A new, high-tech digital platform is taking on the wine industry’s reputation as inaccessible and designed for older customers. Crurated, which just raised over $7 million in a January funding round, sells wine online to members using blockchain technology. Buyers can purchase rare, limited-edition wines from more than 60 producers, with the option to buy partial barrels and get free storage on bottles.
Since launching in 2021, the e-commerce website now has a “few thousand” members, chief commercial officer Paolo Sforza told Digital Commerce 360. Membership has grown quickly at 180% year-over-year. About half of those members are in the lowest, free tier, while the other half are spread among the three paid tiers that charge the equivalent of about $32.48, $162.42, and $541.41 respectively per month.
Reaching younger buyers
Crurated stands out in the wine world for its relatively young membership. 70% of members are younger than 45 years old, and 35% are under 35, Sforza said. For comparison, wine drinkers over 60 years old are the only growth segment in the industry overall, per the state of the wine industry 2023 report. Drinkers under 60 are buying less wine overall than they were in 2007, the report found.
Part of that appeal to younger consumers is in the pricing. “Younger people with a lower budget are just discovering this world” of fine wine, Sforza said, so the lower price point makes these barrels more accessible. Potential customers interested in fine wine but who are earlier in their careers may not necessarily be able to afford an expensive barrel of high-end wine, he said, but partial barrel sales are within their price range. Crurated is also able to eliminate many of the high fees associated with buying from typical auction houses, by connecting buyers directly with producers.
Some of the wine producers Crurated works with offer personalized wine bottles. Customers who win auctions for certain barrels can choose how they want them bottled, and in some cases customize labels to reflect special events or celebrations.
Crurated incorporates blockchain, wine NFTs
Crurated uses blockchain technology to guarantee quality, which Sforza says has been especially popular with the company’s younger customers. It’s “fully digital,” so customers must be “tech literate,” to participate, Sforza said. Even customers using the base level free membership have to register through the website.
Each bottle is also registered as an individual NFT, which “eliminates counterfeit risk, assures wine’s future value and provides traceability,” Crurated says. In practice, this means buyers can track a bottle of wine from the producer to their door. Buyers have real-time information about how a bottle is stored, where it traveled, and more, Sforza said. Each of these factors can impact quality and has the potential to ruin the wine if not handled properly. This too appeals to younger buyers, who are more willing to buy an expensive bottle of wine if they have transparency into the storage and conditions of the wine, ensuring its quality, Sforza said.
Digital memberships with real-life experiences
[Though Sforza emphasized the completely digital business of Crurated, the platform also takes some services offline for members. Customers can attend exclusive wine dinners with producers. The company has also arranged wine experiences in Italy and France, where members spend a few days in the wine-producing regions learning more about the products.
Though so far events and winemakers are concentrated in Europe, Sforza says the compan yplans to expand into North America this year, as customers outside of Europe are split between North America, Asia and the Middle East.
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