The Grapevine

Give Your Wine Shop Customers What They Want

May 7th, 2013

You probably can’t predict what bottles a customer will or won’t like, but you stand a better chance of making the sale – and winning a customer for life – if you pay attention to what type of shopper you’re talking to. [level-members]

A conversation I had over the weekend with a shop owner reminded me about this article from Blake Gray on his blog, The Gray Report. (Which is a great read, by the way.) He mentions the split between two kinds of wine drinkers in the premium market: Prestige vs. Intrigue. The article is geared toward wine producers, but there are some good lessons for retailers, too.

First, recognize that there are wine drinkers – the Prestige crowd – who want to drink “the best” and will pay for the wines they’ve read about or their friends have recommended.

Then there are the Intrigue drinkers, as Gray calls them, who want only the most interesting wines. For our purposes, I’ll add a third type, the Bargain Shoppers, who Gray has left out since he’s limiting his discussion to wines at $15 or more per bottle.

Once you recognize that there are these three kinds of shoppers, you can play to their desires in your marketing and in your interactions with them in the shop.

The best way to do this is to get them talking. Ask questions – open-ended questions – that get them to talk about not just what they’re looking for (because you may just get the old, “Red. Or White.” answer) but what attracts them to a particular wine.

If you sense reluctance on their part, they may be self-conscious about what they perceive as their own limited knowledge. Don’t push, but keep prodding gently, making suggestions that lead the discussion. If you suggest a few wines as “interesting” or “a nice change of pace” and are met with a lack of enthusiasm, switch gears back to more well-known regions and varietals.

While we’ll always recommend Intrigue over Prestige as an easier and more lucrative way to establish a profitable personality for your shop, you still have to let the customer dictate the conversation. If he or she wants Prestige, give them Prestige.

Of course, you can’t ignore budget. But you can offer budget options for both kinds of drinkers. Have a Prestige drinker who wants a Bordeaux but can’t afford Margaux? Pavillon Rouge to the rescue. (Though most of us wouldn’t consider that a “bargain” bottle, either.)

Remember that you can sell the same bottle in different ways. The bargain buyer may be attracted to a varietal or region that is “very similar to …” a Napa Cab or Italian Super Tuscan or whatever, but at a much lower price. The Intrigue buyer may be attracted to the same bottle because it’s from a less-widely known region or based on unfamiliar varietals that they’re eager to try.

Bottom line: know your customers well enough to stock your shop with a variety of wines to please the full range of buyer types you see regularly. And spend the time to get to know what motivates each customer individually. You’ll sell more wine on each visit, and see more customers come in more frequently. [/level-members]