2017 Retail Trends For Winery Tasting Rooms To Consider

By Dr. Kathy Kelley

With the New Year just over a week away, the number of reports, articles, etc. that predict what will happen in retail and food trends are filling my inbox and dominating the Internet.  Though overwhelming, I do enjoy sifting through these data and identifying trends that appear in more than one source and that could be useful to tasting rooms in our region.

The one trend that appeared quite frequently was the importance of creating a customer experience.  We have published a couple of blogs about creating an experience, which you can find by clicking on the following: http://bit.ly/2h1dM21 and http://bit.ly/2h1dzLZ.   Since you can refer to these past blogs about how to create an experience for your tasting room visitor, I selected three other trends for today’s post: being transparent, important flavors, and communicating with customers via text.

Transparency

For a few years, consumers have expected businesses to be “transparent” with how they manage funds collected via their cause marketing programs.  Donors want to know how each dollar collected is distributed (http://bit.ly/2i6EdIB).  Some companies want to be transparent in every business aspect and they even make key employee salaries public (http://bit.ly/2i6K7ZY).  Without going to that extreme – what can a business do to meet the desires of their customers who have an interest in learning “where their money’s going rather than simply what it’s buying?”

An example presented in Vend’s 2017 Retail Trends and Predictions report (http://bit.ly/2gUbT74) is Everlane, a clothing business that promotes “radical transparency” (http://bit.ly/2h11bvA).  One of their principles is to be transparent in their costs.

By clicking on a wool-cashmere scarf that they sell, I learned that the true cost ($31.00) was derived from the following: materials ($16.40), hardware ($1.60), labor ($9.65), duties ($2.21), and transport ($1.30) (http://bit.ly/2i22LSR).  The retail price was $65; however, they are primarily an e-retailer, with some product available in boutiques in major metropolitan areas, so they have been able to “eliminate brick-and-mortar expenses and pass these savings on to” their customers.  Consumers and some magazines (e.g., Lucky Magazine, GQ, and Glamour), newspapers (e.g., Los Angeles times, The New York Times), and fashion websites (e.g., Style.com) appreciate this strategy and insight (http://bit.ly/2h3EwPv).

You may not feel comfortable providing a breakdown of why your bottle of Chardonnay costs what it does, but I’m sure that you get asked often why your wine is more expensive than a Chardonnay produced by a “massive conglomerate brand.” Reininger Winery, located in the Walla Walled Valley in Washington State, answered this question in a July 2012 blog post (http://bit.ly/2gV1urD).

Courtney Morgan, Reininger Winery Marketing Assistant, provided information to educate consumers about how factors (e.g. marketing costs, land prices, volume purchases) impact the final price of a wine.  Like Courtney, you probably would make note that “there is no question that a large conglomerate winery can make a good $8 wine,” but that there is something unique and special about the wine you produce and the wine in the bottle reflects the care and attention you take during harvest and the wine making process.

Do consumers get a sense of who you are as a brand?

Most likely your website has an “About Us” page that describes a little bit about your winery/vineyard and the owners.  Perhaps you even have some information about your wine maker or other key employees.  If the descriptions are brief, or merely mention an employee, their name, and their job title, consider adding information that them and who they are as a person.

screenshot-2016-12-21-19-43-02Brancott Estate in New Zealand, which I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of times during my 2011 sabbatical, has taken such an approach.  While a few of the key personnel listed hobbies and what they do on their time off, others described what specific tasks they oversee.

When I clicked on their “About Us” page, I learned that Patrick Materman, Chief winemaker, “decided he would study horticulture at Massey University” at age six, that he was awarded the title of “New Zealand Winemaker of the Year” in 2001, and his job entails “monitoring vineyard blocks, tasting fruit and determining the optimum harvest date.”  Eric Hughes, Winery Manager, is responsible for “turning harvested grapes into wines of the highest quality” and he is the head instructor at the Blenheim Dojo for Seido Karate.

If someone writes your blogs or posts your social media updates and readers merely see their first name in the byline – this could be a missed opportunity.  Wouldn’t you, as a consumer of products and services, what to “know” who is provided the information that you use to make a purchase?

John Morgan, who wrote “Branding Against the Machine: How to Build Your Brand, Cut Through the Marketing Noise, and Stand Out from the Competition” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012) stated that “What you do may not be unique, but you are.  This is why putting your personality into your brand is so important…Personal brands can coexist with a company brand.”  The author provided examples of businesses, one of which was Ford Motor Company, that does this well.  Scott Monty, head of the company’s social media, does “a good job of letting us know the people behind the logo.  Scott is building relationships with people and is a brand within a brand.”  Lastly, “People do business with people…Today people connect with your personality, content, and values.  Not your product or service.”

Flavors

Throughout the year several magazines, food businesses, chef organizations, etc. develop lists of food trends.  The number of these resources can be overwhelming and some focus on the impact of a specific ingredient (e.g. turmeric, http://bit.ly/2i6KMe8).  I try to find trends that relate to particular types of cuisines and that are mentioned in several reports.  So, what cuisines might we be savoring in 2017?  Mintel, a provider of market research (http://bit.ly/2i6kdWA), predicts the following:

Cuban influenced cuisine

This food flavor trend is expected to gain greater appeal due to the U.S. travel ban to the island being lifted.   Consumers who travel to Cuba for leisure and business and eat Cuban food during their visit may then want to consume these foods when they return home.  Look for foods with rich sofrito sauce (Cuban sofrito is made with tomatoes, red bell peppers, and diced ham and differs from Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other sofritos, http://abt.cm/2i6g7Od) and pork-based dishes.

