By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
While food and beverage trends are released throughout the year, it seems as though a bulk of the industry and consumer trend reports are released during the winter. In recognition of these reports and the insights and guidance they offer, I have summarized some of the more prevalent food trends and sources that concentrate specifically on the wine industry.
Food trends: What we will (likely) be eating in 2019
As we have talked about in past blogs, it is important to have a meaningful conversation with consumers who visit your tasting room or who you communicate with through social media. Whether it be the starting a conversation, promoting a particular wine, or having a topic for an Instagram post, knowing a bit about current food trends can help you suggest wines that will pair with these important and emerging flavors and cuisines.
Emerging international fare
Pertaining to interest in specific international cuisines, adults age 18 to 34 and 35 to 54 years, were much less likely to consume Italian and Chinese foods than consumers age 55 and older. This is the case whether they are dining at a restaurant, preparing meals at home, and/or when purchasing packaged food from food stores. The interest in international flavors among consumers age 18 to 44 years is “because they like trying new things” (Failla, 2019).
So, what is expected to interest consumers in 2019? Comax Flavors, a “world leader in creating leading edge flavor technology and innovation for the food and beverage industry” uses market research to gain consumer insights to better predict potential demand. Recently, they identified “A Passage to India,” which “capitalizes on the growing younger demographics’ attraction to multicultural flavors,” and “Steeped in Culture” that includes “high-impact fermented and pickled flavors” as two noteworthy trends for 2019 (Foodingredientsfirst.com, 2018).
In addition to matching wines to complement individual spices used in Indian recipes (e.g., cardamom, coriander, curry, and garam masala), “Indian-inspired flavors,” like cardamom mocha, maple cumin, and maple curry spice blends may also be important flavors in 2019 (Foodingredientsfirst.com, 2018). Interest in spice blends appears to appeal to U.S. consumers as the number of consumers who “prefer foods cooked with lots of spices” increased from 41.1% in 2013 to 44.1% in 2018 (Failla, 2019).
Over the past few years, umami has gained attention within the food industry. Umami’s “unctuous, savory flavor is presented in high-glutamate foods like tomatoes, meat, and soy” (Mintel, 2018). Another, koji mold, “a mold spore that typically ferments miso and soy sauce” is used on meats give “a more fermented taste” (Foodbusinessnews.net, N.d.).
But another lesser-known taste sensation is kokumi. Mintel’s 2018 US Flavor Trends report identifies kokumi as a food trend on the “fringe,” which is poised, “in the next five years,” to become more popular. The “taste concept is associated with flavors achieved by slow-cooking, aging, and ripening.”
Vegan and plant-based diets
No longer a fad, according to an article published by The Economist, a quarter of U.S. Millennials between ages 25 and 34 claims to be vegetarians or vegans (Parker, 2018). Consumers may choose to become vegan to lose weight, lower their blood sugar, and try to prevent diseases (Matthews, 2018).
Whatever the reason, several articles cite a study conducted by GlobalData, which reports that between 2014 and 2017, the number of Americans who indicated they were vegans increase by 600% (Matthews, 2018). To meet demand, school districts and fast food restaurants are offering vegan options on their menus (Matthews, 2018).
There is often some confusion as to how vegans differ from vegetarians. While vegetarians may eat dairy products and eggs, vegans do not eat or use animal products such as leather and fur. But those are not the only plant-based/plant-forward diets that consumers plan their meals around. The flexitarian trend, for instance, still resonates with today’s consumer. A flexitarian diet includes mostly plant-based foods but incorporates animable products and meat in moderation (Streit, 2018).
The importance of plant-central meals goes beyond appealing to consumers based on their food choice philosophy, rather a food tend that has been suggested by several sources will focus on “hearty vegetables” such as cassava, Japanese yams, parsnips, jicama, and white potato (Foodbusinessnews.net, N.d.).
Not only is there a need for the perfect pairing with plant-based cuisine, but there are a fair number of consumer-focused websites and articles that are educating vegans, vegetarians, etc. about fining agents used in the winemaking process. An article published by Wine Enthusiast presented the various fining agents and indicated which were vegetarian (e.g., egg whites, casein), vegetarian and vegan (e.g., Poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone, bentonite), and neither vegan nor vegetarian (e.g., chitosan, isinglass) (Krebiehl, 2018). The author also indicated that some vegans are even investigating whether wine grapes are grown using animal-based fertilizers such as bone meal or fish emulsion.
U.K. retailer Majestic Wine has added symbols to their website (Majestic.co.uk) to alert customers selecting wine as to which ones are vegan (VE) and vegetarian (V). Other retailers in certain European countries are also subscribing to this strategy.
One way or another, whether it is reproducing restaurant meals at home, purchasing prepared food from supermarkets, or subscribing to meal delivery services (Reiter, 2018), consumers are eating at home more – and they need to know what wine to purchase and serve with these flavors. Take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with prominent trends, listen to your customers, and provide recommendations that will help them have the best culinary experience possible.
Wine consumer demographics and trends
Before I describe who is drinking wine in 2019 and what has/is expected for this new year, here is a brief primer on U.S. generations, the birth years that define them, and the percentage of U.S. population in each.
While there are slight differences in the years that mark the beginning/ending for each generation, according to the PEW Research Center (Dimock, 2019), the years that define them are below.
