What better way to close out a long week than with a bottle of wine? As I walked into Total Wine Friday evening and grabbed a shopping cart, my mind is still preoccupied with work. I’m haphazardly checking work emails as I venture further into the store. I swerve left, dodging the “Wine of the Week“ display. Then back the other way, so I don’t run aground on the tasting counter. I nearly hit Randy, an innocent store associate, as I weave in and out of the maze of fragile displays. I apologize profusely, and we exchange pleasantries as I silently contemplate the irony of a distracted driving accident in an alcohol retail store. Randy offers assistance, but I’m not yet prepared to give up the charade of recognizing the difference between the bottles in my left and right hands.
While I may know more about wine than the average Joe, inside one of America’s most massive wine superstores, I’m not much better than a clueless husband on an errand to procure his wife’s favorite pink bottle with a glittery label. I’m not loyal to any particular retailer; I shop an array of stores depending on what’s convenient or the occasion. There are a few locally owned and operated shops that I frequent, but I will go out of my way to visit Total Wine when I need something specific or they’re running a special. This time, I was lured in by a great sale. My wine rack was looking a bit bare, so it was worth the trek to stock up.
I continued wandering through the isles, waiting for something to capture my attention. The “Top Pick” and “Highest Rated” signs, for which Total Wine is famous, are the navigational buoys that guide this wine-loving ship named Becky. I’m also a socially responsible consumer; I care about how my wines are produced, if it’s organic, and created sustainably. Savvy shopping is tricky when it comes to alcohol. Curiously, an industry heavily oppressed by distribution regulations is a complete free-for-all when it comes to product labeling.
As I scavenge the Sauvignon Blanc, I look up to see Randy, again. He asks if I’m the lady that nearly mowed him down not ten minutes ago. I plead guilty to all charges, and we laughed. He asks about my wine preferences, and we chat about why I like Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay that I hated, and some other wines that I’ve enjoyed recently. As we talk, the number of bottles in my cart grows. Four. Five. Six. Between restocking the wine cellar and looking to expand my palate, I let Randy know that I was ready to spend some money. He carefully evaluated my current selection, and then he made some additional recommendations. Twelve bottles in, the recommendations kept coming, and I kept adding them to my cart.
Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. At this point, Randy warns me that his next suggestions will be a bit pricier. Then I spoke every shopaholic’s famous last words, “Don’t worry, Randy. I have a coupon.” As if that weren’t enough, he told me how I could use their mobile app and rewards program to get an even better deal, 20% off my entire purchase! Riding the high of my newly found savings strategy, I told Randy that I was ready. “Bring on the expensive wine!” I exclaimed.
It may be hard for you to believe, but I don’t have a personal sommelier. During our time together, three other customers approached Randy for help. Gracefully, he directed them towards the products they were looking for or asked which aisle he could meet them in after he was done helping me. It didn’t detract from my experience whatsoever. He met a lower-value customer’s needs while protecting the revenue that a high-value customer, like myself, had to offer. He did it with finesse and without allowing me to lose interest in learning all about the wines he suggested.
It was an ideal shopping experience. Randy started a dialogue, sought to understand my interests and palette, educated me, and thoughtfully persuaded me to download the company’s mobile app. He quadrupled my total spend without pressure or hard sells. I felt like I was among friends.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most Americans spend between one and two percent of their gross income on alcohol that they drink at home. For the average household, that adds up to between $50 and $65 each month. Randy helped me to spend nearly six-times that in under half an hour. In a highly-competitive, low-margin industry like beer, wine, and liquor retailing, high volume is the name of the game.
Employees like Randy are the reason Total Wine is wildly successful, with more than $3 billion in revenue last year. Randy did everything right by being friendly, knowledgeable, and putting me first by ensuring I got the best possible deal. He picked up on cues that I was ready to spend more for premium products, and by showing me how the Total Wine app directly benefited me, he helped them to collect data that can be used to serve me better in the future. In thirty minutes, he created a relationship that will last a lifetime. Randy, thank you for one of the best retail experiences I’ve ever had. From a customer experience perspective, I give you a 10/10.