Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial Tasting Room Trend Review and Forecast: What Flipped and What Flopped

Tasting Room Trend Review and Forecast: What Flipped and What Flopped


Much like the wineries we work with, VingDirect is a family business. In 2009 our founder Tammy Boatright started VingDirect with the belief that if we could help family wineries grow their direct to consumer sales, the bottom line of their business would improve. To this day, we still believe that can be the difference between success and failure for a family winery. We want our winery members and clients to have an option about whether they pass their business on to their family, or whether they sell their business and are able to capitalize on their passion. Options can be scarce without a direct to consumer program!

Where Do the Metrics Come From?

We have a Performance Tracker for our members that we use to create a benchmark. We are able to accurately track our member’s tasting room metrics without assumptions. We say accurately, because if you are not defining and measuring your metrics in the same way, you do not have accurate information to compare. Our members all measure and define in the same way. We are able to monitor our member’s daily tasting room sales, taster count, sales per taster, new wine club member sign-ups, and wine club conversion (see definitions below.) Our Benchmarking Tracker allows our winery members to learn how they’re doing in relation to their peers in the industry. This is where our data for these reports comes from. Through findings from our Performance Tracker and Benchmarking Tracker tools, we see 2018 trends that worked (and didn’t work.) What’s unique about us and our study is that we know the winery story behind the data, so we are able to recommend best practices, tips, and tactics.

  • Tasting Room Wine Sales– Bottle and glass sales
  • Taster Count– Someone who goes through a tasting with a host in the tasting room
  • Sales Per Taster– Wine Sales/ # of tasters (1.5 bottles per taster is the industry average)
  • New Wine Club Members– Someone who joins the wine club in the tasting room
  • Wine Club Conversion– New wine club members/ # of tasters (5% is the industry average)

Snapshot of VingDirect Benchmarking Tracker

Who is Included?

  • CA, TX, WA, OR Wineries
  • Those with good data for full year 2017 and 2018
  • 1,000 – 26,000 annual tasters

Overall Data

Year over year data through December 2018 (Jan-Dec 2018 vs Jan-Dec 2017). The biggest surprise? New club sign ups increased 15%, meaning the number of new sign ups in tasting rooms went up by 15%. (Not net new club members)

Wine Sales Tasters Sales Per Taster New Club Club Conversion
+2% +4% -2% +15% flat

Taster count normally influences the results of a winery more than anything else. Typically, the more tasters you see in the tasting room, the harder it is to convert, the harder it is to sell per taster. Historically we’ve seen that club conversion and sales per taster goes down as taster count increases. What we see for 2018 is that sales per taster did overall go down, but whereas in the past wclub conversion would normally have gone down too, it remained flat in 2018, which is good.


Wineries in the smallest category between 1-6K tasters performed the worst this year, though they did see the increase in club sign-ups because their club conversion went up. Though tasters were down in this category, they did a better job of converting the guests they did have. When a winery sees a decline in tasters in that range, they can usually make up for it because they have an opportunity to develop a relationship with a guest and up the conversion percentage. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of our winery members in this category are in California. It really illustrates how region can influence results.

Why was it so tough in CA last year? The maturity of the region is tougher, as wineries there are competing more heavily than ever before for tasters. Did the fires impact tasters? Yes, they did influence tasters, however this trend of declining tasters had already begun. It’s a trend we’ve been seeing for the past 2-4 years. It’s a trend that we see in any mature market in any industry.

For the rest of the of the wineries, it was a pretty exciting year! We saw sales were up, tasters were up, and club members were up.

VingInsights (Mystery Tasting) 2018 Tasting Room Trends (Ving Members):

  • Club Conversion increased for wineries conducting mystery tasting
  • 65% of guests were invited to join the wine club (23% increase YOY)
  • 73% of guests were asked open ended questions by their host (7% increase YOY)

Those of our wineries that do conduct mystery tasting see an increase in conversion. Why? Simple, once you have the information about what a team did or did not say (and specifically know who the host was) you can take action and provide coaching. Biggest and most exciting ah-ha is we saw is more guests are being invited to join the club!