Pertaining to the percentage of consumers in each generation. Data published in the first-quarter of 2017 (Nielsen, 2017) described the percentage of consumers in each generation.
How the generations are impacting the wine industry
Mintel’s most recent Wine Report (Mintel, 2018) indicates that 55% of U.S. adults, age 22 and older, who participated in the September 2018 survey, drink wine. This 55% includes a combination of those who drank wine “most often” (25%) and those who drank wine, but not as often as other beverages (30%). The percentage of wine consumers was slightly lower than the percentage of beer drinkers (57%) but higher than consumers who drink white spirits (42%), dark spirits (35%), and other alcoholic beverages.
As in the past, a fair amount of attention (and hope) is placed on Millennials becoming high frequency/high volume wine consumers. According to an article published on BeverageDaily.com, about 28% of adult Millennials indicated that they “drink wine on a daily basis” (Newhart, 2019).
Each January, the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division releases its State of the Wine Industry (McMillan, 2019). The report provides data on wine-consumer demographics, purchasing and consumption trends, winery owner confidence statistics, the economy, consumer sentiment, and similar. The Millennial generation, because of its size and that all members are of legal drinking age, is the basis for much of the analysis of the health of the industry.
As with the Beveragedaily.com article, one major point presented in the Silicon Valley Bank wine Divis report focuses on the Millennial generation’s wine consumption. According to the author, while Millennials “hold slightly higher consumption shares in the $8-$11 bottle price points” they “aren’t engaging with wine as hoped. They lack financial capacity, currently prefer premium spirits and craft beers, and have been slow getting into careers” (McMillan, 2019).
It would be in the industry’s best interest to heed this information and not ignore other generations who are drinking more wine and spending more per bottle. For example, during the period of 2015 to 2018, Millennials accounted for 16 to 17% of U.S. winery sales, while sales for the smaller Generation X cohort increased from 32 to 34%. Winery sales for Boomers held steady at 40% for the four-year period. Boomers also account for a greater percentage of premium wine sales (McMillan, 2019).
Upcoming blog posts will focus on alcohol product trends, consumer demographics, and strategies to consider for utilizing these data.
Barth, J. 2018. How we will drink wine in 2019: Trends according to winemakers and pros. December 13, 2018 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jillbarth/2018/12/13/how-we-will-drink-wine-in-2019-trends-according-to-winemakers-and-pros/#24b429123a9c
Dimock, M. 2019. Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/
Failla, J. 2019. International Food Trends US, January 2019. Mintel.
FoodBusinessNews.net. N.d. Ten cutting-edge culinary trends in 2019. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/media/photos/4009-ten-cutting-edge-culinary-trends-in-2019
Foodingredientsfirst.com. 2018. Multicultural and pickled tastes among 2019 flavor trends tipped by Comax. https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/multicultural-and-pickled-tastes-among-flavor-trends-tipped-by-comax-for-2019.html
Krebiehl, A. 2018. Is wine vegetarian, vegan or neither? WineEnthusiast. https://www.winemag.com/2018/05/09/vegetarian-vegan-wine/
Matthews, R. 2018. The vegan trend: Why so many people are changing their diets. https://chicagodefender.com/2018/05/03/the-vegan-trend-why-so-many-people-are-changing-their-diets/
McmIllan, R. 2019. State of the wine industry report 2019. Silicon Valley Bank wine Division. https://www.svb.com/globalassets/library/images/content/trends_and_insights/reports/wine_report/svb-2019-wine-report
Mintel. 2018. 2018 US Flavor Trends. The report, and other resources, can be downloaded by accessing this website: http://www.mintel.com/us-flavor-trends
Newhart, B. 2019. State of the industry: What’s to come for alcohol for in 2019. https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2019/01/03/State-of-the-industry-What-s-to-come-for-alcohol-in-2019
Nielsen. 2017. The Nielsen U.S. total audience report: Q1 2017. https://www.nielsen.com/be/en/insights/reports/2017/the-nielsen-total-audience-report-q1-2017.html
O’Brien Coffey, J. 2017. Five reasons to drink spiked sparkling water. Forbes.com https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanneobriencoffey/2017/08/14/five-reasons-to-drink-spiked-seltzer-now/#26799bbc415e
Parker, J. 2018. The year of the vegan. The Economist. https://worldin2019.economist.com/theyearofthevegan?utm_source=412&utm_medium=COM
Reiter, A. 2018. Americans are cooking more meals at home, eating out less. Foodnetwork.com. https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/news/2018/9/americans-are-cooking-more-meals-at-home–eating-out-less
Streit, L. 2018. The flexitarian diet: A detailed beginner’s guide. HealthLine.com https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexitarian-diet-guide
By Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Managment
I just returned from a six-month sabbatical leave in Australia where I visited many wineries and tasting rooms and talked with various industry members. I have included a map of Australia’s wine regions for your reference.
I spent a majority of my time in Adelaide which is surrounded by over 200 tasting rooms situated in the Barossa Valley (known for Shiraz), Clare Valley (Riesling), and more than a dozen other wine regions (see map below).
