Straight from the Source of Working with Data + Wine: Mitch Berkoff of 3x3 Insights

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“The stories of data in the wine world, told by the people who actually live it.”

That’s how I introduced the straight-from-the-source” series within Enolytics 101, to highlight the people of wine who work with data every day. The first installment featured Randy Browne, Business Analytics & Insights Lead at C. Mondavi & Family and here were three of his most resonant takeaways:

  • The more time you spend with data, the more muscle memory is formed. You and your team learn what to focus on.

  • You need to take control of where you want your business to go. Relationships help, but how is your product going to outperform the other 1000+ SKUs on the shelf?

  • The “data voice” should have a seat at the table when it comes to all key strategic decisions of the business.

How these things actually happen is the point of this straight-from-the-source series, because we want to draw back the curtain on a day in the life of working with data in wine.

Which brings us to today’s post featuring Mitch Berkoff, Director of Delivery at 3x3 Insights in New York. In this role, Mitch oversees all aspects of data delivery and client management of all clients in the wine, beer, and spirit categories. His responsibilities include data curation, report design, and working on site with clients and their various business units to leverage the full potential of 3x3 Insight’s consumer profile and product data.   

We asked Mitch the same questions we asked Randy and the results, we hope, share this common denominator: they humanize data for wine. These are real people doing real work in wine, and they make data personal.

We hope you enjoy the interview, and the perspective that Mitch brings to real world challenges in the industry.

How did you learn about data? How did you get comfortable with it, as something you “do” as part of your everyday job? 

My relationship with data started at a very young age, growing up in my family’s liquor stores (Bev Max in Connecticut). From the time I was five years old, I remember riding around with my dad to the stores every single Saturday. We would stand in different aisles and near the register for hours just observing and taking it in. I quickly realized that this was my dad’s way of staying in tune with what was going on in the store. This is before the days that POS systems became widely adopted by liquor stores. He didn’t have a way to track product movement and gain insight from it. If my father wanted to know what was selling, he’d have to go on the floor and interact with customers and see how they’re behaving three feet from the shelf. Before retail analytics and category management gained notoriety, through the power of observation my father would identify loss leaders, develop merchandising strategies, re-arrange the store layout, determine pricing, etc. Having the experience of seeing my dad operate with very little data, highlighted the significance of needing data to drive the decision making process.

Fast forward a decade, and technology progressed…somewhat. I got more involved in different facets of the business, and quickly realized that the information we had was still not enough to be able to operate at our highest level. We began investing heavily in building our own reporting infrastructure, which definitely had positive ROI. So you can say I learned about data, because I essentially grew up in it.  But my love and passion of data has grown and evolved since my time working in the family business.

What value does working with data add to your role on a day-to-day basis?  

Data is an integral part of my role on a day-to-day basis. As a member of the 3x3 Insights team, I work with our supplier partners to deliver them product performance and consumer insights on the independent liquor channel.

More powerful than providing suppliers with data, though, is our ability to connect suppliers with retailers in our network to create and measure action with the data we collect. For example, we’re working with some suppliers to measure sales of a product pre-, during, and post- in-store-tasting to measure lift in sales in those accounts and measure the ROI within the 3x3 network. With other suppliers, we’re testing displays and products in different areas of the store to understand the impact the move has on their performance. Everything we do with our supplier partners is through the lens of measure and optimize, when it comes to crafting data driven selling stories, product and display tests, and measuring marketing ROI. 

What’s the biggest challenge you face, when it comes to data in the wine world?  

The wine category presents a number of unique challenges as it relates to my role and our mission at 3x3 Insights. From a data perspective, the number of products, varietals, and vintages makes maintaining our wine database a constant effort. Unlike spirits, there’s a large number of varietals, vintages, and producers. UPC info also gets a little fuzzy as you progress down the long tail of the wine market with smaller producers. I believe this challenge will continue to escalate as the trend of retailers stocking more and more wine SKU’s that are not national brands becomes more widely adopted. Retailers are increasing their selection of wines to account for rapidly changing consumer taste, and to differentiate their store from big box stores where you aren’t as likely to see more premium or smaller batch wines.

As far as feedback from wine suppliers, they’re excited to be accessing category data for the independent channel for a number of reasons.

First, is that the independent channel is becoming their primary channel for higher end and premium wines. Suppliers are also acknowledging that customers in a wine shop or liquor store behave much differently than those shopping in a supermarket or big box store and need data to meet the needs of consumers in the wine shops and liquor stores. With our data, they are tailoring their approach to selling into and maintaining these types of accounts.

Second, as the number of wine SKU’s in the store and on the shelf increases, it’s becoming harder to secure space for your brand. Being able to demonstrate to a retailer that your product is going to bring in new customers, build bigger baskets, and help that retailer differentiate themselves from the competition is almost a requirement to getting your product in the store, which is where we help.