Cultivating your Michigan Winery Tasting Room Customer: The Experience - Part 2

Friendly service helps create the wine tasting experience your customer desires.

Michigan State University Extension-affiliated professors in tourism, Dan McCole and Don Holecek, sought to better understand winery tasting room customers and their behaviors through a 2012 survey of visitors to 15 geographically diverse Michigan wineries. The results of this work help us understand what most winery customers really want.

Most tasting room visitors reported that their primary purpose was to participate in experience-based activities such as socializing with friends and relaxing. About one third went to the wineries mainly for wine-related reasons. Keeping in mind other Northern Grape Project research which indicated a direct relationship between positive visitor experience and quantity of wine purchased (Gomez and Kelly), it seems that positive experience pays.

“The experience may be more important in selling wine than the quality of the wine, though I believe the wine has to meet a standard of quality,” says McCole. “Friendlier tasting room employees may be better than those who know a ton about wine. You can train people about wine, but it’s harder to train people to be friendly,” McCole adds. 

“Wineries that sell most of their wine in tasting rooms seem to be more tourism businesses than wine production businesses. We conclude that successful tasting room operations will include an offering “quality wines” and a wide range of experience enhancements,” says McCole.

This study was conducted as part of the Northern Grapes Project. A detailed account of this study may be found at Northern Grapes Project newsletter volume 2, Issue #3.

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