The primary goal of many wineries is to develop, cultivate and produce products that promote repeat business and retain customers. Wineries exist to satisfy customers’ needs through products or services and it’s important for a winery to retain these customers. Since we operate in a competitive business environment, it is important to identify how we can increase customer retention levels.
Let us first define customer retention:
Customer retention is a combination of intentional repurchase behaviour and psychological attachment of a customer to a particular product or service (Al-Hawari 2005:231; Peelen 2005:239; Godson 2009:72; Cant & van Heerden 2010:444). McManus and Guilding (2008:779) also define customer retention as an attitude where a customer’s attachment to a product, service, brand or company is developed. According to Zhang, Dixit and Friedmann (2010:128), customer retention is the likelihood of a customer choosing a particular brand with reference to his/her past purchases.
Why is customer retention important?
Retaining existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new customers.
By retaining customers it allows a winery to generate more profits with each additional year of the customer-relationship. Research has shown that 12 – 15% of customers are loyal to a single retailer, but these customers represent 55 – 70% of total sales, and the only way to increase customer retention is to increase customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers have the tendency to return to the same store and they end up buying the same product.
What happens when customers are dissatisfied? The negative aspect of customer dissatisfaction is that customers lower their expectations when buying from the same winery or stop buying from the winery completely. Conversely, customers that are satisfied have the tendency to return and possibly refer new customers to your winery. As a result, the winery increases its customer retention and lowers customer acquisition costs, which in turn increases the profit of the business. One of the focal points of a winery should be on customer satisfaction as it can possibly yield greater profitability than customer acquisition strategies.
The question then remains, how to satisfy customers and develop a winning customer retention strategy?
Provide quality products
Quality is more than just producing a quality product. The quality of a product should be customer-driven. What is the customer looking for exactly and how do they define quality? It all comes down to how the customer experiences the product. It is important to note that the higher the quality of the product, the more likely a customer will be satisfied. Quality is also not something that you can improve overnight. Take for example the comparison of wine produced in the early 19th century to today’s wine. The use of modern-day technology, a variety of cultivars, viticulture, and overall winemaking experience allows us to produce outstanding quality wine. It takes time to design and build a quality product from the ground up.
Customer service is intricately associated with good quality products. It is important to respond timely to the disgruntled customer and resolve their issue promptly. Customer service is one variable that you can easily control and oversee. Implement standardized service response systems that can deal with inquiries and complaints promptly. These response systems and remedial actions are vital to realize increased levels of customer satisfaction. Your ultimate goal should be to decrease your customer service queries, this in turn evidences that you are producing a quality product. An investment in quality and perfecting your product will reduce your need to deal with customer complaints.
Training and preparation are key
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail!” – Sir Winston Churchill.
It is important to train employees and convey to them that customers are the ultimate judge of quality. Provide employees with a detailed guideline and proper training on how to deal with disgruntled customers. This is especially important as these employees will be representing the brand and they have a big influence on how a customer can perceive the brand. It is important to listen to what the customer is complaining about and utilize this information constructively to improve the overall quality of your product.
Build a relationship of trust with the customer
When a customer trusts the product, the quality, and the brand, they tend to share their experience with family and friends. A case study by Nielsen found that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising when making a purchase decision. Therefore, nothing comes close to the influence of word of mouth, and satisfied customers share their positive experience with more than five to ten people. Customers need to be able to trust what they buy. By building trust you are providing your customers with something of value which leads to a positive trend towards brand awareness. The winery sales team needs to be thinking about how to deepen the relationship with their customers, especially when they are not in buying mode.
Use automation to your advantage
There is no doubt that technology is there to help us. Try to make use of automated marketing software to engage, re-engage, and keep your customers up to date on what’s happening with your winery and products. Specifically, success stories at wineries have been reported using Customer Relationships Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Commerce7, WineDirect, and eCellar. All these CRM systems complement a full marketing methodology for wineries. Make sure to use standardized email newsletters, event notifications, gated content, promotional emails, abandoned shopping cart reminders, and survey emails. Marketing automation will keep you one step ahead of your competitors by communicating more effectively and efficiently with your customers.
Use social media to your advantage
Social media can power your brand forward but can also be detrimental to your brand. Use social media to research your target audience, analyze your competitors, create engaging content, generate website traffic and grow your audience. Make use of customer reviews online and utilize this space to promptly deal with issues customers may have. By promoting brand awareness online, you create credibility and build trust with customers based on your online activity.
By implementing the above strategies, a winery can increase customer satisfaction, leading to an increase in customer retention. In today’s fast paced competitive market, the wine industry needs to focus their efforts on retaining customers and realise the importance thereof.
Al-Hawari, M. 2005. The effect of automated service quality on bank financial performance and the mediating role of customer retention. Journal of Financial Services Marketing, 10(3):228-243.
Cant, M. & van Heerden, C. 2010. Marketing management. Cape Town: Juta.
Godson, M. 2009. Relationship marketing. New York: Oxford.
Magatef, S. & Tomalieh, E. 2015. The Impact of Customer Loyalty Programs on Customer Retention. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 8(1):81.
McManus, L. & Guilding, C. 2008. Exploring the potential of customer accounting: A synthesis of the accounting and marketing literatures. Journal of Marketing Management, 24(7/8):771-795.
Peelen, E. 2005. Customer relationship management. Essex: Pearson.
Zhang, J.Q., Dixit, A. & Friedmann, R. 2010. Customer loyalty and lifetime value: An empirical investigation of consumer packaged goods. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, 18(2):127-139.