The Grapevine

Building Customer Loyalty For Wine Shops

April 17th, 2013

When Laura and I first moved to the Catskills, we’d frequently go to a wine shop that was almost an hour from home. We only went in 4 or 5 times a year, and we stocked up when we went in. I’m sure those big purchases helped make us memorable, as did our little red-headed baby at the time, but the woman in that shop had a gift. She didn’t just remember our names. She remembered what she’d sold us the last time we were in. How did we like it? Did we want to try something else like it? Are you still doing a lot of grilling? You should definitely try this …

I’m reminded of this experience because of the effect it had on us as consumers. It made us loyal customers of that shop for a long, long time.[level-members]

The only thing more important to a business’ on-going survival than attracting new customers is keeping existing customers happy. The more loyal your customer base, the easily you can weather tough economies, increased competition and other obstacles.

And the inverse is true, as well. In this age of social media and online reviews, not having a loyal customer base can spell trouble when someone expresses their displeasure using the megaphone that is social media.

Not that you can keep all the people happy all the time – customers are sometimes unreasonable – but if you take the time to encourage loyalty, not only will you have fewer online complaints, but when they do crop up, your fans will be more likely to defend you.

So how to encourage that loyalty?

Job one is getting to know your customers. Not just the biggest spenders, but every face that looks familiar. Start conversations, get to know them in a bit more depth. A name would be nice but anything’s better than thinking of someone only as “Friday evening, mid-priced Chianti for take-out pizza.”

In all but the lowest-volume shops this can be a tall order, especially if you don’t have the gift of our friend in that Catskills shop. But you can help yourself by gathering information – and storing it – as you serve your customers.

So even if you can’t greet everyone by name, you can keep a file on people and tailor promotions to their preferences. That big Chianti drinker? Why send him a generic promo when you can invite him in to taste two great new Chiantis that you think he’ll like?

Created a preferred customer list and invite people to join it. Get their email addresses and keep them informed of tastings, events, specials. In short, do all you can to make your customers feel like part of a special, by-invitation-only group. No hard sell. Quite the opposite – if you are attentive to building loyalty, you won’t need the hard sell.

By the way, when that woman left the little wine shop, we continued to shop there, but only briefly. The owner took care of us after she left, but after going in twice and having him do everything he could to sell us the most expensive wines possible, we found another shop. [/level-members]