Summary of the Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division Direct-to Consumer Wine Sales videocast, Part 1

By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management

Each year, The Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division releases a State of the Wine Industry Report. This is followed by a videocast overview in January, and then a videocast focusing on Direct-to-Consumer Wine Sales in May.  For more information about these products and events click on this link: www.svb.com/premium-wine-banking.  On Wednesday, I watched Part 1 of the Silicon Valley Bank “Insights for Successful Consumer Wine Sales” videocast.  If you missed the live videocast, you can watch the recording and/or sign up for Part 2, which will air on May 29, 2019, via this link: http://bit.ly/2EvkV9g.  Both videocasts will be the subject of Cryril Penn’s July 1 Wine Business Monthly article. Until then, I decided to write a blog post to give you an idea of some of the main themes discussed during videocast, as well as examples of how you can utilize the information at your own winery and tasting rooms.  

In-home Experiences/Tasting Opportunities: Personalization and Convenience 

The panel discussed the fact that subscription boxes are popular – in fact, the industry was estimated to be worth at least $10 billion in 2018 (http://bit.ly/30C1WmK). Subscription boxes are offered based on “who” the box is for (e.g., age range, gender, pet owner), interests (e.g., food, wine, fitness, environmentally friendly products), usage (e.g., beauty and clothing, education, cleaning), and are often “mass customized.”  As with one specific wine-based subscription box, new subscribers answer survey questions, after which each package is semi-personalized with products that are most likely to appeal.  

Perhaps you are wondering how you can take advantage of this trend.  Whether you have an existing club/loyalty program or if you have considered doing so, you can implement the “best practices” that make subscription clubs so popular.  A couple of these include:

1)    Incorporate user-generated content (UGC)

UGCs are customer reviews that include photos and/or video, in addition to text, that describes the user’s experience (think Amazon reviews), which companies then repost on their own social media accounts.  

Why is this type of review valuable?  As reported by Michale Ugino, co-founder & CMO of Sellbrite, the following are reasons why you should repost UGC on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. (http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR):

  • a majority of adults in the U.S. use social media,
  • customers trust what other viewers say about the product – even if they are strangers – more than they trust “brand-created content,”
  • video and photos are more engaging compared to text-only posts,
  • with the need for brands to post frequently to remain relevant on social media – such content can help keep your tasting room front and center on followers’ feeds, and
  • aside from the time needed to locate and repost the content – it is free. 

This makes sense – if your customers are “on” Instagram, for example, why not use this outlet to showcase “real people” as they talk about how much they enjoy your wine or the great time they had in your tasting room (http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR).  

While you can use a tool like Google Alerts to receive email notifications when something is posted about your brand online, you will need to develop a hashtag, use it consistently in your posts, encourage others to use the hashtag in what they post, and monitor its use.  You can read about how several bands have used UGC successfully by accessing Ugino’s article: http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR.  

2)    Elements of surprise  

If your current club allows members to select the exact number bottles and varietals of wine they receive in a shipment, you might find that other customers look forward to “surprise” packages that they receive, and that part of the excitement is in the “reveal.” Excitement builds throughout the process – starting from the date when the customer expects the box to arrive, to when the box is delivered to the mailbox/doorstep, and peaks when the customer beaks open the package and inspects each item.  

Even if a particular item does not exactly appeal – most likely the recipient will give it a try and/or pass it on to a friend/family member, which further extends the brand’s reach and potential clientele base.   Perhaps you have seen the commercials for certain subscription boxes that air before the shipment – giving a “sneak peek” as to what the subscriber will receive – and then after all boxes have been shipped – when additional videos provide subscribers with information on how to use the product (even if a detailed card or booklet is included in the box with photos and usage instructions).  

Think about the impact you could have with creating short videos and posting them on social media sites that 1) provide a sneak peek as to what is in the subscription box and 2) a longer video (or series of videos) that provide descriptions of the wine, what to pair them with, how long they can be stored, how to store them, etc. 

While you may feel more comfortable recording and editing a video before it is posted – having a live event will give you the opportunity to ask and answer viewer question.  You may have already produced videos that describe these elements for some of your wines, but if the videos are released in tandem with the delivery – there might be a stronger connection, interest in the content, and viewership.   Just another strategy for developing content to stay relevant and on your followers’ screens.  

What are other ways that you can provide a level of convenience and personalization?  Think about how you can enhance the online shopping experience with delivery and in-store pickup.  Do you and your tasting room staff suggest tie-in products that complete the main purchase, or recommending purchase based on past behaviors?  There is at least one way that winery tasting rooms can offer convenience and potentially increase transaction size. 

