We just wrapped up an in-store tasting program for one of our clients and I had to remind myself once again that in-store tastings are probably the most effective tool we have to make a direct impact on moving more boxes while building the brand. (This is in contrast to couponing and discounting which can also have a significant volume impact, but at the risk of undermining, rather than building a brand.

An effective, well-managed tasting program can deliver a lot of benefits, but the one most difficult to measure one is perhaps the most powerful…the WIIFM effect.  (What’s In It For Me).

The most successful retail promo programs are those that help the retailer increase their volume and margins.  When the supplier/importer/distributor helps grow the retailer’s business, they’re working in collaboration with the retailer for mutual gain, not just using them as a soon-to-be-forgotten checkout register.  But as they say on TV “But Wait!  That’s not All”.  Here’s a list of some of the other lessons of a successful tasting program we relearned:

“Remind” the trade that the brand moves. 

Even if it might not be the sexiest new product in the store, a brand that is a  proven volume generator is part of the foundation on which the retailers’ business is based. As is often the case, the attention of management and line folks at the distributor and importer level is often diverted to other priorities.  Tastings keep your brand top of mind by making your brands’ sales velocity and customer satisfaction strengths more visible.

New Distribution

The same is true in terms of new distribution; tastings can be a great tool for sales to use to increase distribution for proven brands, not just new brands.

Increase Volume

Moving boxes is the name of the game.  In this program we increased average sales per store 16X the day of the event, and we’re just in the process of measuring the residual volume lift.

Repeating Events Tell a Stronger Story

Scheduling a series of events in a given store can dramatically increase the run rate in between events.  The retailer will be more receptive to stocking inventory and reordering based on sales in their own store.  It’s also a great way for local sales to demonstrate support for your best accounts.  Implicit message… “we’re here to help you.”

Scaling Perception into Reality

A good goal is to achieve a 30% conversion rate…30% of the people tasting, purchased product.  And depending on the price point, that conversion rate can often be in multiple bottles purchased.

In fact, we executed this particular promotion in what we considered second tier markets, and the conversion rates there reached almost 60%.  Clearly, showing a little love can pay off in spades.  The same point is true in terms of bottles purchased/event.  Where we had corporate chain support we nearly doubled the average number of bottles sold per event.

Bottom line, there’s a lot of great new promotion ideas out there, but in the wine and spirits business, blocking and tackling is critical to focus attention on your brands at retail.