How well do you know your customers? Do you know them well enough to know what they want? Or is it more along the lines that we tend to think we know what they want?
The average wine sale in a California wine tasting room is around $70-$80. While the average sale in the private session tastings, whether it be wine club members, or first-time visitors that request private tastings average $300 or more than those in the tasting room. So, it is simple, right? All you have to do is get as many people into private tasting sessions as possible, right? Not necessarily! These amounts just mentioned are the average sales amounts in the different two venues - but what if you were to include non-sales visitors? What would the true number be if you included every group of visitors instead of just those that bought wine while tasting? I don’t have such data to share, but I would be willing to bet that the average sale in the tasting room would be much lower.
The amount from the private session might be a little lower but not likely as much as the regular daily or weekend tasting room traffic. Why do I say that? Those that choose to pay the higher price of a private session you are probably going to find are more affluent to begin with and can afford to buy more wine, or perhaps even purchase futures on vintages to be released later. One thing to keep in mind is the experiences between the two groups and how they are different as is the level of service given.
Is your winery a busy tasting room, or as busy as you would like? I certainly hope that is the case. If the is, you probably have many tasting room attendants, or at least help during busy periods. There is probably a whole range of experience among them as well; some gifted and some others that are perhaps not so much when it comes to entertaining visitors. How well do these staffers do when it is very busy, and the pressure is on to serve the large group of visitors that just walked in? How many visitors know that you have private sessions available? If the private sessions are two to three times higher in profits, as well as more expensive than the standard tasting fee, do your visitors know how much more they will get?
Do you offer your "best" customers (your wine club members) special pricing on the private sessions? How well do you communicate your services to those that visit with you in your tasting room or at special pouring events? It's important that you are if you hope to have them visiting again. While it helps, and is important to do so, simply putting someone down on your email list isn’t enough. Although it is an important part in reaching out to someone that has experienced your tasting room. I am sure that most wineries would answer the last question with a response of "we do an excellent or good job of it" but do you ever test such a response?
Over the next few years the success or failure of individual wineries will depend greatly upon their ability to entertain their visitors and the only way to know that is true of your winery is by having very good communications with them. Again, the “big boys” have the revenue and far more manpower than the beloved boutique wineries of California I enjoy visiting. Over the next few years we will see a lot of changes happening in the way many wineries accommodate visitors and guessing at the results is very chancy. I still am very much impressed to attend a local community wine walk or event were local winemakers pour for those that pay a fee, to hear many of them say; “I didn’t know we had so many wineries around.” How can the smaller producers make themselves more visible and available without breaking the bank? We will come back to that.
There have been significant changes in the way wines are marketed and distributed to the customer over the years. I believe that those changes will continue, margins will be impacted, especially in the retail sector, and this will have considerable affect where and how wine lovers get their wine. Will they seek more quality wine from wineries? I think that the frequency of visits to wineries will increase and significantly among wine lovers and guess what kind of experience they will be looking for? It will not just be expensive wines off the shelf. Are you ready? If you are a true wine lover, then you'll know what those wine lovers want because that is what you want to be, and what you want your winery to be! Yes, know while still being true to your passion. It will be about how the wine lover is made to feel during and after their visit with you.
If you are a professional adult beverage maker perhaps you still recall how your interest turned to passion each new chapter in your trek revealed another 100 bits of new information to yet learn and the truth is that if you are passionate about wine or spirits you know that there is a never-ending trail of new insights to follow that will literally take a lifetime to absorb. Today, more and more customers need to be educated, but also entertained. I am convinced that there would be many more (passionate) beverage drinkers if both industry sectors did a better job of providing education about the beverage(s) that they produced.
There are websites out there but providing "just" education can be tiresome and lacking in entertainment value and there needs to be more to fan the sparks of interest into the flames of passion. I would love to hear ideas from both professionals and non-professional beverage lover on what they think would be an interesting approach. My website will under-go a huge update in the month to come with an increased focus on the experience to flesh-out the informational part of California Corks.
I am always amazed at how timid people are who are beginning their wine journey. If you are a professional and have been involved for more than a few years, then I am not saying anything new when I say that it is a very complex subject and can be very subjective.
Fortunately, I am one of many wine lovers. I love to try new wines, visit new wineries and meet the people that produce their wines. It is especially at times like this that I find it easy to understand how overwhelming wine can be to someone new but also knowing that it is important to help these people feel at ease and to provide some insights to what they are experiencing. Who better than those that have produced it!
The future success of the industry depends upon converting the newbie to full fledge wine lovers. Do you help? Can we work together to help? I think so! Let’s become teachers when someone expresses a curiosity about something about the wine they are enjoying or experiencing, share something about the process they are seeing, stop and explain.
More and more efforts are being made by wineries in other countries such as in Europe to attract wine tourists. I personally think that non-domestic wines are grossly underappreciated, because the best small production wines never make it the states. What happens though if significant numbers of Americans discover those highly valuable wines?
If wineries "wait" to see what happens they are going to get caught in the tidal wave coming from changing consumer attitudes. Too many assume that because they have been successful the last 5 to 8 years they can just continue doing what they have been doing. But that same attitude existed among the major retailers 15 years ago when it came to e-commerce and to how many department stores have closed their doors in the last couple of years or even this year?
I would love to collaborate with as many California winemakers and wineries as possible. Work together to make vistiting California Wineries fun and enjoyable to the point that those that visit create additional and new deisciples of California Wines and Wineries.
John Krause / Founder California Corks