Apps have become an essential component of success in the US wine business, being used for business strategy, sales and marketing. Executives increasingly rely upon mobile and desktop applications for everything from tracking inventory to decluttering communications.
While not all of the following apps are available outside the US, it’s important for anyone working in that market to understand the technology.
To track everything from vineyard to bottle, Janie Brooks Heuck, managing director of Brooks Winery in Oregon, uses InnoVint Cellar. “It integrates with lab companies, does all your federal reporting, all via smartphones, iPads etc,” she says, “So the mobility is great, and the fact that I can pull up data from anywhere is amazing. Very strong reporting, too.”
InnoVint can keep track of everything from fruit sources to wine lots and additives, so users can see what’s happening in the winery from wherever they are. Data entered into the software eliminates the need for spreadsheets and hand-written records, and it also provides pop-up alerts about potential compliance issues relating to Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and Food and Drug Administration regulations.
For distribution, Brooks Heuck prefers Vinosmith to see what purchase and placement activity is happening from distributors throughout markets. “One of the cool features, too,” she says, “ is that in any market you can put in a search for accounts that have brought in your wines within a certain time period and a certain mile radius.” Vinosmith also has a fully integrated customer relationship management (CRM) function, combining retailer, restaurant, sales representative and portfolio manager contacts in one place.
For point of sale (POS) information, Brooks Heuck employs WineDirect. According to Adrienne Stillman, WineDirect marketing director, more than 1,800 wineries use WineDirect POS for dynamic direct-to-consumer (DTC) business tracking and trend analysis. The system builds daily, monthly and yearly reports for DTC sales, wine clubs, shipping, marketing, CRM, contacts, inventory and compliance, the latter in conjunction with compliance partners ShipCompliant and Compli. In addition, WineDirect offers a feature called marketplace distribution. “Marketplace distribution enables our winery clients to list and sell their wines direct to consumer via third-party marketplaces such as eBay, Vivino and many top travel and luxury loyalty programmes in the United States,” says Stillman. When a winery wants to make a wine available, it simply checks a box, and it automatically shows up in ‘search’ on the partner platform. So, for example, a consumer looking up that wine on a partner site such as Vivino will be presented with a link to purchase it directly from the winery. “The order goes through Vivino and flows back into our system just like any other order,” explains Stillman. “This is a very efficient, cost-effective way for wineries to reach new consumers and establish a presence in highly-trafficked online marketplaces.”
For calculating wine margin mark-ups, Ed St John, vice-president of sales and marketing for Pedroncelli Winery in Sonoma, uses Markup Calculator, a useful app that is available internationally. The app calculates values such as margin percentage, mark-up percentage, sales mark-up, percentage mark-up, cost price and selling price. “I love having the margin calculator at my fingertips,” says St John. “We are often asked to hit a price point which may include discounting. Knowing the actual margin is a very fast way of determining go/no go on the spot.”
And for easy expense reporting, Paul Mabray, CEO of data analytics firm Emetry, relies on Expensify. The mobile app records and reimburses business, travel and self-employment expenses. It also offers audit and compliance capabilities, detects duplicate receipts, provides accurate exchange rates and verifies transaction accuracy. Expensify integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, NetSuite, Sage Intacct and Oracle, making it something to consider for anyone working in, or setting up a business in, the US.
When it comes to marketing and communications, there are sophisticated apps available that can be used by any company, anywhere, and which even wineries in remote places should consider. “If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of your owned digital properties, you’re missing some of the most critical insights about consumers/customers already interacting with you,” says Ken Burbary, chief strategy officer at Emetry. Burbary uses Google Analytics to look at “how people are using a company website, where they are coming from, and what they are doing while there”. Available via mobile or desktop, the real-time app breaks down audience, traffic, behaviour, and e-commerce activities in easy-viewing graphs and charts.
Burbary also favours Google Trends to track trends. “One of the most important indicators of consumer intent and interest is search trends,” says Burbary. “People trust Google more than anyone else. They tell Google everything via searches. Google Trends gives you insight into what people are truly thinking, prioritising and seeking.” Users can input by topic, geographic location or search term. It also offers data visualisation with colourful, visual reportage.
