Connecting with wine consumers and tasting room visitors via mobile devices
By Dr. Kathy Kelley and Jen Zelinskie
You could be reading this blog post on a desktop, on your iPad, or your Samsung Galaxy smartphone. As the number of devices available to read what we and others post increase so do the best practices associated with creating and posting relevant content.
This post provides information to supplement what we have shared in the past about using technology to connect with customers and tasting room visitors. Content describes our participants’ cell phone (basic and smartphone) and tablet ownership, the percentage who installed a mobile wine app, and interest in mobile wine app features and receiving text messages from winery tasting rooms.
We will continue to ask participants about their smartphone, mobile app, and other relevant technology use in future surveys.
Smartphone use in the U.S.: Current ownership and forecast
The very first phone that “meld together the functions of a cell phone and a PDA (personal digital assistant)” was introduced in 1992, although it was not until 1995 that the device was referred to as a smartphone (http://read.bi/2kNBfXa). As you can imagine, with a retail price of $899 in 1992, consumer adoption was a bit slow at first.
In 2015, 68% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone, and, as might be expected, younger consumers were more likely to own one than more mature consumers. Smartphone ownership at that time was:
- 86% of survey participants age 18 to 29,
- 84% of 30 to 49-year-olds,
- 58% of 50 to 64-year-olds, and
- 30% of participants age 65 and older (http://pewrsr.ch/2lo7PCV).
There’s no denying it, many of us consider our smartphones to be essential to our everyday life. We use these devices to communicate with others, keep our calendar, be used to deliver presentations, and manage our finances. The capabilities seem almost limitless.
Then it should come as no surprise that these devices are never far from our reach. In a separate 2015 survey, 81% of U.S. adult smartphone owners responded “yes,” to the statement, “I keep my smartphone near me almost all the time during my waking hours…” and 63% reported that they kept their smartphone “near them at night even while sleeping” (http://bit.ly/2lo0Ae).
Furthermore, we are more likely to turn to our mobile devices than our desktops to “get online.” In June 2014, the number of “unique visitors” who accessed digital content on mobile devices “passed” the number of unique visitors who accessed digital content on desktops. In June 2016, the number of unique mobile visitors was “double” that of desktop visitors (http://bit.ly/2lwrldh).
It is estimated between 2014 and 2020 the number of U.S. smartphone users (all ages) will increase by 50.1% (171 to 256.7 million users; http://bit.ly/2kNL5Io). During this same time period, the U.S. population is expected to increase by 5.0% (318.7 to 334.5 million consumers; http://bit.ly/2kNI5f2).
Mid-Atlantic wine consumer mobile phone and tablet ownership
In a March 2016 Internet survey, we included questions about mobile phone and tablet ownership and asked our participants, who resided in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania and who drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year, how they used these devices.
Of the 714 survey participants, all but seven reported owning a basic phone, smartphone, and/or tablet. Of those who owned at least one of these devices, 93.6% owned a smartphone and/or tablet and the remaining 6.4% owned a basic phone (Figure 1), with 41.6% of these participants responding that they owned a tablet.
Though we did not ask about participants’ mobile tablet or smartphone plans, it can be assumed that some of these participants had a mobile data plan for their tablets. In 2015, 31% of tablet owners had such a plan (http://bit.ly/2kyLbCS), and some cell phone carriers now offer unlimited or free data plans. It is projected that by 2020, 66.2% of Internet users will use a table “at least once a month,” a 10.4% increase from 2012 (http://bit.ly/2kyLRYS).
What do smartphone users do on their devices?
Responses to an August 2016 survey involving adult smartphone users, age 18 and older, indicated that on a weekly basis they used their phone to:
- “access the internet” (93% of participants),
- “take photos/videos” (71%),
- “receive SMS/text alerts” (68%),
- “look up directions” (58%), and
- “research products” (47%) (http://bit.ly/2lo3lft).
Pertaining to shopping and using a smartphone to make a purchase, there was a nearly equal split between the percentage of respondents who made a “majority” of their smartphone purchases using a mobile app (51%) and who used a mobile website (49%) (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).
Segmenting data based on demographics reveals:
- 3% of participants in one survey responded that they made a purchase using a smartphone in 2016, with slightly more female participants making a purchase than males (45.3 vs. 39.9%, respectively) (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).
