What does your tasting room say about your brand? The tasting room is a mirror that reflects your company’s standards, brand and image. Creating an environment that not only reflects this but also will attract, engage and motivate customers to make a purchase is largely reliant on effective visual merchandising.
March is the start of the wine tourism season, and many wineries should be offering barrel tastings as they finalize preparations like tasting room enhancements, special events scheduling, staff hiring and education as the full-blown tourist season approaches. Are you as prepared as you should be with your business plan and sales targets? Have you developed any consumer-incentive programs (special releases, library sales) and employee-incentive programs (sales targets, overachievement compensation, wine club signing bonuses, etc.)? Is your gift shop well stocked with new and sale items?
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Visual merchandising utilizes displays, color, lighting, smells, sounds, digital technology and interactive elements to catch customers’ attention and persuade them to make purchases. It’s a mix of art, inspiration, space planning and thoughtful attention to detail. It is part of “silent selling,” which, along with presentation of the wines and engaging staff interaction, becomes part of our customers’ subconscious decision to buy or walk away.
What makes the most impact on sales and customers?
1. The Power of Engagement: Engagement is not just the dialogue between the staff and guests, it’s also about engaging guests with your products. Does your tasting room retail area enable guests to pick up products and engage with them? If products are displayed at eye level, consumers are more likely to reach out and touch those products. In theater, a “vignette” creates a setting. In the same way, winery tasting rooms stage small areas to showcase their products. Have you set your stage accordingly? The rule in great visual merchandising is simple: Your presentation should reflect your product.
2. KISS—Keep It Simple, Silly: Simplicity of displays is the key. Less is more. Do you have clear views of your products and displays with enough space? We don’t want it to look overcrowded. Displays should be creative and flow naturally, leading your customers throughout your store (especially if you’ve created a “customer journey map” that sets them up to walk according to your plan). Avoid a lot of surface clutter.
3. Embrace All the Senses: Great merchandising appeals to more than the eyes. Consider how your tasting room sounds, smells and even feels. Are all of these “messages” you’re sending with music, scents and other environmental factors in keeping with the displays you create? With the winery brand image? Silent selling evokes the senses without addressing them directly. Enhance the ambiance of the tasting room/retail area by adding music and dramatic lighting. You can create a good impression and match the type of ambiance with the lifestyle and culture of your target market. Color can demand a shopper’s attention, evoke emotion and influence decisions. Does your merchandising plan include colorful focal points to help draw shoppers to key areas?
4. Signage Support: It’s impossible to tell visitors everything about your store and the products inside. Ensure that customers recognize the signage opportunities as a place for them to gain valuable information. Visual indications can direct customers to roam around your tasting room and winery, which often results in unplanned purchases.
5. Merchandising Themes: Theme merchandising is a great way to communicate seasonal activities or other information such as vignettes and mini-stories. Customers relate to these and, as a result, they are more likely to purchase.
Group Like with Like. Cluster items by size and color to create a clean appearance. Larger items have more impact than small; small items need special treatment or they can get lost or look cluttered. Objects have more impact when displayed together. Remember that scale is important. When building a product display, look for products that are natural add-ons to the main product featured.
How often do you change your merchandise in the tasting room? Winter, spring, summer and fall may be popular, but there are still thousands of visual merchandising themes you can adopt. Try to employ at least six different themes per year.
Location, superb wines and a rock-star team are all essential elements of success, but to build an extraordinary customer experience, understanding and employing the principles of good visual merchandising makes a huge difference. As Disney says, “Everything speaks.” So think about it: What does your tasting room say about your brand?
Len Napolitano is well known in the wine and barrel industries, but his new book “Nose, Legs, Body! Know Wine Like the Back of Your Hand” provides a great introduction for many visitors who are still learning about the basics and the pleasures of wine drinking.
Save on the price of this book (retail: $14.99) by ordering in large quantities at wineology.com. Click the “Tasting Rooms” link, then enter username “wholesale700” and password “winebook.”
Grappa: No waste
As you know, “Grappa” is made by distilling pomace (the grapes/skins left over after pressing fermented red grapes). I have always thought it would be a great program for wineries to get into and be truly “green.” Check out “Getting To Grips With Grappa” for details about this grape-based spirit.
Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.
Tasting Room Tidbits
Walking and Tasting
in the Carmel Valley Village
Carmel Valley Village, the main town in Monterey County’s Carmel Valley AVA, is just 10 miles inland from the coast. The area offers 17 winery tasting rooms within a short walk of each other, giving consumers a convenient and thorough overview of the wines grown best in the surrounding area (hint: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the standouts).
The well-trained staff at Bernardus pours and explains signature wines such as Marinus, the Bordeaux blend from the winery’s estate vineyard on the Carmel Valley floor, along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands looming above. Our server deftly handled three diverse tasting parties at once, tracking which wines we were tasting from the flights we ordered, explaining area topography, vineyard conditions and the differences in vintages she was pouring. She also patiently explained the wine club to out-of-towners unfamiliar with the concept, with great clarity. It’s clear that Bernardus vigorously educates its staff.
Bernardus tasting room staff displayed excellent training on vineyard/winery knowledge, customer service, wine education and club sales.
Talbott Vineyards’ new tasting room is a large, bright space with a giant bar decorated with the owner’s collections of motor vehicles alongside vineyard, winery and staff photos (see the December 2013 Tasting Room Focus). The manager on duty explained that many members of the tasting room staff are avid cooks, and we were provided with printouts of their favorite recipes to pair with the Talbott Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays we were tasting.
Holman Ranch Winery grows Pinot on seven different clones and bottles six of them individually; on selected days, consumers can get a unique flight of clonal selection Pinot Noir. The tasting is accompanied by information about the differences that rootstock can deliver in a wine, provided all other conditions of growth, vintage, winemaking and production are identical.
Other Carmel Valley tasting rooms include Heller Estate, Georis Winery, Twisted Roots Wine, Cowgirl Winery, Chock Rock Vineyard, Boekenoogen Winery, Joullian Vineyards, Chateau Sinnet, Cima Collina, Parsonage Village Vineyard, Chesebro Wines, Silvestri Vineyards, Joyce Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream.
The village is also well-stocked with a dozen galleries of locally produced art, boutiques and shops as well as several restaurants. There are three golf courses and many inns and lodges in the area including Vendange Inn & Suites, where each local winery is invited to decorate a room with its vineyard and winery photos and to leave winery information for visitors.
With such a mix of businesses, activities and wine, Carmel Valley has made itself a successful destination for wine tourism on a smaller and much less daunting scale than more dense areas like Napa and Sonoma, Calif.
Tina Vierra is the associate publisher at Wines & Vines magazine. Read her take on the vineyard tour at Jordan Vineyards & Winery here.