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An American (Wine Marketer) in Paris

By Dr. Kathy Kelley

I have been fortunate over the past few years to co-lead groups of Penn State undergraduates on a two-week experience in Paris, France, with the goal of comparing U.S. and French agriculture and food systems.  The students learn about U.S. systems from Penn State experts during the spring semester and then they learn about the French systems when abroad in mid-May.   Grape and wine production happens to be one of the topics they study, and they get an opportunity to not only visit a vineyard and winery in Pennsylvania but a couple of operations in the Champagne region.  On my time off I visit wine shops and look for wine-related “things” that may be of interest to you, our blog readers.  What follows is a bit of what I have seen so far on my trip.

Learning about Wine in High School

One of the stops we took the Penn State students to in the Champagne region was an agricultural high school (Lycée Agroviticole – Crézancy; http://bit.ly/2qyL40l).  The school was founded in 1870 and is just one of several schools that teach students about farm management.   Some of the students who have an interest in becoming winemakers, along with high school graduates who seek viticulture and enology training, are responsible for the vineyards and grow the three main wine grapes used to make Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). Screenshot 2017-05-19 16.23.55

In addition to learning about grape production, the students also learn the multi-step process of making Champagne and are involved in all steps of the process.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 19.16.35

Screenshot 2017-05-25 08.40.05Under the direction of a cellar master, the students’ final product is labeled and available for purchase.  Selections, with the price in U.S. dollars, include Brut Tradition ($15.00), Brut Blanc de Blanc ($16.30), Brut Rose ($16.75), Demi-Sec Tradition ($15.73), and Euphrasie Millesime 2008 ($21.35) (http://bit.ly/2rljEMQ). A product that is now available, but was not in 2015 when I last visited with a group, is Brut Terroir – their organic option ($19.11).

Champagne can be purchased online as well as from the cellar at the school.  A building is currently being converted into a retail space that the students will operate.  Students interested in Champagne production also attend conferences, participate in judging events, and co-host events for the industry.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 08.39.40

A 20,000 Euro ($22,474.74) Bottle of Wine

I am drawn to retail establishments and really enjoy observing how products are displayed, how the space is used, and the overall “feel” of the store.  While Paris has many wine shops and places to buy wine (even a wine shop where no French wine is sold/served (http://soifdailleurs.com), I enjoy visiting La Cava at the Lafayette Gourmet near the Opera Garnier in the 9th Arrondissement (http://bit.ly/2rkwriQ) because it is in the midst of a supermarket in the basement of a department store and it is staged as if it were a museum.  It is roomy, security guards are staged at the entrances, and the lighting highlights certain pieces (wines).

Screenshot 2017-05-25 13.52.35

There are approximately 2,500 labels, of which almost half are from Bordeaux.  Each time I visit I look for the most expensive wine available for purchase.  Though I found a few bottles that were priced over 2,000 euro (approx. $2,250 U.S.), I also found a few 750 mL bottles that were just a bit more: a 1945 Chateau Latour (Bordeaux), which Parker awarded a 90/100 and Wine Spectator a 100/100 (http://bit.ly/2rTOKs6), that sells for 12,900 euros (approx. $14,500 U.S.) and an 1899 Chateau d’Yquem (Bordeaux) for 20,000 euros (approx. $22,500), which Wine Spectator awarded a 91/100 (http://bit.ly/2qjseYs).   However, if those prices seem a little steep, do not forget that you can request a VAT tax refund when you leave the country, which for the Chateau d’Yquem is 2,400 euros (approx. $26,900 U.S.).

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.30.35

Lavinia

Another shop that I visit when in Paris is Lavinia (located in the 1st Arrondissement, http://bit.ly/2qnVah7).  The business was established in 1999, has over 6,500 labels (including selections from the U.S.), and is often referred to as the Europe’s largest wine store.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 17.27.37

“La Cave” is in the basement level and houses rare and expensive wines.  In order to access the wines in this section, you will need to ask a staff member to open the door with a code, after which they will accompany you while you make your selection, and then they will bring the bottle to the cashier.  This is the one section of the store where it is forbidden to take photos of the bottles in an effort to minimize any exposure to excessive light from a camera’s flash.

After walking around both floors you may be interested in having a meal in the restaurant.  If you are interested in learning what wines pair with items on the menu you need only look at the display outside the dining room, find the particular food item (e.g., salad, cheese, a specific entrée), and refer to what wines are positioned in the column under the photo.  If you would like to taste a particular wine, ask for a card (deposit of 3 euros), load 10 euros or more onto the card, and insert it into one of four machines that will dispense a select number of reds, rose, or white wines, all for 1.10 euro to 9.60 euro per 3 cl (1 fluid ounce).

Screenshot 2017-05-25 17.25.58

As you can imagine with a city the size of Paris – the number of options for getting a glass or bottle of wine is immense.  If Paris is on your list of places to see, or if it is time for you to visit again, be sure to investigate what bars, restaurants, shops, and tastings you would like to experience.  While many establishments are well known and marked there are also a number of speakeasies in the city that deserve a visit, one of which is Lavomatic (https://www.lavomatic.paris).

Lavomatic is a working laundry mat with a secret door hidden behind one of the dryers.  After you push the “start” button on the dryer and pull the door to open it- you will find a dark staircase that leads up to a small bar with a few small seating areas including a few swings that hang from the ceiling.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 19.05.08Screenshot 2017-05-25 19.01.42

Until next time…

Using Social Media to Engage with Customers

By Jennifer Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

Did you log into Facebook, send a “snap” via Snapchat, post a photo on Instagram, or send out a tweet on Twitter today?

There is no doubt that social media has a presence in our daily lives.  In 2017, 88% of the U.S. population had Internet access and 66% of the population actively used social media (http://bit.ly/2nCUEiC). From January 2016 to January 2017, the number of active social media users increased 21% and active mobile social users (those who use social media on their mobile devices) increased 30% (http://bit.ly/OeHf9K).

It may not surprise you that Facebook is the most widely used social media platform, but did you know that 68% of all U.S. adults use the platform?  Additionally, 76% of American users visited the site daily in 2016 (http://pewrsr.ch/2nJd5Oy).

What about some of the other networks? Twenty-eight percent of all U.S. adults used Instagram, the second most “engaging” network after Facebook, and 51% of all Americans visited the site daily.  Slightly fewer, 21%, of U.S. adults used Twitter, with 42% of Americans reporting that they visited the site every day (http://pewrsr.ch/2nJd5Oy).  It is expected that there will be 66.6 million U.S. Snapchat users in 2017 (http://bit.ly/2nD5yVE).  While the audience tends to be a little bit younger, the number of users age 25 and older grew two times faster than users under the age of 25 in 2016 (http://bit.ly/2mDL7TP).

Importance of Social Media for Business Marketing

Social media can be an effective marketing tool and wineries and tasting rooms should consider how they might include select networks into their promotional strategies.  Or, if they currently have a presence – what they can do to encourage more engagement with followers. There are several benefits associated with using social media, which include:

  • increasing website traffic,
  • raising brand awareness,
  • creating a brand identity and positive brand association, and
  • “improve[ing] communication and interaction with targeted audiences,” (http://bit.ly/19OJ6KN).

