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Tasting Room Trends: 2017 Review and 2018 Forecasts


At VingDirect, we exist to help family wineries achieve their direct to consumer goals. Whether your focus is to grow sales and wine club members, to train and educate your staff, to polish up your brand, or to take a look at your overall DTC business, we can help. We take time to learn about your business, evaluate where you are, execute a plan to help you meet your goals, and maintain a working relationship to see you grow.

How Did We Get the Data?

Currently, VingDirect has 55 winery members and we work with hundreds of winery clients across the US. Our family winery members receive personalized, on demand consulting, ongoing education and training, 24-hour access to the wine industry’s largest DTC webinar library, and access to our VingPortal Tasting Room Performance Tracker (PT) and Benchmarking Tracker. The Performance Tracker (PT) tracks 5 key performance indicators, including Tasting Room Sales, Taster Count, Sales Per Taster, New Wine Club Members and Wine Club Conversion. (Metrics are driven by taster count. If you’re not currently tracking tasters, that’s the one thing to start doing today! Knowing your annual taster count drives everything else in your business.) Our Benchmarking Tracker allows our winery members learn how they’re doing in relation to their peers in the industry.

We Know the Story Behind the Numbers!

Through findings from our Performance Tracker and Benchmarking tool, we see 2017 trends and are forecasting for growth in 2018. What’s unique about our study is that we know the winery story behind the data so we can recommend best practices, tips and tactics.

Data Highlights:

  • Aggregated data represents wine regions across the United States including California, Oregon, Texas and Washington from 2016-2017.
  • Wineries who see between 2K-28K annual tasters.

Overall Data:

For full year 2017, we find that wine sales and sales per taster were up while tasters, new club sign ups, and club conversion were down for 2017.

One of our “ah-ha’s” is that wineries seeing 10-18k tasters did see an increase in new club members (new sign ups only) and in club conversion. Also significant is that wineries receiving between 21K-28K tasters saw declines in all metrics year over year.

Data Drill Down:

Oregon and Washington wineries are located in high traffic regions, so they tend to see a greater number of tasters which can pose challenges. If the tasting room is full it can be harder for the team to make a connection to convert a guest to a club member. As a result, WA and OR have lower than average club conversion rates as compared to the industry average. WA and OR wineries seeing 10K-21K tasters saw great growth in 2017!

California had a rougher year in 2017. We started seeing these trends in 2016, especially in the Napa region, then creeping into Sonoma. We’ll say again, though, there are always exceptions and some of our newer members saw significant gains in 2017! The Sonoma/Napa fires had a minimal impact in October, and didn’t greatly impact the overall results.

VingInsights- 2017 Tasting Room Trends (the stories behind the numbers):

Appointment Only

  • Decline in tasters
  • Increase in sales per taster
  • Increase in club conversion

Better Guest Segmentation in 10K-18K category

  • Increased number of guest experiences
  • Increased sales per taster
  • Increased club conversion

More Seated Experiences

  • If processes (training) are in place for seated experiences you can expect higher sales per taster and conversion rate.
  • If you do not have processes in place and treat these experiences the same as you would a bar tasting, sales per taster and conversion rate can decline.
  • Train your team on best practices for seated tastings!

Success isn’t about price point, wine quality or a great view! It’s all about team! Winning wineries have:

  • Engaged and focused management team
  • Clear communication (especially goals and expectations
  • Training and skill building
  • Adequate staffing

Wineries with below average results:

  • Tasting room turnover or weak management
  • No customer feedback or mystery tasting in place
  • Lack of annual sales training
  • Transition to another POS

VingInsights- What Winning Wineries will be doing in 2018

Listen, Learn, Improve!

  • Customer feedback
  • Custom clubs, custom experiences
  • Mystery tasting

Focus on Experience

  • Guest Connection
  • 5 Star Culture

Smart Marketing

  • Database Segmentation
  • Targeted marketing (emails, social media, phone)
  • Consistent marketing (resources in place)
  • Right offer, Right channel, Right audience!

Social Media Best Practices

  • Facebook is STILL king!! Pay to play and target your audience
  • Instagram is important. Consider live videos a.k.a “stories” to showcase events
  • 1-2x per week is plenty- quality vs quantity

2018 Forecasts:

Tasters will continue to decline in California

  • Quality vs. Quantity… each experience must be a quality experience
  • Partnerships that support the winery brand
  • 5-star culture leads to 5-star experience

Staffing Will Continue to be a Challenge

  • Team training must be ongoing
  • Invest in management leadership training

Branding will be more important than ever before

  • You must differentiate to thrive!
  • Strong brands get their pick of the talent and create loyal customers and club members

2018 VingTips to Be in the Winner’s Circle:

Dive Deeper into the Channels

  • Social media to drive traffic and branding
  • Email campaigns to drive incremental revenue and loyalty
  • Tasting room to drive relationships and connections
  • Outbound to drive loyalty and incremental sales

Wine is a luxury product so create a luxury culture and provide luxury service

  • Starts from the top down
  • Invest in your team and culture

Doing “more of the same” is a risk to your DTC business!

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