How to Leverage “At-Home Winery Experiences” this Holiday Season!

Winery teams prepare to entertain guests from the comfort of their homes this holiday season due to pandemic.

[October 6, 2020] Sandra Hess, founder DTC Wine Workshops

#1 Let’s take look at what the wine industry learned since mid-March as we prepare for the “At-Home Holiday Season”:

This year, the consultant network at DTC Wine Workshops helped winery teams across the nation pivot from offering in-person winery experiences to a variety of virtual tastings beginning in March – due to pandemic. Since that time, winery stakeholders have realized how intimate and lucrative the interactions can be through online tastings/events, personal calls, text messaging as well as social instant message communications.

Today’s connected wine consumer is more tech savvy thanks to the evolution of SmartPhones and Online Meeting Technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to test alternative wine consumer engagement strategies, and I am excited to report that the results have been better than expected! Not only did the majority of our clients pivot 60-80% of tasting room sales to virtual, e-commerce and phone sales, they also significantly grew their customer lists. Friends and family are joining long-standing members and brand loyalists for private winemaker tastings online. New members are being onboarded with a Virtual Meet & Greet by winery family members, winemakers or owners in many cases. While we have coached our clients to pivot from the tasting room experiences during pandemic, we have also coached them to provide more meaningful interactions through a variety of virtual offerings. The ability to leverage brand ambassador relationships to expand brand reach to new audiences across the nation has never been better.

We prepared a Virtual Winery Offerings Case Study Program for Wine industry Network this summer in which three clients shared return on investment data points from mid-March through end of June. The Video Replay can be found HERE along with key learnings from winery stakeholders representing small, mid-size and large wine brands.

As we prepare for the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season, wine producers need to be mindful of the needs of their consumer audiences. Destination Analysis surveys through September 6th continue to reveal that the majority of Americans aren’t ready to travel to tourism areas during the pandemic and as a matter of fact, 53% of survey respondents stated that they, “feel tourists are unwanted in communities”. A fine balance of virtual and in-person offerings must be extended starting this week to achieve success this holiday season.

#2 Let’s take a look at how our winery clients include the ideal blends of Talent, Tools and Technology to prepare for the “At-Home Holiday Season”:

We teach direct to consumer teams to “Lead with Hospitality” at every customer touch-point and this has paid off big time during pandemic. The same high-touch interactions delivered at the visitor center should also be provided by phone, email, website live chat, social instant message, text message, personal note, etc. Hospitality staff are direct extensions of the winery family or in some cases winery stakeholders. When hospitality service standards are put in place from the top down, each member of the DTC team has the tools required to deliver the unexpected and anticipate needs – every time. Some ways in which our clients are preparing to surprise and delight at home this holiday season include:

  • “Gift the Gifter” Holiday Pack Promotions – prioritizing added-value over discount, these packs include At-Home experiences that enhance wine. Competitive, flat-rate shipping offers are key to success with bulk orders.
  • “Private Client Services” – high touch support and private access to wine collections, virtual winemaker experiences, virtual corporate events, etc. Learning to speak the right language to these type of buyers is essential.
  • “At Home with Winemakers” packages – showcasing a variety of winemakers from a specific wine region with varietal themed gift packs that include a meet and greet with comparative discussion bundled with wine for the gift recipients.
  • “Holiday Traditions Winery Contests” – showcasing top members and brand ambassadors across the nation while at home this season. We teach our clients to form communities of like-minded brand loyalists as this leads to long-term loyalty and direct sales success.

The above tools are only as good as the talent and technologies behind them. We have been busy teaching winery teams to leverage digital marketing strategies that include optimal use of Google Business Tools, SEO & SEM improvements and video communication. At the same time, many have implemented effective e-commerce strategies with 2-3 click shopping experiences, 2-3 minute product to checkout timings and 2-3 day shipping turnarounds. AND… the above improvements are enhanced with use of Live Chat winery website tools to ensure a personal experience is extended at each digital consumer touch-point.

#3 Now, lets wrap up with how our clients are establishing reasonable Measures of Success for the “At-Home Holiday Season” initiatives:

The big question on every winery stakeholders mind today is, “How can we do more with less visitation this holiday season?”. There isn’t a one-size-fits all answer but I will say that leveraging the personal approach in every DTC sales channel will be the key to success as we wrap up 2020. Be sure to remove any friction points to purchases by phone, email, online or through social media outlets when looking to achieve sales goals. A DTC Wine Workshops Best Practice has been to segment winery customers by “customer type” and to cater to those customer types based on point of entry, preferred communication channels, engagement choices and special interests. With that said, it becomes a lot easier to map out reasonable goals and measures of success for each holiday campaign by customer type. For example:

  • First-time customers converting to “At Home with Winemakers Virtual Wine Packs” may need time to warm up before DTC teams can expect an increase in average order values and conversion to memberships ratios. In this case, our clients will market earlier to new audiences through effective digital strategies, contests and campaigns to ensure reengagement can occur at least 2-3 times prior to the close of the holiday season. Most digital campaigns launched this past week to prospective audiences. We expect a minimum 25-40% conversion rate to first-time order with spot on offerings and a mix of digital strategies. We also expect a minimum 30-50% conversion rate from first-time customer to repeat customer within the holiday campaign period (October through December) with high-touch personal invitations to reengage.
  • Repeat Customers converting to “Gift the Gifter Campaigns” are expected to convert at 40-70% when personalization is included in offers and invitations from a hospitality team member. We coach our clients to remove broad marketing tactics and messaging when engaging with this customer type.
  • Members and Long-Term Brand Loyalists are entertained during the “At-Home Holiday Season” with the primary goal of retaining this customer type for years to come. We help winery stakeholders identify ways to recognize loyalty and provide members with opportunities to extend their VIP status to their closest friends and family with exclusive gifting campaigns. Special recognition is extended to the top 5-10% of lifetime value customers each holiday season and in 2020, this will be mainly delivered in the virtual and e-commerce spaces.
  • Other key measures of success during this year’s “At-Home Holiday Season” include number of press mentions, hospitality partnering campaign success and brand expansion through referrals.

As we are all aware, the wine industry has experienced one of the most challenging business climates in history this year. As we prepare to kick off this holiday season, we wish you all great success with your direct to consumer sales and consumer engagement campaigns. Now is the time to nurture ourselves and others while also fostering business relationships. I hope that these tips and tools are helpful as you look to end the year strong and in good spirits. For information about DTC Wine Workshops, contact us HERE. Cheers!

About Sandra Beals

Sandra Beals, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and the DTC Consultant Network, is a subject matter specialist and public speaker on the topics of direct to consumer wine sales and consumer engagement strategies.