My weekly blog gives me an opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions and often a response or reaction to what I put out there inspires a next train of thought. And this is exactly what I hope it to be about, starting a conversation, even if it means there are many who disagree with my opinion.
In a previous blog, I suggested that the wine industry find “Creativity in the Cracks”. In one response, Stanley Edwards remarked on the lack of creativity in the retail wine offering and then continued with ideas to help with just that.
Retail is a very important avenue for wine sales. In a Covid world, hospitality and on-trade continue to struggle and while online wine sales are booming, retail has continued to be a steady and reliable part of the wine business. But other than promotional deals, brand-led competitions and giveaways, how is retail enticing the wine buyer? With the complications about alcohol and in-store tastings, most retail wine marketing efforts come in the form of display – bin-ends, neck tags and a new term I hear my brand managers use, “collarettes” – a fancy collar with plenty of space to share information. All these are an attempt at communicating with the consumer: get the shopper’s attention, tell them something about you, entice them to try your product. And you hope they like to read labels and tags, have time to do so while buying their groceries and don’t have toddlers with them…
I get excited when I walk down a wine aisle. Obviously, it is my trade and my passion and I enjoy finding new products and packaging, trying to see the latest in branding and pricing. But of course, I am not the wine retailer’s average target market. Consumers who love wine and are knowledgeable, might also walk down the aisle and be inspired by the wines on the shelves. Perhaps a new Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelf inspires you to cook a delicious beef bourguignonne. Perhaps a pretty pink makes you text a friend to come over for sundowners. Perhaps a bottle of Champagne reminds you that it is your anniversary! But there is no denying that a wine shelve can be quite an intimidating feature and even those who know a bit about wine, might not know where to start. Wine is a lifestyle product with emotive associations and while these are easier to introduce and share as part of a cellar door experience – especially in South Africa’s exceptional wine tourism environment, doing the same in retail is much of a challenge. How do you bring the experience to retail?
In his article focusing on wine retail, Stanley Edwards refers to “Retailtanment”. “Retailtainment is buzz word that’s been around for a while. In his book, author George Ritzer describes retailtainment as the “use of ambience, emotion, sound and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy.”” He continues: “We don’t want to walk around your warehouse of neatly packaged products. We want a playground, we want to learn and have fun. We want social spaces, food halls, markets, brand playgrounds. The new retail space needs to morph from a warehouse to more of an interactive social venue.” (Read more)
During lockdown, it was wonderful to find someone you know in the shop. Supermarkets became somewhat of a social outing. For some, buying groceries is more than ticking off a list with the likes of cereal and broccoli. I love exploring new products and while I might be keen to read a poster or follow a NEW arrow, I like talking to the shop’s people. It is of course easier in smaller shops, but like the restaurant scenario where a good waiter can save a poor food experience, good service in the supermarket aisle is a thing of beauty. “Pesto at the end of the row, sir – and remember, today, it is buy one, get one free!” Now, that is what I am talking about.
Good and friendly service will hardly be classified as creative, but let me explain. In his response to my suggestion of finding creative ways, Stanley talks about the use of QR code type information creating augmented or virtual reality experiences. And really, this seems like an ideal solution. With only a small space required on your packaging, the QR code can offer rich content at a quick scan. No one goes shopping without a cellphone – it is where your shopping list lives! And rich content doesn’t even always involve reading. With the virtual world being so dynamic, it’s not only about linking to a website or a recipe. QR codes can bring you a lifelike experience, something that is interactive and fun. This is of course worth exploring – both from the retailer’s perspective and a brand perspective. Having said that, I think the QR code is a wonderful help when you have an idea of what you need. Say you are having a friend over who loves a full-bodied red and you scan a Shiraz or two to find one that might also work with your casserole. Or you are looking for a sparkling wine that is fresh and fruity. The QR code helps you to decide between two or three options.
But, and now I come back to my song about service. Many of us do not have the time to scan all the bottles we might be considering and in a strange way, such rich content might even make the selection more intimidating. Except, perhaps, if you have someone to guide you through the experience. I know it might sound old-fashioned in a time when we want to move things online, when limited social interaction seems to be safer and when everything is about the convenience factor, but I believe we need a human touch.
Imagine getting a wine tasting room experience in your local grocer. Someone passionate and knowledgeable who can advise about a style you might enjoy, a pairing for your menu, a wine that might make a good gift. Someone who can interpret your preferences into a wine choice. I love the idea. I know I am a bit partial to alliteration… but can we call such a person a Supermarket Sommelier? What a great job this could be?! Imagine if every large retail shop had a supermarket sommelier! Don’t you think it would make making your wine choices so much easier? Would you not be tempted into trying something new if they made a recommendation? Even be willing to pay a bit more? Introducing supermarket sommeliers, will create jobs, wine estates can assist with training and such an individual will have a future in various other fields of the wine industry and hospitality.
The more we move into all that is virtual and the more we can help ourselves online, the more I think we also crave some friendly, enthusiastic interaction. Passionate and well-informed wine advice in your local grocery store or wine shop will be to the advantage of both the wine farm and the retailer.
Here are a few other ideas to keep in mind about retail wine experiences:
- Make your wine department look a bit more exciting – click here to see some wine shop ideas.
- Click here for some best practice ideas for the retail in the time of Covid.
- A sommelier in your phone? Yes, other than apps like Vivino, you can get personal wine advice from sommelier Belinda Chan. Clients of her high-end wine experiences get her cell phone number for wine advice. She says that she has “guys texting me pictures of bottles from Costco and asking, ‘Is this a good price?’” (Read more)
- There are some limitations as to how one can promote alcohol in-store, but how about cross-referencing with the food isle?
I am sure there are plenty of other ideas and insights and I would love to year what you would like from a wine retail experience.