SAN FRANCISCO — Wine Institute’s Aug. 5 webinar on Creating Virtual Wine Experiences to Boost Sales featured specialists from media, marketing, PR, social media and online winery reservations. Jeanne Sullivan Billeci of SullivanSays PR; Tina Caputo, freelance lifestyle and wine writer; K.C. Cornwell and Adrienne Young of Poppy Social Media and Sarah Elliman, CellarPass, brought their insights and expertise to the 75-minute webinar with the objective of helping wineries elevate their brands and boost wine sales through meaningful and engaging virtual wine experiences. The well-attended webinar was recorded and can be viewed here.
Nancy Light, Wine Institute’s Vice President Communications, opened the webinar with remarks about the importance of these online virtual experiences and the need for a best-practices webinar in a fast-changing business environment since the emergence of COVID-19. Light said Wine Institute’s September campaign for California Wine Month (CWM) is focusing on harvest, encouraging consumers to buy local, support communities and enjoy California wine by bringing harvest into their homes either through a virtual experience or through an outdoor visit to the winery. Wine Institute members and regional associations may submit their virtual experiences and offers to Wine Institute’s CWM marketing campaign. The deadline to be included in the initial press release is Aug.14. The webinar included creative ideas on how to bring the harvest into consumers’ homes.
Pitching Virtual Tastings and Experiences to the Media:
Lifestyle PR consultant, Jeanne Sullivan Billeci, recapped the success of 2019 CWM and member winery co-branding efforts using the CWM tool kit. Sullivan provided tips on pitching virtual events to media, recommending that a winery clearly understand what type of media guest they are inviting, lifestyle or wine trade, since each have different informational needs. She suggested sending press kits with full details on wines and speakers in advance and emphasized that photography should reflect the times and be COVID-friendly showing various stages such as masks, outdoor tastings only and, for later, images of indoor tastings once restrictions are lifted.
Content consultant and wine writer Tina Caputo surveyed media peers about virtual events and tastings targeted to wine media. She highlighted the importance of creating a unique and distinct experience that helps to differentiate the brand and stands out from others. Some creative virtual tastings include pairing new wine releases with cheeses or virtual blending and educational seminars. Caputo emphasized the “show don’t tell” concept with walks into the vineyard or showing soils samples.
Another recommendation for media pitching is to find a “hook” that is relevant to writers. Often this can be found in their byline or in their Twitter feed. Some topics include vintners and media talking about reopening wine country or a roundtable on fostering diversity in the wine industry.
Caputo believes that virtual tastings are here to stay, and wineries should aim to continue these experiences as part of their marketing mix in a post COVID-19 world. She commented that “these experiences are a great way to reach media on the other side of the country as well as local media who are on deadline and can’t make a live visit to the winery because of timing.”
Consumer Virtual Tastings and Experiences:
Sarah Elliman of CellarPass, a real-time guest management platform for tasting rooms, and host of CellarPass TV, focused on the basics of virtual events such as good lighting, a strong internet connection, a flattering camera angle and a back-up plan for technical difficulties. She emphasized the importance of interactive virtual experiences such as recipes, demonstrations with wine pairings, wine education with home blending kits, and paint-and-sip nights.
Elliman talked about closing the deal and making the sale. “Planning is key. Design the experience around your sales goal and make it easy for your guests to purchase at multiple points throughout the virtual experience.” She stated that 71% of polled CellarPass guests reported that there was inadequate time to purchase the wines during an online event. To alleviate this problem, Elliman suggested an event registration platform that captures guest information and allows for wines sales before, during and after the virtual experience. Incentive deals and promo codes can be a great way to capture the first-time purchaser and can be offered for a limited time spanning the promotion.
Poppy Social Media’s K.C. Cornwell and Adrienne Young also stressed the importance of planning and giving careful consideration to the audience, objectives and tactics. Young pointed out that it is important to consider the video communications platform for each audience. What does their company currently use (Crowdcast or Zoom). Is this a small tasting? Do you need to be able to simultaneously reach out to other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram or just brand building via Facebook Live? Young also noted B2B opportunities for virtual winery events. With numerous employees working from home since March, businesses are looking for online team building activities and employee rewards to take the place of in-person events and parties. Virtual wine experiences can be a perfect match and a relatively easy way to build a wine club database and boost wine sales.
Cornwell said to use a spokesperson that is a strong brand ambassador and fits the personality of the wine brand. Key questions to consider when selecting a spokesperson include whether the person is good on camera, can they think and react quickly to questions and situations and is familiar with virtual experiences and comfortable when speaking on social media platforms. Cornwell said to promote winery virtual experiences on social media and market events with relevant consumer content such as recipe pairings, photography, and tie-ins with local food purveyors. At every phase of promotion and follow up, consumers should be given the opportunity to purchase wine and “opt-in” to wine clubs or e-mail lists.
The common theme throughout the webinar was the idea that wine experiences should continue to be part of winery marketing plans because they present opportunities for wineries to engage with new and existing customers throughout the country as well as with national and regional media.
View an edited video of the webinar here.
For more articles out of California, click here.