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Constant innovation boosts organic winery

Keeping ahead of the technology curve has seen Greystone evolve into an award-winning organic winery which drives global sales through an online operating system.

When general manager Nick Gill joined the Waipara-based winery in 2004 the business relied on copper cables and a dial up internet service to perform online tasks.

Greystone is now connected to the outside world via a wireless modem, which enables staff to operate efficiently in a rural location with spotty cellphone coverage. To improve reliability the company installed extra Wi-Fi points throughout the property, including the winery where there is no cellphone reception.

A cloud-based system allows Nick and his team to run the entire business seamlessly, from vineyard management, cellar and winery management, stock control, sales, labelling, integrity, auditing, excise taxes and many other areas of the operation.

“We have put a lot of time and money into getting the best integrated system we can,” Nick says.

“This system operates from the cloud so if the internet goes down everything stops apart from the tractors, basically.”

The team uses Skype for business calls, and communicates internally using Slack, a direct messaging application.

Along with strengthening internal business operations, being connected plays important role in driving wine sales in a competitive international market.

Much of the wine produced by Greystone is exported to Australia, China and Europe, while the local New Zealand market is also very important to the company.

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Three years ago, marketing and brand manager Alissa Miller joined the team to grow the brand’s online presence and Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales with a significant focus on Greystone’s Wine Club. Nick says this reflects the importance the company places on digital marketing.

“We realised how important it was to have someone with the capability to deliver that role. We recognised that we needed to be working in this online space,” he says.

Alissa has focused her online efforts on DTC and email marketing or EDM (Electronic Direct Mail).

“Obviously having an online presence is huge. We rely a lot on DTC and email marketing. It’s really good to connect and sustain relationships with people coming to the cellar door,” Alissa says.

“DTC is a huge potential market and we see that as gaining more traction through the likes of social marketing, email marketing and platforms like Google Shopping.”

“People might be searching Google for something like “best pinot noir in New Zealand’, so we need to try and intercept those searches by having the strongest SEO,” Alissa says.

Most New Zealanders still prefer buying wine in person, rather than online, but Alissa sees online sales as a growing market for New Zealand wine consumers.

“Online sales are really popular in North America, but here people are still in the mindset of going to the supermarket to buy wine.”

Alissa utilises social media platforms to communicate with current and potential customers and distributors right across the globe, using WeChat to reach the Chinese Market, where they have seven distributors.

“Relationships are a really important part of selling wine,” Nick says.

“Connection is a big part of business optimisation when you’re trying to get market cut through with influencers all across the world; I don’t think that would happen without it,” Alissa adds.

While a stronger and more reliable internet connection would be welcomed by Greystone, the pair are utilising connectivity to enhance the business and encourage other businesses to do the same.

“It’s about staying relevant; it’s a constantly changing digital landscape and you’ve got to get on board,” Alissa says.

“Be willing to adapt, just because something is working this year, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work next year,” Nick adds. “Get on board and start pedaling hard.”


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