Nowadays, wineries are looking to recognize their loyal customers at each point of contact: tasting room, off-site, online and phone. And at each touch point, wineries want a full snapshot of customer available including purchase history, varietal preferences and discount structure (member, trade etc.). Going one step further, their purchases can be immediately qualified for compliance and processed on the spot. Then, the final step — depleting inventory at the moment of purchase. Sounds like heaven, right?
So it makes sense to spend time determing which of your requirements take priority.The following questions will help you decide the best route in your decision-making.
Are you running a large operation with any or all of the following criteria:
- multiple tasting rooms?
- working with third party fulfillment houses?
- managing retail inventory from more than one location?
- your back office need sales and inventory reports that talk the same language as your accounting system?
Other POS systems have been developed specifically for the wine industry, such as Microworks and VinBalance.
As each POS system has its strengths and weaknesses, it is wise to research them to find the perfect fit for your winery.
If the above scenario doesn’t fit your situation and is more straightforward, then you might be better off choosing your online components first and match the POS which best integrates with your online solutions.
Customers today interact with their favorite wineries through a variety of channels; they visit your tasting rooms and at another time, they may buy wine or event tickets online. If they are repeat buyers or club members, they should be welcomed as valued customers regardless of entry point.
You might also want the relationship to work in the opposite direction. Let’s say you meet a customer at a consumer wine event or at your booth at the farmer’s market. Once you have captured their customer info at the off-site venue, if they walked into your tasting room that same weekend, how cool would it be to be able for your tasting room staff to “see” them and their previous purchases?
Unfortunately, the large gap in this process has been getting updated customer information to all channels in a seamless manner. As a result, wineries end up with customer history at their POS, another pool of customers and buying history in their online store and sometimes a third pool of customer data on their email marketing system. The result: multiple pools of data with no easy way of bringing it all together for a complete customer profile.
Where should the customer management system reside and how to make it visible to all buying touch points has been the holy grail of all winery customer management systems. Unfortunately, many POS vendors have focused on reports and inventory with far less interest in the online side of the equation. As a result, when they have been forced to talk integration with online stores, they choose to support one online vendor with a promise to add more as their customers request it. Why? Because writing the code to marry their software to another vendor’s is complicated and time consuming!
Typically, their solution has been to push and pull customer data from one channel to the other in tortured steps such as download updated customer list as .csv file, change field names, upload over here and cross your fingers. Now repeat every day, week or month as often as you are up to it.
Generally, this works fine for creating a new customer file in the other system. However, rarely do customer transactions come over. So before you plunk down some serious money for that POS system, take some time to evaluate how that system will interact with your current online software.
New fully integrated direct to consumer software solutions are being developed that allow a complete view of customer profile including preferences, clubs and buying history that integrate seamlessly into POS and other customer touch points. I’ll discuss some of these solutions in an upcoming article.
Comment by Andrew Kamphuis
Excellent post. If your going to create great customer solutions, it is important that you ecommerce, POS, and CRM talk to each other.
You mention that typically vendors have focused on inventory, reports, etc – while this is true, more and more vendors are talking to each other – and they are more willing to talk to each other when wineries push them for integration features.
Comment by Michele
It is up to the customers to insist on integration. However, it has been my experience that most vendors have a short list of companies they will work with, usually as they have teamed up to work together to offer a more complete package to their customers. We included it in our contract that integration with our chosen website/online store happen. I have since left that company, but to the best of my knowledge, they are still waiting.
Comment by Andrew Kamphuis
Michele, you're right that there are certain vendors that work with certain vendors (every integration takes a lot of work).
It’s unfortunate that an integration you specified in a contract didn’t happen (sounds like a good reason not to pay or to ask for your money back).
Comment by Paul Thienes
Very good post, Michelle. Your readers might want to know that, back in 2003, we as a vendor skipped the shuffle-data-back-and-forth-between-systems scenario that all of our competitors do, and instead invented a POS that runs over the Internet, integrating it with our eCommerce, Wine Club and Inventory modules for real-time transaction processing. With our eCellar platform, we continue to be the only wine industry vendor with a 100% web-based solution that is proven in busy tasting rooms and web sites alike.