Overall, social media is used to engage consumers; however, each network has its own purpose.  Some of which, from an article written by Justin Scah (http://huff.to/2buWp8Y), include:

  • A Facebook business page can be used to “connect with your prospective customers all around the world” and “allows for the best possible targeting…especially through Facebook Ads.”
  • Twitter allows businesses to “post recent news, updates, and articles” and the number of Twitter users reached can increase significantly if others retweet your message.
  • Instagram is an excellent tool for sharing photos of events held at a tasting room, your wines, the beautiful setting that surrounds your tasting room, and visitors enjoying their experience as you pour samples. It is common for businesses to host contests on Instagram. Participants post photos, based on specific criteria, and include a specified #hashtag that organizers can use to identify entries.
  • YouTube, the second largest search engine, is also owned by Google so “videos are more likely to appear in search results than other websites” with video.
  • Yelp allows customers to review your business and can persuade potential customers to either visit your tasting room – or decided to pass you by. This platform is “critical for businesses today” and “asking your customers to review your business prevents any negative reviews from standing out” (http://huff.to/2buWp8Y).

Social Media Use and our Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer Survey Participants

In a March 2016 Internet survey, we included questions about social media use.  We asked our participants (New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania residents who drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year) if they used social media networks and/or review sites at least once during an average month.

Of the 714 survey participants, 84% responded “yes,” and then these 600 participants were asked to select, from a list of networks and sites, which ones they actively used at least once during an average month. Based on which social media and/or review sites they selected, they were then asked to indicate if they used the particular network(s) and site(s) to engage with and/or learn about wineries and/or tasting rooms (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Percentage of survey participants who used social media and/or review sites at least once a month and, based on the networks and sites they used, the percentage of these participants who used each to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms

Screenshot 2017-03-22 11.47.19

An earlier survey, conducted by former graduate student Abby Miller in September 2013, asked wine drinkers and purchasers in the three states to select which social media outlets they “felt were mandatory for wineries and tasting rooms to implement to connect with customers” (Figure 2) (Miller, 2015).  Additionally, participants were asked to select which social networks they used to connect with companies.  Although the survey did not include as many options as the March 2016 survey, and we most likely had a different pool of consumers participate in each survey, it does provide insight as to which networks survey participants felt were important for wineries and tasting rooms to use to engage with them.

Figure 2. Social media networks that 2013 survey participants: 1) felt were mandatory for wineries and/or tasting rooms to implement and 2) they used to connect with companies

Screenshot 2017-03-22 11.56.53

Also, when compared to the 2016 survey data, you will notice that the percentage of participants who used the networks to engage with and/or learn from wineries and tasting rooms was greater than the percentage of the 2013 participants who used the select networks to connect with companies.

  • Facebook: In 2013, 55.4% of survey participants felt that Facebook was mandatory for wineries and/or tasting rooms to implement and 26.9% used Facebook to connect with companies.
    • In 2016, the majority of participants who used social media (94%) used Facebook at least once a month and 64.5% of these participants used the platform to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms.
  • Twitter: 18.7% of participants in 2013 felt Twitter was mandatory for wineries and/or tasting rooms to implement and 12.8% used the network to connect with companies.
    • Slightly less than half of 2016 participants, 44.2%, used the network and 35.6% of these participants used the network to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms.
  • YouTube: 17.3% felt it was mandatory for wineries and tasting rooms to implement and 10.9% used the site to connect with companies.
    • Over half of the 2016 participants, 66.5%, used YouTube and 31.7% of these participants used it to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms.
  • Pinterest: in 2013, 12% felt it was mandatory for wineries and tasting rooms to implement a Pinterest account and 6.6% of participants used it to connect with companies.
    • In 2016, 39.9% of participants used Pinterest at least once a month and 34.5% of these participants used it to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms.
  • Instagram: Only 10.4% of participants in 2013 felt Instagram was mandatory for wineries and tasting rooms to implement and 6.4% used Instagram to connect with companies.
    • In 2016, 45.7% of participants used Instagram at least once a month and 41.4% of these participants used it to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms.

Tips for Creating Social Media Networks for Your Winery and/or Tasting Room and How to Increase Engagement

Based on the data presented above, it is evident that our survey participants used certain social media networks and review sites to engage with and/or learn about wineries and tasting rooms. The number of social networks and review sites can be intimidating, especially when choosing which networks to invest the time and effort needed to successfully engage with followers.

Here are some tips to help you create an engaging social media presence:

  • Posts with videos and photos are more engaging than posts with just text (especially for Facebook and Twitter) (http://bit.ly/2iFFBBe).
  • The Facebook News Feed algorithm recently changed and text-only status updates will now need to include an embedded link. The link needs to be mobile friendly and of “good” quality, which is based on how long Facebook users remain on the “linked” site.  The longer a user spends “reading an article away from Facebook” the “higher” the link quality (http://ly/2mDvjQU).
  • Be sure to use social media to engage followers in a “two-way conversation” by commenting on their posts, asking them questions, and answering the questions they post.
  • Contests, promotions, and offering prizes and discounts is an effective way to generate interest and engagement – especially if participants have to post an image or comment on a post in order to be considered for a prize. Also, include offers that either need to be redeemed in the tasting room or require consumers to follow to receive offers or gain access to a special event.
  • Always add links on your website, business cards, and tasting room displays that lead to your social media accounts.
  • Don’t publish the exact same post to each of your accounts. Create unique posts for each social media account to motivate consumers to follow your business on more than one network.
  • Follow your competition to learn how they are interacting with wine consumers and how many likes/shares/etc. their posts generate.
  • Mention complementary businesses in your posts to build important linkages and increase the number of social media users who see your message and learn about your wines and tasting room experience (http://bit.ly/2nwUhBS).

It is important to remember that social media “is about building trust as well as relationships – and that comes from not selling” (Dave Brookes, Sales and Marketing Department, Teusner Wines, http://bit.ly/2nDgCSm). This is why, no matter which platform(s) you use for your business, your overall goal should be to “connect” with your followers and provide information that will help them enjoy wine.

To determine which social media networks you should have an active presence, ask your customers and tasting room visitors:

  • If they use social media and, if yes, which accounts they use,
  • which ones they use to follow businesses and which they would prefer to use to connect with your business, and
  • what information they would like you to share on via social media (e.g., new wines, promotions, events, pairings, and recipes).

Once you’ve developed your social media presence, analyze each network to learn if your followers find you posts engaging. This can be done through documenting clicks, likes, shares, comments, retweets, coupon use, tasting room visits, etc. A more thorough way of investigating engagement is through network-specific tools such as Facebook Insights, Instagram Insights, and YouTube stats. There are also multiple social media analytics tools, both free and paid, that compile all your platform engagement stats into one report (e.g., Hootsuite, Klout, Simply Measured) (http://bit.ly/2ee4Sg4). These and other tools can be easily found on the Intent by searching for “Social Media Analytics Tools.”  We hope you are encouraged to grow your business’s social media presence and engage with your customers.  We will continue to share ideas and examples to help you with this important task!

Reference:

Miller, A.L. Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Thesis. The Pennsylvania State University, 2015.

screenshot-2017-01-26-08-59-39

Connecting with wine consumers and tasting room visitors via mobile devices

By Dr. Kathy Kelley and Jen Zelinskie

You could be reading this blog post on a desktop, on your iPad, or your Samsung Galaxy smartphone.  As the number of devices available to read what we and others post increase so do the best practices associated with creating and posting relevant content.

This post provides information to supplement what we have shared in the past about using technology to connect with customers and tasting room visitors.  Content describes our participants’ cell phone (basic and smartphone) and tablet ownership, the percentage who installed a mobile wine app, and interest in mobile wine app features and receiving text messages from winery tasting rooms.