- In 2016, Over half (63%) of Millennials shop on their smartphones every day but fewer, 39%, actually make the purchase on their phone (http://bit.ly/2loGXmh).
- In 2015, 55% of Gen X shoppers used their smartphones to “locate store/hours,” 54% to “browse products,” and 44% to “get text offers” (http://bit.ly/2lnPS7h).
When asked what prompted them to make a purchase on their smartphone, 21% responded that they made a purchase after receiving a “marketing email about” the product, 18% a “marketing text,” and 17% a “marketing push notification” (http://bit.ly/2lvo65J).
Mobile app usage “accounted for 80% of all growth in digital media engagement” between June 2013 and June 2016.
Adults, age 18 to 44, spent more time accessing the web using a smartphone app than they did all of the following options, combined: desktop web browser, smartphone web browser, tablet app, tablet web browser. How long did these survey participants spend using apps? During an average month:
- Smartphone users age 18 to 24 years spent an average of 93.5 hours using smartphone apps,
- users age 25 to 34 years spent an average of 85.6 hours, and
- users age 35 to 44 years spent an average of 78.8 hours (http://bit.ly/2lwrldh).
If we take the number of hours in a year and divide that number by 12, there are approximately 730 hours in a month. So, these consumers were spending between 10.8% and 12.8% of each month accessing content via smartphone apps.
Our participants’ mobile wine app usage and what winery and tasting room app features appeal
One component of our second March 2016 Internet survey focused on whether our participants installed wine apps (e.g., Delectable, Hello Vino, Drync, Wine Enthusiast’s Tasting Guide) on their smartphones and/or tablets and used the app(s) to learn about wine and/or winery tasting rooms. As is shown in Figure 2, below, 26.7% of smartphone and/or tablet owners responded that they did have an app installed on their mobile device.
All participants who owned a smartphone and/or tablet, regardless of whether they had a mobile wine app installed on their device, were also asked to look through a list of features commonly found in wine apps and select up to five they felt would be useful to incorporate into a winery tasting room app.
Responses are ranked based on the number of participants who selected each, with “location, service, direction, and/or map to the winery tasting room” selected by the greatest number of participants (Table 1). “Detailed list of events held at the winery tasting room” along with details specific to the occasion (date/time, performer, entrance fee, etc.) and “tasting room sales announcement/digital coupons for tastings and/or purchases” were ranked second and third, respectively.
Even through 73.3% participants indicated that they did not have an app installed, we included responses from all of our smartphone and/or tablet owners in Table 1. It is possible that one of the reasons why participants had not installed a mobile wine app was because they didn’t like the features. Hence, we feel it is of value to provide all the data as their responses pertained to features that could be incorporated into a winery tasting room app, rather than an app offered by a corporation, magazine, etc.
While the data is specific to mobile app features, knowing what features appeal to mobile device owners could be useful when developing or revamping a mobile website. Responses may help tasting rooms identify content that they had not considered for their website or help with prioritizing content.
So, should you develop an app for your winery tasting room?
With data showing that smartphone and tablet ownership and app usage is increasing, is it time that you invest in your own winery and tasting room app? While it may seem that an app would simply duplicate what your mobile website does, according to one expert “mobile apps…are best suited for user retention and engaging with clients. They’re not aimed at random people finding a company’s website, but are more about rewarding loyal customers” (http://bit.ly/2kXrxUp).
Benefits a small business may experience if they develop their own app include:
- an additional way to communicate with customers, another channel for them to make purchases, and gather user data (depending on the app’s capability and features) such as “visits, checkouts, purchases, searches, and more” (http://bit.ly/2kXsxI9);
- being able to reward users, be the method for recording purchases, and display loyalty program status and level (http://bit.ly/2kXmW4G); and
- serve as a point of differentiation from other winery tasting rooms that do not have their own app (http://bit.ly/2kXnHdS).
One of the biggest cons, if not the biggest, is the cost of building an app. The costs to build an app depend on what options are selected. Some of which include:
- if your app be available to Android or Apple iOS users of both,
- if and how users login to the app (no login, using their email, or using a social media account),
- if users will have to create a personal profile,
- if the app will be free, for a fee, and/or allow in-app purchases (http://bit.ly/2kXrecm).
Also, you will need to determine if you should develop a:
- native mobile app (written specifically for Android and/or Apple iOS and is downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and are opened by “tapping their icon”),
- a hybrid mobile app (which is downloaded like a native app but runs off a web browser and can be cheaper to build than native apps), or
- a web app (a “mobile version” of a website and “loads within a mobile browser” (http://bit.ly/2kXv5X1, http://bit.ly/2kXsZWY).
