A Winery Roadmap for Data Capture

By Susan DeMatei

If you’re trying to sell your wines through direct channels, your customer database is the most valuable tool in your marketing arsenal. Most wineries understand the importance of a database, but few have a documented list for which consumer data points should be collected, and why.

In any given business, different departments have different needs and will require certain customer data points. These needs can often be in conflict. It is common, for example, for senior management, marketing, accounting, and tasting room staffs to all prioritize different aspects of data collection. Without a list that is agreed upon by all departments of what customer data should be captured by whom and in what manner, consistent data capture simply won’t take place. A collection plan will ensure that everyone is on the same page, knows what data they are responsible for, how to collect it, and why collecting it is so important.

Primary Data Capture

Full contact information should be collected whenever possible. These touch points might be on the phone when making a reservation, online when placing an order, or in the tasting room as a walk-in visitor. Each touch-point channel will have different success rates for capturing data, and different responsibilities, needs, and technical limitations.

By “full” contact information, we mean:

• First and last name
• Billing address
• Email address
• Phone number
• Birth date (if a shipping or club customer)

Why capture this information?

This information is helpful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you can contact them again in the future, and have a choice for how to do so. If you only collect email addresses, then you won’t have the option to send out a special event invitation via snail mail should you choose. Or, you won’t be able to perform an outbound call campaign if phone numbers are not routinely captured. The more data you have, the more flexible your marketing strategies can become.

Another reason this information is helpful is you can start to look at database segmentation. Combine contact information with your marketing or sales results, and you can begin to see if those ad placements in Miami are bringing up any Florida visitors, or if it is worth getting that shipping license for Pennsylvania.

What do you do if you don’t
have this information?

One easy thing to do if you have a lot of partial records in your database is to perform what is called a “data append”. There are several subscription websites, like Spokeo, where you can search for missing phone numbers, addresses, or emails on a one-off basis. Or, if you have an extensive list with missing data, there are mail house and list companies that perform quick and inexpensive data appends based on the NCOA registry. The National Change of Address Registry is that little card you fill out with the post office when you move. Often it has phone and email and other information that can be appended for as little as $.30 a record.

Even if you don’t have a lot of incomplete addresses in your database, it is a good idea to scrub your bounces and undeliverable emails in this way at least semi-annually. Marketing Sherpa research shows that data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month – that is an annualized rate of 22.5%. So, even if you do have full contact data for the majority of your database, you can count on 1/5 of your database churning every year. That’s a lot of updates to keep on top of.


It is always easiest to collect data via the Internet during the checkout process on an eCommerce transaction. Customer data is mandatory when checking out of an online shopping cart for billing verification and shipping information, and most consumers are used to providing it in this scenario.

You may need to remind your staff that is it is also quite reasonable to ask for detailed contact information on the phone when someone is making a reservation. If someone is visiting your property, you have a legal right to know who you’ll be entertaining.

But, what about when a customer walks in and is simply tasting at a busy bar? This is where your team’s tenacity and creativity come into play.

It is imperative to work with your staff to find ways to insert data collection into the tasting room process. Capture their ideas and provide them with the tools they need. This could involve a sign-in sheet, or sign-up pads, filling out order forms or iPad check ins. There are many ways to capture data in a customer conversation that doesn’t feel like an interrogation or violation. The important thing is to make it top of mind with your team and encourage them to incorporate it into how they handle every customer. You won’t be 100% successful. But for every address you collect, that is another potential sale from your database in the future.

One tool that some of our clients have used is providing goals for their tasting room to meet. In the last DTC Survey published by Wine Business Monthly the average monthly visitor count across all regions of the US was just over 1,100 visitors a month. If you set a goal for your tasting room to capture even just 20%, you can expect approximately 220 new customers to your mailing list every month. Some have found success posting this goal in the back, and some wineries (about 7% according to that same article) give bonuses or pay outs per sign up.

Second Tier Information

After the basic data collection mentioned above, information that can help you segment your database is the next assignment for collection.

By segmentation data, we mean:

• Customer group
• Source
• Spending history per customer (linking sales to a customer record)

Why capture this information?

This information can include basic customer groups such as “trade”, “employees”, “wine club” or “locals” and will need to be set up in your database prior to collection. Spend some time looking at your database to determine what groups might be appropriate to your business. This information is helpful if you’re sending out different messages for a wine club event or a trade hospitality party. In a few clicks you can have your list pulled with some forethought and effort on the front line to put customers in their proper groups.

Other second tier data that is helpful to collect is source data. A source is defined as where you got the potential customer. Most databases have a source field where you can standardize input sources such as a neighboring bed and breakfast, other wineries, programs such as Lot 18 or Wine.woot.com, livery services, or a friend of a wine club member. You will find this data invaluable when planning out your next year’s activities and deciding what programs and relationships are worth your time and what efforts were not as fruitful. Without source data, how are you to know what worked?

Finally, and most importantly, is spending history. This involves making sure a customer record is recalled, or appended with a sale or club transaction. Only in this way can you tell this customer’s value. Marry this information with information like the source of the customer, and you start to see the full picture of what efforts are paying off and what are wastes of time.
What do you do if you don’t
have this information?

You can export your data and put them into groups at any time. Things like addresses and companies and purchase history will help you determine what labels might apply. Many systems allow you to re-upload information into these groups, keeping your edits in place within the database.

In the case of source data, you need to do some sleuthing to back-fill this. Sometimes the date of a large order will make it clear it was with an event, or a note or shipping address will provide clues. But, if all else fails, it is never too late to begin to collect this data on all future database members moving forward. Just start fresh and set up the procedures and process to collect it now.

If you haven’t captured spend data under your customers, you can’t really go back and re-create that. When working with our clients, it is our recommendation that not only should purchases be captured and attached to a customer record, but also the lack of a purchase. For instance, let’s say you agree to pour your wine at two events. You pay for your staff and write-off wine to pour for free and hand out 2-for-1 tasting coupons inviting attendees to visit your tasting room at both events. People show up with that 2-for-1 coupon. Some buy and join the wine club, and some take the tasting coupon and the discount and leave without purchasing a thing. If you don’t capture the name and source of the people who just walked in and walked out, you won’t be able to look back and determine if one event over another did poorly.

Tertiary Information

For those sophisticated in data collection, the third tier is behavioral data.

By behavioral data, we mean:

• Channel response
• Sign-up preference
• Notes

Why capture this information?

This data will provide you with insight into how the customer wants to receive marketing messages from you, and, more importantly, how they are likely to respond. For example, if you send out emails monthly, but this club member always responds to the offer in the printed newsletter, that is helpful in planning out and projecting your next program. Take things like timing, responses, mobile and frequency into account.

The reason for this is simple – we all have different preferences for communication. Some of us are more active on Twitter, some like the phone. Once you know your customer’s channel preference – for communication and sales – you can not only provide the best customer service, but boost your sales as well.

This level is the holy grail of direct marketing: combining 1) contact data, with 2) segmentation, with 3) behavioral preference.

In this manner, you can almost predict within a range of certainty how programs will perform and what the best option is for sales to your database. This is hard to achieve and even harder to mine, but with some set up and planning on your part, you will reap the rewards.

So, what level are you?

The trick is to know what stage your winery is working on and set goals and procedures to move forward from there. You, your management, and your staff should know why you’re collecting data, and what the process is to do it.

Data capture is an ongoing struggle and will change as new methods of communications are developed and customer habits change. But it reaps rewards with ongoing email sales and club shipments. The key is to keep at it and keep moving forward.

Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

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