We will continue to ask participants about their smartphone, mobile app, and other relevant technology use in future surveys.

Smartphone use in the U.S.: Current ownership and forecast

 The very first phone that “meld together the functions of a cell phone and a PDA (personal digital assistant)” was introduced in 1992, although it was not until 1995 that the device was referred to as a smartphone (http://read.bi/2kNBfXa).   As you can imagine, with a retail price of $899 in 1992, consumer adoption was a bit slow at first.

In 2015, 68% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone, and, as might be expected, younger consumers were more likely to own one than more mature consumers.  Smartphone ownership at that time was:

  • 86% of survey participants age 18 to 29,
  • 84% of 30 to 49-year-olds,
  • 58% of 50 to 64-year-olds, and
  • 30% of participants age 65 and older (http://pewrsr.ch/2lo7PCV).

There’s no denying it, many of us consider our smartphones to be essential to our everyday life.  We use these devices to communicate with others, keep our calendar, be used to deliver presentations, and manage our finances.  The capabilities seem almost limitless.

Then it should come as no surprise that these devices are never far from our reach.  In a separate 2015 survey, 81% of U.S. adult smartphone owners responded “yes,” to the statement, “I keep my smartphone near me almost all the time during my waking hours…” and 63% reported that they kept their smartphone “near them at night even while sleeping” (http://bit.ly/2lo0Ae).

Furthermore, we are more likely to turn to our mobile devices than our desktops to “get online.”  In June 2014, the number of “unique visitors” who accessed digital content on mobile devices “passed” the number of unique visitors who accessed digital content on desktops.  In June 2016, the number of unique mobile visitors was “double” that of desktop visitors (http://bit.ly/2lwrldh).

It is estimated between 2014 and 2020 the number of U.S. smartphone users (all ages) will increase by 50.1% (171 to 256.7 million users; http://bit.ly/2kNL5Io).  During this same time period, the U.S. population is expected to increase by 5.0% (318.7 to 334.5 million consumers; http://bit.ly/2kNI5f2).

Mid-Atlantic wine consumer mobile phone and tablet ownership

In a March 2016 Internet survey, we included questions about mobile phone and tablet ownership and asked our participants, who resided in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania and who drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year, how they used these devices.

Of the 714 survey participants, all but seven reported owning a basic phone, smartphone, and/or tablet.  Of those who owned at least one of these devices, 93.6% owned a smartphone and/or tablet and the remaining 6.4% owned a basic phone (Figure 1), with 41.6% of these participants responding that they owned a tablet.

screenshot-2017-02-15-15-16-16

Though we did not ask about participants’ mobile tablet or smartphone plans, it can be assumed that some of these participants had a mobile data plan for their tablets.  In 2015, 31% of tablet owners had such a plan (http://bit.ly/2kyLbCS), and some cell phone carriers now offer unlimited or free data plans.  It is projected that by 2020, 66.2% of Internet users will use a table “at least once a month,” a 10.4% increase from 2012 (http://bit.ly/2kyLRYS).

What do smartphone users do on their devices?

Responses to an August 2016 survey involving adult smartphone users, age 18 and older, indicated that on a weekly basis they used their phone to:

  • “access the internet” (93% of participants),
  • “take photos/videos” (71%),
  • “receive SMS/text alerts” (68%),
  • “look up directions” (58%), and
  • “research products” (47%) (http://bit.ly/2lo3lft).

Pertaining to shopping and using a smartphone to make a purchase, there was a nearly equal split between the percentage of respondents who made a “majority” of their smartphone purchases using a mobile app (51%) and who used a mobile website (49%) (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).

Segmenting data based on demographics reveals:

  • 3% of participants in one survey responded that they made a purchase using a smartphone in 2016, with slightly more female participants making a purchase than males (45.3 vs. 39.9%, respectively) (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).
  • In 2016, Over half (63%) of Millennials shop on their smartphones every day but fewer, 39%, actually make the purchase on their phone (http://bit.ly/2loGXmh).
  • In 2015, 55% of Gen X shoppers used their smartphones to “locate store/hours,” 54% to “browse products,” and 44% to “get text offers” (http://bit.ly/2lnPS7h).

When asked what prompted them to make a purchase on their smartphone, 21% responded that they made a purchase after receiving a “marketing email about” the product, 18% a “marketing text,” and 17% a “marketing push notification” (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).

Mobile Apps

Mobile app usage “accounted for 80% of all growth in digital media engagement” between June 2013 and June 2016.

Adults, age 18 to 44, spent more time accessing the web using a smartphone app than they did all of the following options, combined: desktop web browser, smartphone web browser, tablet app, tablet web browser.   How long did these survey participants spend using apps?  During an average month:

  • Smartphone users age 18 to 24 years spent an average of 93.5 hours using smartphone apps,
  • users age 25 to 34 years spent an average of 85.6 hours, and
  • users age 35 to 44 years spent an average of 78.8 hours (http://bit.ly/2lwrldh).

If we take the number of hours in a year and divide that number by 12, there are approximately 730 hours in a month.  So, these consumers were spending between 10.8% and 12.8% of each month accessing content via smartphone apps.

Our participants’ mobile wine app usage and what winery and tasting room app features appeal

One component of our second March 2016 Internet survey focused on whether our participants installed wine apps (e.g., Delectable, Hello Vino, Drync, Wine Enthusiast’s Tasting Guide) on their smartphones and/or tablets and used the app(s) to learn about wine and/or winery tasting rooms.  As is shown in Figure 2, below, 26.7% of smartphone and/or tablet owners responded that they did have an app installed on their mobile device.

screenshot-2017-02-15-15-16-27

 

All participants who owned a smartphone and/or tablet, regardless of whether they had a mobile wine app installed on their device, were also asked to look through a list of features commonly found in wine apps and select up to five they felt would be useful to incorporate into a winery tasting room app.

Responses are ranked based on the number of participants who selected each, with “location, service, direction, and/or map to the winery tasting room” selected by the greatest number of participants (Table 1).  “Detailed list of events held at the winery tasting room” along with details specific to the occasion (date/time, performer, entrance fee, etc.) and “tasting room sales announcement/digital coupons for tastings and/or purchases” were ranked second and third, respectively.

screenshot-2017-02-18-08-46-20

Even through 73.3% participants indicated that they did not have an app installed, we included responses from all of our smartphone and/or tablet owners in Table 1.  It is possible that one of the reasons why participants had not installed a mobile wine app was because they didn’t like the features.  Hence, we feel it is of value to provide all the data as their responses pertained to features that could be incorporated into a winery tasting room app, rather than an app offered by a corporation, magazine, etc.

While the data is specific to mobile app features, knowing what features appeal to mobile device owners could be useful when developing or revamping a mobile website.  Responses may help tasting rooms identify content that they had not considered for their website or help with prioritizing content.

So, should you develop an app for your winery tasting room?

With data showing that smartphone and tablet ownership and app usage is increasing, is it time that you invest in your own winery and tasting room app?  While it may seem that an app would simply duplicate what your mobile website does, according to one expert “mobile apps…are best suited for user retention and engaging with clients.  They’re not aimed at random people finding a company’s website, but are more about rewarding loyal customers” (http://bit.ly/2kXrxUp).

