My brother mentioned in a Two Wine Brothers Facebook “Fan” posting recently the idea of working with wine retailers to develop an optimization model. This reminded me of a marketing research project I worked on for a group of Iowa wineries with a colleague at Des Moines Area Community College a couple years ago. I thought I’d post a snippet of our findings, titled: “An On-Site Evaluation of Selected Iowa Wineries: A Mystery Shopper Program”.
At the urging of some members of the Iowa wine industry we designed and administered a Mystery Shopper Program whose purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of visitor experiences at selected Iowa wineries in an attempt to uncover areas for future growth and opportunities. We recruited and trained 31 evaluators who “acted” as normal winery visitors in order to simulate a real Iowa winery experience, without the prior knowledge of the winery and tasting room staff. Upon the conclusion of their visit, each evaluator completed a six-page post-experience evaluation form.
For this posting, I will keep the findings restricted to one series of questions that addressed the experiences winery visitors “wanted to have” and the experiences they ultimately “actually got”. We suspected when desired experiences were not sufficiently attained visitor dissatisfaction may occur and consequently provide opportunities for wineries to improve customer service. The below set of tables reflect 19 questions/statements reflective of potential motives/desires of Iowa winery visitors (Note: green=experience wanted; red=experience attained).
We used a standard Likert Scale (1=not at all to 7=very much) as a metric to determine various experience dimensions. We asked: The following are feelings or experiences that people sometimes seek at wineries. For each, please indicate how much you hoped to get AND how much you actually got from this winery visit.
The first Table (above) reflects nine of the 19 questions and we somewhat arbitrarily determined values of 5 or greater to be meaningfully strong. For example, the second statement (i.e., to taste locally made wines) received a score of 6.2 for both desired and attained; thus we conclude visitors expectations were met satisfactorily to a relatively high degree. We found similar high scores for these items: “try something different” and “to accompany a friend/loved one”. Conversely, substantial discrepancies between “want” and “get” on these items suggest opportunity: “to tour a winery” and “to tour a vineyard”. In other words, visitors to these wineries wanted to tour the winery/vineyard and were not given the opportunity.
The second Table (above) shows the final series of questions/statements. The data suggests high visitor satisfaction (based upon our criteria) for the following areas: supporting Iowa wine industry; visiting another winery; enjoying scenery; having a good time with their company; and relaxing. Areas of particular concern (substantial discrepancy) are these general areas: learn about winemaking; learn about grape varietals/cultivars; learn about label reading; and gain knowledge of food-wine pairing.
After teasing out the data we learned there are considerable differences between how men and women experience a winery.
1. Men more often get the experience they wanted.
2. Women want more information/education and are less likely to get it than men.
Female mystery shoppers want to: Tour the Winery & Vineyard; Learn more about Iowa wines; Learn more about winemaking; Learn more about grape varieties; Learn more about label reading; Learn about pairing food & wine.
Post-Research Thoughts: After a research project is completed, reports written and presentations, presented, I wonder how much information the clients really use. Many of the findings are easily addressed, such as spending a little time providing wine-food pairing education to winery visitors; and paying a little more attention to their female visitors. Seems like a little effort could go a long way.