Korean, Filipino, and African flavors will become more prominent

Korean flavors such as kimchi (fermented cabbage dish made with garlic, salt, vinegar, spices, and chile peppers, http://bit.ly/2i6cJ5V) and gochujang (sauce made from chile peppers, salt, sticky rice, and fermented soybeans, http://bit.ly/2i6o71B) “are becoming mainstream as they are incorporated into everything from Polish sausages to ketchup,” and more Millennials (23%) “want to see more pickled ingredients on the menu, compared to 14% of all US consumers” (http://bit.ly/2i6kdWA).

screenshot-2016-12-21-17-26-00

Are you familiar with harissa (a chile paste made with smoked peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and a variety of spices and used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, http://bit.ly/2i6fB2z), teff (a fine grain used to make breads and baked goods and can be steamed, boiled, or baked, http://bit.ly/2i6exM6), or piri piri (peppers used to make a sauce, http://bit.ly/2i6rvtb)?  If not, you may very well see them served in both full-service restaurants and dished out of food trucks.

Fire-grilled or smoked foods

Cooking food in a stove or oven is being overshadowed by consumer interest in foods cooked over a wood-fired grill.  The smoke flavor and aroma “can be incorporated into spreads, desserts, beverages…meats, marinades and sauces” with restaurants using specific types of wood to impart a particular flavor (http://bit.ly/2i6kdWA).

Regardless of whether you have already seen these foods incorporated into menus at local restaurants or if tasting room visitors have asked about possible pairings, now is the time to start developing a list of your wines to serve with these flavors.

Texting

There are several ways that customers can contact you to ask a question about your wine, tasting room, etc., or that you could use to inform them about an event or just say “hi.” Your customers; however, may really appreciate the ability to text message you rather than send an email or call you on their phone to ask you a question.

In 2015, 92% of U.S. adults owned a cell phone of which 68% of them owned a smartphone (http://pewrsr.ch/2iaveGn).  Another survey, administered in late 2014, revealed that text messaging was the primary activity smartphone users conducted on their phone.  Of the survey participants, 100% of those who were age 18 to 29 used their phones to text message (http://pewrsr.ch/2iawoS8).  Nearly all survey participants age 30 to 49 (98%) used their smartphone to text with just slightly fewer participants age 50 and older (92%) responding that they used their smartphone for this purpose.

screenshot-2016-12-21-18-12-21

If text messaging is the primary activity smartphone users conduct on their phones, might they be interested in using text to communicate with business?  According to a report published by The Center for Generational Kinetics, “some 36% of Millennials say they would contact a company more frequently if they could text them” (http://nws.mx/2h1uNZD).

Why do consumers prefer to send a text to a customer service department rather than call the company?  The top five reasons why U.S. and German consumers preferred text, according to a May 2016 survey conducted by Ovum, were:

  • “less time consuming,” 44% of respondents selected this reason,
  • “more convenient,” 42%,
  • “less frustrating,” 30%,
  • “enabled [them] to ask the company to text/call back,” 26%, and
  • “enabled [them] to have a record of the conversation,” 19% (http://bit.ly/2h1vt1p).

To facility a smooth texting experience, several companies provide 2 Way SMS services that allow businesses to send and receive text messages in real time, send automated replies based on keywords, send appointment reminders, and other communications (http://bit.ly/2h1r3rr).

One such company, SMS Global, a messaging solutions provider (http://bit.ly/2h1m8GT), described some of the things a business can do using 2 Way SMS:

  • Send coupons, offers, and inform customers about sales. SMS Global indicated on their website that “in many cases [their] customers yield a more than 300% increase” in offers and coupon redemptions “compared to email or hard copy offers” (http://bit.ly/2h1r6TW).

An example of a winery that uses text messaging to connect with customers is Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery, located in Kasota, MN.  The winery uses text messaging to alert customers about the promotions as well as when they release their wines (http://bit.ly/2iaxaOS).

  • Increase email open rates. SMS Global clients experienced a 30 to 40% increase when consumers received a text “prompting [them] to check their email.”
  • Get customer feedback. Every so often, send your customers a text with a question or two and instantaneously learn about their thoughts and interests.

Why might a business want to incorporate texting into their marketing and communication strategy?  Kenneth Burke recently published a list of reasons on the Text Requests website (http://bit.ly/2iakkjA).  Some include:

  • Responding to consumers via text is a quicker way to answer their questions, allowing you to solve a problem before your competitor can, which may result in more sales.
  • According to Burke, “for the average person, texting is one of the more personal things we do every day.” His rationale is that we receive a lot of emails, many of which “are simply marketing and sales messages,” and phone calls, I’m sure that when you see an unrecognized telephone number on your screen that you automatically think that it is a telemarketer.  But, when you receive texts – you know who sent it and these texts are most likely “from people you have close relationships with.”
  • “Texting makes your business fully mobile.” Texting completes the cell phone usage experience.  If a consumer uses their phone to access social media apps, read emails, play games, and a multitude of other activities – then why not reach them on the device that is most likely to be by their side?

Of course, as with any other marketing and communication practice you implement, you will want to make sure that you follow the rules, which include an opt-in consent, directions on how consumers can opt out of text messages, and that message rates may apply (http://bit.ly/2iaFYEC).

We will continue to share trends that could be useful to wineries and winery tasting rooms in the New Year.

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