Going around on the Web I met Chris Mulhallen, the Cru.io platform founder.
He’s also Committee Member at WISA (Wine Industry Suppliers Australia Inc.), and I realized that many of my interviews and contacts about wine and technology come from there. Interesting thing, doesn’t?
CRU is both an agency and a platform providing the tools to drive engagement and nurture traffic that is driven to the site by the client through their own strategies (social media, database marketing etc).
When I asked him for an interview, he was so kindly to dedicate me some of his time to answer my questions.
Wine Roland – Well, Chris, nice to meet you here to The Digital Wine. Tell readers your 10-rows biography.
Chris Mulhallen – I began in the wine industry by working in bars and in bottle shops whilst being exposed to some high end wine through a friend. My thirst for wine grew as did my knowledge, and so I enrolled and completed a Bachelor of wine marketing at Adelaide University.
Post University, I had the opportunity to work 2 vintages at Clarendon Hills. My first position out of university was in sales and marketing for a small Adelaide Hills winery.
From there I worked for a couple of wineries in sales and was disheartened by retailers wanting cheap deals and not caring about the wine itself…so I started CRU.
WR – Cru.io is a platform offering services to vineyards. How this idea born?
CM – We are a hybrid agency/platform and this came about as I had an old high school buddy who was in tech and we were drinking a bit of wine together.
We had a mutual friend who owned a winery and he asked us to look into the winery ecommerce platforms to recommend one for his business to use. We had demos from what are now our main competitors and we turned to each other and said we could do it better….two weeks later I quit my job and started CRU.
WR – Who the natural CRU’s target is?
CM – The CRU agency/platform is for small to enterprise sized wineries. We have the technology to scale with larger businesses.
We already work with some of the largest family owned wineries in Australia and are growing our marketing in both New Zealand and the USA.
We have the tools to allow smaller wineries to automate many processes including follow up marketing. These same tools are being used by our larger clients with dedicated marketing teams.
Our target market, are those wineries that want to invest in a quality design and high level of user experience with powerful tools to run wine club, marketing automation and to integrate with other systems that the winery is using.
WR – What do you think about wine tourism, and what CRU can do about it?
CM – Wine tourism is a key function of what we do. I suppose you could say we are the end result of tourism.
We know that tasting rooms/cellar doors are the conversion zone for an email address, a sale or the ultimate goal – a wine club sign up.
We need that traffic at our clients physical locations, and if the staff are trained properly, we see more traffic through their website due to increased wine club sign ups.
In terms of what CRU can do about it, we can always give advise on the winery positioning themselves as a destination and build campaigns around the value adds they offer, be it restaurant, beautiful views, beautiful wines.
WR – Where your servers are? What kind of technology do you use? Tell us somethings nerd-like
CM – CRU invested heavily in our own server infrastructure last year. We own our own servers through AWS (Amazon Web Services). Along with this move, we upscaled our staff and brought on a tech lead who has been amazing for our business. Our servers are scalable for larger clients that deserve their own dedicated servers and increased in server capabilities during peak periods.
This has also been important for some new clients that are transacting well over $10 million per year through their eCommerce store.
WR – In your team you have a Digital Coordinator. What her task is?
CM – Our digital coordinator is actually more a project manager with an extension to her role. Casey is the link between our developers and our clients to collect client assets, required functionality and settings (example for shipping rules etc). Casey also helps streamline our processes to increase efficiencies wherever we can during asset collection phase, development phase or training.
WR – Technology in wine business, from production to marketing, is not so much exploited. Why, in your opinion?
CM – The wine industry is a niche industry which is fractured and multifaceted. Due to this, there are only a few players willing to invest in technology needed for growth.
However, this has been changing with developments in tech for agriculture and oenology.
WR – What would you like to say us, Old World wine lovers, about use of new technologies in wine business?
CM – The Old World is steeped in tradition, however there are great opportunities if wineries look to adopt technology and start to build a database of customers to sell to.
As the younger generations come through, hopefully they will start to adapt the idea of using technology to sell direct to their customers. The use of technology and logistics allows wineries to reach customers all over the globe, I’m sure Old World will adopt this kind of thinking
Here the interview ends. Chris sent me his answers a couple of months after my first email because, he said, “CRU has been very busy this year and we have already launched over 50 new client sites”.
Really a good outcome.
My consideration: a winemaker, who manages a restaurant or a wine shop, not ever are addicted in technology, they haven’t time to follow all the new features and tools that digital age makes available. Platforms and agencies like CRU allow the customer to focus on their business and not on the technology required to realize it.
Australia is showing itself like the more innovative region, and I subscribe the Chris hint about Europe of wine.
So, good job to CRU.