SVB on Wine posted a very interesting article on the importance of product sampling. Referencing Procter & Gamble’s realisation that “shotgun” sampling might not be as effective as they once thought, he goes into the practice of sampling in the wine industry.
Other than sending out samples, some of which might go to unsuitable targets, the wine industry creates an environment where people who are actually interested, can sample the product – introducing the Wine Tasting Room.
This sounds like the ideal solution – those who want to know more are offered the opportunity to sample, they get advice and guidance and then best of all, the opportunity to buy wine at a rate that is usually lower than the normal retail selling price!
It is this reduced price however that gives the blogger the title for his blog – Do Tasting Rooms Take Away Sales from Distributors?
Distributors being unhappy about cellar door prices is an international theme. The blogger makes his point clearly and I am in complete agreement that the tasting room really supports the distributor and that the once-off and usually smallish cellar door sales will not impact the distributor’s sales figures as much as it will benefit him in the long run – when the customer is not close to the wine estate or tasting room, but still knows that he/she likes the wine and buys it from a retailer.
It is also my experience that in today’s world the focus is much less on the product and its availability (distribution) and much more on the experience component of the product or brand.
In the past building a brand was very much dependent on the distribution, the retail and discount-offers. And while today, it is still important to have your wines available in the market at a competitive price, people are more involved with the brand than in the past. Whether it is due to social media turning everyone into a journalist and expert, or whether it is the ease and convenience of online shopping, today brands need to offer more than just availability.
Introduce your guests to your brand passions – whether it is food, conservation, heritage, lifestyle… And do it in an innovative way. Just remember to stay true to what your brand is about and create the experience around that. Do not try to be someone else.
Also remember that not everyone in a group is always that much into wine. Have something different to offer, whether you host walks through the vineyards, add a restaurant or eatery or just make an effort to offer some entertainment for the kids!
Long after your guests has forgotten about the follow-through of your Cabernet Sauvignon or the nuttiness of that beautiful barrel-matured Chardonnay, they will still remember the experience they had – how they were made to feel welcome, the friendliness of the staff, how unique the offering was. And that, in my opinion, sometimes even more than the specific characteristics of the wine, will have your one-time visitors buy your wines over and over again. Enough reassurance for your distributors, I think.