One Blog |January 20, 2022 | Blog

Wine Samples - How To Turn Wine Shoppers into Wine Buyers

Mark Fullerton


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 study 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 recommendationsthe #1 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.  For this reason, it is important for suppliers and their distributors to create as many opportunities as possible for everyone in the distributor-retailer-consumer supply chain to experience their wines.

Our Experience

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

The wine supplier’s customers are the 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 retail buyers - the consumers. In fact it’s vital that each tier in the chain support and encourage sampling and tasting programs. (See Note)

Our experience with wine, spirits, and beer companies suggests three things:

  • Wine suppliers, working through their distributors should encourage on-premise retailers to provide an ever increasing and changing selection of branded and varietal wines-by-the-glass and wine-flight offerings. Then make sure to support these offerings with table tents, signage and other point-of-sale (POS) mentions, including menus.
  • 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.
  • Wine retailers, working with their distributors, must create 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, mentions and other POS 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 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 of sampling and tasting events, wine dinners and other wine-centric events, and simultaneously supporting these events with brand-specific POS — signs, displays and menus — 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 increasingly  more important for suppliers and distributors alike to track, measure and manage the number of no-charge bottles used for brand, label and retail promotion. Keeping track of sample requests and the measurement the ROI of sampling activities is more difficult than ever, especially now that there are over 105,000 wine labels on the market today.

Only OnTrak’s newest solution, 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’.

To learn more click the image:


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 consumption at retail locatons other than restaurants, bars and other on-premise retailers.

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