Benefits a small business may experience if they develop their own app include:

  • an additional way to communicate with customers, another channel for them to make purchases, and gather user data (depending on the app’s capability and features) such as “visits, checkouts, purchases, searches, and more” (http://bit.ly/2kXsxI9);
  • being able to reward users, be the method for recording purchases, and display loyalty program status and level (http://bit.ly/2kXmW4G); and
  • serve as a point of differentiation from other winery tasting rooms that do not have their own app (http://bit.ly/2kXnHdS).

One of the biggest cons, if not the biggest, is the cost of building an app.  The costs to build an app depend on what options are selected.  Some of which include:

  • if your app be available to Android or Apple iOS users of both,
  • if and how users login to the app (no login, using their email, or using a social media account),
  • if users will have to create a personal profile,
  • if the app will be free, for a fee, and/or allow in-app purchases (http://bit.ly/2kXrecm).

Also, you will need to determine if you should develop a:

  • native mobile app (written specifically for Android and/or Apple iOS and is downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and are opened by “tapping their icon”),
  • a hybrid mobile app (which is downloaded like a native app but runs off a web browser and can be cheaper to build than native apps), or
  • a web app (a “mobile version” of a website and “loads within a mobile browser” (http://bit.ly/2kXv5X1, http://bit.ly/2kXsZWY).

Perhaps you are not ready to build an app, but is your website mobile-friendly?

While you may be considering the benefits of developing an app for your tasting room, you really need to learn directly from your customers about their interest in downloading your app and what features appeal to them.  Until you have collected data from your customers, developed the app, tested it, made improvements, etc., your tasting room visitors will likely turn to your website to learn about your winery and wine.

In September 2013, we asked Mid-Atlantic wine consumers to indicate what social media networks, email, and online resources they felt were mandatory for winery tasting rooms to implement.  Over half of our participants felt that a “website for promoting the winery and wines produced” was a “mandatory” component (http://bit.ly/2kNy7dI).  Hence, you not only want a website (according to one survey, 46% of small businesses do not have a website; http://bit.ly/2kNPwTE) but you want one that functions properly and is mobile friendly.

A website that is not mobile-friendly not only frustrates visitors – it may also negatively impact your Google mobile ranking (http://tcrn.ch/2kWN4ws).  Since 2014, Google has been focusing on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, and that having one provides the consumer with a better experience (http://bit.ly/2kX1YmB).   So, if your website is already mobile-ready then it may “appear higher on search results” (http://bit.ly/2kWUEaI).  Keep in mind that a mobile-friendly website is just one factor than can impact Google mobile rankings (http://bit.ly/2kOhhLK) and that the algorithm pertaining only to Google searches on mobile devices (http://bit.ly/2kX3PrB).  Based on analyzing their customers’ websites, Hubspot.com estimated that the 2015 update resulted in “a 5% drop in traffic,” (http://bit.ly/2kWX0pK).

Fortunately, there are several websites and online tools that identify issues that make a site less mobile friendly.

We tested these tools/sites to see what type of assistance they provided.  We used an URL from a winery that had just updated their website design and that was well designed for desktop viewing.  While we only mention a couple of tools, you will find more online by searching for “mobile ready website tests.”

The first tool we used to check if the website was mobile friendly was developed by Google: (http://bit.ly/2loAxmX).   To test a web page, simply copy and paste the URL into the textbox on the site, click “run text,” and wait.  You will then be directed to a page with your results.

Although we got a message that “this page is easy to use on a mobile device,” and it looked great when we compared the mobile version to how it looked on my desktop, there was an alert.  Two of the resources on the site were “blocked,” which are “external resources­–such as image, CSS, or script files” (http://bit.ly/2loHFzP).  A blocked resource could have minimal impact or if it is a “blocked CSS file [this could] result in incorrect font styles being applied…[which] affects…Google’s ability to your page” (scan your web page and create an index of all the words on the page, which then determines the order in which web users see them; http://bit.ly/2lXtaQq).

If your web page is not mobile-friendly, you will be alerted to whether the errors pertain to Flash usage (“content, animations, or navigation” not being displayed) the content not sized to viewport (the viewer would need to scroll horizontally to see all the content on their mobile device), and/or others (http://bit.ly/2lXN3qG).

We also tested the website with another mobile-friendly tool, mobiReady (http://ready.mobi/), and learned that though 23 of the web page components (e.g., cookie size, applets, and image resizing) “passed” the test, nine had “minor fails” (e.g., popups, JavaScript Minimize), and six were “major fails” (e.g., caching control, JavaScript placement).   After clicking each minor and major fail I learned why the component was considered a failure and I learned “how to fix it.”

Click on the following link to learn how “not being mobile friendly” can cost you: http://bit.ly/2kWOIOS.

A little bit more about texting customers

While basic cell phone owners have limited access to some applications and mobile websites, they still can be used to communicate with wineries and tasting rooms and receive promotional messages, shipping notifications, and other communications that tasting rooms send via text.

In a January post, Kathy provided information about why you might want to consider using text messaging to connect with your customers (http://bit.ly/2lktAma).  While the data discussed in that post were based on consumers in general, we asked in our March 2016 survey if Mid-Atlantic wine consumer were interested in receiving texts from wineries and tasting rooms.

With nearly all (95.3%) of participants owning a smartphone and/or basic phone, and proposing that these phones can accept text messages, over half (53.2%) of participants would be interested in receiving text messages from a winery tasting room that contains information about events, wine tastings, new wine releases, etc. (Figure 3).

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Take a look at the post to learn why consumers were interested in communicating with businesses via text and how to use texting to engage with tasting room visitors.  If you need some ideas as to what to include in the message, a simple Internet search for “sample text messages to customers” can lead to several sites with examples and templates (e.g., announcing that your website is mobile-friendly http://bit.ly/2kXnKqj  and asking visitors to comment about their recent tasting room experience http://bit.ly/2kX5uxi).

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Reviewing YAN and Hydrogen Sulfide: Part 2

By: Denise M. Gardner

In a previous post, we discussed ways in which nutrient management during primary fermentation can affect hydrogen sulfide formation and the overall “health” of the wine.  This week, we’re going to explore how to mediate hydrogen sulfide aromas and flavors in a finished wine.

Sulfur-Containing Off Aromas

In general, many wine sensory scientists and wine experts will agree that is relatively a bad habit to use the term “sulfur” to describe off-odors associated with hydrogen sulfide or “stinky” aromas that are usually described by the term “reduced.”  One of the main arguments for avoiding “sulfur” as a description term for an aroma is due to the fact that there are actually several forms of aromatic sulfur-containing compounds found in wine, and they can have very different aromas (smells, odors) associated with that one compound.  The most common groups of aromatic sulfur-containing compounds in wine are:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Hydrogen sulfide (H2S)
  • Mercaptans or Thiols
  • Disulfides

Additionally, many sensory experts will advise further to avoid using the chemical names as descriptors for describing an aroma found in wine (e.g., using the term “hydrogen sulfide” to describe the hard-boiled or rotten egg aroma).  It is typically recommended to use an actual descriptor when describing an aroma (e.g., using the term “rotten eggs” when that smell exists in wine).

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Sulfur dioxide is an antioxidant and antimicrobial preservative frequently used in wine production.  However, it is also produced by yeast during primary fermentation, which is why wines (and other fermented products) cannot be sulfur dioxide-free (commonly referred to as “sulfite free” in the mass media).  The aromatic descriptor commonly associated with a high concentration of sulfur dioxide is termed “burned match,” but a high concentration of sulfur dioxide can also cause a nasal irritation that many will describe as nasal burning.  For more information on sulfur dioxide and managing its concentration in wine, please refer to this Wine Made Easy Fact Sheet produced by Penn State Extension.

