As shopper expectations around loyalty continue to evolve, differentiation becomes more difficult. One loyalty program aims to disrupt wine retailing by aligning itself with 17,000+ liquor stores and other wine sellers, in a bid to appeal to all different kinds of wine consumers. The Grand Reserve Rewards program, launched in November 2019, lets wine lovers automatically earn points whenever they make purchases at wine-related retailers and use an existing credit card. Vertical Finance, a venture-backed fintech startup based in Pasadena, Calif., developed and launched the program.
“People love wine, and part of wine’s appeal is trying new wines,” said Matthew Goldman, Founder and CEO of Vertical Finance in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “How do you reward that if you’re a single brand? It’s difficult. We built this to give people a baseline of reward earnings across any winery, wine club or wine shop.”
For wine retailers, the program provides an opportunity to more precisely target specific customer segments. “Over the coming months, you’ll see bonus earning opportunities with brands,” said Goldman. “A brand can come to us and say, ‘We want to find people who love red wine and spend $20 per bottle.’ We can present those offers to our users and say ‘No matter where you shop, you’ll earn rewards.’”
Working in fintech, Goldman had experience helping retailers and other businesses manage their rewards cards, and he also began to understand how complicated rewards programs could be for shoppers — particularly if they belong to multiple programs with different retailers. He also noted the difficulties required to redeem prizes, even for long-term loyalty members.
“One of my takeaways was that a lot of loyalty programs aren’t really about the brand, they are about the rewards and about what people love to do, such as travel,” Goldman said. “They will switch between programs or take big signup bonuses because the programs are very hard to redeem, for the most part. There’s limited flights and limited availability, and you need tons of points if you want to travel with more than one person. We took a different approach: ‘How could we help consumers to earn rewards for things that they truly love and were passionate about?’, and then create a capability for brands to engage on those terms.”
Members Earn Experiences Including Sonoma Valley Winery Tour, Napa Valley Classes
Members earn Grand Reserve Rewards points in addition to their card’s current benefits, with the points redeemable for more than 200 wine-related products and experiences. Experiences include a Sonoma Valley winery tour with a private driver, classes at the Napa Valley Wine Academy and exclusive sommelier-curated events.
To celebrate its debut, Grand Reserve Rewards launched a Napa Valley wine country getaway sweepstakes that was separate from the rewards program, which features a two-day stay at St. Helena’s Harvest Inn resort, a two-day, chauffeured concierge wine tasting excursion in the region and a $1,500 gift card for transportation expenses.
“We have a great group of five wine experts who are sommeliers, and people running wine clubs and events at restaurants,” Goldman said. “There’s a bunch of different perspectives, and we had them give us a great start of what they thought were the best classes, tools and courses to get started. We also talked to customers before launching the product to find out what they loved. Everyone wants different things, so we’re trying to build a catalog that not only has redemptions across a huge range of point values, but also a large range of offers, such as tasting journals or fridges.”
Divided Wine Industry Made Room For Disruptive Rewards Debut
Goldman saw wine as the perfect opportunity for a multi-brand, multi-retailer program because of the fragmented nature of the industry.
“Most wineries want to grow, but they want to grow intelligently and they want to grow by finding the right consumer in the fastest way possible,” Goldman said. “What we’re able to do is gather folks we know are passionate about wine. Because we see their spending in order to issue the points, we’re able to see the volume of wine bottles sold. Both in signup and through later interactions, we ask what people like about wine — how do they buy it and what kind of wines do they enjoy?”
Wine lovers can become Grand Reserve Rewards members and start earning points by linking an existing credit card. Consumers can only sign up with credit cards, not debit cards, but there is no charge to join.
Members then begin earning points immediately on every purchase at wineries, wine clubs and wine shops. Grand Reserve Rewards’ card-linked offer technology tracks and classifies purchases and issues reward points to members on a secure, blockchain-enabled loyalty ledger.
Because it isn’t a winery and because it doesn’t sell wine, Grand Reserve Rewards plans to generate its revenue from partnerships with different wineries and wine venues that can offer special points for purchases and special offers to members. The company will not sell members’ data, and Grand Reserve Rewards has invested in the blockchain technology and many security features to protect consumers’ information.
Currently, the program is only available on www.grandreserverewards.com, but the company will be launching a mobile app later in 2020.