Being naturally fearful of change, and not particularly up to speed with digital media, we were quite late to the party here at The Wine Merchant when it comes to Vivino.
Most, if not all, independents will have encountered the app by now. It’s a kind of Shazam for bottles of wine: simply snap a picture of the label, and within seconds you’ll have a wealth of information at your fingertips, including stuff about grape varieties, producer and region, and reviews from fellow Vivinists – possibly a word we’ve invented – telling you what the wine tastes like.
That’s all very exciting stuff, and it doesn’t cost anything to be part of the action. It’s quicker than a Google search and you get to store all your favourite wines, along with your own review, for easy reference another time.
Vivino also gives users a guideline price which is based on the kind of figure that an e-commerce site might be able to offer if you disregard things like courier costs and minimum orders. That detail doesn’t stop customers from using Vivino as a stick with which to beat their friendly local wine merchant or restaurant, against whom they believe they now have rock-solid evidence of shameless profiteering.
Many merchants despise Vivino for exactly that reason. They also resent the fact that some customers seem determined to keep their noses stuck to their smartphone screens, reading reviews that say “cracking red!” in the company of a retailer who would happily, if called upon, tell them everything they need to know about the wine in question.
But, as Edward Symonds of Saxty’s in Hereford argued at our recent round table event in Birmingham, this kind of technology is only going to get better, and if Vivino isn’t the long-term app of choice for wine drinkers, something else will come along. The technology is not about to be un-invented.
The challenge for indies is to find their own ways of engaging with their customers in the digital space. Some have apps of their own, admittedly not as all-encompassing as Vivino, but they do a job.
When 5G goes live, and technology moves on even more, we’ll probably look back at the current version of Vivino and smirk. But whatever comes next will pose more challenges for retailers, and possibly present lots of opportunities. Those of us who like to pretend digital media is an irrelevant fad would do well to at least try to keep up with developments.