South Australia has not yet been impacted by phylloxera (http://bit.ly/2J79Xep); however, several growers and winemakers indicated that they do expect the pest to impact their vineyards at some point. Currently, they post signs asking consumers not to walk through the vineyards and politely ask those who do to kindly leave the production area. A few indicated that they are considering other measures (such as fencing) to protect vines near their tasting room, some of which were planted in the mid-1800s.
The Cube, McLaren Vale
The d’Arenberg Cube is a multi-story, Rubik’s Cube-like building (Rubik’s Cubes that look like the building are can be purchased for $10 AUS/$7.40 US). The building includes a restaurant, a 360-degree video room where visitors can watch an artistic representation of the brand’s various wine labels, and a space for fee-based wine blending sessions. While the Osborn family has had a presence in the Australian wine industry since 1912, the Cube opened in 2017.
There is also a sensory room where visitors can squeeze a handpump and smell what they might expect in a glass of wine and an art gallery. Visitors can download an app that provides additional information about each room and display.
The tasting room is on the top floor where visitors can taste the wines (included in the $10 AUS/$7.40 US entrance fee) while looking out over the valley. Visitors can choose from over 70 wines, including The Cenosilicaphobic (which means a fear of an empty glass) Cat (https://www.darenberg.com.au/the-experience/cellar-door/). Apparently, there was a cat on site that had a bit of a problem with alcohol.
Sidewood Estate, Adelaide Hills
Sidewood Estate is a winery and cidery located in the Adelaide Hills (https://sidewood.com.au). The tasting room has an intimate space for couples and small groups to taste their wines while large groups are served in another space a short distance away. Having two separate spaces provides a nice quiet area for couples/small groups who want to interact with staff and another where large groups don’t have to worry about being loud.
In addition, all guest can buy golf balls and practice their swing. If they succeed in hitting a ball onto the small green located in the middle of the pond or get a hole-in-one – they can win a prize. Not only does the driving range give nonwine drinkers something to do while they wait for their wine drinking friends, it also keeps visitors on site longer which then encourages them to purchase additional food and drinks.
Hahndorf Hill Winery, Adelaide Hills
Hahndorf Hill Winery focuses on cool-climate varieties (due to the cool temperatures at night) and Austrian varieties, especially Gruner Veltliner. Several years ago, they began propagating cuttings they imported from Austria, evaluated them, and now share the cuttings with other vineyards in the region. They make four different styles of Gruner Veltliner wines: a classic style, a fruit-driven style, a “more opulent style,” and a late harvest style (https://www.hahndorfhillwinery.com.au/Gruner-Veltliner). The winery has a Gruner-focused blog called “The GRU Files” (https://www.thegrufiles.com.au) and one of the owners, Larry Jacobs, is called Australia’s “Grandfather of Gruner” (https://www.thegrufiles.com.au).
Terrior, several wine regions
While the staff did not overly focus on terroir, several tasting rooms did display soil samples, profiles, and maps where their vineyards are located. Below are some examples of the various ways they displayed these items.
Yalumba Family Vignerons c. 1984. A map of their vineyards and corresponding soil samples are displayed at the tasting bar. Yalumba, located in Barossa Valley, “is one of only four wineries around the world to have its own cooperage” (https://www.yalumba.com)
Chateau Tanunda is “home to some of the earliest plantings of vines in Barossa Valley” with some planted in the 1840s (https://www.yalumba.com). Staff refer to soil samples and explain how production in Alluvial Clay Loam soil can differ from production in Deep Sand.
Pooley Wines, established in 1985 and located in Tasmania, is the state’s first certified environmentally sustainable vineyard (for more information about the program: http://bit.ly/2NResYy). A fairly unique display shows the soil profiles for two vineyards: a) Sandy Loams over Sandstone in which they grow Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reisling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir and b) Dolerite, black crackling clays, limestone over sandstone, in which they grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling (http://www.pooleywines.com.au/the-vineyards).
Bleasdale, Langhorn Creek
In addition to seeing several vineyards that were planted in the mid to late-18oos, it was also incredible to see the various artifacts that wineries had kept from this period. Bleasdale was established by Frank Potts in 1850 (https://www.bleasdale.com.au). Mr. Potts came to South Australia in 1836 and established the first winery in Langhorne Creek in the late 1850s. As you can see in the images below, he was a skilled craftsman and built machinery that he then used to make wooden plugs for wine corks and vats, and also made his own vats and lever presses.
The image below shows a red gum lever press that was built by Frank Potts’ sons in 1892. It is the second press that was built on the property, the first one was built by Mr. Potts in the 1860s and had just one basket. The design is based on basket presses Mr. Potts saw in Portugal.
According to a sign at the winery: “Both presses were build of red gum, with the density of the wood meaning the levers would not need to be pushed down to provide mechanical advantage.” The sign also stated that “the two presses stood side-by-side for around 20 years until the first press was deconstructed circa 1910-1915.”
Now, a little of what I saw in the marketplace.
A cider & wine concoction
While it has been on the market for a bit in Australia and New Zealand, Jacob’s Creek (Australia’s largest wine brand) released an alcoholic beverage that is a combination of white grape and apple juice called Pip & Seed. Flavor profiles include: fruity (“exploding with the flavour of fresh, sweet apples and pears”), crisp (“bright floral aroma and fresh, crunchy apples on the palate), and sweet (“sweet taste sensation bursts with apple and pear aromas while sweeter, juicier apples party on the palate”) (http://www.jacobscreek.com/au/pip-and-seed). At the time of this posting, the price for one 500mL bottle was $3.88 US.
