their phone for help in stores.

QR codes have become a strong marketing tool, used to link customers to key product information at the point of purchase and more broadly, brand experience. They are used daily in Asia, and especially in China. In China, e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com lead the way with fast delivery options and new retails offers. 

Is there a real need to teach how to appreciate wines and use tech to ease wine access?

Adapting to consumers’ habits in order to come up with relevant wine offers is essential. 

For example, the smart wine labels use consumer’s 5 senses. You can 

  • scratch-and-sniff wine main aromas (up to 100 times)
  • touch & feel wine intensity, 
  • find the best match wine for a particular occasion and dish pairing
  • scan the label to get more information about one particular wine  

Sensorial marketing is key in the product experience, it triggers emotions. Researchers believe that smell is the sense most powerfully linked to emotion, with over 75% of our feelings generated by odors. Sensory marketing strongly triggers  consumers’ purchase: it can increase sales from 80 to 300% but also improve engagement with brands. All information about wine on the market is mostly based on origins or price. We therefore decided to focus on useful and real life wine selection criteria such as the occasion, dish pairing, aromas.

Our smart wine labels were sold BtoB initially to wine importers. Now it is mostly used in BtoC through WeChat shop with direct interaction with consumers. I also use a lot of the smart wine labels during my wine events. (for companies as private individuals) that helps consumers to recognize wine specific aromas but also remember them in a very playful way. 

E-commerce is now very important in terms of wine sales, says Cecile. Image courtesy of Easy Bacchus.

Most Chinese people are smartphone users (60%). Currently Wechat has more than 1.1 billion active users. In addition, China’s market spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (VR/AR) is forecasted to exceed $65.21 billion in 2023. 70% of consumers would make more transactions  if A/R features are attached to a product. 

This market is a very early adopter of such technology. This is why I decided after the smart wine labels, to create a mobile application that will integrate Augmented Reality. I want it to become the reference platform along the entire customer wine journey from purchase to tasting and education. 

Through Easy Bacchus mobile application, customers will be able to select and purchase by visuals their wine according to its aromas, occasion, dish pairing, budget or colors and receive their wine with the smart wine label. 

Augmented Reality customizes wine experience and helps build a long term relationship with customers. Hence, my avatar, Cecilia the French girl, will teach in a very playful way how to taste wine and how to make wine. Users will also be able to grab and move with their phone some virtual wine elements such as their virtual glass of wine or wine grape, making this experience very interactive.

How do you bring more diversity?

Wine-wise I am bringing diversity offering another alternative to conventional wine access, making it more profitable and accessible for everyone. It is very important to adapt to each market’s habit and tech is indeed very present in the Chinese market.

French Tech wise, I work on connecting the whole community together. I strongly believe that we are stronger together. Typically, I connect start-ups to corporates and investors, set up partnerships with investors and incubators including local ones, as well as with institutions and governments.

Women-wise, I am very proud to be a women entrepreneur in China. I brought some creativity in the wine market and insights to  the French Culture. But I must say that I also learnt a lot from the market and adapted my offers accordingly! 

Diversity is key. We need a variety of skills, sometimes location but most importantly diversity of people to succeed.


Disclaimer: This article was written by a community contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the interviewee herself. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here

French Tech Singapore is a nonprofit organization gathering French entrepreneurs and locals working in Singapore in the tech industry. La French Tech encompasses all startups, i.e. all growth companies that share a global ambition, at every stage in their development, from embryonic firms to growing startups with several hundred employees and their sights set on the international market. As is the case all over the world, digital technology is a major catalyst for its development, and French Tech represents digital pure players as well as startups in medtech, biotech, cleantech, and other fields.

WRITTEN BY

Amel Rigneau

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