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The Power of the Wine App

By now, most of us have heard about the benefits of selling wine online and the rise of the smartphone. Wine Business Monthly has written numerous articles about the habits of smartphone users, building a website that is mobile-friendly and implementing an easy-to-use shopping cart for ecommerce sales. It’s now well-known that part of a successful marketing effort means paying attention to the mobile consumer, but there is one aspect of this marketing that has seemingly gone overlooked: the wine-related app.

When talking about direct-to-consumer marketing and sales, it feels like all we ever talk about are websites, tasting room experiences, wine clubs, events and shipping while overlooking something that is a part of the consumers themselves: their phone. If you think about it, a phone is just an extension of a person. It’s more often than not within arm’s reach, and it is fully equipped to immediately cater to a person’s every want or need. What do you do when you’re a bit bored between meetings? Whip out the phone and check email or the news. Stuck on a Brix to alcohol conversion in the winery? Use the phone’s calculator or search Google on your phone to find the solution.

The point is that, whether we like it or not, our smartphones play a very important role throughout our day, and a very fundamental part of the smartphone is the app. Finding a great app can make a task like, say, rating and remembering a wine incredibly efficient and even fun. If the app is equipped with a social media function, consumers can also share information and compare.

Wine Business Monthly thought the time was right to pay a little bit of attention to the wine apps that consumers use, with hopes of helping those winery sales and marketing team better understand the tools their consumers might be using and how to employ them to their benefit.

Some Background on Wine Apps

Five years ago, there weren’t many wine apps that had staying power—most were unable to capture user attention and maintain a constant and steady user base. Many users would download the app, try it out for a week or so, and either move on to a different app or give up on rating apps altogether. Part of the problem lied in the way the apps asked users to record their wines—user experiences were not friendly, time consuming, inefficient and so on.

Then a label scanner was developed, and that changed the game, according to Paul Mabray, whose company Vin65/WineDirect works to integrate these apps with its own platform, providing wineries a seamless way to interact with the consumers using that app, he says. He has been following the space for many years, and has seen four apps emerge as leaders: CellarTracker, Delectable, Drync and Vivino.

Since label scanning became available, use of wine rating/searching apps has greatly increased. Vivino recently announced that it had 9 million downloads. Drync has amassed a large monthly active user base. CellarTracker has had more than 10 million visitors to both its app and website.

The interest in the wine app rose alongside the growth of the smartphone. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of wine drinkers with a smartphone rose 82 percent, those with a tablet rose 315 percent and those with both devices rose 390 percent, according to Nielsen statistics. A study completed by the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute shows that 23 percent of wine consumers are using apps to make purchasing decisions.

Wine apps have grown more useful. Users want to know more about a wine—where they can buy it and what others think of it—and the apps are now delivering on these needs. For the first time ever, apps provide crowd-sourced ratings and encourage users to rate and review. Perhaps most importantly, the apps have moved the rating process to the point of consumption—users are able to rate while drinking without needing a desktop computer nearby. The apps have reached the stage where they can validate a user’s purchase in real time, and that’s key in maintaining staying power and building a loyal user base.

Understanding the Users

There are hundreds of wine-related apps available for download, but not all are created equal. Some are free and made by groups of students or hobbyists; some are made by people just hoping to make something that sticks, others are developed by companies dedicated to the wine space. There are even apps created by wineries themselves, used to better interact with their long-time and wine club customers.

It’s difficult for many of these apps to build a base of active users with so much competition and a limited number of wine lovers willing to use an app. It’s even more difficult when a few well-built apps have essentially stolen all the users. As Mabray pointed out, most consumers will only use one wine app, even though they might use several social media or news apps. Once they find an app that fits their needs and works for them, that’s it—they won’t try another.

Typically, those who use an app to track wines they enjoy or want to buy are more engaged in the wine space, that much is obvious. These are the people who are genuinely interested in wine, have the desire to learn more, want to find wines that they and their friends will enjoy and are more likely to purchase larger amounts of wine—the kind of people you want to sell to. There is an app for every type of wine lover: HelloVino reported that nearly 70 percent of its users identified as “beginner” or “novice” drinkers. CellarTracker caters to the more serious drinker, someone who has “a sturdy knowledge of the wine world and is a bit of a collector. Delectable is the perfect app for the more “upscale,” premium drinker.

For Vivino, half of their users utilize the app while drinking a bottle, and the other half use it to do some research before buying a bottle, according to CEO Heini Zachariassen. “From day one, I wanted to build an app for normal people—someone who loved wine but didn’t want to make it a serious hobby. The big bulk of users are normal wine drinkers who drink every week, are affluent, mostly urban and slightly older than the average app user,” he said.

Crowd Sourcing Ratings and Purchasing Power

One of the biggest draws and benefits of the wine app is that it crowd sources ratings: Millions of users are able to gather and compare opinions of wines. Whereas the major, professional wine rating publications and websites can only taste so many wines per person per issue, there is no limit to the number of people or number of times a wine can be rated in a consumer-focused app. For those brands that can’t get the time of day with a professional (more than 75 percent of wines are never rated by the experts, according to Vivino) the wine app is the next best thing.

