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As one of the largest wineries in North America – largest in the Pacific Northwest – Ste. Michelle Wine Estates farms over 30,000 acres and distributes to over 100 countries. Their Woodinville chateau near Seattle hosts more than 300,000 guests per year, and retailers and restaurants around the world stock their award-winning portfolio.
Ste. Michelle has been a pioneer in vinifera winegrowing, and today continues to innovate and reimagine the wine business with unified commerce. From tasting rooms and live concerts, to wholesale and subscriptions, they provide seamless, high-quality customer experiences.
We spoke with Eric Johnson, Director of Consumer Engagement Technology and Bryan Ingraham, Applications Support Specialist to learn more about how the partnership with Adyen and Microsoft Dynamics 365 is bringing new opportunities to a traditional business.
Johnson: In a normal year, there's a concert series, and we get some really big talent like John Legend recently. Our amphitheater and all that got shut down, so we’ve had limited in-person with consumers, but our e-commerce kind of exploded. And since all our commerce is on the same backbone, it's the same system for the people working in our call center. We can see a point-of-sale transaction on the same system that we can see a web or a call center transaction. We can even hand transactions off between channels if something needs to be done.
“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. So it's nice that it's unified.”
We also implemented curbside pickup, which has been a huge success. I think that's going to stick around for a long time. It's all new systems for us, but it's one new system that I think we'll be able to sort of grow into and then really see once we get past the newness and all the chaos of 2020.
Ingraham: We knew we needed to innovate and change, and I think we just luckily timed it right. 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 hit and everything went there anyway. So we were kind of ready for it.
And in our old system was – well, emphasis on old. I think we were overdue for an upgrade. So if it didn't happen last year, it would have been happening this year for sure. Microsoft's been really great to work with, the team's been very, very responsive. And I like that it's this Dynamic platform, with a whole family of stuff like their customer insights which does customer segmentation.
There's a lot of really cool things that are under development that they're working with us on to try things out. We're an interesting business because we're a combination of retail plus hospitality, and it covers some different channels, so we're a pretty good testbed for that.
Johnson: Before Microsoft introduced us to Adyen, we weren’t very familiar with you as a payment platform. However, knowing what I know now, I would recommend you. And I'm not just pandering here. Working with your support and sales team, we always get calls back. The support seems to be 24 hours. I know Bryan works a lot with support. There's a big variety of hardware. There's a difference in the service level, and we're really seeing it with you guys.
“Adyen was the right choice as payment partner for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Not only because of the direct integration via our CORE connector with Dynamics 365 Commerce that made implementation seamless, but also the knowledge that together we could enhance authorization rates and improve the customer experience”
Johnson: I last checked the numbers a couple of months ago [in Real-Time Account Update], and that's pretty nice to flip a switch, basically, and recover a large sum of money. Compared to our old system, our old provider, when the credit card expired, you had to call the customer directly and get a reauthorization, which is a lot of work. So that is one feature that’s been a big painkiller for us.
From the customer perspective, I've loved the tap payment. Would love to get the QR codes implemented here. I think you guys are really good at innovating, and that's a big priority for you. And I like that. I also think that your customer service is something of high value to you, and that's the same for Ste. Michelle. Our relationship has been pretty positive because of that.
I also use the [Adyen platform dashboard] Customer Area all the time. To troubleshoot and try to solve some problem or figure something out. The performance is good. It's nice being able to look at those authorization rates. 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.
“The thing I really, 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.”
Johnson: I'd like to give the customers a way to choose whatever they want from their phone, from their device. I want to make it really easy for them to come in and have a seamless transaction. We’re looking towards international expansion, more shifting to e-comm, and into different payment methods, like wallets.
Ingraham: We're in a pilot for the Managed Engagement for POS with Adyen. It’s a new way to get customer feedback right at the moment of sale, so we’re pretty excited about that. It's fun to be one of the few or one of the first on something, whether it's overall or is in our industry. I like it when companies are willing to take a risk. We see it a lot with Microsoft, we're seeing a lot with Adyen.
I think we're on a good platform where customers can pay us with whatever makes them comfortable. We have a lot of international travelers and it's nice that we can get payment in their language or if they want to use a QR code, digital wallet, or a specific payment method from their home country.
The trick is to not make it like a flashy laser show in their faces - It’s still traditional business, so you want to give the customer help when they need it but be out of the way the rest of the time. No one is excited for payment, right? We want the payment process itself to be as seamless as possible so that our customers can enjoy the experience, and the wine.
“We're going to continue to innovate. And we need to be flexible, adaptable, and open to change. And I think we all recognize now as a company that change is a good thing.”
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