VingInsights: Below Average Tasting Room Results

  • Tasting Room Turnover or Weak Management
  • No Customer Feedback or Mystery Tasting in Place
  • Lack of Annual Sales Training
  • Made Changes to the Guest Experience without Testing

VingInsights: Above Average Club Conversion Results

  • Set Training Schedule in Place
  • 3-4 Annual Club Events (not pick up parties)
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Mentioning the Wine Club (staff training)
  • Appointment Only
  • Ongoing Surveys

2019 Forecasts:

Tasters Will Continue to Decline in Mature Regions

What Wineries Can Do:

  • Efforts to Attract Qualified Guests
  • Gaining attention from all channels
  • Setting Goals for All DTC Channels (outbound/social media/ecommerce)

Attrition May Increase

What Wineries Can Do:

  • Create Unique Incentives for All Guest Types
  • Establish a “path” for Wine Club Members (from start to 18+ months)
  • Out of State Events in Place
  • Send SURVEYS!


  • Build trust in the tasting room (host), and after (wine club manager).
  • What happens within the first 30 days after they join?
  • How are you communicating (channels and frequency)?
  • Once they’re back home, how do you keep the relationship going?

Ask Your Members…SURVEYS!

2019 Winners Are Taking a Deeper Dive into the Channels:

  • Social Media to Drive Traffic and Branding
  • Running and testing paid promotions
  • Segmented (and clear) Email Campaigns to Drive Incremental Revenue and Loyalty
  • Tasting Room to Drive Relationships and Connections
  • Outbound to Drive Loyalty and Incremental Sales
  • Will be Collecting Data at every customer touch point!

Social Media:

Goals- Brand Awareness and Driving Traffic:

  • Instagram is in the lead: Pay to Play and Target your Audience
  • Consider partnering with industry influencers
  • 2-3X weekly is plenty – Quality vs. Quantity

Facts- Why you should be using social media!

  • Facebook – 2.23 billion monthly active users (210 million users in the US)
  • Instagram – 1 billion monthly active users (77.6 million Instagram users in the US)
  • Twitter – 335 million monthly active users (69 million Twitter users in the US)

Customers now expect companies to have a social media presence, which adds brand credibility. 

  • Facebook – inexpensive to promote ads right now…this may not always be the case
  • Instagram – Stories…gain 10,000 followers to sell your wine by swiping up
  • Twitter – Use your unique hashtag along with location hashtags…posts add up

Gains are best achieved by companies that strategically implement social media campaigns, including key performance metrics and web analytics.

Other Channels:


  • 2-3% of annual DTC sales


  • Marketing calendar
  • Consistency
  • Database segmentation
  • Most wineries are informational vs. offers
  • Most wineries are outsourcing or TR/Club Manager
  • Clear, interesting subject line
  • Winery logo at the top of email

Outbound Telemarketing

  • Fastest growing among small to mid-sized wineries
  • 2-3 campaigns annually
  • 35-45% Order Response Rate

What’s Next?

Areas of Opportunity:

  • Branding
    • Create a brand position statement that defines who you are, who your customer is, and what you can uniquely offer that no one else can
  • Know Your Guest Path & Experience
    • Mystery Tasting
  • Team Onboarding, Training, and Motivation
    • Provide ongoing education to empower your team
    • Incentive plans
  • Website
    • Test
  • Data Collection
  • Survey

Smart Marketing:

  • Database Segmentation
  • Targeted marketing (emails, social media, phone)
  • Consistent marketing – resources in place
  • Right Offer, Right Channel, Right Audience

Listen, Learn & Improve:

  • Customer Feedback
    • Surveys
  • Custom Clubs, Custom Experiences
  • Mystery Tasting

Work Smarter, Not Harder! 

Want to view the webinar? Email Susie today for the link!

Want to talk through your DTC plan for 2019? Click here to schedule a free 30 minute consulting call!

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