Is your wine at the correct temperature to drink?
Taylors Wines, a third generation wine business located in Clare Valley, South Australia, has taken the guesswork out of knowing when a wine is at the optimum temperature for drinking. I found this bottle of Taylors Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.42 US dollars) in a wine shop – and though it was mixed in with several other brands, the bottle neck tag attracted my attention.
The neck tag instructs the purchaser to compare a glass of the red wine at room temperature and at the optimum temperature, per the temperature sensor on the label on the back of the bottle.
Below, I’ve included an image of the temperature sensor printed on the back label. According to their winemaker, this wine’s optimal drinking temperature is between 16 and 18C (60.8 to 64.4F), which correlates to the “raspberry” color section on the scale. In the top-right portion of the image, you can see that the current temperature indicator is “lilac” which is in the range considered “too warm.”
These are just a few of the winery tasting rooms and products that I saw in Australia. There are many other wineries in these regions and others that provide visitors with an amazing experience and fabulous wine. I will share more observations in future blog posts.
By Dr. Kathy Kelley
We have touched on a few customer-service related issues and strategies in past blogs: responding to online comments and criticism (http://bit.ly/2wYNSZm), why customers would like to contact a customer service department using text rather than call the company (http://bit.ly/2wYPxhR), and the importance of “good customer service” (http://bit.ly/2wYQuqn), but today’s post focuses on providing good customer service, ways to learn about customer service issues, and strategies for appeasing dissatisfied customers.
Employer and employee expectations
How can employees provide exceptional customer service if they don’t know what is expected of them? Because you are hiring an adult – you would think that they know how to treat people properly and always be a good brand ambassador. While most employees will remember to smile and greet customers when they arrive and ask which bottles they would like to purchase after their tasting – you may need to remind/teach them how to interact with customers between the guest’s arrival/departure. Or, you may need to educate staff on how to focus on visitors when the tasting room is packed, customers are two to three people deep at the bar, and staff members are just trying to remember what to pour next and who liked which wine.
To make sure that all staff members handle situations the same, it is suggested that businesses create a customer service strategy. After you develop a strategy, print hard copies, require all employees to read and retain the document and have them sign a statement (that is kept on file) indicating that they understand what is expected of them (just like you would for your employee handbook).
According to an article posted on The Thriving Small Business website (http://bit.ly/2wXIqRW), a customer service strategy consists of:
- Developing a customer service vision that employees fully understand
- Asking customers (using surveys, comment cards, focus group sessions, or one-on-one conversations) if the level of customer service provided meets or (hopefully) exceeds expectations
- Setting customer service goals (e.g., within how many seconds a visitor should be welcomed after they enter the tasting room)
- Providing training and reviewing customer service skills during employee meetings or after an issue is brought to your attention
- Holding staff accountable and rewarding excellent customer service (e.g., ask customers to indicate who provided exceptional customer service during their visit)
Further explanations and examples for each of these are below.
Developing a customer service vision that employees fully understand
If you have ever taken your Apple devices to an Apple store for service, or you are just browsing the store, you may be quite impressed with how they learn about customer needs. According to a video produced by Carmine Gallo, President of Gallo Communication Group (http://bit.ly/2wYYNCD), Apple is most likely implementing the following five steps:
- Approaching customers and giving them a sincere welcome
- Asking questions to understand a customer’s needs
- Presenting a solution that the customer can take home that day
- Listening for and resolving issues or concerns
- Thanking them for visiting and inviting them back
Asking customers if the level of customer service provided meets or exceeds expectations
You can approach this activity in a few different ways:
- Hand a comment card to visitors and ask them to fill it out before they leave the tasting room
- Post questions on your website and on your Facebook business page
- Conduct an online survey using the free versions of com and SurveyGizmo.com (with limited functions) or purchase the full version on a monthly or annual basis
- Use Google Forms (within Google Docs) to create a document that looks like a survey, which can be embedded into an email and sent to tasting room visitors/case club members. Recipients can respond to the questions and click the “submit” button when finished. You will then have access to a spreadsheet where responses are organized by survey participant
If you learn about an issue where the custom was wronged:
- Tell the customer what we can do (realistically) and correct the problem
- Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention
- Follow-up to make sure that they are satisfied with the outcome
Setting customer service goals
A goal could be that you will provide each and every visitor with an enjoyable customer. In a Wall Street Journal article written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher (“Tips for Tasting Rooms,” http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr) the authors listed a few of their tasting room “pet peeves” and behaviors that tasting room staff should focus on:
- While tasting room staff do not need to be wine and viticulture experts they do need to be able to provide tasting room visitors with at least a “basic understanding of the wines”
- Have a list of questions that will help staff suggest wines for visitors to try based on preferences. You might also want to have a list of wines that appeal to beer drinkers based on the style of beer they like
- Be a “people person” and engage visitors in a conversation so that they don’t feel like just a sale
- Have a little “something special” that you can offer wine enthusiasts, but be discreet if others are tasting too. You don’t want to pour samples for one couple and leave the bottle on the countertop and not offer it to others
- Give all visitors your attention, even when there is a VIP at the tasting bar. Specifically, “If you are going to lavish wine and attention only on [VIPs]…take them to another room and flatter them instead of just pretending that we’re not there” (http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr)
- Indicate which wines are only available at the winery, which supermarkets/retail outlets sell your wine, and if your wine is available for sale online
This quote may strike a chord: “Many impressive wineries offer very poor service with staff that ‘pour and ignore.’ They don’t act interested in the customer, and they expect all the energy to come from the customer’s side of the counter…To “pour and ignore” is like being the last person in a relay race and deliberately dropping the baton. It is the worst possible public relations we could provide next to outright rudeness. (http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr)”
Providing training and reviewing customer service skills
It is suggested that training tasting room staff “has the potential to reduce turnover and build staff loyalty… [and that] a winery may be able to obtain a competitive edge at the cellar door and improve the bottom line of its retail sales by incorporating strategic cellar-door training and development programs” for both existing and new employees (http://bit.ly/2x0okGw).
