With a successful harvest now behind us, it’s time to focus on our customers’ needs and wants for the holiday season. While most retailers have been planning for months for this all-important period, it’s not too late for us to come up with the kinds of tasting room experiences that will create and cement customer loyalty.
In 2015, U.S. retail sales saw a moderate growth of 3%, despite unforeseen weather events and a soft retail environment. But the biggest spike was during the holiday season, when sales grew by 9%. As much as 40% of U.S. sales come during the critical holiday season, a huge chunk of the yearly revenue pie. “We know that holiday shoppers want “immersive experiences” in retail, the Epsilon Holiday Survey says.
The 2016 Epsilon Holiday Shopping survey found that 87% of holiday shoppers are still very likely to purchase at stores this year, according to information obtained by Alliance Data. Furthermore, 16% of retailer revenue is at risk (on average) due to poor customer experience, a 2015 study conducted by LoyaltyOne revealed.
How are we engaging with our customers? The Alliance Data survey says: “Explore ways to showcase the latest innovations and products, connecting to customers in more relevant and meaningful ways. Provide them a place to interact and engage with family and friends. Create the moments that will make their path to discovery and purchase more interesting.”
Lake County is nestled north of Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California. For visitors who approach from the west, the 30-minute drive on extremely windy roads is rewarded with beautiful views and up-and-coming first-class wines. We were invited to Brassfield Estate Winery by Matt Hughes, director of winemaking, and Jonathan Walters, director of farming.
Jan Spitzka, Brassfield’s marketing and tasting room manager, and Amanda Bolla, wine club manager, are driving healthy direct-to-consumer growth in a beautiful setting. Just look at some of the vineyards located above the winery at more than 3,000 feet elevation—what a view!
So let’s think of ourselves as retailers for a few minutes and see what lessons we can learn from this research. We know that we have passed the industrial economy and even the technological economy and are now in the “experience economy.”
The idea is that work is theater and every business is a stage. That may be a stretch for some businesses, but it is custom-made for the wine industry. Customers want memorable experiences. They also want you to help solve their entertaining problems. Here are a few ideas to consider as you review your holiday plan:
- Our customers will love us if we can help entertain their out-of-town relatives. The long Thanksgiving weekend is a great opportunity for us to find a way to get Uncle Fred and Aunt Edith out of the house. Offer choices of tours and tastings to keep them entertained and win the hearts of our loyal fans.
- Hold a holiday open house with options for the kids. Is there a tree they can help decorate? Color paper snowflakes?
- Make the tasting room available to rent after hours for holiday wine parties.
- Offer blending seminars for work colleagues and groups of friends.
- Showcase our local providers for food pairings or wreath making, and let them do the work.
And let’s be mindful of how each of us in our role as tasting room host behind the bar influences our customers. The LoyaltyOne study goes on to say: In addition, 83% of consumers said an exceptional salesperson gives retailers a big advantage. Yes, people buy more easily if they like you! If they like you and believe in you, they are more likely to buy and buy more.
How will we stand out from the crowd this holiday season and capture the hearts and wallets of our customers? Let’s find new ways to provide that oasis of delight during this hectic time of year. It’s show time!
Source: WISE Academy,
September 2016 Metrics
The Wine Job Index is still up from last month, while direct-to-consumer shipments are also up, partly due to cooler weather. Total U.S. wine sales continue to grow, including sparkling wine sales.
Focus on Shipping
October, November and December can be a period when visitors to your tasting room start to drop off after the busy summer months, but this is when your shipping strategy becomes most important. Vin65 discusses the benefits of shipping incentives to maximize wine sales here.
During the Wine Industry Financial Symposium held in Napa Valley this September, one of the presentations focused on a survey conducted by Wine Opinions and Hello Vino. The companies looked at the generational differences of wine consumption, and the results are very enlightening. This article from Forbes can help you understand the trends and adjust your marketing and sales strategies.
Time’s Up to Spin Down
Helix closure, which combines traditional cork with the easy-opening feature of a twist-off.
Wine-Buying TV Show
WineShop.TV is an online wine-shopping channel on the Roku network. According to its creators, “When viewing WineShop.TV with a smartphone or mobile device in hand, added interactivity will enable the consumer purchase of wine and related products directly from wineries.” Read more here.
ONE87, the winner of the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference People’s Choice Award for Most Innovative Packaging, could be the answer to “I just want one glass of wine.” Read more here.
What’s in a Name?
Name recognition of a wine region does not happen by itself. Napa spends millions of dollars continuously promoting its wine and region. This article by Liz Thach, Master of Wine, reflects on the critical steps to propel a wine region to fame...
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills into law related to wine consumption. Read more here.
Knowing the law
Sonoma County has more than 800 wineries (360 with tasting rooms and 490 with wine clubs). The law firm Hinman & Carmichael communicated the latest discussions about winery use permits and visitor restrictions here.
Event in the Southeast
On Nov. 16, the campus of Surry Community College (SCC) in Dobson, N.C., will host the Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium, which will focus on marketing strategies for Southeastern wineries.
JB’s Promotional Products
Your tasting room probably has a “store” where merchandise is sold and brings profitable transactions as well as increased memories for the visitors. 33 Books Co. created a suite of pocket-size tasting journals that provide an easy way to quickly record tasting notes in a small, convenient notebook format. A great souvenir. More at 33books.com
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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.