Beyond Tastings: How In-Store Events and Experiences Boost Sales

October 25, 2018 In Retailer Insights

When it comes to outshining the competition and targeting the new generation of alcohol consumers, nothing speaks louder than a unique experience. And while tastings are tried-and-true retailer events, more creative activations are essential to attracting new customers and boosting sales. Whether it’s a food and wine pairing session or mixology class, consumers are always drawn to first-hand experiences—and are more likely to make purchases from them.

If you’re not sure what exactly experiential marketing is or how you can execute it, we’ve got you covered. Highly popular with the millennial set, this engaging tool gets consumers to interact directly with products, learn more about them, try them firsthand, becoming so familiar and satisfied with those products that they take them home.

Here’s everything you need to know about experiential marketing, plus tips for hosting the most successful events.

Note: As always, make sure to follow your local laws and regulations considering events, and it is important that you fully understand what your license allows for before you plan and execute your next great event.

The Best Experiential Marketing Techniques

Of course, how you decide to execute this is key. Sure, tastings might be the most popular and easiest option, but there are much more creative and unique tactics that are also more successful because they start a dialogue and build relationships with consumers.

Whether it’s a food and wine pairing session or mixology class, consumers are always drawn to first-hand experiences—and are more likely to make purchases from them. Click To Tweet

If you’re dead-set on offering a tasting, make it worthwhile. A tour through a specific region, like Italian expressions or even your local favorites, is an easy way to accomplish this. And while you may not be able to host an all-out cooking class (if you can, go for it!), you can still take things to the next level by offering cheese or other food pairings for each varietal. What’s more, you can run large-scale tasting events that turn customers’ $10 ticket entry into a $10 off coupon to promote purchases.

Another spin on tastings is to host classes, such as mixology or wine pairing, complete with demonstrations from local barkeeps and brand representatives—another opportunity to foster strong partnerships!—or even store staff. Hosting and scheduling any type of class (beer pairing, cheese-making) regularly will accrue frequent ticket sales and product purchases as well. Consumers love these types of events because they not only learn something new but also are able to picture themselves using your product at home.

What’s more, bringing in the winemaker, distiller, or brewer for these types of tastings offers next-level engagement and explanations. Each can directly address questions from customers, lend unique and interesting tidbits only they’d know, and truly bring their brand’s story to life—right before the customers’ eyes.

Multi-dimensional and full sensory experiences like this benefit the customer and encourage them to not only get out of their comfort zone to try new things but also make a purchase, and—ideally—continue to come back for more.

How to Execute Unique Experiences

Though the success of these events depends on high-quality execution, it relies just as heavily on awareness that your activation is taking place in the first place. That’s where our marketing expertise comes in.

Lately, liquor brands have been targeting millennial audiences by aligning their marketing efforts more with experiences than broad categories. And liquor retailers should, too. This means thinking outside the box and strategizing around an occasion, setting, or vibe (i.e. “let loose,” “high-end”) rather than the brand in general.

Following through on the social media and digital marketing opportunities around these events is also invaluable. Make sure you have a coordinated plan, pairing your social efforts with other channels, like emails and even SMS text messages. For example if your store has a social account (it should!), like a Facebook page or an Instagram, you can write posts that feature the events. Use pictures and  information about the product(s) you’re showing off to tell a story — flavor profiles, ingredients, food pairings, production process, even the origin story of the brewer, distiller, or vineyard. Whatever helps paint a picture of the brand or the specific occasion. The same is true for any email content. The goal is to excite your customers and connect with their interests on a deeper level. Inviting other influencers to engage and share your content on their various platforms can also extend your reach, while creating a sense of community that draws today’s consumers into the store.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the actual event as a marketing opportunity! Take photos of the occasion for use in later promotions, and to bolster your website or social media page. These pictures can attract new customers, build a more engaged audience, and boost event participation long-term.

Another spin on tastings is to host classes, such as mixology or wine pairing, complete with demonstrations from local barkeeps, brand representatives or even store staff. Click To Tweet

Turn Your New Audience into Repeat Business

Once you’ve officially pulled together a dynamic experience, it’s time to convert all those attendees into repeat business for your brand. This requires both an effective method for capturing customer information—such as event registration software or an iPad to sign up on site—and a focus on making the experience stand out for whoever attends.

While connecting with guests during the event, make sure to take note of their favorite products and, of course, any feedback they organically provide. This will not only build lasting customer relationships but inform your next events and marketing strategies, and even help you tailor your stock to suit local customers’ tastes.

From there, you should always follow up with surveys and solicit feedback post-event. This gives each customer time to reflect and honestly evaluate their experience, so that you can both iterate your successes and improve on your shortcomings. This also provides you a chance to recommend new, related, or even tangential products that reflect their preferences or expand their horizons. Either way, be sure to make a recommendation based on their top picks during the event.

As you know, strategy is key here. And one of our best pro tips is to segment your log or database of customers into those who attend your events and those you have yet to attend, but also note which types of events they frequent. That way you can market similar offers, products, and goings-on accordingly to keep that repeat business booming.

Real World Example: Franklin Liquors and the Franklin Wine Club

Now let’s discuss a real-world example of a store that does an exceptional job providing unique and enjoyable experiences that are both fun and educational. Meet Franklin Liquors, owned and managed by third-generation liquor retailer Mark Lenzi. They have been ranked Reader’s Digest Top Liquor Store in Franklin, MA, and once you start to look into what they do differently, it’s no surprise that they have a loyal following of customers and a great reputation.

One of the things that Mark does to make Franklin Liquors stand out among its peers is the Franklin Wine Club, which is a great example of a way retailers can go beyond the standard format for tastings and turn them into something that can build valuable customer relationships that ultimately lead to growth in sales. The Franklin Wine Club is a monthly meeting at a special tasting room in the back of Franklin Liquors, perfectly suited to both educational seminars, presentations and private events.

These events are promoted in store and across all of the social media and email marketing channels Mark has available to him—which is quite a few!—and hosted on Meetup.com. Meetup is an easy-to-use event management platform that allows for easy capture of customer information, communication before and after the events, and the ability to share comments and photos of the event, which allows for attendees that enjoy themselves to share their positive experiences with the world.

Consistently hosting and executing successful tasting and educational events isn’t the only thing Mark does to make these events one-of-a-kind. The events are centered around different themes, such as different styles of rosé and various types of bourbon-barrel aged wines, but they also incorporate an interesting technology called Quini, which provides sensory information about the wines that are being tasted and allows for customers to see which wines are best suited for their palette, once they’ve tasted a few different varieties.

This is just one example of a great way to make your events stand out. Keep an eye out for future posts about ways liquor retailers can grow their businesses and increase their sales, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter Retail Untapped: Powered by 3×3 Insights to get tips like these right in your inbox.