Service is key to winery sales

Mar 07, 2014

To buy, or not to buy? That is the question for the more than 5 million annual visitors to New York's wineries. Cornell University researchers found that customer service is the most important factor in boosting tasting room sales, but sensory descriptions of what flavors consumers might detect were a turn-off.

The findings stem from two studies on how the tasting room experience affects customer purchases and what can do to create satisfied sippers, published in the current issue of the International Journal of Wine Business Research.

"On average, nearly 60 percent of New York wine sales occur during visits to tasting rooms," said Miguel Gómez, professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. "For this reason, they play a strategic role in the overall business and marketing strategies of New York state wineries."

Despite their importance as a sales venue and the significant investments wineries make in their location and appearance, few studies have looked at tasting room sales, and it is difficult to apply research from other foods and sales venues to wine.

"Wine is a complex product for consumers. There are so many attributes, and customers don't always know their own preferences, especially tourists who may be casual wine drinkers," Gómez said.

Thus, Gómez and Marin Shapiro surveyed 450 Finger Lakes winery visitors in nine tasting rooms over four months on 25 aspects of their experience, from the elbowroom at the counter and the friendliness of staff to the prices and number of wines offered. Service was by far the most significant factor.

"You can make a customer happy or unhappy by the service you provide and the ambience you create," said Gomez. "Those factors were more important than quality or price of the wines as drivers of ."

Moreover, the researchers could quantify the effect of satisfaction on sales.

"If you can convert a satisfied customer to a very satisfied customer, they are likely to spend about $10 more and buy an additional bottle of wine in a given visit," Gómez said. "And to increase satisfaction, managers need staff who are friendly and patient, who will spend time talking with the visitors and have solid knowledge of the story behind the wines."

The second study, co-authored with professor of enology Anna Katharine Mansfield, tested the effect of various adjectives (or lack thereof) on tasting sheets to describe the taste and aroma of wines in partner wineries. The wineries alternated use of two tasting sheets over the course of six weeks and tracked sales.

Controlling for variables that affect sales, such as the day of the week or the weather, the researchers found that sales were lower when tasting rooms provided sensory descriptions that consumers might detect, like "notes of peach or lychee," said Mansfield.

"The written descriptions may just be less important in tasting rooms than wine stores, since visitors are often allowed to sample several wines. They may even frustrate the novice wine tasters, by setting up sensory expectations that are not met," she said.

The two studies concur that "relying on the staff as guides can create an intimate and more interactive experience," Mansfield said, and thereby increase sales.

Explore further: Lovely bubbly: Price isn't everything with champagne

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Economists explore 'loca-pouring' of wines

Oct 16, 2013

( —The 2013 grape harvest is in full swing, but when this vintage is bottled, will it appear on a wine list at your favorite restaurant? According to a team of researchers from Cornell's Charles H. Dyson School ...

Recommended for you

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

6 hours ago

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

9 hours ago

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

What labels on textiles can tell us about society

10 hours ago

Throughout Chinese history, dynastic states used labels on textiles to spread information on the maker, the commissioner, the owner or the date and site of production. Silks produced in state-owned manufacture ...

US company sells out of Ebola toys

Oct 17, 2014

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

User comments : 0