Thinking outside the bottle with analytics and artificial intelligence

By Amy Gross

To stay on the leading edge in any industry, you must accept that the only thing that is constant is change. You must always be ready to analyze and adapt to take advantage of new advancements and stay ahead of the competition.

We all know that, but never have I put it into practice more than as the founder and CEO of VineSleuth/Wine4.Me, where we are developing technology that allows shoppers to get the wines they want, simply, and retailers to reach those wine buyers, personally. This is made possible through artificial intelligence.

In building our patented process of wine evaluation and predictive analytics, as well as our mobile applications and kiosks, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in wine, sensory science and artificial intelligence. We’ve also had the benefit of pairing that great perspective with the observations of an industry newcomer looking to shake things up.

As an IBM Watson partner, we learned many things working with cognitive technology that you can apply to your own business:

Look at your business objectives from your clients’ perspectives

Before you take the leap into any new technology, look at your customers first. What do they want to do? What do you want them to do? How can you bring that together?

In our case, we knew shoppers wanted to buy more wine, but the traditional models were not working for them. The “wall of wine” experience at the store often intimidated them and turned them off to new possibilities, so they were trapped by price point or the few wines or brands they already knew. Merely presenting the same information in a new format wouldn’t be enough to solve their pain points, but developing new data about wine would.

We looked at new ways to characterize wines and worked with sensory scientists from Cornell University, winemakers and an applied mathematician to develop a new way to characterize wines that would be objective and enable shoppers to make some true comparisons.

Get personal with your clients

With advancements in artificial intelligence, analytics and mobile, it’s easier than ever to get personal with clients. Shoppers today expect personal experiences from a company and you can — and should — provide those when and where it’s convenient for them.


Your customers don’t fall into one of two categories, or even five or 20 categories. They are unique. With the artificial intelligence capabilities out there in the cloud, you can engage them in a way that is meaningful and treat them as the individual humans they are. They will reward you for that in return sales. Instead of just suggesting what was popular or what their friends or celebrity critics like, we developed personal preference algorithms to individually match shoppers with the right wines for them.

Put your data to work

Are you collecting purchase history with a loyalty program or keeping records of past sales? You are very likely sitting on a gold mine of data. Put it to work!

VineSleuth/Wine4.Me enables quick use of loyalty card information to instantly build shopper profiles by accessing previous purchase data, asking shoppers whether they enjoyed those purchases through an intuitive mobile application and then applying proprietary wine characterizations and learning algorithms. With that, we can begin giving accurate, personalized wine suggestions immediately while the individual is standing in that wine aisle trying to identify the right wine. We can even pair that with previous food purchases to suggest wine with dishes likely made in the past.

What type of data are you already collecting? How can you put it to work for you?

Identify new customers within your existing customer base

Are you chasing the same clients your competition is hoping to capture?

The traditional wine industry approach was to target high-end shoppers. By looking at the wine industry differently, VineSleuth/Wine4.Me identified a potential increase of $33.8 billion in US wine sales just by shifting the focus from affluent wine buyers to casual wine drinkers, opening up not only a new way of thinking, but also a larger revenue stream. We then thought about how mobile and digital engagement allowed us to reach the consumer and deliver personalized and engaging experiences.

How can you reevaluate your target market to better serve existing clients and find more revenue?

Expand your focus

Did you know that every bottle of wine in a grocery basket averages an additional $15 spend on food items? Once we learned of this strong tie, we decided to help retailers grow that average spend by pairing every wine in our database with foods that shoppers could purchase in any grocery store. Using a free in-store kiosk or mobile application, people can find the right wines to pair with their meals and also suits their personal preferences. Our aim is to increase that spend further and help shoppers plan meals that incorporate wine, rather than just use wine as a cocktail. This helps grocery stores increase revenues and shoppers feel more confident about their wine purchases.

Are there cross-sales you can make that might have been overlooked in the past?

Be ready to adapt

Technology is changing daily. Innovation, especially with analytics and artificial intelligence, is never one and done. It’s a constant puzzle to be evaluated, re-evaluated and improved with every step.

We developed our own cognitive models and learned we could enhance the delivery of our information with the power of IBM Watson. In working with Watson, we learned we could use their language APIs to create an unlimited wine and food pairing menu, which was unheard of prior to our relationship — and yet not at all what our Watson experts even expected.

Play in the cognitive sandbox. Try things you don’t think will work. Who knows what perfect pairing you may create!

Written By

Amy Gross

Founder and CEO of VineSleuth / Wine4.Me

Amy Gross is the Founder and CEO of VineSleuth/ Wine4.Me, the only company which uses sensory science and predictive analytics to help people find the right wines for them, personally. VineSleuth/Wine4.Me is an IBM Watson Ecosystem partner, integrating Watson APIs for easy-to-use…

Other Articles by Amy Gross
See All Posts