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Cultivating the perfect tasting room experience

Sheri Hebbeln
Feb 22, 2016   |   Sheri Hebbeln Recommended for:   Marketing
Smiling Wine Drinking Smiling Wine Drinking

The Wine Industry Sales Education Academy presented results of the Wine Business Monthly/Silicon Valley Bank Annual Tasting Room Survey at the 2016 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium. According to the presentation, tasting room sales grew 19 percent over the past year. Wineries throughout the country saw an average of 1,400 visitors each month, 67 percent of whom made a purchase at the time. Such orders averaged about $99 each.

"Wineries throughout the country saw an average of 1,400 visitors each month."

While these are all impressive numbers, there's still room for improvement. After all, a conversion rate of 67 percent means 33 percent of visitors leave without making a purchase. Wineries need to do all they can to capture the attention of every person that walks through their tasting rooms.

Improving your tasting room
During its presentation, WISE emphasized the power of first impressions. First impressions set the tone for the rest of an interaction, and a bad one leaves consumers upset on the spot. It'll be hard for visiting tasters to overcome any initial negative feelings as time progresses, and they'll judge any minor infractions more harshly. They'll likely leave your winery earlier than scheduled in an attempt to escape their now-pessimistic mood.

Fortunately, it isn't difficult to make a good first impression. Every person that steps through your doors should be greeted with a warm smile and a friendly approach. They should have the chance to walk around without feeling pressured, but your salespeople should be readily available to answer any questions.

First impressions are particularly important on busy days. Your employees might be tempted to skip a customer or two, but a heavy sales day means they need to be particularly on top of their game. Crowds are burdensome for all parties, and new guests will use a lack of greeting as a reason why they shouldn't try to navigate through such a large mass of people. Each staff member should know to acknowledge everyone that enters, even if they're currently assisting other people.

In fact, proper training is one of the most essential aspects of a successful tasting room. Some basic information regarding the ins and outs of your wines equips employees to answer most consumer questions, impressing visitors with knowledge. The Wall Street Journal suggested treating the people manning your cash registers as if they were your own family members, supporting them as though they know generations of winemaking techniques.

Speaking of family, The Wall Street Journal also noted many wine tasters bring children along with them. While alcoholic drinks obviously aren't for children and many other businesses ban kids outright, the fact is many wine enthusiasts are also parents. These consumers respond positively to places that provide entertainment for their children. You can supply some small activities like coloring books, blocks or a movie to entertain little ones while the adults browse around.

The best way to create an excellent tasting room experience, however, is to treat everyone with the same amount of respect. Robin Bagget of Alpha Omega told Wines and Vines his employees are required to greet every visitor with a warm smile within 15 seconds of entry. He finds an exclusive atmosphere just doesn't work and instead focuses on treating everyone equally.

"People purchase things from people they like," he told the website. "You never know who the hot prospects are."

This doesn't mean wineries shouldn't give VIPs particular attention, The Wall Street Journal noted, but they must be addressed discreetly and with courtesy to others.

The tasting room experience is one of the most essential aspects of direct-to-consumer wine sales, so tasting room attendants should take care to greet every person, treat all visitors with respect and recognize the importance of family among their staff and their guests.

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