In 2020, we tried some new things. Pivot was the word. This year we started to settle in to the new normal, working in customer service during a pandemic. While some things have returned from the old ways, the new normal includes adaptations we made in response to the pandemic. WISE has reflected on data and trends from 2021 to help our industry better prepare for 2022. Here is what we’ve found:
Reservations are working. Since moving to seated tastings, wineries are finding that their overall customer satisfaction has been on the rise. Guests love the attention and education they are getting now that servers are expecting them (after all, we can proactively staff for the guests we are about to serve). No longer jumping from one end of the bar to the next, pouring “the third one” here and “the white one” there, servers are now better able to get to know their guests by asking open-ended questions and tailoring the experiences in response to information gathered. It’s a win-win – our staff appreciates the less hectic environment (we’re seeing that in staff retention) and our guests are leaving great social reviews.
Our loyal customers kept us afloat through the pandemic, but there’s no reason to stop leveraging them (Community Benchmark reports Wine Club total sales are up +7.8% vs. last year). WISE’s mystery shopping data has seen a decrease in servers asking for contact information from 36% to only 18%. Just because contact information is collected when reservations are made, doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Consider this: when you are trying out a business for the first time, do you provide your spam email address? Or what about the opposites attract couple, where one partner has 23,000 unread messages, but the other partner reads every single one? Not to mention the fact that only one person makes the reservation but usually two to four people on average are visiting on that reservation. Commerce7 says we need to stop using ‘Guest Checkout’, and we agree. Let’s be sure to invite all of our guests to stay in touch and add (and confirm) information obtained through reservations in our Point-of-Sale system.
Traffic is returning to normal (Community Benchmark reports an average increase from 69.6% last year, but down by 7% in 2019), but staffing is low. While the staffing shortage has improved, it continues to be difficult to find long – term workers who want to commit to our brand. But don’t panic, our friends at WinePulse have shared that our Average Order Sales are increasing. In fact, in many cases, our AOS is back to where it was in 2019. So rather than focusing on being short staffed, try to focus on who you do have. Remind your team to keep doing what they do well – its working! Also, consider cross training key utility players across multiple channels.
Leverage all DTC Channels.
Speaking of other DTC channels, how is your website doing? Are you leveraging outbound phone sales yet? (Community Benchmark reports Phone/email sales are up 35% vs. 2019). When was the last time you did a virtual tasting experience? These channels are here to stay and can be great revenue generators if we focus on them. In fact, more customers are buying online than ever before (Community Benchmark reports E-Commerce sales are up 74% from 2019)! Our websites need to include invitations to leave contact data, sign up for online experiences, and join the wine club. Wine subscriptions such as Wink have gone through the roof this year. Let’s make it easy for our loyal fans to get the wine they love from the comfort of their home. You might also consider calling active club members on the phone. We are so bombarded with emails these days, a call from our favorite winery can be refreshing.
2021 is a year of opportunity. Our goal is to help more of the wine industry than ever before next year. When it comes to your DTC Wine business, what is your New Year’s Resolution?