Lingering 

The panelists not only had experience in the wine industry but in other “traditional” industries that are also seeing a maturing customer base and searching for ways to appeal to Gen Y (born between 1977 and 1994; http://bit.ly/2W1xWSB) and Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) consumers.  

One of the issues that arose during the discussion was how these generations behave differently from more mature consumers in tasting rooms, restaurants, and similar.  Past blog posts have described how important experiences are to these young consumers and that the value received needs to be justified by the price paid.   Price is certainly a consideration for these young consumers who likely have less discretionary income than older generations, and these young wine drinkers may be choosing tasting rooms based on the fee they will pay, but they are also selecting them based on the value of the overall experience.  

Videocast host Rob McMillan, EVP and Founder, Premium Wine Division, Silicon Valley Bank, provided an example as to how his step-daughter selected a tasting room based on the tasting room fee, outdoor lounging area, and activities offered (cornhole game area). This particular group was looking for a tasting experience during which they did not feel rushed and where they could “linger” or hang out and have a good time.  

I have shared the image below of a winery tasting room in Australia that had a driving range guests could use to practice their golf swing while consuming wine, beer, and cider. As I observed the group using the driving range (which was available for a fee), they were relaxed, socialized, and spent more on food and beverages than visitors who were participating in an informal tasting – and the demand on the staffs’ time was very minimal.  

Driving range at Sidewood Estate, South Australia

Lisa H. Kislak, Chief Markering Officer, Crimson Wine Group, discussed the value of “soft seating” and that it is a concept recognized in the restaurant industry – flexibility in space (like many modern hotel lobbies).  Such spaces will allow for lingering and create an atmosphere that encourages this type of behavior.  

The inclination may be to create a large space for visitors to chillax; however, first create a small area and evaluate the response (as with any changes that you make to your wine, selection, etc.) to determine if response is positive, how positive the response was, and then make the decision to increase the offering based on these data. The area you create could be as simple as a few picnic benches and tables or a bit more stylish like the example below.  

Outdoor recreation and seating area at Jacob’s Creek Winery, South Australia

Tastings by Reservation

While many of your tasting room visitors enjoy the freedom to walk in without having to plan too much in advance, others may enjoy the ability to make reservations for a more involved tasting – which may include a number of benefits: 1) time-stressed individuals know they will not have to wait long for staff to pour samples, 2) assurance that staff will be available and able to answer questions, and 3) access to reserved wines.  

I witnessed this several times at several Australian wineries where a dedicated tasting bar area was set aside for this purpose.  A “premium” fee was charged for the tasting and the staff member who oversaw the tasting was one of their seasoned employees who could answer any questions guests asked.  These factors elevated the tasting room experience and even though visitors paid more for a tasting – the value they received was well worth it.  Perhaps, as a result of the heightened level of satisfaction during their experience, they had an increased interest in the wines, willingness to follow the tasting room on social media, and likelihood of writing a positive online review.  

Collect Data from all Customers

I often write about data collection and analysis in my blog posts, as there is great power in knowing what appeals to tasting room visitors.  Though it is fairly easy to collect data, track purchases, and communicate with club/loyalty program members, if you are not learning about who is visiting your trashing room/purchasing online and who are not members of your club – you are missing out.  

So, how might you collect data from visitors who (for one reason or another) have not/chose not to join the loyalty program?  If you offer a tasting that requires a reservation, customers should provide the minimum: name, city/state (to learn from how far visitors travel, if there are “pockets” of households where visitors live and that could be the basis for targeting), email (to send a confirmation email and make it easier for the recipient to signup for an email newsletter), cell phone number (additional way to send the confirmation for the tasting and for him/her to signup to receive texts about upcoming events).  

However, there is also the opportunity to ask about preferences (to tailor the tasting to their interests, select the appropriate person to oversee the tasting, etc.), consumption frequency (to suggest club membership type/level that might fit their needs), how they learned about the tasting room (for future promotional efforts), etc.  The reservation form/system should also provide links to Facebook, Instagram, etc. and encourage recipients to follow the tasting room and key staff.  

Tammy Boatright, President of VingDirect, encouraged viewers to evaluate customers based on how frequently they purchase, when the most recent purchase was made, and how much consumers spend on each occasion and annually.  This will allow you to segment customers and identify who purchases your wines online vs in the tasting room, who purchases more frequently, and/or spends more per transaction.  From there you can develop promotions or events that would appeal to groups that exhibit similar interests.  Perhaps, if you find that a certain group of visitors only visit your tasting room or make an online purchase around the holidays, you could develop a targeted promotion to entice them to visit during periods in between.  

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