The Year of Mobile Commerce?

Study analyzes connection between social media and wine consumers

by Peter Mitham
mobile wine
Economists say 2014 will be the year ecommerce hits the mainstream.
McMinnville, Ore.—Forecasters are calling 2014 the year of mobile commerce—but have wineries made the leap? Study results being presented at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium in Portland, Ore., next month may reveal some answers.

    Traditional commerce on agenda

    When growers and winery staff gather for the annual convention of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers at the Three Rivers Convention Centre in Kennewick, Wash., on Feb. 5, stationary commerce, rather than mobile commerce, will be on the agenda.

    Jenn Nance, general manager of direct-to-consumer operations at Goose Ridge Vineyards and Estate Winery in Richland, Wash., will chair a session focused on traditional marketing and identifying consumer types. It “will not be going into mobile commerce,” Nance told Wines & Vines. “It will be focusing on marketing your tasting room and ID’ing customer types as well as gauging success in the tasting room.”

Linfield College instructors Dr. Sharon Wagner, business department chair, and Dr. Lisa Weidman, an assistant professor of mass communications, recently studied social media use by wineries. The researchers looked at how wineries connect with current and prospective customers, focusing on an analysis of online content and the response of “fans” of the wineries and their brands.

But whether connecting via websites and social media outlets such as Facebook is enough to position wineries to take advantage of an increasingly mobile consumer is another question. Speaking to symposium participants in 2012, Rick Bakas of Bakas Media in San Francisco, Calif., said that all indications pointed to mobile commerce breaking through to the mainstream in 2014.

“This is the year that’s targeted for mobile media and mobile marketing to explode,” he said at the time.

Bakas still expects that to happen, he told Wines & Vines this week, thanks to the ongoing penetration of smartphones and other mobile devices in consumer’s pockets and buying patterns.

“Mobile has already been blowing up in other countries, but here in the U.S. we are getting so close,” Bakas said. “Tablets are also part of the conversation, and probably more likely to be the mobile device people use to engage in ‘mobile marketing’ or ‘mobile commerce.’”

Google’s report Our Mobile Planet in May 2013 pegged U.S. smartphone penetration at 56.4%.

The United States isn’t yet among the top 10 countries for smartphone use, ranking just 13th, but Google noted that 77% of smartphone users research products with the devices, while 46% have used them to purchase products or services.

“Businesses that make mobile a central part of their strategy will benefit from the opportunity to engage the new constantly connected consumer,” Google’s report stated. “Having a mobile-optimized site is critical, and a cross-channel strategy is needed to engage consumers across the multiple paths to purchase.”

Michael Penalosa, managing principal at retail-consulting firm Thomas Consultants Inc. in Vancouver, B.C., told an audience this week that brick-and-mortar stores need to recognize this shift if they want to be successful, noting that even he’s been guilty of using his phone to compare prices—and then order from a competing retailer—while in a store.

“Internet sales are growing double-digit every year,” Penalosa said. “It’s revolutionized how people shop. You can buy just about anything from anywhere, and have it shipped to your house or to your office—anywhere.”

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