A Blend of Apples and Grapes: iPads in the Tasting Room
What is your goal? As a wine business you want to sell more wine; engage more customers; improve customer service; encourage education and awareness. How can emerging technology help accomplish these things? Technology and wine are not unfamiliar bedfellows. Many wineries have looked to technology solutions for years.
- Database and inventory management with improved point of sale systems.
- Reward card programs that reward loyal customers. Cards and purchases are tracked through technology solutions.
- Tasting room kiosks that can help educate customers and improve service when staff is not available.
- Credit card terminals to assist in quicker transactions
- SMS text based coupon subscription services that push news and sales to customers
- Integrated relationship marketing strategies through Twitter, Facebook Foursquare, etc
Enter the Apple iPad; an interactive, cool, hip and customizable tool that is opening a myriad of potential technology solutions. Is the iPad the next evolution of technology solutions in business?
Lately I’ve been researching the use of an iPad as a technology solution for a future business. I was first turned on to the idea by an article I read on Tom Wark’s Fermentation (Daily Wine Blog) about Pithy Little Wine Company’s use of iPad’s in their tasting room. The article got my head spinning about the potential uses. While PLWC is not the first to use iPad’s in the wine business, their straight forward approach got me thinking about technology solutions that could drive sales, increase engagement, and assist with wine education.
Other recent articles in the New York Times (highlighting Atlanta’s Bones Steakhouse use of the iPad as their wine menu), and SF Gate (showcasing Barbacco’s electronic wine list) show that this technology trend is taking hold. Should you use an iPad type product in your winery, tasting room or restaurant?
Almost an Apple Convert
I am the last person you would expect to be thinking about drinking the Apple Kool-Aid. I’m a fan of the open architecture, non-proprietary, affordable and trustworthy PC. Apple has done a fantastic job in their slanderous marketing efforts to convince consumers that PC’s are prone to instability and are filled with malware and bugs. I’ve been known to dream of the malicious worm that would rot the sweet Apple success. Immune to the iPod, not swayed by the Mac, resistant to the iPhone’s spell, the iPad is the sole product that has me leaning to the dark side of the computing world.
Technology Solutions Not Gimmicks
Use of technology as a gimmick will be short lived, use of technology as a solution can have a long term impact. Whether it’s a Window’s based tablet (of which a well made one does not exist) or an iPad, I believe these portable devices present several solutions for winery tasting rooms.
Capturing customer information is always a high priority for businesses. Date of birth, zip code, email address, mailing address, social media contacts are all part of the holy grail of information. If used properly, a well made iPad application will allow customers to “like” you on Facebook, write on your wall while tasting your wine, sign up for your e-mail list, register for your wine club, and send a tweet about their experience. A soft, opt-in experience of this information is sticky and helps develop long term brand ambassadors. – iSolution
Tasting rooms can be busy places. The staff may not always be able to answer every customer question. Technology can never effectively replace personal interaction but well integrated use can exponentially increase the opportunity for education. I envision an iPad application that lets customers learn about each wine on the menu, explore tasting notes, and even potentially see a quick video about the wine. The ability to communicate your winery history, vineyard stories, and latest news can create a personal connection that extends beyond the tasting room experience. – iSolution
Stay and Play
My business model involves my tag line, “enjoy life with friends…drink happy.” I want to give people reasons to stay and play. The more stay and play, the more wine sales. While technology is not the only solution, it can certainly be a piece of the puzzle. Art, live music, board games, and wireless connectivity are other pieces of the stay and play puzzle too. The iPad opens up a world of gaming potential and other online activity. While some customers may certainly abuse the use of the tool, the benefits far outweigh the cons. – iSolution
Sales and Experience
At the end of the day, any technology solution must either improve efficiency that leads to lower expense or increase productivity that leads to higher sales. We’re not in business to create hip, trendy geek hangouts. We’re in business to sell a product or experience. The right use of technology can add to the experience in such a way that improves sales AND efficiency. The added benefits of an iPad in the tasting room can sell wine club membership, track inventory, target specials, and highlight events. Increased engagement has a direct correlation to sales. Technology can be a silent salesperson when you’re not there. It can be a self-service voice to the intimidated wine novice. It can be an added driver to brand loyalty. It can be the added experience that drives repeat business. - iSolution
Currently, iPads are a novelty in a handful of restaurants and wine tasting rooms. Over time, they will become common place. Those that use the technology as a part of their overall strategy will see great success. Those relying on the gimmick or techie appeal will see the impact die off quickly. Comments on articles I read during my research focused on three common problems that should be kept in mind if implementing this (or any) technology solution.
- Shrinkage – At $500 each, the iPad is a portable product that without the proper controls could be an expensive menu to walk out the door.
- Personal Connection – Don’t let the use of technology replace real human interaction and connection. Technology as a supplement to personal connection can be a powerful team.
- Simplicity – Make sure the use of the technology is intuitive and well thought out. Requiring users to navigate menu after menu to get to their decision can have a counterproductive effect. Think through your layout. This article in the New York Journal discusses the problems with poor iPad menu use.
Yes, it is true, apples and grapes can make a technology blend that improves customer loyalty and drives sales. Potential uses are mind blowing. Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought for how you could use the iPad or other technology solutions in the winery tasting room. As I continue my research for the pending use, I’ll keep you updated on the progress. If you’re a developer, let’s chat. I’ve got ideas.