Technology changes at light speed, but the wine business always seems to stay in the dark. Now, wine apps are making it easy for wine brands to reach new customers, cultivate connections, mine insights on buying trends, and promote their goods. Wine brands can’t afford to miss this rocket ship.
Wine is a long-tail business—after an initial purchase, a brand that keeps re-appearing on a consumer’s radar will enjoy repeat sales. Wine is also relationship business, and cultivating consumer connections is a key to long-term visibility.
Wine marketers who tap into the thriving communities on social media can cultivate connections with a potent network of wine influencers. With the right social apps and the right people using them, brands have power tools to interact with their customers.
But social now means more than just Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (although these remain critical platforms for wine communications—see below). Social also includes smartphone wine apps that let users post pictures and reviews, then chatter with their connections about a wine’s pros and cons.
Your wine’s pros and cons.
New Tools for Direct Connection—And Direct Sales
Wine apps not only communicate consumer buying trends, they also affect consumer buying behavior—and lead directly to sales.
The definition of Direct-to-Consumer has expanded over the last five years to encompass both the traditional models—tasting room, wine club, and follow-up e-commerce—and the broader (if somewhat harder to measure) digital model that includes social media and wine apps. Marketers who aren’t engaged on multiple levels of this expansive digital platform are missing out on the conversation and on commerce’s long tail.
But who’s really buying wine through these apps? Comprehensively measuring digital sales is a challenging business, but studies say the majority of digital purchases that occur via wine apps is driven by Baby Boomers, closely followed by Generation X. These demographics own high-end smart phones and have a high proportion of disposable income.
Younger wine drinkers may not buy as much, but they look to digital communities as their primary source of recommendations. Millennials in particular are more likely to purchase wine directly through an app when it’s recommended by someone they know, even if they only know these people via these social networks.
In fact, recent polls of Millennials (see Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Union PDF and this article from Highbrow Magazine) indicate this group is less likely to buy wine that hasn’t been recommended by a “friend” via a blog or another social mechanism. By tracking your brand mentions and commentary in each of these tools, you can focus your app efforts to target an engaged and interested audience.
Wine marketers should also make use of services like Vintank, a social listening tool that aggregates social media mentions for wine brands and provides marketers with consolidated conversations in a single platform. With that intelligence, marketers can derive insights about where the most social conversations occur, along with useful information on what apps customers are using the most.
Among scores of free wine apps, though, only a handful allows wine marketers to engage with consumers as a cohesive brand and sell wine. So how should you determine with what apps to pay attention to?
Non-Wine-Specific Wine Apps
Since there’s a wide range of wine apps available, the first step is to understand the leaders in each category, then decide which apps are most popular with your customers and have the most features useful for your business.
These first three apps below might surprise you, because they’re not technically wine apps—but they’re ubiquitous, and wine chatter on these services is huge (read: Ignore them at your peril).
Instagram is an app designed to share images, and it supports a thriving community of 300 million users who are educated and socially engaged consumers, many using Instagram as their primary social platform. According to Vintank, Instagram is the fastest-growing social media channel for photo taking and sharing.
A scan of wine-related Instagram hashtags (short words with a #hash sign that people use to indicate topics) reveals a variety of wine-centric photos, many including short reviews. Plus, since most dedicated wine apps offer the ability to post to Instagram directly, Instagram acts like a spoke with greater reach than its own users.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that Facebook owns Instagram, and while Facebook keeps its post-publishing algorithms close to its chest, anecdotal evidence suggests that engagement with wine-related posts from Instagram trump those from other wine apps like Delectable or Vivino. Were Instagram to add wine label recognition to its functionality, it would probably blow all other wine apps out of the water.
This micro-blogging site allows users to post their thoughts in 140-character bites, and despite the editorial constraint, it has managed to become a go-to in the wine community. Most dedicated wine apps give you the option to share your review on Twitter—an acknowledgement that Twitter is itself is a lively wine community. Vintank reports that many wineries use Twitter to engage with customers, and those using social media management tools to support ongoing conversation have higher Facebook and Twitter growth as brands.
Twitter also leverages hashtags to support wine conversation threads, chat streams about varietal days (#ChardonnayDay #LanguedocDay), wine chats (#SommChat), and event-specific hashtags. Brands that participate in these live events can connect in real time with an engaged audience of socially connected wine influencers. Following these leaders allows wine brands to create powerful networks.
