SureSwift Spotlights Taster’s Club [B2C Spirits Subscription]

SureSwift Spotlights Taster’s Club

Welcome to a conversation with Brian Blaize, General Manager of Taster’s Club, a distinctive addition to SureSwift’s portfolio. Acquired in 2017, they are one of the more unique acquisitions, standing out as the only traditional ecommerce business. Taster’s Club is a B2C curated alcohol subscription service that offers nine different monthly clubs, including the largest Bourbon of the month club in the US.

In this pre-holiday discussion, we delve into Taster’s Club’s trajectory, strategic developments, and their unique approach to customer service in a bot-driven landscape. We had the pleasure of catching up with General Manager Brian Blaize to get the latest scoop on growth, navigational shifts during the pandemic, and its strategic focus, complete with exciting updates heading into the festive season.

A Spirited Journey: Taster’s Club Evolution

From your perspective, how has Taster’s Club changed and grown as a business since acquisition?

Since taking on the role of General Manager at Taster’s Club in 2019, our journey over the past four years has been a pretty amazing roller coaster. When I signed on, I was initially focused on improving our operating margins while expanding our retailer network, which fulfills and delivers our selections. At the time, we had two retailer partners; one on each coast, serving 33 states. By March of 2020, we successfully doubled the number of retailers, which allowed us to expand our service to 45 states.

That move paid dividends when the pandemic struck later in the year, as Covid prompted an unprecedented surge in site traffic and demand overnight. The downside was that we weren’t prepared or set up to meet the demand, so we spent most of the rest of the year refining our operations in an effort to keep pace.

By 2021, Taster’s Club became the largest full-size bottle club in America. It was an important milestone as it afforded us the advantage of directly collaborating with distilleries to showcase their selections. This shift in approach is what sets us apart from our competitors who predominantly rely on inventory in their retailer partners’ warehouses, which significantly limits their selection options.

Building on this momentum, we introduced the Taster’s Club Bottle Shop in ‘22, and by 2023, we grew the number of selections offered to over 5000 SKUs. That brings us to where we are currently: exploring ways to use AI to improve our marketing and customer experience while doubling down on report tooling, so that we can capture more insights from data. It’s a fun time to be in this space.

Taster's Club has leaned into their Bottle Club offerings in response to customer data

What has your experience been like as part of the SureSwift portfolio, especially as one of our more unique acquisitions?

Working at SSC has been really amazing. The most significant benefit is the wealth of knowledge shared by thought leaders across the organization. With such a diverse portfolio of businesses under our umbrella, we can tackle and overcome numerous challenges collectively. When faced with an issue, chances are high that it’s been encountered elsewhere within the portfolio, allowing us to leverage those experiences for better outcomes at Taster’s Club. The combination of subject matter expertise and time-saving is a true game-changer.

Distinctive Strategies: E-Commerce vs. SaaS

What are the key differences in business strategy compared to SureSwift’s other SaaS B2B acquisitions?

Great question, there are a number of key differences. In terms of core offerings, SaaS is primarily about providing software applications or services through a subscription model, while e-commerce is focused on directly selling physical or digital products online. The distinction continues into the nature of their products or services offered. SaaS offers solutions or tools, addressing specific problems or enhancing processes while e-commerce deals with tangible or digital products that typically caters to personal use.

The revenue models can vary significantly as well, with SaaS relying on subscription fees for regular access to software and updates, and e-commerce deriving revenue from the sale of products, which may include one-time purchases, recurring sales, or a combination of both.

Customer interaction also differs between the two as SaaS involves ongoing engagement, offering support, updates, and improvements to the software, while e-commerce interactions are more transactional, focusing on the buying process, shipping, and post-purchase support.

In terms of marketing, SaaS emphasizes the value and functionality of software, often leveraging free trials or demos while e-commerce puts a spotlight on product features, benefits, and the overall shopping experience.

The Heart of Customer Service: Lessons from Taster’s Club

What can you share with the rest of the Portfolio businesses from your refined customer service model?

