Experience & Convenience: Customer Service Tips from the IWSR

Give your guest what they want when they want it and you both win. Image: stanciuc / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Because you’re an owner, operator, bar manager or bartender you may not know much about the annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. The main purpose of the convention—which has been in operation for 75 years—is for the big wine and spirits brands to meet with their various distributors from across the United States. Small brands attend in the hopes they’ll be picked up for or expand distribution.

Odds are that you won’t attend the WSWA Convention. Several industry experts speak at the show, sharing valuable information that can be just as useful to you as it can be for distributors, portfolio managers and the brains behind new and growing wine and spirits brands.

Take, for instance, Brandy Rand, the United States president of the IWSR, a supplier of data and market intelligence on beverage alcohol markets throughout the world. Rand revealed consumer behavior findings and identified threats to the on-premise space, among other information.

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Your Guest Wants What They Want and They Want It Now

The U.S. president of IWSR opened with two core tenets regarding how consumers choose “their” brands: experience and convenience. In other words, your guest wants what they want when they want it. For today’s consumer this may mean enjoying beverage alcohol that spans multiple categories throughout a single day, simply and safely. Consider the example below:

After Ubering to one location for brunch for a glass of cava, they may walk or rideshare to a local brewery to socialize, play games and have a beer, then have a glass of Chilean Carménère with a dinner consisting of shared plates before ending the night with a mezcal Old Fashioned at their favorite cocktail bar.

Rideshare brands have made it easy for your guests to gather for experiences, including trying new, authentic brands and drinks.

Read this: Spring Cleaning for Your Brand: What’s Your Story?

Speaking of new, much has been made in recent years of the consumer desire to constantly seek out the latest “it” thing. Some people chalk that up to shortened attention spans, throwaway culture and the power of fear of missing out (FOMO). But it isn’t entirely accurate. As Rand said during her WSWA presentation, the IWSR has discovered that isn’t just what’s new, it’s what’s true that draws in today’s consumer. You should absolutely offer your guests new experiences and products, but not at the cost of your brand’s authenticity. Make certain new brands and their products, your promotions, and your menu creations work well with your concept.

There’s No Longer Only On-Premise and Off-Premise

That last point deserves extra attention on your part because Rand identified three threats to on-premise operations: E-premise, product-premise and new-premise. Your consumer can now order beverage alcohol for convenient delivery to their home and the options available are growing.

Read this: Food & Drink Delivery Disruptors: Threat or Opportunity?

You also have the product-premise with which to contend: breweries, wineries and distilleries. Not only are more of these venues establishing themselves in up-and-coming urban areas (convenience), they’re operating as full-service bars and restaurants where the community can gather, socialize and enjoy games and movies (experience).

As if those on-premise alternatives aren’t enough competition, there are also pop-up bars, pop-up restaurants, and movie theaters—referred to by Rand and the IWSR as the new premise—offering guests innovative food and drink options. “There’s no longer only on- and off-premise,” said Rand. It’s clear that your need to dial in your brand’s messaging, promotions, marketing and menus is more crucial than ever.

Low-Proof and Zero-Proof are Here to Stay

Rand closed her presentation by declaring that low- and no-ABV beverages are not just a fad. I’d go as far to say that they’re not a trend, either. The IWSR sees low- and no-proof as a beverage category that’s here to stay, and I’m inclined to agree.

While some operators, managers and bartenders feel that creating compelling mocktails can be inconvenient, consumers don’t see it that way at all. Remember, they want what they want when they want it, and this includes alcohol-free drink options that allow them to participate in the cocktail experience.

Read this: Is the Mocktail Movement Worth It?

The IWSR’s U.S. president drove her point home with an inventive representation of the alcohol-free category on a menu heading entitled “Zero Proof.” Not only were there mocktails on the menu, there were alcohol-free items such as Sprite and Coca-Cola. However, the menu Rand used as an example elevated the offerings by including their provenance, just as a bar or restaurant would do with wines, beers, whiskeys, gins and other spirits. Creative, convenient and a great experience detail.