Holding staff accountable and rewarding excellent customer service
When you are out shopping and see customers interact with employees, discreetly observe their conversation and ask yourself:
- Does the customer service representative look/sound like they are interested in helping the customer and that solving the customer’s problems is his/her number one priority?
- Based on the customer’s issue, would your response be similar or different from what the customer service rep is doing/saying?
- If you were the customer, would you be satisfied with the response/outcome?
Remember the saying “praise in public and criticize in private.” Employees will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they are recognized for providing great customer service. When you do provide praise:
- Included details about the situation (e.g., while assisting a customer with buying wine for a gift…)
- How the employee provided “excellent customer service”
- The outcome/what happened as a result of the employee assisting the customer (http://bit.ly/2x0MjFK)
Empower your employees by giving them the ability to make decisions (http://bit.ly/2ybYDI0). According to the article, “Think about employee empowerment, not as something a manager bestows on employees, but rather as a philosophy and a strategy to help people develop talents, skills, and decision-making competency.”
Where to look for customer service complaints online
Most likely you are aware of the following review sites and (hopefully) claimed your business page, where appropriate.
- Google local guides
- Yahoo! Local
If you have not searched these sites for customer comments, it is critical that you know what customers are saying about your winery/tasting room.
Another site to consider, though you will not necessarily see customer reviews and complaints, is Glassdoor.com. This is a website where employees complain/provide reviews about companies they (supposedly) work(ed) for. While you may not learn about customer issues you may get an idea of how employees feel about your business and how they perceive manager/owner leadership and expectations.
For example, an employee, who worked in the tasting room at “X” in Kenwood, California, wrote that working at the tasting room was a “seasonally fun place to work,” but he/she also indicated that management focused “solely [on] sales” and that “a little more focus on simply learning the wines and delivering better client experiences” was needed (glassdoor.com). Perhaps this employee never talked to the manager or owner because he/she didn’t feel comfortable doing so, maybe they have brought up issues in the past and felt the input was ignored, or maybe they just like to complain. Regardless, now the comments are on the website for all to see.
If responding to online comments and criticism seem intimidating, look online for examples of how businesses have responded to customer reviews and comments (both positive and negative). Follow companies like Zappos.com, Apple, Trader Joe’s, JetBlue, Starbucks, and others you feel provide good customer service to see examples as to how you can appease customers who feel that they have been wronged.
Until next time.
By Dr. Kathy Kelley and Dr. Bonnie Canziani*
Every winery has a story to tell about its history and about its wines. A winery’s story often comprises the main advertising message that consumers receive. Critical visitor expectations are being formed as your potential customers read marketing materials about your winery or listen to your staff in the tasting room embellish on “the story,” using it as a performance script during visitor encounters. Indeed, your tasting room hosts are often the main onsite story tellers and serve a vital role as direct ambassadors of the brand and the company—sharing important information with all visitors to the winery.
In this post, we discuss why wineries should have a well-crafted story, examples of national brands that have been recognized as having compelling stories, and steps you can take to develop your story.
Why is a story important?
Researchers have investigated consumer response to storytelling to learn if businesses do benefit from such efforts. The Origin/Hill Holliday research group conducted studies with 3,000 U.S. consumers, age 23 to 65 years, and investigated their response to winemaker stories. Two groups were shown product pages for four different bottles of California Chardonnay. Group one was shown the pages with standard tasting notes, while group two was shown three of these product pages and a fourth page with the winemakers’ story instead of the tasting notes. Based on responses, the researchers found that the second group “was 5% likelier to choose the bottle with the winemakers’ story – and willing to pay 6% more for it” (http://bit.ly/2umZCCE).
Brands that have successfully crafted their story
While both of the following examples are outside the wine industry, each is a successful business with owners who realize that their stories resonate with their clientele and that their narratives support important business strategies.
Being authentic and personable
Dannijo, a jewelry company created by two sisters, was built on the owners’ belief that a story needs to be “compelling to consumers, [such that] they want to build your products into their lives” (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG). The sisters often model the jewelry in the ads and their social media posts include images of them outside the office and with their families, which helps make them relatable to their target customers.