Vivino was curious how its ratings compared with those from the professionals. The company analyzed more than 5,000 wines combining over 800,000 Vivino ratings and more than 10,000 wine critic ratings to find out. In the end, Zachariasson found that the correlation was extremely strong—Vivino ratings are very similar to those made by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

Cellar Tracker, Delectable, Drync, HelloVino and others show expert ratings, providing further validation of the wine. It instills a bit of confidence for someone, say, stuck in the wine aisle of the grocery store to know that a wine on the shelf is well liked by experts and the average Joe. While the Google Shopper Marketing Council reported that 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phone for help and validating their purchase in stores, interest and acceptance of mobile purchasing is also growing.

A recent Latitude study found that 88 percent of people agree with the statement that having a mobile device with realtime information makes them more spontaneous with shopping. Of all Black Friday purchases made in 2014, 37 percent were made on a mobile devices and 45 percent of total 2014 holiday shopping traffic came from these devices as well, according to IBM. Most estimates say that these numbers will increase by double-digits in 2015.

This is great news for in-app wine purchases. “There is always an adoption curve. We’ve crossed the proverbial chasm and the mainstream market is now buying,” said Drync CEO Brad Rosen. Purchasers on Drync typically buy an average of eight bottles per order. The company say 154 percent year-over-year sales growth with an average cart size of $240.

The Bottom Line

Keeping this in mind, what can wineries and sales and marketing teams do to leverage the power of these tools?

The easiest, and most basic thing to do is to claim your winery. Most apps allow wineries to create an account and manage the information about their brands. It ensures that all the information is accurate and on point with a company’s brand strategy. The more SKUs included in winery profiles, the more likely each app’s software is to put your wine in a consumers recommended list.

Following that, some apps will then provide back-end data about the wines, including how it rates and what the customers are saying. Some apps have more specialized information, including which customers are scanning which wines, when they are scanning and how many are making a purchase.

“We have a record of when and where every wine has been scanned in the app. It’s a very rich set of consumer data that many wineries would likely find very helpful,” said Rosen.

Hello Vino CEO Rick Breslin says that this data is incredibly valuable in determining future sales/marketing strategies. “With everything you do in any kind of app, every data point gets trapped,” he said. “We don’t want to recommend a white wine to you if you don’t like it. By using all that data we collect, we can create a better user experience.”

For wineries developing marketing messaging, data about what works can save a lot of time and a lot of hassle. Hello Vino is currently working with students at UC Berkley to sort through data points about user flavor profiles, popular price segments and more. The results will be released in June.

The more ratings, the more useful the data to the consumers, as well, and encouraging customers to evaluate wines on an app is a simple thing to do. A wine rated 4 out of 5 stars with 200 reviews will likely hold more sway than another with the same rating but only 10 reviews. At tasting events, it could also be a useful tool in helping potential customers remember experiences. Something as simple as putting a small sign on the table could be key in reminding a taster—who might be sampling dozens of wines in a single day—to come back to your brand later. And if consumers have an app like Delectable, Hello Vino or Drync, they can even buy your wine on the spot. This however, really only works at tasting events where wine purchases are not allowed—in the tasting room, you would obviously want to encourage immediate sales.

Some will let wineries promote within the app. In a study done between Lotus Growth and Hello Vino, the companies found that if a wine/winery was promoted within the app, 29.4 percent of the customers made the purchase immediately and another 61.5 percent saved the wine to a wish list for later purchase. Lotus Growth also discovered that most of the customers who purchased the wine had no knowledge of the brand prior to the start of the campaign. For smaller wineries, this could be a beneficial tool in increasing recognition.

Drync is rolling out a new campaign function that allows wineries to promote wines in restaurants and bars. Using a talker placed on the bar or table, a Drync user scans the talker in the app, which brings up a coupon for a free or discounted glass and the winery then reimburses the bar/restaurant. The customer then gets a discount if they then purchase a bottle of the wine within the app for home delivery (wineries interested in a campaign like this should contact aimee@drync.com)

The Future

As time goes on, the recommendation and rating features on these apps will only continue to improve. It has been said that Millennials are more likely to take friend’s considerations when making purchasing decisions, and wine rating apps are likely to be of use in this way. In addition, mobile sales will likely see some stellar growth in the coming years as acceptance and ease-of-use expand. Drync’s Rosen sees a growing demand for same-day delivery, on-demand in 30 minutes or less and in-store pick-ups as well. Breslin sees the app serving as a new “fourth-tier.” “Consumers are building trust with these apps. Whoever will give the customer the smoothest, and most fun and informative buying experience is going to be the retailer in the consumer’s eyes, and retailers will become fulfillment providers,” he said.

As trust and acceptance of smartphones (and the apps that the phone encompasses) grow, wine buyers will continue to turn to the convenience of purchasing through their mobile devices. It’s important to keep an eye on the space and do what you can to make sure your brand is well represented.

