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User-Friendly Tech Symposium

September 2007
 
by Jane Firstenfeld & Jim Gordon
 
 
WITS 2007
WITS co-chairs J. Smoke Wallin, left, and Lesley Berglund welcomed Richard Maranville of FedEx Kinko's as keynote speaker.
WITS 2007
Cutting Edge Retailers panel, from left, Bryan Dougherty, Gary Vaynerchuk, Cornelius Geary, Alyssa Rapp and moderator Greg Christoff.

Napa, Calif.--Dynamic speakers seemed to breathe new vitality into the Wine Industry Technology Symposium on July 17, which drew more than 300 attendees.

Richard Maranville, CIO and senior vice president of FedEx Kinko's, was the keynote speaker, observing "You guys are just at the beginning of using technology. If it's not something you're doing today, it's definitely something you're going to be doing tomorrow."

Other keynote panelists stressed the importance of the Internet. Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, showed market research on consumer expression--what people are saying and doing online. He said consumer-generated media, like chat boards and blogs, need to be better understood and utilized by wine marketers.

Retailer and online video star Gary Vaynerchuk of winelibrary.com preached wittily on using the web to find and understand wine consumers. He sells wine online, posts videos of himself tasting and rating wines, and says that's made his business boom. "Embrace your website as your business," he exhorted.

Here are some highlights:

WITS 2007
Alison Crowe moderated a panel on Cellar Management Software with speakers Steve Kirby, left, of Sonoma Wine Co., and Steve Urberg of Gloria Ferrer. Technology With Traction
WITS 2007
Jeremy Benson, left, led a consumer direct marketing panel that included Bill Murphy.
WITS 2007
Constellation Brands executives Greg Basara, left, and Harish Ramani.
WITS 2007
Strategic sales panelists David Fischer, George Louis, Danny Brager and Sasha Kadey.
Photos: Anitra Carr & Jim Gordon
Trade sales & marketing

"Strategic Use of Sales Information" was moderated by WITS co-chair Smoke Wallin, chairman of eSkye Solutions, who noted, "Today, account-level data is prevalent, and distributors have been trained to provide it to wineries."

A good brand management software package is critical, according to George Louis, Caymus Vineyards. Sasha Kadey, from Oregon's King Estate, stressed, "The more information you have, the more you are empowered."

"Cutting Edge Retailer Models," moderated by Greg Christoff, president of WTN Services-The WineTasting Network, addressed online retailing, described as "a fourth channel for wine sales, wholly framed by technology. It's passed three crucial tests," he said. "First, it's everywhere. Second, not everyone is purchasing online, but nobody's not online. Finally, these emerging companies have taken the channel beyond technology to create high-value relationships with consumers."

Cornelius Geary is CEO and co-founder of RadCru, a San Francisco-based e-tailer that offers one daily selection of high-end wine at a time to 8,000-plus U.S. subscribers. Orders are forwarded directly to the winery, which ships the order and retains the contact information.

Bryan Dougherty, CEO of My Wines Direct, sells wines from all over the world at a wide range of price-points, with a money-back guarantee. Dougherty noted that studies show convenience is the dominant reason people purchase wine online.

Winery and vineyard management

Winemaker Alison Crowe of Plata Wine Partners moderated "Advances in Wine Production Tools." Winery employees, including several winemakers, discussed at least five different cellar software systems.

Cyril Penn, editor of Wine Business Monthly, moderated "Trends in Vineyard Management." Panelist Brian Osborne of Cropwire, Inc., said vineyard information systems are improving, and in the future will be low power users, wireless, networked, real-time, will work in situ, and increasingly web-based.

Robert Wample, chair of the CSU Fresno department of viticulture and enology, gave an update of precision harvesting research that maps quality in a vineyard using near-infrared photography, global positioning and geographic information systems.

"Barrel Management Identity Crisis," moderated by Lisa Levsen Corbett, Modular Information Systems, focused
on creating and operating winery barrel-tracking systems.

Joseph Shirley, winemaker at Trinchero Family Estates, implemented a bar-code tracking system there 10 years ago. It's still in use, and inventory has grown to 11,000 barrels. "You want to track for consistency and quality control," he said.

Mike Dever, finance and production systems analyst at Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle, was involved last year when that operation was shopping for a barrel-tracking system. Ste. Michelle maintains a stock of about 130,000 barrels, replacing about 20,000 per year. E valuating bar-code and RFID (radio frequency identification) technologies, Ste. Michelle also opted for bar code.

Mike Blom owner of Napa Barrel Care barrel storage facility, is still deciding. "Bar-code technology has gone as far as it can go," he said. "But RFID challenges have not been worked out yet."

Consumer direct sales & marketing

In "Understanding and Maximizing Web 2.0," Josh Hersmeyer of Capozzi winery and Tom Wark of Wark Communications showed examples of blogs and shared sales and marketing tactics they think are working well. John Hingley of Andiamo Systems and Philip James of Snooth.com discussed the Web 2.0 era (social networking, wikis, blogs and online user-generated content) and its opportunities for wine sales.
 
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