Raise your hand if your winery enjoyed a spike in wine club acquisition in 2021. We have heard (and seen the metrics) that many wineries were able to not only keep their club members through 2020, but also saw an increase in acquisitions in 2021 with the increased traffic. Fantastic! Too bad we can’t sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Now that we have your attention, it is time to consider the normal tail of attrition that follows – usually 18 to 36 months after the initial join. That means there will be several cancellations happening sometime in the next several months.
Now, raise your hand if visitor counts are slowing from last year. We know all wine regions saw an overall decrease in traffic in 2022. Most likely, the actual number of new member signups is also slowing. Simple algebra will tell us if the number of new members joining is slowing, and the natural attrition spike is looming, we may have storm clouds on the horizon. The good news is that we can get ahead of it with some thoughtful planning NOW.
How can we prepare for a spike in attrition and a low in acquisition?
- Tenure. Review tenure for each club level and see if you can predict when those members might naturally fall out of the club. What can be done to keep them in for a few shipments longer and keep them engaged?
- One way is to check and see if they are opening marketing and sales emails (email open rates) and following your brand on social media.
- Another idea is to reach out to those members most at-risk with some love – a low-dollar-value-high-impact tchotchke (magnet, stickers, wine key/corkscrew, etc.), a hand-written letter/thank you card, etc. – remind them of why the joined your club and fell in love with your brand.
- Tasting Room. If you manage the wine club, reach out to the team member that runs the tasting room, which is often the biggest driver of new members. Have a reality check of how visitor counts are going and how recent acquisition rates are trending. What can be done from the tasting room?
- Consider the referral sources of your best members? How did your newest members find your winery? How are the relationships with the gate keepers, and what can be done to keep your brand top of mind? Can you reimagine/focus on a good outreach program?
- How are club members being treated when they visit? Like VIPs? And are we sure? Get club member surveys/feedback, do mystery shopping, review social media posts. Make sure we’re treating them well when they visit so that they keep on coming back and stay loyal club members.
- Programming. Armed with new information, start planning programming to retain those members at risk. At the same time, think about ways to lessen the dependency on the tasting room.
- Try more virtual experiences, leveraging spokesperson travel to engage prospects and existing members out in the market, more phone campaigns, etc.
- Do some brainstorming – this is best done with a group from all customer facing departments.
- Benefits. Consider, or reconsider, wine club member benefits. A disturbing recent trend is emerging. It appears some wineries are cutting back on benefits to members, most often in the form of removing complimentary tastings and /or charging to sit in the ‘VIP’ area. What will attract and retain members? Both local and beyond the day-trippers?
- It is understandable as tasting fees have increased to cut back on that benefit – it comes at a hard cost to the winery. Some wineries are limited on how many guests they can serve per day, either by reservation only or capacity constraints due to limited staffing. Regardless of the reason, many members join for that benefit, and to take it away without a comparable substitute can trigger attrition, or at least member frustration.
- Another trend is to eliminate discounting for members, including shipments. WISE advocates to sell on access to the wines, and the convenience of delivery above all else, but discounts can be a strong motivator. Many brands have raised prices in recent years, and to cut back on benefits is a bit of a slap in the face to members, the most loyal who purchase from us multiple times each year. What other value-add incentives can we offer to offset this?
With some thoughtful planning and doing a reality check, we don’t need to fear the storm clouds, but we can prepare to ride out the storm.