If you’re a winemaker, and you’ve ever tried a wine club, you probably had big hopes for it as a means of steady, continual revenue.
And you’ve probably been disappointed.
You’re not alone: wine club attrition is one of the biggest issues facing winemakers who want to get their brands into the hands of loyal (or soon to be loyal) wine enthusiasts. This fact puts wineries on a fast-moving treadmill, trying to reach and subscribe wine club customers more quickly than they lose them—a strategy which is not sustainable in the long run.
So why do wine club participants lose interest over time? If you look at the typical course of communications in a wine club, the answer becomes crystal clear: the wine club member gets the best deals, the most communication, and the best treatment right when they join. The high point of their membership is right there, at the beginning. And as the special perks and fanfare taper off, so does interest in the wine club.
While it is a good idea to put your best foot forward, catering only to new club members shows a misunderstanding of the economics involved. It is far more costly to recruit a new wine club member than it is to retain an existing one. Long-time, loyal members deliver more value, on average, than new wine club members. And let’s not underestimate the power that word-of-mouth recommendation has!
What’s astounding is that lots of industry writers are aware of the problem and the reasons behind it. But few make solid recommendations about what to do. So we did a little asking around, seeing why potentially loyal wine-club members left their clubs. Their answers weren’t complicated—then again, those “aha” moments rarely are.
So, if you want to retain your wine club patrons and get the most out of them through a long-term relationship, try these approaches:
Offer more variety. People are not as good as they think at knowing what they will want in the future. So someone who has just signed up for a wine club in your tasting room is probably thinking “Hey, I like this! Why not have it conveniently delivered to my door?” But what they don’t realize is that, 6 months in, they will be tired of the same stuff. Offering a variety of wines helps keep up their interest, not to mention exposes them to new wines.
Reward their loyalty. Newbie wine club members often get the best discounts, free gifts, and notices of wine tasting events. Why not hold some of that back and instead reward your long time members?
Communicate with each shipment. Each shipment is a chance to put yourself—your authentic, unabashed wine-enthusiast self—in front of your customers. So put something in the shipment that reminds them why you are in this industry… and why they should be part of it too. (A good non-wine example is the Dollar Shave Club, who puts a humorous tongue-in-cheek newsletter and occasional free samples in their shipments.)
Keep the quality up! When we talked with wine club quitters, we ran into some true horror stories: wine that had been cooked (with wine oozing out the cork due to the overheating), bottles that were mislabeled, even cracked, missing shipments, and more. (It practically made our logistics people cry!). So send your best stuff, and please: don’t go with a fly-by-night logistics solution.
Respect the Club Member. All those horror stories we heard? What added insult to injury was the number of wineries and vineyards that would not take responsibility after the problems were brought to their attention. Nor would they help the club member by contacting any third parties. And how do you think that made the customer feel? Not like a loyal club member, that’s for sure.
We’re not going to claim that these are magic bullets that will stop wine club attrition. But we are pretty sure that taking these small steps will go a long way towards getting lifetime value out of your best wine club fans.