In their stores, the sisters have installed a selfie booth for customers to take and share images of themselves having fun in the store (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG), and they host speakers who present “unexpected and yet brand-related subjects (e.g., fitness and health, philanthropy and sisterhood)” that are important to the owners and that can interest their primary customers (http://bit.ly/2tMN46Q).
These activities, their core products, and a café all encourage consumers to visit often and to extend the amount of time they spend at the retail outlet on each occasion.
Focusing on customers’ interests
Adidas, like several other brands, sells running shoes. While their loyal customers will buy their shoes again and again, others are drawn to the business based on how they “feel” about the brand, how the brand helps professional and novice athletes succeed in the sports they love.
Adidas is also credited with being a “listening brand.” Instead of talking purely about their shoes, the company learns what customers care about and then uses these concerns and passions as a basis for developing the “brand[’s] message through social conversations” (http://bit.ly/2tNdi9h). Examples of Instagram posts based on follower interests include World Oceans Day, #RunForTheOceans (http://bit.ly/2tN4wbg); Earth Day; sustainable athletic clothing (http://bit.ly/2tMLS3c); and encouraging consumers to perform to the best of their abilities – both on and off the court.
So, what should you include in your story?
A brand’s story is more than words on a page designed to be a pitch for your winery. Rather, your brand’s story includes “facts, feelings and interpretation” and is a way to differentiate yourself from competitors (http://bit.ly/2tNGkWf). A successful story will help a business build a following, which in turn encourages these consumers to care about the brand and, hopefully, leads to customer loyalty. Following are some tips for making your winery story genuine and engaging for your visitors.
- Storytelling is based on “interpretation”
Interpretation is a skill that connects your audience with information in ways that create emotional ties between the speaker and the listener. Basically, you take important facts about the wine (e.g., type of grapes or fruit used and production processes) and the winery (e.g., family history or facility information) and share these facts with your visitors in an informative and entertaining manner. A story is not just a dry recitation of facts and figures. Stories attract consumers looking for higher levels of personal recognition and warmth from service staff at your winery.
- Storytelling is part of your marketing strategy
Your goals need to be clear when forming and telling the winery story. Typical goals include connecting your guests emotionally to the brand, influencing guests to try something new (e.g., join the wine club or attend a future wine event), and motivating your visitors to buy your wine and share their experiences with others via positive word of mouth. One sign that your guests are engaged is if they ask for more details about the wines, the winery, or the winemaker/owners. A good story will lead to conversation and customer action.
- Your stories must seem genuine to your listeners
Storytelling in the winery setting needs to incorporate truthful information about your ingredients, your production techniques, and your business background. Stories create personal ties between the winery and its visitors and people want to be able to trust that the information you are providing is accurate and relevant. The more believable stories will be shared with others via word of mouth after the visit.
Example: Honor Brewing Company & Winery
It seems only natural for a winery to support a cause either with raising funds during an event to donating a portion of the proceeds/price per bottle to a charity. Sometimes, though, the connection between the cause and the wine brand is not as clear as it could be and why the cause was selected (e.g., to help fund medical research for a disease that an employee has suffered from, to support local community efforts). Honor Brewing Company, Inc. and Honor Winery owners either served in the military or who had close family members who did. From the name to the labels (e.g., pictures of dog tags, combat boots) to their mission (“…supporting and celebrating those that have served or are serving…), the brand’s is exclusively “dedicated to the men and women who proudly serve our country” (http://bit.ly/2tO1J1K).
The owners also raise money and donate funds to charities that assist injured veterans and families of those who have fallen – and they are transparent in their efforts. In 2014/2015 they raised over $200,000 for these charities. They also encourage social media followers to post about family members in the military and partner with many veteran organizations.
- Stories are built on essential raw material
Winery stories need to cover the basics so that every visitor has a good understanding of the wines being served and sold, the fruit that goes into the wines, and other interesting details that make the winery business unique. Proof of quality is often incorporated into the winery story by emphasizing the various awards that your wines have won. The story can move from the past to the present as well as indicate new wines and strategies that are forthcoming in the future. It can also help the visitor identify the role of the winery in the greater community or wine industry in the state.
Example: Gimblett Gravels
When you think of the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District, terroir might be one of the words that come to mind. This patch of land, 800 hectares, once “regarded as the poorest, least productive land in Hawke’s Bay…and no hope of growing a decent crop of anything” (http://bit.ly/2tNlKoN) can lay claim to producing grapes used to make award winning wines: domestically, 600 gold medals and 210 trophies and 105 gold medals and 35 trophies awarded in international competitions (http://bit.ly/2tNqGKD).
Strict guidelines determine whether a wine can be marketed with the Gimblett Gravels designation. These measures protect the brand’s image and ensure that growers and winemakers make no compromises and that only high-quality wine that reflects the terroir is bottled with the name and logo of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association.
- Most winery stories are also family stories
The concept of ‘family’ appears either overtly or as a subtext within many winery stories on their websites and during the exchanges between visitors and tasting room hosts. The idea of ‘family’ is represented in multiple ways:
- remarks about preserving the family farm, land, or agricultural business heritage through the development of vineyards and winemaking operations (the ‘family-business’ message),
- sharing a history of family generations in the wine-making business (the ‘family-tradition’ message), or
- an advertising appeal aimed at generating closeness to the visitor based on the inclusive treatment of guests (the ‘join-the-family’ message).