From a service standpoint, we prioritize attentive listening and empathy in addressing customer needs. Our customer service model has evolved from a transactional approach to one focused on actively listening and resolving issues gracefully.

What sets Taster’s Club apart is our commitment to personalized customer service. Unlike other companies relying on chatbots and AI, we directly and individually address logistical issues with an emphasis on timeliness and empathy. We follow up to ensure effective resolution, consistently showing our appreciation for our members. It’s not groundbreaking, but we’re dedicated to showing our genuine appreciation for our members through stellar customer support.

Exceptional customer service helps set Taster's Club apart

Can you tell us a little more about what sets Taster’s Club apart from other liquor subscription services?

What distinguishes Taster’s Club from other subscription boxes is our approach to crafting a personalized tasting experience for each of our members. Every month, my Ops Manager Andrew undertakes the curation of selections for all ten clubs. This involves subjecting each product to testing and tastings to ensure each bottle meets our standards. Once approved, we delve into the backstory behind each selection by collaborating with distilleries. This sounds like an obvious necessity for our service like ours, but it’s very surprising to know how many of our competitors leave the liquor choice completely up to the retailer partners.

Looking Ahead: Black Friday Teasers and 2024 Plans

As we head into the busy holiday season, what will you be focusing on to continue an upward trajectory for Taster’s Club?

Our primary focus is execution as we gear up for Peak. Q4 planning and execution is an exciting and exhilarating time of year, albeit one that tests and stresses nearly every facet of our small team. Successfully navigating Q4 takes a well-coordinated effort, given the inevitability of unexpected challenges cropping up along the way. If you execute well, you’ll be set up for an amazing year of growth. Miss your targets and you’ll be chasing revenue for the next 12 months, trying to play catchup. Table stakes are high but it’s my favorite quarter of the year.

Care to tease anything for Black Friday? Any new offerings that you’re excited about sharing with customers this holiday season?

For the last 5 years, Taster’s Club has featured a selection from Barrell Craft Spirits. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another great offering this holiday season. Stay tuned…

The holiday season is peak for Taster's Club

What’s in the forecast for 2024?

One of the biggest things we’re prepping for is a big rebrand of our bottle shop. We introduced it in the early part of 2022 and then noticed that we were getting significant traffic straight to the bottle shop section of our website, so we’ve decided to invest more in enhancing both product offerings and the overall shopping experience.

We know that many customers already have a preferred spirit, so we’re exploring ways to provide them with a subscribe-and-save option for a recurring subscription that’s tailored to their specific choice. This ensures they get their favorite spirit at a discounted rate, conveniently delivered to their doorstep, similar to services like Chewy or Amazon.

Our aim for the bottle shop itself is to replicate the experience of your neighborhood shop but with an extensive selection of over 5,000 SKUs—far surpassing the typical 500 SKUs found in most stores. It’s all about offering customers unparalleled choice, which can be overwhelming, so it’s a good option alongside our curated selections.

Tell us about a whiskey from this past year’s subscriptions that really stood out.

For me personally, we featured High Wire Jimmy Red Bourbon a few months back. It’s a great Bourbon that has a really interesting backstory on Jimmy Red Corn, a varietal corn that was saved by a team of researchers and farmers and is now used to produce the bourbon. It’s definitely worth checking out.

We raise our glasses in conclusion of this engaging discussion with Brian Blaize. It’s evident Taster’s Club is not just a subscription service but also a story unfolding in every carefully curated bottle. The journey from a surge in demand during the unpredictable winds of the pandemic to the title of the largest full-size bottle club in America is a testament to Taster’s Club’s resilience and commitment to delivering exceptional experiences.

As we look forward to the bustling Black Friday season and the promise of a rebranded bottle shop in 2024, Taster’s Club stands poised to continue its ascent in the world of personalized, curated spirits—a journey worth savoring. Cheers to Taster’s Club, where every pour is a celebration of craftsmanship, community, and the artistry of a well-aged story in every bottle. Interested in giving Taster’s Club a try by joining a club, giving a gift or buying a bottle? Find out how you can get it delivered right to your doorstep at

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