The Apps

There are hundreds of wine-related apps—just search wine in the Apple App Store for instance, and become lost in the dizzying array of apps for download. It might be a daunting task for any wine fan to pick and choose the right app among so many, but there are some leaders in the pack. We’ve narrowed down the list to the more popular wine rating and search apps.

CellarTracker

CellarTracker is for the serious collector. The app features an advanced cellar management system that allows users to easily manage wine cellars and share tasting notes with other users. CellarTracker was originally created in March 2003 by Eric LeVine as a way to keep track of his own cellar. In July 2003 he launched a small beta program for CellarTracker which grew to 100 users tracking 60,000 bottles. He then publicly launched the site in April 2004, and it has steadily grown ever since. CellarTracker has hundreds of thousands of collectors tracking bottles numbering in the tens of millions. CellarTracker has also grown to become the largest database of community tasting notes with 3.7 million such notes as of late 2013. The app will allow bulk import of an existing spreadsheet for easy set-up and continuation of cellar notes.

CellarTracker sees about 70,000 new reviews each month. The top five reviewers have made 97,165 reviews, and the total professional reviews have reached more than 540,000. The top 10 California wineries, based on number of tasting notes recorded, include Ridge, Turley Wine Cellars, Beringer, Carlisle, Robert Mondavi Winery, Williams Seylem, Kosta Browne and Pride Mountain Vineyards. CellarTracker is free for iPhone and Android devices, and also has a prominent website. For more information, contact support@cellartracker.com.

Delectable

Using the phone’s camera, Delectable users can search for a wine instantly, receiving ratings and descriptions to help recommend a wine. Users can follow their friends through Facebook or Twitter, follow suggested wine professionals and search wines by hashtag. Ratings are sorted by all users and by those the app has tagged as a professional. Education is also a key feature in the app. At press time, Delectable showcased 12 Zinfandels that Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars blind tasted, wines suitable for Earth Day celebrations, and more. Delectable offers a purchasing option for users. The app partners directly with wineries, importers and retailers to fulfill orders from a location near the user, and shipments usually take a week to arrive. Delectable is free for iPhone and Android devices. For more information, visit www.delectable.com.

Drync

Drync users are able to snap a photo of any wine label and find details, such as price, availability, tasting notes, ratings and more. Users have the ability to purchase that wine in 30 seconds or less right from your phone for home or office delivery, including using Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Drync’s storefront is based on each user’s personal preferences and ratings, as well as the several curated collections that are showcased in the app. The app launched in-store pickup in Massachusetts February, allowing users to save on shipping charges while having the convenience of picking up at the store on their schedule. Drync reports that 52 percent of its customers use that option where it’s available, and is expanding it to other states now.

Drync’s users are mostly United States-based, and the top-rated wines reflect that. Twenty-three percent of wine scanned are from California, and half of those are from Napa. Red wines are the most scanned, at 70 percent. Average bottle price is $42. South American wine, particularly Argentinean Malbec, and Italian and Spanish wines see a good amount of searches. Purchasers typically buy an average of eight bottles per order. The company say 154 percent year-over-year sales growth with an average car size of $240. Drync is free for iPhone and Android devices. For more information, contact aimee@drync.com.

Hello Vino

Hello Vino app recommends specific wines by meal selection, personal taste preferences and other wine-buying occasions such as holidays, delivering relevant content to consumers while making their purchase decisions. Limited time offers and deals and wines are available, as is an on-call wine professional. Users have the ability to rate, review and save wines, as well as create a wish list for future purchases.

Of it’s users, 60 percent consume wine on a weekly basis, 75.1 percent purchase wine costing less than $20 a bottle and spend $1,186 on average in annual wine purchases. To purchase a wine through the app, users can submit a request to a Hello Vino concierge who will process the order. Hello Vino is free for iPhone and Android devices, though label scans will require an in-app purchase. For more information, contact hello@hellovino.com

Vivino

Vivino allows users to scan a label or search for a wine, get instant ratings, prices and user reviews. Users can then rate, review or save bottles and share them with friends. A Nearby Places function shows restaurants, stores and wineries close by, as well as the number of wines available for purchase. Users can scan a restaurant wine list to learn more about a selection. The search function sorts by price, region, varietal and more, keeping a user’s taste profile in mind. In addition, articles and lists highlighting a specific variety, region, or both, are offered.

In April, Vivino announced that it had amassed nine million downloads of its app. Since it’s launch, Vivino has scanned more than 333,000 wine lists, received more than 26 million ratings, 8.5 million reviews and made more than 131 million label scans. Twenty-six percent of its users are from the United States, 11.7 percent from Brazil, and four to six percent from Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands (according to WineDirect information). Reflecting the large Brazilian user base, nine of the 10 most reviewed wines are from South America, with Marchesi Antinori as the only European wine. The top 10 Vivino users have rated more than 27,900 wines. Vivino is free for iPhone and Android devices. For more information, contact wineries@vivino.com.

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