Example: Wente Vineyards
Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, CA was founded in 1883 and is recognized as the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery in the U.S. Their story begins with C.H. Wente immigrating to the U.S., learning about winemaking, purchasing land in California, and then…Prohibition was implemented (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI).
The family and the business survived hard economic times and war and contributed to the advancement of the California wine industry. And, if this wasn’t impressive enough, the winery can boast that each winemaker has been a Wente including the current winemaker who is a member of the 5th generation (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI). What a story they can tell!
The various family messages can overlap in a single winery story. Family images are also positively associated with consumer perceptions of winery trustworthiness.
The art of storytelling can be especially useful to wineries that are trying to develop a visible brand presence and uniqueness in the marketplace. Ultimately, winery hosts need to know how to craft and present a winery story that moves their customers to positive actions, e.g., buying wine and sharing winery experiences with others.
*Dr. Canziani is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Bryan School of Business and Economics, specializing in the management of customer service relationships and business profitability in various sectors including hospitality, tourism, and transportation. Since 2001, she has been involved in marketing and business research focused on the NC wine and grape industry, with more recent emphasis on wine tourism.
By Dr. Kathy Kelley
If a customer has never tasted the wine inside the bottle before “the label design and execution, as well as the verbiage,” can make or break a sale (http://bit.ly/2sxnxPF). It is even suggested that at the point of purchase it only takes about 1.5 seconds for a wine label “to make an impact” on the consumer’s decision to purchase the bottle (http://bit.ly/2sx2i0c).
You may have wine labels that are well recognized and that your customers may respond, but it is also valuable to be aware of what some research suggests could attract consumer attention and what some brands are doing to encourage wine drinkers to “engage” with their bottle and (hopefully) share their experience with others.
Label illustrations, color, and design layout
While the “attractiveness” of a label is subjective, research has been conducted to identify label characteristics that appeal to consumers based on brand image (e.g., fun and whimsical) purchase intent (e.g., consumed at a restaurant, to give as a gift), and similar.
Two University of California, Berkeley, researchers conducted a study during which participants evaluated wine labels to measure California Cabernet Sauvignon purchase intent based on six label colors, five illustrations, and three design layouts (Boudreaux and Palmer, 2007). The researchers developed and tested 90 fictitious labels with the same brand name, origin, vintage, and alcohol content. Though the images are black and white and only a subset of the 90 labels is presented you can get a sense of what the labels looked like by accessing the paper here: http://bit.ly/2swFQUg.
Their results revealed that the illustration presented on the label had the strongest effect on “market success factors and on brand personality” and in general the images that received the highest purchase intent scores were: 1) grape motifs and 2) images of a chateaux or vineyards. However, if the brand’s goal is to develop a label to convey “upper class and value,” results suggested that a coat-of-arms illustration would be the best option.
The researchers reported that of the colors they tested, burgundy, red-orange, and neutrals “were seen as successful, desirable, and expensive.”
While the UC Berkeley study did not segment the data based on generation to learn what Millennials might prefer compared to older generations, such data has been published.
A 2015 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey revealed that the label is important to Millennials, and wine drinkers in this generation are “4X more likely than Baby Boomers to often select a bottle of wine based on its label” (http://gallowinetrends.com/home/). While the younger generation is “more likely to look for” labels with personality and originality, Baby Boomers look for information on labels that describe the region of origin and taste descriptors.
Elliot and Barth (2012) focused on understanding Canadian Millennials’ preferences for wine label design and personality. Participants, mostly 19 to 22-year-old undergraduates, were asked to list the most significant factor that influenced their wine purchasing decision. Of the factors listed, 86% of the total mentions referred to an extrinsic [the package] factor (e.g., name of the wine, design layout, bottle) with 33.8% of all the mentions related to the “label,” followed by other “package elements,” color(s) (10% of the mentions), design (9.8%), the bottle (9.3%), and the image (9.1%).
Only 14% of the mentions pertained to intrinsic [the product] factors with the top three mentions being: the producer (6.1% of all mentions), type of wine (3.4%), and alcoholic degree (2.2%). The researchers indicated that though the emphasis, at this point in their drinking career, is on extrinsic factors – it may be possible that “opinions and preferences” may shift to intrinsic factors as they age and their experience with drinking wine increases.
Participants were then asked to assign ratings to indicate how influential (1= not at all influential to 5 = extremely influential) six packaging characteristics were on their bottle selection. The top three influential characteristics (rated between 3.83 to 4.00) were: label image or picture, design layout, and color. Name of the wine, description of the wine, and shape of the bottle were less influential. The authors point out that price was not tested, but if it was it probably would have “had a significant influence.”
Trying to learn what label factors appeal to certain generations is not restricted to just New World wine brands. Some wineries Bordeaux are designing labels that (hopefully) appeal to younger wine drinkers.
According to an article published in February 2017 (http://bit.ly/2sxYH10), the author interviewed two Bordeaux label designers about their approach to designing “non-traditional” labels. One designer is quoted as saying, “The new generation of Bordeaux winemakers…[are] trying to break out from overwhelming history” by using “‘avant-garde’ design approaches.” Another designer and the winemaker at Château Chasserat created a non-traditional wine called Père N 1775 (which includes the French word for father and the year the winery was created). The associated logo has more of an Aztec feel/look than that of château or vineyard you would expect to see on a traditional bottle of Bordeaux.
