A perfect pairing: great wine and unified commerce

Covid-19 shut down Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ on-site business in 2020, but it was able to offer new digital customer experiences with Adyen and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 13 April 2021
A perfect pairing: great wine and unified commerce

Like many companies in the retail and hospitality sector, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates had to put two of its key revenue drivers – on-site wine tastings and concert events – on hold in 2020 due to Covid-19. This was a big change for one of the largest premium wine companies in the USA, which typically welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors at its 30,000-acre chateau each year.

With customers stuck at home, Ste. Michelle doubled down on its e-commerce and subscription business to continue delivering a high-quality customer experience online. To fill the gaps, the organisation implemented new methods such as kerbside pickup and contactless point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Not content with simply compensating for on-site business, Ste. Michelle capitalised on the opportunity to grow by expanding into new markets and channels, implementing innovations like digital wallets or QR codes, and continuing to offer more international payment methods. All of these ambitions had to be supported by the technology, insights, and real-time visibility from its unified commerce payments platform.

“We knew we needed to innovate and change, and I think we just luckily timed it right,” says Eric Johnson, director of consumer engagement technology at Ste. Michelle. “It’s something we were lacking in our website, the ability for us to engage with our customers online, so we pushed that hard. And then of course, Covid-19 hit and everything went there anyway. So, we were ready for it.”

Ste. Michelle enlisted the help of Microsoft partner and payments platform provider Adyen to ensure it had all the right technology in place to allow it to view the complete purchase history for every consumer across all its channels. This allowed the organisation to see the gaps and spikes in demand and find new ways to personalise and improve the end-to-end customer experience.

“Adyen was the right choice as payment partner for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates,” says Francois van Splunder, senior product marketing manager for Dynamics 365 Commerce at Microsoft. “Not only because of the direct integration via our Core connector with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce that made implementation seamless, but also the knowledge that together we could enhance authorisation rates and improve the customer experience.” 

The seamless integration between Dynamics 365 and Adyen allows Ste. Michelle to see across the entire business and quickly pinpoint areas that need to be optimised. In addition, the Adyen platform allows the business to accept payments in any currency. 

“We can see a POS transaction on the same system that we can see a web or a call centre transaction,” explains Johnson. “It all rolls up into the Adyen platform in a familiar manner for people, where before we had separate systems for these sorts of things. It’s nice that it’s unified.” 

Ste. Michelle’s applications support specialist Bryan Ingraham concurs. “The search is really fast, and you’re going through what’s probably millions of transactions now. It’s impressive how quick you can get to the bottom of something.”

Adyen’s Real Time Account Updater feature has also saved Ste. Michelle time and money by optimising how it manages recurring subscription services and wine clubs. Previously, expired, lost, stolen or transferred cards could lead to declined payments and involuntary churn, and correcting this was an arduous task because the organisation had to reauthorise payments individually customer by customer. Now, it can effectively recover lost revenue at a push of the button. 

“The thing I really love that I don’t think I make a big enough noise about is – for our business with a club model with recurring payments – the Real Time Account Updater is huge for us,” says Ingraham. “It’s pretty nice to basically flip a switch and recover a large sum of money.”

Adyen’s solution also offers Ste. Michelle a firm foundation for the future. The end-to-end nature of unified commerce has enabled it to be flexible and open new avenues for its continued evolution. Ste. Michelle will soon implement QR code functionality, develop an all-in-one app and are also in a POS customer insights program.

“It’s fun to be one of the few, or one of the first, on something, whether it’s overall or in our industry,” says Ingraham. “I like it when companies are willing to take a risk. We see it a lot with Microsoft and we’re seeing it a lot with Adyen. We’re going to continue to innovate, and we need to be flexible, adaptable and open to change. I think we all recognise now as a company that change is a good thing.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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