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There reallly isn’t a problem with technology, the problem that many of us have is that we’re apprehensive about change. Apps like Vivino claim to help “Buy the right wine”, as if there’s a pre-requisite in the wine aisles that it’s possible to buy the wrong one on occasion. It stifles a sense of excitement and replaces it with predictable dependability.
Anyhow, knowledgeable and friendly retail staff have been navigating the decision making process for hundreds of years, what’s the problem with an app having a go?
The Vivino Timeline
The history trajectory of Vivino is an interesting place to start.
People who like wine are seemingly forgetful souls, there’s any number of cataloging options that people try for a week or two and then forget about.
I remember a Christmas present from someone I didn’t like, who barely knew me, that gave me an actual physical notebook that I had to carry around with me and fill out with an actual pen, by hand.
Ten years ago I pulled together a brief vintage chart to integrate into a wine cataloging start-up called CorkBin, it never really got off the ground. It relied on users uploading all the information about the wine they’d just tried, in order to remember it for another day.
It was a disaster, but shows the concept of cataloging a wine collection has been around long before iPhones. It’s also been around long before The Works sold ‘A Wine Lovers Notebook’ for £2.99.
Step in WineSearcher, Vivino, CellarTracker, HelloVino & Delectable…*
They’ll cleverly let you keep an eye on the wines you’ve drunk and no longer possess, while another app will keep track of the wines you do possess, but haven’t tasted yet.
All of them will try and tell you how much you should pay for them, and anticipate how likely you are to enjoy them, when you finally get around to drinking it, or they’ll try to predict how much you liked it once you’ve finished it.
I’m really not sure what the critical control point of tastiness prediction is.
Lots of apps try to do the same, while relying on people to slavishly navigate tech sheets to type in grape variety, country, region, wine maker, retailer, price, where they were when they bought it, how much they paid for it, their own tasting notes and then
The Social Integration
The next logical, modern progression for an app that controls and stores data you’ve provided to it, is to turn it into a ‘Social Experience’, so that you keep giving it more data and encourage your friends to join in.
CellarTracker does this through a 90’s style message board, community forum, complete with gif avatars, and power user moderators, and sticky posts on ‘how to use this forum’ and where not to post questions about losing your password.
Meanwhile, Vivino, built theirs into a slick iPhone app, where you could post about the wine you’d just tried, give it a review and a rating. Lots of users have posted A LOT of wines to their Vivino account.
In the app, you can follow other friends, comment on their life choices, and tell them that they’ve got it all wrong just like you can on Twitter and Facebook. Except it was exclusively for wine-types.
Initially, it was free to post as much as you like, and Vivino quickly realised that offering a community based wine cataloging app for free doesn’t make them any money.
The platform and user activity did however give Vivino one of the biggest wine databases in the world.
Vivino’s Money Making Gambit
At some stage along the way was, I’m sure it was always part of the plan, Vivino went from a cataloguing app, to a ‘discovery marketplace’, where users could take a photo of a bottle, find out where it was sold, how much they should pay for it, and how much they were going to like it.
This data is valuable, and quickly provided Vivino with a considerably wider audience, massive in fact**, and the platform to offer retailers to list the wines for sale. In doing this it created an active marketplace to buy wines at the best price, right from within the app.
Their user base is huge in the US, but growing quickly in the UK, with many merchants offering their wine range for sale within the app, Vivino of course taking a commission on each sale.
Vivino of course sells the data, charges for advertising space, ‘tailored’ premium listings and all sorts of other behind the scenes activities all based around the information that you freely enter into their app.
How To Cope With Change
Have you ever taken part in one of those business away-days where Katherine Briggs from HR gets everyone to do one of those weird surveys, so that you can find out how you deal with business adaptability and teamwork?
You’ll know that some people embrace change, while others adapt and some simply resist.
Vivino isn’t going away, but we can all do well to listen to our customers, understand their buying habits and drive loyalty through community.
I’m not saying that that recommendations from Vivino are any good, they’re based on historic data.
Big, crowd sourced data often ends up with the most obvious choices rising to the top, while the cool stuff on the periphery gets missed, because it’s never going to please enough people to come first.
The same thing often happens in wine judging competitions, the more esoteric wines rarely win the gold medals.
Wine shops can play alongside Vivino, think laterally and creatively, showing their customers things they’ll like without the algorithm getting involved.
But, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
* There are SO many more.
** 50 million active users, 13 million wine listings, 500,000 daily wine bottle scans, and a ludicrous 1.5 BILLION photos of wine labels.
From Forbes Magazine.
“One day about seven years ago, Danish entrepreneur Heini Zachariassen found himself standing in front of an enormous wine shelf at his local supermarket and feeling, as he recalls, "stupid." He wanted to buy a bottle of wine, but he had no idea what was considered good. All he had to go on was how fancy the labels looked.”
From Harvard Business Review.
“Most crowdsourcing initiatives end up with an overwhelming amount of useless ideas. Why do many crowdsourced ideas turn out so bad, and what can firms do about it? Recent research finds that it comes down to understanding the motivations of crowd members.”