It is important to note that generation is not the only demographic that could impact response to wine labels, or any extrinsic or intrinsic characteristic. Culture has been studied by a few researchers to learn how it may affect response to a wine brand, promotional approach, label/bottle characteristics, etc.
Lockshin and Cohen (2009) investigated what influenced consumers from 11 countries when purchasing wine. Though examples of wine labels were not presented, participants were asked to indicate the relative importance of “an attractive front label,” in addition to 12 other factors (e.g., the origin of the wine, grape variety, promotional display in-store).
Participants were segmented into three groups based on their responses to survey questions. While the smallest of the three groups, 16% of survey participants, one of the segments was based on making wine purchasing decisions based on displays, attractive front labels, and back labels. A quarter of respondents from the UK were in this group, with slightly fewer Austrians (22.5%), Germans (20.9%), participants from the USA (16.4%), and Brazilians (15.4%) belonging. Ten percent or fewer of participants from Australia, France, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand, and Taiwan were assigned to this group as larger percentages of these consumers made choices based on recommendations/previous experience or based on variety, origin, brand name, and awards.
“Cool” and interactive wine labels
Last year, Pace Magazine published a list of seven wine bottles with labels that drinkers could play with, including one that revealed a “secret message” when a little bit of wine is poured on it and another that had a pull tab that served as a wishbone (http://bit.ly/2sx46qe). Add to this the other online sources that create their own annual lists: Tasting Table (http://bit.ly/2tuwllM), Forbes (http://bit.ly/2tuzkuB), BuzzFeed (http://bzfd.it/2tuy3U2), and many others.
While the graphics, layout, and colors used on the label certainly attract purchasers, there are several brands that have added a Quick Response code (QR code; http://bit.ly/2std07Q) to their label. The code, when scanned with a smartphone QR code reader, directs the consumer to a website with other pertinent information about the winery, the particular wine in the bottle, videos, social media sites, or anything that the winery decides.
One such brand is Brancott Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand. The company developed the “Brancott Estate World’s Most Curious Bottle” app (http://bit.ly/2st5sC3) in 2012 so that wine drinkers could “interact” with bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc. I have included some screenshots that I took while I was using the app, below.
While I did have a bottle of the wine that I could use for this demonstration, if you do not have one you can use a picture of the bottle/QR code (from one of their magazine advertisements, for example) and certain app activities are available on app even if do not have a bottle/photo.
A Spanish wine brand, Bodegas Vihucas (Toledo, Spain) has created a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, and Graciano called 8 TICKETS (http://www.8tickets.es/el-vino/; retail price of 9.60 euros). The label is a metro map that when removed from the bottle (held in place with two stickers), after which it becomes a “game board.” includes directions on how to play the game, and has a space for the drinker(s) to color, draw, and decorate with stickers.
While I don’t have a picture of the bottle/label/game board, as the wine is only available a few Spanish markets (http://8tickets.es/localiza-tu-tienda/), they do have a Facebook Page with reviews (https://www.facebook.com/8tickets/) and Instagram account with images of the bottles and groups of drinkers having fun with the label/game board (https://www.instagram.com/8tickets/). I did contact the brand and was informed that 8 TICKETS will be available in the U.S. “soon.”
As you might expect, the 8 TICKETS concept and label was developed to appeal to the Millennial wine drinker. Specifically, the aim of the 2016/2017 A’Design Award & Competition Packaging Design Category winner was to “bring wine to [Millennials] through a memorable and participative experience…show young people all the situations in which wine can be a regular consumption product rather than being reduced to [only being drunk on] special occasions” (http://bit.ly/2sYyvKL).
If you would like to learn about wine and alcoholic beverage product and packaging trends as soon as items launch, visit Trendhunter.com. You can learn about the new Coors Light can that changes colors when exposed to UV light rays (currently available in the Canadian market, http://bit.ly/2sYxwdM), Croatian wine that is aged in the Adriatic Sea in glass and clay vessels for 2 years at a depth of 20 meters (http://bit.ly/2sYveeu), and drinkable glitter flakes with a “subtle raspberry flavor” that can be added to a glass of prosecco for an even more sparkling wine (http://bit.ly/2sYhv7r).
What is presented in this blog post is just a small portion of the studies and examples of wine labels/bottle characteristics that appeal to consumers. At Penn State, we have conducted several studies that investigated consumer response to a number of different wine bottle components. Among the data that we have published in this blog, one study, in particular, focused on what information and features a winery should consider including on the back label (http://bit.ly/2sxTre7). As with other marketing information we post, it is crucial to understand who your customer is and ask them to respond to your label ideas before making any significant changes or investments.
Boudreaux, C.A., & Palmer, S.E. (2007). A charming little cabernet. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 19(3), 170-186. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/17511060710817212
Elliot, S., & Barth, J.E. (2012). Wine label design and personality preferences of millennials. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 21(3), 183-191. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/10610421211228801
Lockshin, L. & Cohen, E. (2009). Using product and retail choice attributes for cross-national segmentation. European Journal of Marketing, 45(7/8), 1236-1252.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
You 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.
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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