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

Hydrogen sulfide is an aromatic compound that is commonly described as having a “rotten egg” or “hard-boiled egg” aroma.  Like many sulfur-containing compounds, hydrogen sulfide has a low sensory threshold (<1 – 1 part per billion, ppb), indicating that about 50% of the population could sense this compound at that concentration without being able to identify it, specifically, as hydrogen sulfide.

As we saw in our previous post, hydrogen sulfide development can result as a component of poor nutrient management during primary fermentation.  Residual elemental sulfur from pesticide sprays has also been linked to latent development of hydrogen sulfide in wines.  In a 2016 edition of Appellation Cornell, Dr. Gavin Saks’ lab provided a detailed and practical report on how hydrogen sulfide can be a problem for winemakers post-bottling and the potential links to hydrogen sulfide development as a function of residual sulfur from the vineyard (Jastrzembski and Saks, 2016).

Occasionally, winemakers may also experience hydrogen sulfide formation during a sur lie aging period; a time in which the finished wine remains on the lees when lees are stirred in the wine.  It is also common for sparkling wines, produced in the traditional method, to exhibit a small perception of hydrogen sulfide when the bottle is first opened.

Mercaptans/Thiols and Disulfides

Finally, mercaptans or thiols, sulfur-containing compounds that contain the functional group –SH, and disulfides, sulfur-containing compounds that contain a S-S bond, can also be problematic for winemakers when found at high concentrations.

The presence of sulfur-containing volatile compounds is not always considered detrimental to wine quality.  For some wine grape varieties (e.g., Sauvignon Blanc), these classes of compounds can make up their varietal aroma.  In very small concentrations, sulfur-containing compounds can also be aroma enhancers, indicating that their presence can actually make the wine smell fruitier than if they were not present in the wine.  However, when at substantial concentrations, volatile sulfur-containing compounds can also produce various “stink” aromas that mask a wine’s fruitiness, freshness, and make the wine generally unappealing.  This is phenomena is dependent on the concentration of the sulfur-containing compound and the chemical makeup of the solution (i.e., wine) it is in.

Mercaptans or thiols and disulfides have a variety of descriptors associated with them, and their perception is largely based on concentration.  When we’re discussing the negatively-associated descriptors, common terms include: garlic, onion, canned asparagus, canned corn, cooked cabbage, putrefaction, burnt rubber, natural gas, and molasses amongst others.

Are There Sulfur-Containing Off-Aromas in Your Wine?

To identify if hydrogen sulfide, mercaptans/thiols, or disulfide-based off-odors exist in your wine, it may be best to use a copper screen as a bench trial.  While analytical identification of these compounds is possible, it is often expensive and leaves the winemaker guessing on what to do next.

For a quick assessment of a wine’s aroma, winemakers can drop 1-2 pre-1985 copper pennies into a glass of wine to see if the aroma freshens.  The freshening aroma is due to the fact that the copper from the penny is reacting with the sulfur-containing compounds in the wine and making them aromatically inactive.

The "penny test" is often used to quickly determine if a wine is suffering from reduction, the presence of several types sulfur-containing off-odors. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

The “penny test” is often used to quickly determine if a wine is suffering from reduction, the presence of several types sulfur-containing off-odors. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

A technical copper screen takes a bit more work and should be conducted in a quiet and aromatically-neutral environment.  It is recommended to do this outside of the cellar.

Copper addition, in the form of copper sulfate, is often used to remediate aromas/flavors associated with hydrogen sulfide. One-percent and 10% copper sulfate solutions can be purchased through your local wine supplier.  The basic protocol associated with a copper screen is as follows:

  1. Add 50 milliliters of wine to two glasses.
  2. Label one glass “control” and the other “copper addition” (see image below).
  3. Add 1 mL of 1% copper sulfate to the “copper addition” glass.
  4. Cap both glasses for 15 minutes.  Sniff the aroma of each wine.
Setting up a copper screen can help determine if a wine is suffering from aromas caused by sulfur-containing compounds. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Setting up a copper screen can help determine if a wine is suffering from aromas caused by sulfur-containing compounds. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Sniff (smell only!) both glasses. Most people start with the “control” and smell the treated wine (wine containing copper sulfate) second.  If the aroma/flavor of the “copper addition” glass has improved, or the hydrogen sulfide aroma has subsided, then a copper addition trial should follow to determine the exact concentration of hydrogen sulfide needed to clean up the wine in question.  Remember that the legal limit for copper allowed in a finished wine is 0.5 ppm.  For a full protocol on how to run a copper addition bench trial, please refer to this Penn State Extension Wine Made Easy Fact Sheet.

Treatment of Sulfur-Containing Compound Off-Aromas

Sulfur-containing compounds are quite reactive, which can make dealing with them fairly difficult.  Many educators agree that the best way to treat sulfur-containing compounds, especially those that stink, is to prevent their existence as best as possible.

In the Appellation Cornell newsletter that focused on sulfur pesticide residues, Jastrzembski and Saks (2016) recommended that sulfur residue concentrations should not exceed 1 mg/kg at harvest in order to avoid latent hydrogen sulfide or sulfur-containing off-aromas later in processing and storage.  Additionally, many experts recommend appropriately treating fermenting musts with nutrient management strategies based on the starting YAN concentration to minimize the incidence of hydrogen sulfide formation during primary fermentation.  This topic was covered in a previous blog post.

As described above, winemakers may also opt to treat the wine with copper sulfate to try to reduce the perception of hydrogen sulfide or other sulfur-containing aromas.  It should be noted that aromas caused by disulfides cannot be mediated with a copper sulfate addition.

There has been more conversation in the academic community regarding the reemergence of hydrogen sulfide or sulfur-containing off-aromas after a wine has been treated with copper and post-bottling.   The theory around this appears to circulate around residual copper initiating reactions in the wine that lead to more sulfur-containing off-odors.  This continues to be an ongoing discussion amongst researchers and will likely be a hot topic within with the wine industry.  For now, it is important for winemakers to understand that there may be a risk of off-odors reemerging post-copper treatment and post-bottling.  This topic will also be discussed to some degree at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium on March 29, 2017 in State College, PA, and winemakers are encouraged to attend.

Some hydrogen sulfide or sulfur-containing off-odors can sometimes be mediated with use of fresh lees stirred in the wine or the addition yeast lees-like products.  Winemaking products like Lallemand’s Reduless, yeast hulls, or some cellulose-based products can help reduce or eliminate the intensity of these off-odors.  As with any other product additions, it is recommended that wineries always do bench trials first and before adding to the entire volume of wine.  Additionally, Enartis USA (Vinquiry) has previously distributed a fact sheet to help winemakers troubleshoot reduced wines and determine how to best treat a problem wine.

 

The incidence of reduction, sulfur-containing off-odors, or hydrogen sulfide can be a frustrating circumstance for winemakers.  However, adequate vineyard care and proper nutrient management during primary fermentation can help minimize the incidence rate of sulfur-containing off-odors from occurring in their wines.  Of course, problems with wines do occur, and we hope that the recommendations above will help winemakers solve wine problems pertaining to sulfur-containing off-odors.

 

Resources

Jastrzembski, J. and G. Sacks. 2016. Sulfur Residues and Post-Bottling Formation of Hydrogen Sulfide. Appellation Cornell, 3a.