More and more wine conversations are taking place on Facebook. Wine brands can leverage Page-related engagement by wine consumers, although the platform can be challenging to navigate commercially. Without adequate ad spend (at least $100 per month, and preferably much more), it can be difficult for your posts to be seen even by consumers who have Liked your Page.
However, Facebook gives you a vast, long-form (over 140 characters) option to interact directly with individuals who engage with your brand, then cultivate relationships with them to support that long-tail, ongoing connection. Importantly, Facebook also allows you to develop close networks with other like-minded brands—a boon for cross-marketing options.
Wine-Specific Wine Apps
With the Big Three standard apps safely covered, it’s time to turn to the wine-specific apps:
Delectable has technology that recognizes a wine’s vintage, producer, name, varietal, and appellation based only on a picture of a label. Users snap a bottle shot using the Delectable app, or upload a photo taken with their smartphone, then Delectable recognizes the wine and lets the user add a review. This is published for other Delectable users to view, comment on, and share. The service can also send a copy of the post to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, too.
Delectable has built a community that offers wine lovers options to connect to each other and comment on individual reviews. It’s especially strong in the U.S., and has amassed a large number of wine cool-kids here. Its designated pro users—mostly wine writers, winemakers, and hyper wine enthusiasts—enjoy featured reviews. If you’re new to Delectable, it’s a good idea to find these pros, follow them, and engage them; they’re influencers.
Delectable has become, by far, the crowd favorite of wine writers and members of the trade. Here are few reasons why:
“I vastly prefer using the Delectable app for a couple reasons. It seems to get my wines right almost all the time. Secondly, the community of users on there is drinking the same kind of wines as me, so I’m interested. Third, I really like being able to buy through the app, which only adds to my excitement about finding new wines.” —Beau Carufel, Random Wine Company
“I find that Delectable has become an important community and resource for me, where I have fun learning from other wine lovers.” —Thomas Riley, The Grape Belt
“Given the size of the audiences on Delectable, the trade absolutely should be using these apps to engage consumers. They are platforms for building some personality behind a brand; wineries can connect with consumers and build relationships using these platforms. Delectable, like Instagram, has a nice community to it, and I enjoy watching what people drink and what they say about those wines.” —Alder Yarrow, Vinography
The Vivino app is similar to Delectable in its mechanics, but it tends to have a larger global audience. Users scan, search for, and review wines, and can also peruse restaurant wine lists while building a community of connected users. Vivino’s click-to-buy feature is available for every wine, and users have a choice of buying online via partners or searching locally for pickup. The Pro version offers the ability to manage a private cellar and maintain a personal database of reviews.
Given Vivino’s large user database, even the smallest wine producers can be exposed to a global audience of users through the tool. Proprietary analytics show average consumption patterns within regions, giving brands information they can leverage for marketing and sales.
According to Brant Cebulla, a marketing manager at Vivino, brands can use wine review data to tailor content, recommendations, and special offers based on the kinds of wines people love. This can also provide brands with consumer intelligence for future marketing efforts.
Here’s what one pro user has to say:
“I find there is significant trade presence on Vivino. There are a number of wine professionals I interact with on a regular basis—this ranges from sommeliers to retailers to winemakers. Vivino is worldwide—that’s a huge base and a huge opportunity to engage with consumers who are hungry for information about wine and wine brands. I find that the social aspect of Vivino is far more active than other apps because Vivino’s and Delectable’s audiences are markedly different. When I scan a wine to Delectable, there is typically very little engagement from other users because Delectable’s audience consists of those already in the industry, and conversation largely is between trade pros.” —Christine Havens, Christine-Havens.com
Cellar Tracker has been an industry leader in the wine application category for over a decade. With more than 300,000 users, it has evolved beyond its original incarnation as glorified spreadsheet to include both a slick user interface and a great smartphone app. The app and the website together allow users to manage their own cellar inventory and also see reviews by other users and pros (with an upgrade) on those wines. Users can also quickly look up facts about a wine’s region, producer, or price.
