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How to Attract and Retain Consumers Through Experiences

You’re probably already using in-person experiences to create connections. These memorable encounters not only bring in new clients – they reach those already engaged. You can get even more from your events and one-to-one experiences armed with additional insight into why this works and suggestions for enhancing experiences. This knowledge is particulary helpful to reach newer generations of Fine Wine consumers who may value experiences over things.1

In particular, Fine Wine consumers participate in wine-focused activities in droves. Four out of ten go to winery events, and nearly a third (29 percent) attend tastings with a local wine representative.Clearly, your clients and guests thirst for more than a generic shopping trip or dinner out. How can operators best tap into the experience economy to build relationships with existing clientele and drive new business?  


While it’s commonly believed that people get into Fine Wine incrementally over time, about 80 percent report they actually converted after an “aha” moment with wine. And they maintain an affinity for that particular bottle.3 Creating opportunities to experience that “lightning bolt” moment provides a sure-fire way to create trust and build a loyal customer base. 

The Role of Discovery 

Playing on that sense of discovery that comes with an “aha” moment, one Boston-based retailer with two locations opts to organize his shelves by body rather than a more classical setup of varietal or region.  

The sales team then utilizes enomatic machines, stocked with 10 bottles of various styles, to sample customers on different wines. This allows clients to first identify their preferences, he explains, then easily discover new wines that fit the profile. It also makes people more willing to take a risk on a high-priced bottle, he says, as they have the confidence that the wine will suit their tastes.  

Restaurants are most often the conduits for discovery, with a sommelier playing the vital role of influencer.4  

“Restaurants are most often the conduits for discovery, with a sommelier playing the vital role of influencer.”

One Boston restaurateur with two locations decided to take an innovative approach to her by-the-glass program as a way to build consumer confidence. If customers commit to two glasses — essentially a half bottle — she will open anything on her list. This freedom, coupled with knowledgeable staff conversations about the wines, has created experiences that formed a loyal clientele of regulars eager to explore the list. Although this format may not work for everyone, robust by-the-glass programs can function in a similar way and invite exploration. 

In addition, consumers are more likely to celebrate special occasions — and spend on a splurge bottle — in dining establishments.5 By taking this open state of mind into account, sommeliers have an opportunity to introduce diners to finer wines than what they would normally drink.  

Drinking Across Price Points 

Customer purchasing behaviors are flexible; most people will buy across price points on a regular basis.A wine for takeout on a Tuesday night won’t be the same as the one for a dinner party at a friend’s house.  

This fluidity can work to your advantage. Showing how different wines fit into different situations encourages consumers to shop outside of their standard price range. One mid-sized Manhattan retailer sets up kiosks in the middle of his floor to highlight different occasions — from a celebratory dinner to pizza night — and bottle options to match with each moment. The experience of shopping by occasion speaks to consumer’s lifestyle and makes buying fine wine more palpable (as well as fun). 

“Customer purchasing behaviors are flexible; most people will buy across price points on a regular basis.”


Among Fine Wine consumers, tasting events are equal to promotions or wines being on sale in terms of influencing their purchase.7 Opportunities in the event space are limitless and can be tailored to reach various demographics.  

At one end of the spectrum, a large Fine Wine retailer in Manhattan hosts seminars with visiting winemakers for its top consumers. During the two to three hour session, anywhere from 22 to 26 guests taste through different vintages and interact with the winemaker. Guests are treated to light catering, and a price sheet at each setting is the only “sales pitch” they see. These V.I.P. events have been instrumental in the store’s strategy to create value and loyalty, the manager says. They also serve as part of a larger rebranding effort for the business, which was losing touch with its aging clientele but not bringing in new customers. 


One independent retailer in New Orleans says events have significant impact — about 20 to 25 percent of her business comes from event sales — and she creates tiers for her various fêtes. Tier One events occur on a weekly basis. These free tastings feature anywhere from 4 to 6 bottles and usually a local chef will run a food pop-up. Her Tier Two events are larger affairs and usually have a seasonal theme, such as a Rosé release party or a sparkling wine event around the holidays. These bring in anywherefrom 100 to 250 attendees. Tables, which display a wide number of wines (20 to 50, depending on the event) are set up around the room. Live music, food and shopping incentives complete the equation. 

While these aforementioned formats are wildly different in nature, both provide value to consumers and offer them something they wouldn’t get in a normal retail or dining experience. 


The concept of “edu-tainment” — experiences that provide knowledge while entertaining clients —  has risen in the experience economy over the past several years as consumers seek education as a way to enrich their enjoyment of wine. One Oakland, California, retailer incorporates classes twice a week into the calendar. One is a casual forum where guests sit around the shop’s communal table and an expert talks about a particular region, illustrated by four different wines. The other is a blind tasting class, which dives into the technical analysis and enjoyment of wine. Both classes regularly sell out at $25 to $30 a ticket, but the owner says the goal isn’t to make money on the events — in fact, sometimes they only break even after factoring in the cost of the featured wines — but rather to build a community of consistent and engaged clients.  

More informally, a one Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan hosts a “5 for $5” event on Saturday afternoons prior to service, where guests taste and discuss five wines from a wine region for just $5 a session. Different members of the sommelier team lead the meet-up and guide conversation as a way to sharpen their teaching and communication skills. Open to the public but originally never promoted (the dates are now posted on the website), the event gained traction solely through word of mouth and it made attendees feel like V.I.P. insiders for discovering this underground event. 


Sometimes, the simplest experience is the most profound. As one medium-sized retailer in Oklahoma noted, the top requirements for selling fine wine is the art of listening. Customers may not be able to communicate exactly what it is they desire, but a good listener can learn quite a bit about someone's preferences. While unique tasting formats and events may thrill consumers, they would not be successful if staff didn’t listen closely to what they were trying to express, or work with the customer to find something that would please her.  


That’s a lot to think about in your busy day. Let’s break it down to summarize the six quick and easy tips for incorporating these concepts based on data and real-world examples from operators who share a lot in common with your business: 

  1. Think about recreating the the “a-ha” moment that brought a drinker into Fine Wine. More than just about the taste, it’s about tapping into the emotional connection they had with the wine at the moment. 

  1. Consider different formats that allow guests to taste and discover new wines, such as a robust and rotating by-the-glass list or preservation or enomatic machines. 

  1. Present opportunities in customers’ lives where they will want to upgrade to Fine Wine as an entry point to the fine wine category. 

  1. Customers highly value events. For turnkey, creative concepts for your location(s), contact your Portfolio Consultant. 

  1. Education increases enjoyment of wine and customers often seek out experiences where they can learn more about what they’re drinking. Consider ways to provide “edu-tainment” in the guest experience. 

  1. Think both big and small when crafting an experience. Hospitality and customer service need to be the backbone of any customer-facing program. 


Today, the bar for pleasing and retaining customers is much higher than in years past. The wine industry needs to elevate its services and meet consumer expectations to match those rising expectations. Experiences, which offer an emotional element that can’t be recreated on a screen, provide optimal opportunity for operators to grow their business. 


  1. Millennials Ignited The Experience Economy, Here Is How To Cash In,”, October 31, 2018. 

  2. Gallo Luxury Wine Consumer Research, Fall 2017 

  3. Gallo Luxury Wine Consumer Research, Fall 2017 

  4. The Pyramid of Influence,”, September 17, 2018 

  1. Gallo Luxury Wine Consumer Research, Fall 2017 

  1. Gallo Luxury Wine Consumer Research, Fall 2017 

  1. Gallo Luxury Wine Consumer Research, Fall 2017