What Drives Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumers to Visit Local Winery Tasting Rooms

By Jennifer Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

Whether you work in the wine industry or are just a wine consumer who reads the Wine & Grape U. Blog, you have probably visited many different winery tasting rooms. Reflecting on these visits, you probably remember instances when you had an exceptionally good experience and times when your visit might not have been all that delightful. We are pretty sure that you made the decision to return to the facility while tasting the wines or just after the door shut upon your exit.

If you are a winery tasting room owner or operator, you want all of your customers to have a memorable positive experience and have no doubt that they will visit again. This blog post presents data collected from our Mid-Atlantic wine consumer participants as to what had a positive influence on their willingness to visit again.

The Impact of Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is critical to the success of any business. Miguel Gomez, a faculty member at Cornell University, shared five factors that drive customer satisfaction, builds loyalty, and encourages repeat winery tasting room visits. These include:

  • ambience – cleanliness, ambiance, lighting, sounds, view, etc.;
  • service – staff friendliness, knowledge, appropriate appearance, and helpfulness;
  • tasting protocol – variety, amount served, cost, and number of wines tasted;
  • tasting experience – flexibility in choice of wines, space (crowdedness), waiting time to start and between samples; and
  • retail execution – presentation of wine for purchase, quality, prices, discounts, and ease of locating the winery (http://bit.ly/2jy3v2C).

According to data collected as part of the Northern Grapes Project, funded by the USDA, the average number of bottles study participants purchased increased as customer satisfaction increased. Participants were asked to rate their “level of customer satisfaction” in tasting rooms on a scale of 1 (lowest level of customer satisfaction) to 5 (highest level). Participants that rated their tasting room satisfaction level a ‘4’ out of ‘5’ purchased an average of 2.8 bottles of wine, but those who rated their tasting room satisfaction level a ‘5’ out of ‘5’ purchased an average of 4 bottles (http://bit.ly/2k5gG7L). Average amount of money spent at the tasting room also increased as level of customer satisfaction increased. Those who awarded ratings of ‘4’ out of ‘5’ spent an average of $40 and those who awarded ratings of ‘5’ out of ‘5’ spent an average of $60.

How far did our participants travel to winery tasting rooms during an average year?

In our March 2016 survey, participants were asked if they visited and/or purchased wines from winery tasting rooms that were located within 100 miles from their home during an average year. Of the 1,038 participants, 505 (50.1%) responded “yes.” These 505 participants were then asked a series of questions regarding their winery tasting room visits.

Why might purchasing wine from a tasting room be more appealing than purchasing wine from a retail liquor store?

As a winery tasting room owner you want your customers to come and visit your location, taste your wine, and make purchases on a regular basis. Yet one of your major competitors is the local liquor store, which can be more convenient (e.g., hours of operation) for consumers and provide them with a greater selection of wines (e.g., type, origin, price) than you offer.

Hence we asked our participants who visited winery tasting rooms within 100 miles of their home to react to factors that may have influenced them (positively and negatively) to travel to a tasting room, rather than a liquor store, for a visit and/or to purchase wine. Data presented below (Figures 1 through 3) are for the 95.6% of participants who indicated that at least one factor influenced them in a positive way to travel to a winery tasting room to visit and/or make a purchase. We will discuss factors that had a negative influence in another blog post.

Factors that Had a Positive Influence on Participants’ Visits and/or Purchases

As you can see in Figure 1, below, nearly half of the 505 participants selected “prefer to purchase directly from the winemaker” (48.6%) and that “purchasing wine directly from the winery tasting room provides more support to the local economy” (47.9%) as having a positive influence on why they traveled to a tasting room within 100 miles of their home to make a visit and/or purchase wine, as opposed to a retail liquor store. We chose the 100-mile distance as 64% of participants in one study responded that for a food to be “local” it had to be produced within a 100-mile radius “of the store” (http://bit.ly/2jxi1VO), and there are reasons why you might promote your tasting room as being a local wine source.

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Individuals who buy wine from local wineries may do so because they feel a sense of community when they make the purchase. Others may purchase local because of economic benefits. For example, when $100 is spent at a local business “roughly” $68 stays in the community while only $43 “stays in the local economy” when $100 is spent at a non-locally owned business (http://bit.ly/12cRrXn). Or, they may feel that local foods and local wines are a natural pairing. According to David Page of Shinn Estate Vineyards, though it may take decades or longer, “the wine of a region and the food of a region creates the cuisine of the region” (http://nyti.ms/2kcdVBt).

How can you, as a winery tasting room owner or operator, use the “buy local” trend to engage your customers?

  • Promote your business as being local, that you make your wine locally, and/or that the grapes and other ingredients used in the wine are from local sources. The Hive Winery, located in Layton, Utah, states on their website that their “wines are crafted using fruit and home from local farms as much as possible” (http://bit.ly/2kwO47H). If you look through their website you will learn that the local theme is not just mentioned once, but they discuss why consumers may want to buy local, indicate the ingredients in each wine that were sourced locally (e.g. “11 pounds of fresh Utah black cherries [are used] per bottle” of their Black Cherry Brandy, http://bit.ly/2kx2K6F), and link to other local businesses. Discussing why local, as well as other environmental practices, is important to them helps convey to readers that they are not merely using “local” just to drive sales.
  • Find a “buy local” association, build a relationship with other local businesses, and work together to promote your businesses and the community. In 2013, 14% of independent businesses located in Michigan “Local First” communities indicated that the effort had a “significant positive impact” on their business, 28% reported a “moderate positive impact,” and 33% “a little positive impact” (http://bit.ly/1gcOesa). These businesses reported a greater percent change in revenue in 2013 over 2012, a 7.0% increase compared to 2.3% for independent businesses in communities without a Local First initiative, and a greater positive change in 2013 holiday sales compared to 2012 (http://bit.ly/1gcOesa).
  • Register your business as a “Small Business Saturday” participant (http://amex.co/1JdleC6). This campaign, hosted by American Express, is held on a Saturday after Thanksgiving and encourage shoppers to buy from local businesses. Now approaching its eighth year, 112 million consumers shopped and dined at small businesses on Small Business Saturday 2016, a 13% increase over 2015 (http://bit.ly/2koxVRI). Not only do consumers focus on purchasing from small businesses on this shopping holiday, but 77% of consumers who participated in 2014 survey responded that “the day makes them want to shop local year-round” (http://bit.ly/2jxFO7q). One winery that utilizes Small Business Saturday is North Folk Winery, Harris, MN. Thewineyhosted a wine pairing with local cheese and chocolate and offered attendees a 20% discount on bottles when they purchased cheese and chocolate gift boxes (http://bit.ly/2jxdAKH).

Offering discounts in your winery tasting room can help attract new customers, encourage undecided customers to make a purchase, and prompt those who have not visited your tasting room in a while to stop in and see what is new.

Pertaining to discounts and programs that would provide incentives for purchasing multiple bottles, 40.1% of our participants indicated that such a discount had a positive influence on their decision to travel to tasting rooms, as opposed to a retail liquor store (Figure 2).

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Ron Lykins, a wine tasting room associate, suggests in a blog post that offering a discount on purchasing multiple bottles of wine is a reasonable strategy and encourages up-selling. He provides an example where a customer is purchasing four bottles of wine and is then presented with a modest discount if the customer purchases an additional two bottles.  He stresses that the policy needs to be clearly defined and that all tasting room staff must know when it should be offered (http://bit.ly/2j9BLhe).

But why do discounts work in attracting customers to your tasting room?

