Future of Drinks Part 1: Wine Brand Communities


[Sandra Hess – April 21, 2022]

2021 was a year of direct wine sales growth for most thriving wine brands across the nation. Most avid wine consumers engaged with winery websites and social media outlets at a pace we hadn’t seen pre-pandemic. Our top performing winery clients across the US collected meaningful consumer contact data during this pandemic sales surge. So what’s being done with this valuable information today?

The future of drinks as it relates to direct to consumer wine sales success relies heavily on the ability of hospitality teams to leverage proven models. The wine industry has come a long way in identifying the ideal blends of talent, tools and technologies to consistently grow sales and expand consumer reach. Moving away from outdated, “one size-fits-all” consumer engagement and sales strategies has enabled our clients to better define their communities and identify how to best attract like-minded consumers based on commonalities. In today’s Future of Drinks Part 1 Blog Post, I have provided some examples of these proven models to better understand how to leverage meaningful consumer contact data. Watch for the next two posts in this 3-part series to release in May and June.

Community Building Example #1 “Tuesday Morning Workflows”

When asked how winery teams crack the code when it comes to successful consumer engagement and conversion strategies, I start with this very important proven model. I developed the Tuesday Morning Workflow program a little over five years ago to ensure our clients take a proactive approach to identifying new opportunities weekly. Most tasting room and club managers at small-to-mid-size wineries are out of office on Mondays so thus the need to manage this workflow on Tuesday mornings. By keeping the main thing the main thing, each manager reviews a direct to consumer sales report by customer type for the previous week. Understanding who visited and how each consumer engaged opens opportunities to invite back in personal/meaningful ways. This workflow can only be successful when the frontline staff is trained on how to personally connect, qualify and collect consumer contact data in an effective manner. At the minimum a name and email needs to be attached to each new qualified order through the tasting room point-of-sale. Address and phone contact details are easily obtained through membership sign-ups, ship-to POS orders as well as web store orders. Beyond this basic level of detail, we also teach our clients how to setup a Private Client contact type to tag any qualified first-time guest who reaches a minimum spend their first order. As you can see in this example, the front of the house and back of the house teams need to be in synch about the importance of this workflow and how it moves the needle from week to week. We aim for 20-25% conversion to a reengagement activity through simply inviting back each Tuesday morning. PRO TIP: develop a list of meaningful invitations to reengage by customer type before reaching out to personally invite back. And, when reaching out on Tuesday mornings, don’t forget to thank members as well as VIPs who visited and brought guests and/or helped convert to new memberships/sales. Note these activities in the contact record notes area of your order management system.

Community Building Example #2 “Private Client Services”

With most winery teams across the nation converting to membership programs 8-22% of the time, we must think outside of the traditional club membership box to cater to high-net-worth buyers. Our premium and ultra-premium winery clients have had great success in building holistic sales plans when including a focused Private Client Services channel. This evolving sales channel incorporates Concierge Services along with Private Client Management to extend the wine brand beyond the tasting room. Luxury travelers and retail buyers are used to receiving trip-planning and personal shopper services on a regular basis. The Private Client Manager can meet these type of wine buyers where they are when leading with the same type of offerings. We help our clients define a Private Client Services Program along with a toolkit of offerings in advance of launching this new channel. We expect an adoption rate of 30-50% depending on the wine region, offerings, etc. Personally inviting first-time, qualified customers to connect with a Private Client Manager is “speaking the right language” in the first follow up activities post transaction. This community building example has become essential to long-term direct sales success today. PRO TIP: develop a focused partnering plan with luxury hospitality brands in your region who share similar visitor offerings and brand voice. Be the first wine brand private clients reach out to when planning their next trip or private event by having your Trip Planning Tools and Personal Referrals Document dialed in – be sure to refresh seasonally. And, identify private client customers in your existing contact reports by lifetime value and buying behaviors – extend a Private Client Services invitation to this segment as well.

Community Building Example #3 “Cause-Based Consumer Engagement”

The financial value of knowing your wine brand communities and fostering those relationships are a given when it comes to monthly sales analysis. How do top performing wine brands go beyond proven sales models to foster these valuable consumer relationships and expand reach to like-minded audiences? The majority of our clients get behind a cause that is most important to their wine brand communities. When friends and family serve together and especially with a winery they admire, it is very difficult to leave a membership program. Our friends at Cliff Family Winery have built a remarkable community of wine brand loyalist through their commitment to cycling benefits and the Peloton bike rides. Another incredible example of a wine brand focused on community building through causes is Charles Krug. Whether it be their long-standing involvement in Make-a-Wish Foundation or the many times they have offered their winery property for various community support activities including Base Camp for PG&E Fire Recovery operations in 2020. And I think it is important to reference another cause-based wine brand – OneHope Wines. A portion of sales from their Vintner Collection California Brut Sparkling has helped provide over 3 million meals to children in need through nonprofit WhyHunger. Other OneHope wines support environmental, educational, and a range of other causes. We also love how several of our clients in the Paso Robles area get out and help cleanup local parks with their employees and club members on a regular basis. These are just some of the examples of how wine brands can get behind causes with their communities of winery loyalists. For more inspiration I have included this article published by Food & Wine Magazine in September 2020. PRO TIP: identify causes that are most meaningful to your community of winery loyalists by asking questions at a lunch gathering. Be sure that the causes best support your business initiatives and brand voice as it relates to commitment, sustainability and values.