Perhaps you are not ready to build an app, but is your website mobile-friendly?
While you may be considering the benefits of developing an app for your tasting room, you really need to learn directly from your customers about their interest in downloading your app and what features appeal to them. Until you have collected data from your customers, developed the app, tested it, made improvements, etc., your tasting room visitors will likely turn to your website to learn about your winery and wine.
In September 2013, we asked Mid-Atlantic wine consumers to indicate what social media networks, email, and online resources they felt were mandatory for winery tasting rooms to implement. Over half of our participants felt that a “website for promoting the winery and wines produced” was a “mandatory” component (http://bit.ly/2kNy7dI). Hence, you not only want a website (according to one survey, 46% of small businesses do not have a website; http://bit.ly/2kNPwTE) but you want one that functions properly and is mobile friendly.
A website that is not mobile-friendly not only frustrates visitors – it may also negatively impact your Google mobile ranking (http://tcrn.ch/2kWN4ws). Since 2014, Google has been focusing on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, and that having one provides the consumer with a better experience (http://bit.ly/2kX1YmB). So, if your website is already mobile-ready then it may “appear higher on search results” (http://bit.ly/2kWUEaI). Keep in mind that a mobile-friendly website is just one factor than can impact Google mobile rankings (http://bit.ly/2kOhhLK) and that the algorithm pertaining only to Google searches on mobile devices (http://bit.ly/2kX3PrB). Based on analyzing their customers’ websites, Hubspot.com estimated that the 2015 update resulted in “a 5% drop in traffic,” (http://bit.ly/2kWX0pK).
Fortunately, there are several websites and online tools that identify issues that make a site less mobile friendly.
We tested these tools/sites to see what type of assistance they provided. We used an URL from a winery that had just updated their website design and that was well designed for desktop viewing. While we only mention a couple of tools, you will find more online by searching for “mobile ready website tests.”
The first tool we used to check if the website was mobile friendly was developed by Google: (http://bit.ly/2loAxmX). To test a web page, simply copy and paste the URL into the textbox on the site, click “run text,” and wait. You will then be directed to a page with your results.
Although we got a message that “this page is easy to use on a mobile device,” and it looked great when we compared the mobile version to how it looked on my desktop, there was an alert. Two of the resources on the site were “blocked,” which are “external resources–such as image, CSS, or script files” (http://bit.ly/2loHFzP). A blocked resource could have minimal impact or if it is a “blocked CSS file [this could] result in incorrect font styles being applied…[which] affects…Google’s ability to your page” (scan your web page and create an index of all the words on the page, which then determines the order in which web users see them; http://bit.ly/2lXtaQq).
If your web page is not mobile-friendly, you will be alerted to whether the errors pertain to Flash usage (“content, animations, or navigation” not being displayed) the content not sized to viewport (the viewer would need to scroll horizontally to see all the content on their mobile device), and/or others (http://bit.ly/2lXN3qG).
Click on the following link to learn how “not being mobile friendly” can cost you: http://bit.ly/2kWOIOS.
A little bit more about texting customers
While basic cell phone owners have limited access to some applications and mobile websites, they still can be used to communicate with wineries and tasting rooms and receive promotional messages, shipping notifications, and other communications that tasting rooms send via text.
In a January post, Kathy provided information about why you might want to consider using text messaging to connect with your customers (http://bit.ly/2lktAma). While the data discussed in that post were based on consumers in general, we asked in our March 2016 survey if Mid-Atlantic wine consumer were interested in receiving texts from wineries and tasting rooms.
With nearly all (95.3%) of participants owning a smartphone and/or basic phone, and proposing that these phones can accept text messages, over half (53.2%) of participants would be interested in receiving text messages from a winery tasting room that contains information about events, wine tastings, new wine releases, etc. (Figure 3).
Take a look at the post to learn why consumers were interested in communicating with businesses via text and how to use texting to engage with tasting room visitors. If you need some ideas as to what to include in the message, a simple Internet search for “sample text messages to customers” can lead to several sites with examples and templates (e.g., announcing that your website is mobile-friendly http://bit.ly/2kXnKqj and asking visitors to comment about their recent tasting room experience http://bit.ly/2kX5uxi).
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