 The psychology behind discounts is to create urgency. Which can be achieved by:

  • Using phrases such as “get $10 off your case purchase” or “get 5% off a case purchase,” which specify what is actually being discounted, are more likely to motivate people to buy compared to using less direct statements like “save $10” or “save 10%.”
  • Limit the amount of time you offer the discount, preferably no more than a couple of weeks to encourage customers to buy before it is too late.
  • Inform customers about the discounts when they are if your tasting room and through all modes of communication (http://bit.ly/2jA0Cho).

Of the 505 participants who visited and/or purchased wines from winery tasting rooms that were located within 100 miles from their home during an average year, few participants (14.7%) indicated that being a member of the winery’s wine club and earning rewards by making purchases was a positive influence. This low response may be due to the fact that only 20.8% of these 505 participants reported being a club member or subscriber.

Although this is the case for our survey, as a winery owner or operator, you have the ability to customize your reward system and offer benefits that motivate your customers to become members and renew annually. Keep in mind that it is not just the discount that encourages customers to join a wine club, but there are also “intangible” benefits. You have the opportunity to make your club members feel special, whether that means hosting private events or getting to know them by name (http://bit.ly/2j9BLhe), both of which help members feel truly connected with the winery and tasting room staff. You can read more about our participants’ interest in wine club membership benefits by clicking here: http://bit.ly/2iCoulc.

Whether you are offering discounts to all customers or just members of your wine club, consider the following to make sure that your discount does not have a negative impact on your business:

  • Calculate the best discount price that will still generate a profit by understanding your gross margin, markup, and breakeven figures.
  • Know that you will need to increase your sales volume, which differs based on the discount offered, in order to maintain the desired gross margin. According to the example on the Business Victoria website (http://bit.ly/2jIa96k), if your gross margin is 40% and you offer a 5% discount then you will need to “increase your sales volume by 14.3 percent in order to make a profit.” If you change that 5% discount to a 10% discount you will need to increase your sales volume by 33.3%.
  • Become familiar with what discounts other winery tasting rooms in your area are offering. Though your operations may not be identical, this can at least give you some guidance as to what type of discount you might offer, amount of discount to provide, and frequency which to offer the discount.
  • Review last year’s sales and identify times (days of the week, seasons, etc.) when your sales were low and that, perhaps, running discounts during these times could increase foot traffic and boost sales (http://bit.ly/2jIa96k).

Figure 3 shows survey participant responses to the remaining three factors that could have a positive influence on their likelihood to travel to a winery tasting room, as opposed to a retail liquor store, within 100 miles of their home. Over half, 56.6%, of participants indicated that they like to be able to taste all or most of the wine before making any purchases. Half (51.0%) indicated that they like the taste and/or quality of the wine they purchase directly from the winemaker and approximately a third (31.2%) reported that being able to buy wines made with grapes native to their area (e.g., Niagara, Catawba) were reasons why they traveled to the tasting room.

screenshot-2017-01-26-10-42-48You know how wine tastings influence your visitors’ purchasing decisions, and that if you can get a reluctant visitor to try a wine that they are unfamiliar with – you might just get a sale. Whether you currently make wines that are less known or are contemplating doing so, you should consider encouraging as many visitors as possible to sample them.

In 2012, Michigan State University researchers investigated consumer awareness and perceptions of cold hardy grape wines (e.g., Brianna, Edelweiss, La Crescent, Marquette). According to their results, slightly more than half (55.5%) of Michigan tasting room visitors responded that they were not familiar with cold hardy wines, while 65.3% indicated that they had tasted them. An additional mail/email survey was implemented in six Mid-Western states. Awareness was even lower among these wine consumers, with 70% responding that they were not familiar with the wines and only 26.8% responding that they had tasted the wines (http://bit.ly/2jKwLC).

Although awareness of cold hardy wines was low, consumers who had tasted cold hardy grape wine reported to like them “a lot” (41.9% of the MI tasting room visitors and 39.3% of mail/email survey participants) or “a little” (29.9% of the MI tasting room visitors and 31.1% of mail/email survey participants; http://bit.ly/2jKwLC).

Educating your staff about these wines and guiding them as to how they can encourage customers to taste “unknown” or “less familiar” wine is crucial.

Of note….

We recognize that percentages of respondents who indicated that these factors had a positive influence on their winery tasting room visits were not as high as might have been expected. None of the percentages were greater than 56.6%. In the future, we plan to investigate other factors that may have a positive influence on winey tasting room visits.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Looking back at the 2016 season

By Michela Centinari, Bryan Hed, and Kathy Kelley

The 2016 growing season was a rewarding one for many Pennsylvania (PA) wine grape growers. But before we move on with plans for next year, let’s review this past season using some interesting data we gathered from PA grape growers. In November 2016, we sent out a 5-min Internet survey developed by our team and housed on SurveyMonkey.com. A link to the survey was sent to 90 members of a PA wine grape grower extension electronic mailing list. Thirty-seven participants clicked the link and responded to questions related to the 2016 harvest and growing season.

All procedures were approved by the Office of Research Protections at The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA). Upon completion of the survey, each participant was entered into a raffle to win one of three $25 gift certificates that could be redeemed toward any Penn State Extension wine or grape program fee.

This article is based on our observations and feedback we received from survey participants. We welcome more PA wine grape growers to share their stories and to send us (Michela Centinari; Bryan Hed) their contact information so they can be included in future surveys (where else do you have a chance to win a gift card for a Penn State Extension event?).

First, some information about the respondents

Thirty-three survey participants (89%) indicated the region where they grew grapes. The majority of the respondents (11) were from the Southeast region, followed by Northwest (7), Northeast (6), South Central (4), North Central (3), and Southwest (2) regions.

Data that described what species of grapes survey participants grew were: Vitis vinifera (e.g., Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay), Vitis interspecific hybrid (e.g., Chambourcin, Traminette, Vidal Blanc), abbreviated in Table 1 as vinifera and hybrid, respectively, and native (e.g., Concord, Niagara) cultivars (Table 1).

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What did we ask the survey participants?

Participants were asked to rank the average yield of the grapes they grew in 2016 from “poor” to “record crop.” They were also asked to rank the average quality of the fruit from “poor” to “excellent,” and the insect and disease pressure experienced from “below average” to “above average.”  Respondents were then directed to open-ended questions where they indicated what cultivars performed below or above average and why.

 Survey participant responses  

  • Yield: The majority of the respondents (88%) indicated that average crop yield was “average” “above average,” or “record crop” (Figure 1). Only four participants (12%) indicated that average yield was “below average” or “poor.”screenshot-2016-12-14-15-41-31

Of those four respondents, two attributed “poor” or “below average” yield to disease issues (e.g., powdery mildew, black rot). One survey participant from the Southeast region indicated problems with freeze injury as the vines were approaching bud burst.  Specifically, the participant wrote: “My whites especially Chardonnay were light (lower crop yield than average) this year. I believe the whites were hit hard with the early April freezes when we had three nights in a row dip down into the 20’s. I believe many of the primary buds froze. Most of the white grape clusters were much smaller than usual.”

An unusually warm March was indeed followed by a very cold start to the month of April. Between April 3 and 10, there were several nights in the 20’s ºF in many regions of PA. While there was no sign of bud burst, as far as we are aware, for grapevines grown in central or north PA, some were approaching bud burst in several areas of south central and southeast PA.

