But that does not mean that virtual experiences will go away. Winery marketers have realized that they can connect with a whole new audience, and not just people who are visiting Wine Country.
And many, like Beaulieu Vineyard in St. Helena, have created digital experiences for their guests.
“Our hospitality team began offering personalized virtual tastings. Whether it is an online toast with friends, or a company happy hour, the Beaulieu Vineyard team was able to curate a tasting kit and digital tasting experience for any occasion,” says Steph Moore-Cohen, digital marketing specialist of Treasury Wine Estates.
Importance of connections online
As businesses moved to produce virtual wine tastings, cooking classes, and the like, the same concept had to be applied to marketers’ strategies for creating in-person relationships.
Social media became a greater tool for not only posting content, but for connecting with potential customers.
“As a family-owned winery, connecting with people is at the heart and soul of what we do and why we do it. Once the pandemic began, we didn’t want to lose our connection to our loyal club members, customers, retailers, or restaurant accounts, just because we could no longer travel to see them in person. Utilizing daily stories and virtual tastings opened up opportunities for us to engage with those who we would normally only see once or twice per year,” said Sara Rathbun, director of Marketing and Communications at Dry Creek Vineyards in Healdsburg.
Now that we are starting to open back up, it will be up to businesses to continue these business trends and expand on them.
“For the past year, we’ve been operating on ‘high alert mode’ and going outside of the home has been seen as a threat. As things are improving with COVID, it will take some time for our brains to downshift and recognize that it’s safe for us to carry on living our life beyond our four walls. As a business owner, it’s important that you support your customers efforts to make that adjustment by showing them what operations look like for you now, and giving them a sense of what it would feel like to show up at your front door,” says Kaitlin Soule, LMFT and anxiety specialist based in Petaluma.
Quick tips as we open back up
● Humanize your communication with users. Continue to tell stories about how your business is being safe, and remember to share over and over again because it is likely people won’t see it the first time. Keep sharing short-form videos and pictures of your staff.
● Build trust. When customers feel a connection with a brand, this builds trust, not only for temporary sales but also long-term loyalty.
● Update your address and hours. Make sure to hit up Google My Business Profile, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Instagram, and Facebook Pages to update your hours and add a note on how you want guests to make a reservation. Clearly set your expectations for customers.
● Conduct social media and internet audits of your brand. Before opening back up, businesses should spend extra time or money to outsource having an expert take a look at their current social media and Google search results and provide quick tips for creating content for socials and for their website.
● Digital signage. Look into how you can incorporate contactless payments, reservations, and QR Codes into your locations. These tools can help streamline your connections with customers, and many have the option for gathering email addresses.
● Be human! Focus on creating engaging emails and social media posts (not just billboards!). Make people care about more than your products, but about your stories and your team. Show behind-the-scenes of opening back up.
● Your website is just as important as your brick and mortar. Focus on SEO for your website and create a few types of free offers to encourage potential customers to sign up for your newsletters (e.g., a food and wine pairing e-cookbook, free shipping, etc.).
● Connect, connect, connect. Be available to your customers for any additional questions, suggestions, and needs if they ask online. Also share reviews and positive experiences from other customers on your own social media accounts.
These digital trends were already starting to take shape pre-pandemic, and now that consumers have become accustomed to the ease of shopping and connecting online, brands that continue to evolve will become leaders in their space in the post-pandemic world.