“Cellar Tracker has become indispensable for a number of reasons. Tasting notes, particularly when it comes to bottles being ready for consumption. And tasting notes of those I trust for when I’m out shopping, just to name two. Most of these are trusted reviewers, who almost always comment on how the wine is developing or if it needs more cellaring.” —Thomas Riley, The Grape Belt
“I have been a user of Cellar Tracker since the very early days. Cellar Tracker’s iPhone app has been a wonderful addition to the equation, especially since it incorporates a bar code scanner function, previous only available for the web-based version. I enjoy reading tasting notes from other people, and I value the guidance from the community about when to open certain bottles. Part of what I like about Cellar Tracker is its wine consumers of varying expertise. I have fun when I enter a tasting note into Cellar Tracker and post it to Facebook and then the winemaker comments on my notes.” —Doug Levy, WineandFoodWorld.com
Before Cellar Tracker had a proprietary app, Cor.kz was the only app that had access to Cellar Tracker’s database. Now, this all-in-one app allows searching via barcode or wine name, permits cellar management, and offers review features. All of it is fully integrated with social sharing.
“I have used Cor.kz for a long time. It was available for my phone long before Cellar Tracker mobile, Delectable, or anyone else. I still use it sometimes; it is still valuable for connecting to the CellarTracker database, providing incredible breadth and depth. User reviews are available, so I can get a sense of what the wine might be like.” —Jeff Burrows, wine enthusiast
Another recognition app, Drync allows users to take label pictures and have the app recognize the wine. It had the benefit of being the first kid on the block with that feature, and the loyalty of Drync’s user base is a great bonus, with 38% of buyers repeating a purchase at an average price of over $25. These loyal users also take advantage of a unique concierge service that allows users to request a wine not otherwise available on the app; to date, over 40,000 wines have been requested.
Drync is an online retailer, but is also currently the only app that is fully integrated with the three-tier system, supporting direct shipment as well as local pickup of wines. This option alleviates the cost of direct shipments for the consumers, and increases traffic at local retailers. This feature alone has increased the purchase behavior of consumers threefold.
Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis has partnered with Drync to offer her readers instant access to curated reviews, along with Drync’s one-click shopping abilities.
“As a long-time user and lover of Delectable, I recently installed Drync on my new iPad. Drync impressed me with its clean and friendly interface that presents a lot of wines you can search for and buy, instant boost to build community by connecting to my wine-savvy Facebook friends, and fun access to expert opinions like Leslie Sbrocco.” —Liza Swift, BrixChicks.com
“Hands down my favorite feature is the ability to save the wines that I like no matter where I am. For me, it’s more about convenience than anything else. Drync is the one place where I know I can save and find wines I enjoy and want to have again. What I like about Drync is that it’s an aggregator, so I don’t have to subscribe to a bunch of wine brand mailing lists. I like how if they don’t have a wine, they find it for you and email you about how to get it.” —Devin Bramhall, wine enthusiast and direct shipment customer
“I really like the simplicity of Drync; the ability to pick up the wine at a location near me is very valuable as well. This is a great feature, and as soon as in-store pickup was available, I switched. I get an email when it is ready, walk across the street and a talk to someone in the store, they go in back and bring out my order!” —John Westlund, wine enthusiast and local wine pickup customer
A new entry in the scan-and-recognize category, Next Glass creates a personalized score based on a user’s history and the chemistry of his or her likes and dislikes. It prides itself on being a wine explorer’s app, offering recommendations on what to try next. As one of the few apps that deliver personalized scores via this more scientific approach, Next Glass—in theory—has the ability to truly personalize a user’s wine discovery experience.
While it doesn’t have its own social network, it does leverage a user’s personal networks to build a community. This allows for score sharing within the app (using third-party authentication to Facebook or Twitter), but the jury is still out on its depth of engagement options for the trade. Next Glass is planning a major revision to deliver in mid-June 2015. While the new features are still under wraps, it looks like they’re working hard to catch up with features offered by their wine app competition.
“Next Glass features a live label scanner to link to their database. They figure out my taste preferences based on how I score wines from 1 to 4 stars. They do respond to emails and tweets, which is nice. When the scan is complete, it links me to the wine and their estimate of how well I would like it on a 0–100 scale. Also, I can enter text and search to see if they have it in their database. The scientific aspect is intriguing, and the database is growing. Within a group of wines, (Barbaresco, for example) they do report significant difference in scores. Sometimes they seem to be helpful. I don’t like oaky, internationally styled wines—sometimes the tool seems to get it right.” —Jeff Burrows, wine enthusiast
Wine apps are just reaching adolescence, expanding beyond Silicon Valley to reach an international audience of curious, connected wine lovers. Wine brands can use social media aggregators like Vintank and social media dashboards like Hootsuite to post, monitor, and engage with passionate consumers.
Still, there’s no substitute for experience: download these apps, then install, connect, converse—and have fun. The power of engagement is at your fingertips.