For most wineries, wine clubs are one of the best ways to drive direct wine sales. The problem is that they are also expensive to run and can take up a lot of time.
There’s a very good reason for that. You need the right tools to do your job well and we talk to a lot of wineries who simply don't have them. When it comes to wine clubs? One of the tools that wineries seem to use a lot is Excel.
What’s wrong with that you ask? Read on.
Spreadsheets aren’t designed for wine clubs
Excel is a fantastic program, but it is not a database. It is a spreadsheet program designed for calculations and graphs. Yes, you can store data in it, but that doesn’t mean you should.
And that’s our first problem with Excel and other spreadsheets. Data is one of the most important things your business actually owns and keeping it clean (ie consistent and accurate) is absolutely crucial.
Unlike an actual CRM, spreadsheets can’t help you in this process.
For example, what if your customer wants to changes their shipping address for just one order? Where do you store that information? Using Excel, you would have to delete it and run the risk of not being able to find their old address again. In comparison, CRMs are designed to specifically store customer information. As part of this, you can also archive details or store notes to ensure information is not lost.
The good news is that most wine club software will include elements of a CRM, giving wineries the benefits of accurate and clean data.
Spreadsheets are not PCI compliant
If you don’t know what PCI compliance is, you’re probably not achieving it in your business. Simply put, PCI compliance is a set of requirements for businesses to follow when they are accepting card payments. It ensures that your customers’ personal details are kept private and Australian law requires all businesses, regardless of size, be fully compliant.
You might be able to guess it, but we've got some bad news for you. Storing the information you need for a wine club run on a spreadsheet saved on your computer is not compliant.
The Australian government advises that you should not store any cardholder details on your computer directly. This is for several reasons. Firstly, it provides too much access to card details and it can be difficult to control who can see that information. In addition, it doesn’t allow for any encryption, meaning that anyone who is able to find it has complete access to card details.
While this might not seem like a huge threat to you, the consequences of a breach are severe. Beyond significant damage to your reputation, fines and even the loss of right to own a business may also occur.
Unsurprisingly, this is one area where wine club software excels (see what we did there?) Most people running businesses don’t want to have to think about these things and are more than happy to leave it in the hands of someone else. Oh, but if you are worried about your PCI compliance now, you can complete a self assessment here.
A spreadsheet doesn’t integrate with anything
(No, a mail merge doesn’t count.)
Another problem is that spreadsheets are standalone. While it might be adequate to store the customer details necessary for shipping and their club preference, these limitations do very little to save you time when you’re doing a club run.
This is something we hear frequently, particularly from smaller wineries. They’re interested in the ongoing income that a wine club brings, but just don’t have the time for the extra work. We understand that, particularly when you use a spreadsheet to keep customer details that you need to mail merge to create shipping labels after you process payments one by one. Which you do after you’ve taken any order preferences or monthly changes. Which you do before you spend a day chasing up people with expired credit cards.
The traditional tasks of running a wine club are time consuming, but you don’t have to do it that way. Most wine club software works with your accounting platform, your CRM and even popular couriers to streamline the process. Many will also help you get your customers' orders and some will even automatically update credit cards for you.
It isn’t good for your customers
Even ignoring the risk of a data breach, spreadsheets just don’t help your customers too. This is particularly true in the case of wine clubs where you let your customers choose their own selection.
Your customers are used to a world where they can order dinner on their phone, clothes from overseas at work and pay their bills online. Yet when they order your wine, they need to call you. Chances are when they make that call, they’ll ask some questions about wine they've previous ordered and you need to have that information to help them.
Wine club software will bring all of this information together and create an individual record for each customer. In the case of choose your own selection clubs, much of the software available will also automate this process for the customer, making it easy for them to order the wine they want. Plus, by keeping this data all in one place, you will be able to easily identify your most important customers at a glance.
There's a risk of human error
Everyone who has used a spreadsheet knows how easy it can be to accidentally delete data, start a formula or just generally do something silly that overrides crucial information.
The problem is that wine club members are some of your most important customers. They are guaranteed repeat customers. They have connected with your wine and your story enough to want more of it on a regular basis. While mistakes happen, these are not the customers you want them to happen to. Is it really worth the risk when wine club software exists?