One Blog |February 14, 2018 | Beverage Sampling Software

Wine Samples - How to Turn Wine Shoppers into Wine Buyers

Mark Fullerton

Wine Samples - How to Turn Wine Shoppers into Wine BuyersTurning Wine Shoppers into Wine Buyers

Beverage samples are a great way to generate consumer interest and increase sales of the beer, wine and spirits you distribute. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t offer samples if they didn’t work.

But despite their popularity, the cost effectiveness of samples can be a problem if you don’t track information that delivers measurable results needed from retailers in the field.

Because sample inventories sometimes have a strange way of “disappearing,” without an accurate audit trail, you are left with little or no data to refine your business strategy and improve your revenues from sampling. There’s definitely room for improvement.

Background Research

For years US wine suppliers, distributors and retailers have studied and researched what makes American wine shoppers actually buy wine.

There have been industry and academic studies conducted to determine the wine consumer’s “reasons to buy”. These surveys results may provide some insight into what can be done to motivate a wine shopper to actually buy one or more of the thousands of wines available to them at their favorite retailer or restaurant.

With the exception of fine dining — where customers often rely on the restaurant’s sommelier or wait staff for wine selection and wine-food pairing recommendations — the number one reason consumers select a wine is previous experience.

In other words, wine consumers typically choose wine because they know what it tastes like.

These "tasting biases" aren’t just limited to restaurants. The same selection bias is equally applicable to wine stores and other retail settings. It is for this reason that it is important for suppliers and their distributors to create as many opportunities as possible for everyone in the distributor-retailer-consumer chain to experience their wines.

Our Experience

We define these events as sampling (business-to-business) and tasting (business-to-consumer) programs.

The wine supplier’s customers are wine distributors, and the wine distributor’s customers are the retailers. So, it’s important for wine suppliers to encourage their distributors to conduct many sampling opportunities for the retailer’s’ buyers and the consumers.

In fact, it’s vital that each tier in the supply chain support and encourage sampling and tasting programs. (Note 1)

Our experience with wine, spirits, and beer companies emphasizes three things

  1. Wine suppliers, working through their distributors should encourage on-premise retailers to offer an ever increasing and changing selection of branded and varietal wines-by-the-glass and wine-flight offerings supported by table tents, signage and other point-of-sale (POS) mentions, including menus.

  2. Wine distributors, working with their wine suppliers, should support at-retail wine education events, especially in the wine departments of large retailers and at stand-alone wine stores and boutiques.

  3. Wine retailers, working with their distributors, must create or expand at-retail sampling programs, and build and increase tasting events with retail shoppers. The more tastings a retailer conducts, the more wine sales will be increased for everyone.

The Goal

The ultimate goal of all of these sampling, tasting, menu mentions and other point-of-sale (POS) marketing programs is to introduce as many new brands and wine labels as possible to distributors, retailers and individual consumers. 

For both on- and off-premise retailers, these programs will also help in building loyal, repeat consumers who will often recommend specific positive wine experiences to friends. Our distributor customers tell us that a wine recommendation from friends is another key wine selection influencer, nearly as important as previous experience.

For suppliers, distributors, retailers and restaurants alike, frequent hosting and support of sampling and tasting events, wine dinners and other wine-centric events, and simultaneously supporting these events with brand-specific POS marketing materials — signs, displays and menu mentions — creates a climate that provides measurable sales increases and a positive return-on-investment(ROI).

There Is a Solution

As the importance of wine sampling and tasting events has grown, it has become progressively more important for suppliers and distributors alike to track, measure and manage the number of no-charge bottles used for brand and label marketing and retail promotion.

Keeping track of sample requests and the measurement the return-on-investment of sampling activities is more difficult and time consuming than ever, especially now that it is estimated that there are now 200,000, or more, wine labels available in the US at any given moment.

Now OnTrak’s software application, SampleTrak — designed by wine distributors for wine distributors — can help distributors work with their suppliers and retailer to manage these important and expensive "liquid assets".

The Good News

The good news is that SampleTrak can help you capitalize on you market share opportunities to get more from your sampling programs. The software provides detailed information, from what wine or other beverage was sampled, where or by whom it was sampled, and customer tasting responses — Tying it all together to show how it correlates to sales.

Once you now what’s really going on, with your samples, you can leverage them more effectively.

The better news is that SampleTrak is very affordable and requires no additional investment in computer hardware because it runs “in the cloud”.

And the best news is that SampleTrak pays for itself almost immediately based on the accurate tracking of sampling with your customers as well as the sales that were achieved as a result of the sampling.

Note 1: The rules and regulations for tasting events (retailers to individual consumers) vary from state to state. These recommendations should be undertaken in compliance with applicable state laws governing beverage alcohol consumption at retail outlets other than restaurants, bars and other on-premise retailers.

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