Thursday, March 22, 2012

Taking the Grape for a Test Drive

For anyone who has read some of my previous posts, it won’t come as a surprise that I have more bottles of wine at home than I can comfortably store or, frankly, than I can even really drink and enjoy during their optimal drinking windows. Since I am generally a pretty practical shopper, I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world possesses me to buy so much wine.

As I thought about it, I realized there are a couple of features unique to wine that I’m sure have influenced my buying habits more than I realized at the time I was making these purchases.

1. Vintage Scarcity

Unlike most other consumer products (cars were the obvious exception I thought of), most wine is labeled with a vintage year, which denotes the year in which the grapes used to make the wine were grown and harvested. This means that, now in 2012, we can never reproduce a 2001 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. All of the 2001 Napa Valley cabernets that will ever exist have already been made and bottled. Knowing that there is a finite amount of that particular wine out there, even if the amount is huge, still makes it seem a little more precious. Even when I try to talk myself out of it, I tend to feel like if I really like a particular vintage of a particular wine, I need to make sure I stock up before it’s gone because the producer can’t just turn around and make more of it.

2. Wine Tastings

Like many products, one of the most effective ways to sell wine is to allow people to try it out (taste it) before buying it. Wine lends itself better than many products to this type of sales strategy, but the wine industry also does it better than most industries. What sets wine tastings apart from other “try before you buy” marketing is that the industry has managed to turn wine tastings into activities in and of themselves, rather than just a means to the end of buying wines a person likes. I don’t test drive cars for fun when I am not actually in the market to purchase one, but I attend wine tasting regularly, even when I need more wine like I need a hole in my head. Why? Because wine tastings are fun! I see them at area wine markets and plan to meet my friends there as a social activity. Inevitably, there are one or two wines I really enjoy that I end up bringing home with me. Nothing helps encourage purchases like (a) absolute certainty that I’m going to enjoy it because I’ve already tried it, and (b) enjoying the company of my friends while shopping.

How can these methods translate to other industries?

·       For products or services that are not completely commoditized, conveying a message of scarcity for a particular reason that applies to your business (but only if the message is a credible one)
·       More demonstration or sampling of products to a wider audience and/or an ability for the ultimate consumer to try things without cost
·       Events including those demonstrations or samplings that people actually want to attend, whether or not they think they are planning to purchase your product
·       Substantial personal interaction between the seller and the potential buyer in discussing the product

No comment on the impact of wine consumption on wine buying.

A Post by Alyssa Hirschfeld, Guest Blogger

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