iPhone – a week down the line

iphone-and-jobs.jpgA friend of mine in New York has had his iPhone for a week already, and he’s ready to give it up. Not because he’s unhappy with it… but because he’s irritated how interested other people seem to be with it. At the best of times in Mega-cities people tend to ignore each other, but the possessor’s of the iPhone have found complete strangers coming to them and asking questions, wanting to hold it and constantly looking over their shoulders to see what they’re doing.

We can be sure that such interest is indicative of a sea-change, as people are gearing up to be constantly plugged in. Apple has dropped the word ‘computer’ from it’s name – and as the iPod has become a phone, and that phone has become an web-browser, this year will surely be remembered as the year the iPhone was launched for a long time coming. But what does this have to do with wine… a lot.

In November 2006 there were 15 million original page views on the Internet from mobile devices in London alone; one month later in December there were 16 million page views. Since then the numbers have been growing steadily by a million more views with every month. Interestingly, about 15% of those page views were for the purpose of purchasing goods online; and even more interestingly, 5% of those people were doing grocery shopping. The United Kingdom has a growing number of people getting their groceries delivered, and one of the most prominent items that people were ordering from grocery stores was wine.

Two months back I did a post about the potential impact of portable devices on the wine world – and asked a few bloggers what they thought. Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com didn’t see there being much of an impact at all, which surprised me for someone who unifies the wine world online. Let’s look at a few things. Facebook has opened their API to companies to access for free until November in order to encourage market participation. Tastevine.com is building an app for Facebook; and according to the guys at WineZap, we’re one of the only sites to have successfully accessed their API. By the beginning of next year you will most likely be able to use the Tastevine application on Facebook to purchase a personally recommended case of wine from your mobile phone. No kidding.
Now just think about how inconvenient it is to do grocery shopping. Really. If you and everyone in your neighborhood were ordering groceries online, there would be no delivery charge as it would become industry practice. I am convinced that this will become standard. For day to day things like cheese, bread, wine and cereal – we don’t actually need to physically hold the product and can just have routine deliveries.

For anyone who has ever worked in the wine industry we know that the biggest pain in the neck is shelf-space. There isn’t enough of it. And in general, if you’re a regional buyer, you want to have consistency throughout the shelves, so all the buying can be done centrally to minimize headache and maximize profit – and as a result supermarkets tend to stock mass production wines, and it’s not worth their while to do anything that is boutique. Blockbuster video had the same problem – in that they couldn’t stock video’s from the 1920’s because there wasn’t enough unified demand and so they controlled the market and invented the top 20. Suddenly everyone was making their way through the top 20 and all the store had to do was buy 20 copies of each one, and then sell them off for cheap once it left the charts. Netflix changed that by cracking open the Long Tail. But Blockbuster fought back and is beginning to win… Why, you may ask. Because they have the infrastructure! They have the business set up nationally and a team of employees – which is something that net-roots companies don’t often have. Too often we see a boom-bust scenario where a companies popularity kills it, because they can’t meet demand. Blockbuster already had national coverage – so they came to the game later, but started on a stronger footing.
With the invention of the cyber-store – there is still room for the distributor. Distribution houses have the warehousing facilities, the logistics networks and the trucking capability (it’s not the distributors who should be scared – its their salesforce – ultimately distributors could make more money by cutting down their entire sales-team and relying purely on customer demand and marketing to drive sales.) More and more supermarkets have delivery capacity, and online shopping is going to crank that market wide open to make it the norm by the end of next year (they too can save money by not having any check-out staff or big stores that have to be well lit and constantly mopped.) It is my belief that supermarkets will eventually not be open to the public, and will specialise in servicing people in their homes. Seriously – would you miss shopping for groceries? What could well happen is that we begin to see a resurgence in specialist boutique style deli’s that do fine cheeses, good salami and old fashion butchers who prepare prime cuts of meat according to your needs and come back to add the local flavor to neighborhoods. Perhaps even a resurgence in the French style country market on the weekends where producers come sell low-production goods. The boutique wine shop will re-emerge en masse.

Ultimately the iPhone and the devices that follow in their wake will turn people’s doorways into portals to the world. And instead of only having milk come to our doorstep, we’re going to see wine become a very regular part of that delivery too.

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Posted in Wine | 2 Comments »

  • http://www.drync.com brad

    Ruarri,

    I was searching for articles on wine + mobile and found this great one. Although you wrote it in July of 2007, it is still a timely topic. Since the launch of the iPhone appstore in July of 2008, numerous wine apps have launched, and a few even offer purchasing of wines. No doubt Alder was wrong and the “connected” mobile device is going to play a significant role in the wine industry, from researching to purchasing.

    I’m writing this partially out of self-interest, as the topic of bringing wine to mobile is near and dear to my heart. I have been thinking about this since around the time you wrote this article, wondering why the vast amount of wine information available on the Internet could not be brought to the mobile phone in a way useful for the average consumer.

    As such, I and some friends recently launched an iPhone app that attempts to bridge the offline and online wine worlds in this way – providing comprehensive wine discovery with access to 100’s of thousands of wines, professional reviews/ratings, and purchasing of wines through partners.

    We’d love it if you and your team took a look – http://www.drync.com.

    -brad

  • http://www.drync.com brad

    Ruarri,

    I was searching for articles on wine + mobile and found this great one. Although you wrote it in July of 2007, it is still a timely topic. Since the launch of the iPhone appstore in July of 2008, numerous wine apps have launched, and a few even offer purchasing of wines. No doubt Alder was wrong and the “connected” mobile device is going to play a significant role in the wine industry, from researching to purchasing.

    I’m writing this partially out of self-interest, as the topic of bringing wine to mobile is near and dear to my heart. I have been thinking about this since around the time you wrote this article, wondering why the vast amount of wine information available on the Internet could not be brought to the mobile phone in a way useful for the average consumer.

    As such, I and some friends recently launched an iPhone app that attempts to bridge the offline and online wine worlds in this way – providing comprehensive wine discovery with access to 100’s of thousands of wines, professional reviews/ratings, and purchasing of wines through partners.

    We’d love it if you and your team took a look – http://www.drync.com.

    -brad

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