The fourth respondent from northwest PA commented that “Vines are still recovering from 2014 winter injury, and that is too expensive to replant large percentage.” Despite long-term issues with winter injury recovery, finally, after two harsh winters (2013-2014; 2014-2015) PA grape growers were able to enjoy the winter without having to worry about their vines. In many regions of PA, winter temperatures did not reach critical low values that tend to injure many of the cultivars grown in the Commonwealth. However, on February 14 temperatures reached -10°F and below in northeast PA.  The lowest temperature recorded (-19°F) was in Potter County. Despite this isolated event, we did not receive inquires of growers concerned about winter injury.

  • Fruit quality: The majority of the respondents (83%) ranked fruit quality as “above average” or “excellent,” which was consistent across cultivars and regions. Only one grower rated fruit quality as “below average” as a consequence of high disease pressure.

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A few survey participants from southeast PA who rated fruit quality from “above average” to “excellent” commented:

“Early veraison and high heat degree days in September allowed the early varietal to ripen in almost perfect condition. The Bordeaux reds .. in late September and early October soaked up a lot of rain and didn’t recover completely from this. I harvested Merlot clusters bigger than I have ever seen them”

“Bordeaux varieties (Cabs, Merlot, Petit Verdot) were at least 23ºBrix with a high of 25. Nice and ripe with good flavors”

“Grüner, Riesling, Merlot, Chambourcin, and Cabernet Franc achieved mature ripe flavor. Acids were in ideal range”

Other survey participants from across the state also indicated that in 2016 the grapes reached “Optimal ripeness and acidity level,” “Good acid balance,” “Berry size, color, acids, pH, and sugars were the best ever,” “Excellent cultivar character.”

Several respondents pointed out that “Hot and dry weather played an important role in the quality this year” and commented that fruit was clean from major diseases.

  • Insect and disease pressure: Almost half of the growers who participated in the survey (47%) experienced “below average” insect and disease pressure during the 2016 growing season, while 41% answered “average” and only 12 % “above average.”

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Of the four participants who reported “above average” disease pressure, one indicated problems with spotted Lanternfly an invasive insect who unfortunately is making its way to some areas of PA (Spotted Lanternfly: A new invasive pest detected in Pennsylvania).  Two respondents reported issues with powdery mildew. Powdery mildew was indeed very much “alive and well” in many vineyards in 2016.  In Erie County, we witnessed flare-ups of this disease on fruit during late June and early July, despite relatively prudent control measures and relatively few primary infection periods. This disease requires rainfall events early in the season for spore release only (minimum of 0.1 inches of rain and temperatures above 50ºF), but once spores are released the pathogen does not require wet plant surfaces to infect susceptible tissue and generate subsequent waves of its parasitic life cycle. This is very much unlike most of the other fungal pathogens we deal with each year. Note that even California growers spend a boatload of time and treasure controlling this disease every year. In short, it is a disease management issue wherever grapes are grown, every year, everywhere. Fortunately, aside from a few horror stories where there were gaps in spray intervals around bloom, most growers managed to get decent commercial control of this disease on their grapes in 2016.

Weather conditions during the growing season

A look at the weather conditions through the online network for environment and weather applications (http://newa.cornell.edu/) can help interpreting survey participant responses. In Figure 4 and 5, we reported data collected by the two new weather stations located nearby the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension center (FREC) in Biglerville (Adams County, south central PA) and at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension center (LERGREC) in North East (Erie county, northwestern PA). We compared the 2016 monthly growing degree days (GDD) (index of heat accumulation) and precipitation to the mean values for April through October for a three-year period (2013-2015) (Figures 4, 5).

Temperature: Despite a cool start to the 2016 season (see April and May) the rest of the season was warmer than average in PA and other parts of the eastern U.S. Indeed, the heat accumulated (GDD) from June through October in 2016 was above that of the previous three-year average (Figure 4).

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The warm weather led in many cases to great fruit ripening conditions, as indicated by the majority of the respondents, but in a few instances may have hindered fruit sugar accumulation as noticed by one of the participants: “I think that heat in August slowed ripening and resulted in lower Brix than other years but all fruit did achieve ripeness.” High temperatures might increase plant respiration rates to a greater degree than photosynthesis rates, which in other words means lower carbon gain /sugar accumulation for the vine and fruit. A detailed explanation of why this happens can be found in the September issue of Viticulture notes edited by Tony Wolf (Professor and Viticulture Extension Specialist at Virginia Tech).

Precipitation: Rainfall in the spring and early summer was well below average in Erie County (northwestern PA) with 2.1, 1.9, and 2.7 inches of rain in May, June, and July, respectively (Figure 5B). Dry weather often comes hand in hand with a higher number of sunny days and higher temperatures; two additional factors that stymie fungal pathogen growth.

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Peak grape disease susceptibility generally occurs during June and early July in PA. Both June and July were drier than average in many parts of the state: see for example Biglerville (south central PA) with only 2.7 and 0.2 inches of rain in June and July, respectively (Figure 5A), or other sites across the state (Table 2: Lewisburg, State College, and Cabot). This helps to explain the large percentage of growers reporting average to below average disease pressure. However, in other parts of the state or near the eastern PA border it was not quite as dry but still warm (Table 2, numbers in bold font).

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In places and months where rainfall amounts were well above average, rainfall was often heavy and punctuated by well defined, often lengthy dry periods in which growers could easily keep up with their protective fungicide sprays. Unfortunately, there were a few locations where diseases like black rot flared out of control, but those were the exceptions rather than the rule (Figure 3).

In summary “dry, sunny, and warm” sums up the weather for the majority of the growing season for many regions of the state, with local and ample variations on precipitation amount. For the most part, these conditions are rather hostile to the fungal or fungal-like pathogens that are responsible for the majority of our grape disease issues every year. This was very fortunate for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that 2016 was following a year that left many vineyards with well above average levels of overwintering inoculum for diseases like black rot and downy mildew. This was especially true in northwestern PA; downy mildew could be found in pretty much every vineyard in Erie County in 2015, despite the fact that the vast majority of the grape acreage is planted to Concord, a variety with relatively low susceptibility to downy mildew. A wet spring and early summer could have left growers really struggling hard to keep those diseases under control on fruit this year. But downy mildew literally “took a vacation” in the Lake Erie region in 2016. It was the most downy mildew-free season Bryan experienced over his 18 seasons of working with grapes. You might say that many PA grape growers got a small taste of what it’s like to grow grapes in California.

When ripening begins, our attention naturally turns toward controlling bunch rots on susceptible varieties. Varieties that produce “tight,” compact clusters are most at risk, and for these control measures are essential. Fortunately, survey participants did not indicate bunch rot issues this season. In Erie, as well as many other locations in PA rainfall resumed by the second week in August (Figure 5), and the ripening period was actually relatively wet through September. As you know, rainfall during ripening leads to bunch rot problems (Late summer/early fall grape disease control) and we did see rot problems develop early in vineyards of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir with extremely tight clusters despite measures to reduce cluster compactness and a barrage of fungicide applications. In those vineyards, the crop had to be harvested early, before optimum ripeness. However, at LERGREC, rot control was especially good in Vignoles (another cultivar susceptible to bunch rot) where we applied mechanized pre-bloom fruit zone leaf removal in combination with Botrytis specific fungicides at veraison and beyond.

In conclusion, it was a rewarding growing season for many PA wine grape growers. Warm, (mostly) dry conditions favored the production of a high-quality vintage and we are looking forward to tasting this season’s wines!