To analyse search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO), Burbary prefers SEMRush. With more than 4m users worldwide, SEMRush provides insights into keywords, consumer trends driving keyword(s) interest, and competitor performance. It can generate reports such as SEO audits, position tracking, ideas for garnering more organic traffic and competitive intelligence. It also offers insight into “not provided” keywords – this is where Google chooses not to share search information, to protect user privacy.
Organisation, efficiency and collaboration
Both Mabray and Burbary swear by Evernote to take and organise notes, clip web pages and screenshots, and maintain searchable key topics. “The only note-taking tool you’ll ever need,” swears Burbary. “[It] syncs across all your devices, mobile and desktop, and allows you access to all your notes and content, whenever from wherever.” Evernote also contains a handy scanner for logging business cards, receipts and other documents, and can integrate with a number of other messaging and collaboration platforms, such as Google, Outlook and Slack.
For time management, Burbary uses Feedly to aggregate and organise RSS feeds, news, content and subscriptions. “I use this to make my content consumption as efficient as possible every day,” he says. Feedly displays feeds in an easy-to-read format, complete with a handy search capability. For task-management, Burbary likes Monday.com for seamlessly streamlining programs, projects, business activities, team management and customer interactions.
Marketing today focuses less on traditional persuasion, and more on meeting client expectations, which is something communication and collaboration apps can help with. Cassidy Rae Havens of public relations and marketing agency Teuwen Communications relies on Sprout Social to help her execute successful client campaigns. “Social media, and its role within digital marketing, has become a vital and influential aspect of the campaigns we build, as it has the ability to reach and connect with the ideal audience, if utilised correctly,” she says. Havens reports that the wine industry lags behind other industries, such as beauty and fashion, in adopting social media and building a following in a consistent way. “This is compounded by the fact that the social media landscape has evolved tremendously in the last three to four years, becoming increasingly targeted and specific,” she says.
Havens and her colleagues use Sprout Social to publish, track and compare content created across various channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This, in turn, helps them better understand the client’s audience, where they overlap, where they differentiate and what content resonates. “By seeing what people like and engage with, we are able to discover why they like it; this pushes us to create more dynamic and effective assets and campaigns for our clients while remaining on-message,” says Havens. “The end result is that our client sends a clear, consistent message to its audience in a way that is authentic, and the consumer receives content that adds value to her/his experience with the brand – whether it’s educational, funny or beautiful.”
For internal communication and collaboration, both Paul Mabray and Janie Brooks Heuck use Slack. Available via mobile and desktop, Slack eliminates office e-mail by allowing private or group messages to take place within a Facebook-like news feed. Participants get pinged with new private messages or group conversations, depending upon personal preference settings. Slack also integrates with popular workplace apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Zoom. “We live in Slack all day, every day to stay connected internally at Emetry,” says Mabray. “With customers and partners as well.”
“The centre of any good company is team and communications,” adds colleague Burbary. Emetry also offers Slack to customers as a collaboration and community-building tool. “Slack is the best team collaboration tool. My favourite part is the way teams organise around topics and collaborate. We have a rule about ‘putting everything in the light’ because it sanitises what’s bad and gives light to grow the things that are good.”
Brooks Heuck likes Slack because it cuts down on weekly e-mails and texts. “Every employee is in it, and then you can group people by topic: production, tasting room services, events, inventory, payroll etc,” she says. “I get reports weekly – we have about 450 ‘slacks’ a week which means we get 450 less e-mails and texts.”
Ultimately, Mabray of Emetry believes that communication extends beyond the office walls. “Winery execs have a responsibility to share their thoughts and vision with the world,” he says . “Medium is an excellent tool to provide thought leadership and, equally importantly, read other thought leaders, to improve their knowledge and use it to make their company better.”
This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2019 of Meininger's Wine Business International magazine, available online or in print by subscription.