• NZ 03-441-3223

The Best Wine Apps: a retailer’s perspective

So what are the good wine apps out there? I’ll review some research done by one think tank and then outline my own.

Wine on the iPhoneiPhone wine apps

In November 2009 a technology and wine industry think tank called vintank published a research report called Wine on the iPhone РAnalysis on the Application Environment.

Although it may already be out of date (a year later there are now hundreds not the “dozens” of wine related apps referred to in the report) it still provides a good framework in which to assess mobile apps.

Note it takes a wine drinker point of view whereas I’m taking a wine retailer point of view. So the criteria will not necessarily overlap (price comparison jumps to mind!).

Here’s a summary of that criteria

Vintank’s most important factors were:

  • Wine Reviews – number and quality
  • Wine and Food Pairing – recommendations
  • Wine Journal – by which they mean tasting notes or reviews
  • Social Media Capabilities – sharing by facebook and twitter
  • Point of Purchase Option – I read this to mean the ability to look up wine info and pricing in-store rather than mobile e-commerce
  • Clean and Impressive User Interface (UI) – navigation and easy of use
  • Innovation – a catch all for cool stuff
  • Database Cleanliness – avoiding duplication of wines, probably due to misspellings or inconsistent naming conventions

Vintank named the following as their top 5 wine apps:

  • Hello Vino – due to great point of purchase and UI
  • Wine Prices – wine reviews and point of purchase
  • Cor.kz Wine – wine reviews, wine journal, and point of purchase
  • Velvet Vine Wine – wine journal, UI and innovation
  • Drync Wine Pro – point of purchase

They used the criteria to rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5 with additional points based on:

  • being free
  • large number of users
  • those that “deliver functionality and value” vs just content

I suggest you read the report for their commentary.

The iPhone wine apps

There are over 200 wine apps in the iPhone App Store! So apologies if I’ve missed yours. These are the ones I’ve downloaded:

  • Hello Vino
  • Snooth
  • Wine.com
  • Drync
  • Wine by the Bar
  • Cor.kz
  • Wine Events
  • Wine Notes

I have an iPhone 3G and luv it ūüôā .¬†On the other hand I didn’t love all these apps.

Wine Apps Reviews

Here are my thoughts on the apps. I had high hopes for the Wine.com one…

Wine.comwinecom app home page

These guys are pretty good. They not only have a good app, they also have a good affiliate program which means other non wine store apps often link to their store.

The user interface is excellent, with great navigation and search capabilities. They have ratings, reviews, and even allow you to add your own ratings, notes, and wishlists – or “wine journal” in vintank parlance.

They don’t have a sharing process (unless you include by email). They do checkout very well with three purchase processes:

  1. be called by wine.com customer service
  2. email yourself (so you can complete it later on a PC)
  3. go to the wine.com mobile browser store.

Well thought through. Naturally I chose option 3.

Then everything went wrong.

The shopping cart just didn’t work,¬†I just got gobbledygook on my phone screen. Perhaps that’s due to my location or they were having a “bad hair day” (er, nope, I rechecked the following morning).

winecom checkout

Great checkout...

winecom shopping cart error

...until you try and pay

I also don’t believe you should leave the app to complete a purchase. What happens is the app appears to close down as the iPhone Safari browser opens the mobile website (or normal website!). An unsettling and cumbersome experience.

So close – but no banana. Need to fix that.

The rest of the apps I tried are usually not from wine stores. So they are never going to be perfect from a retailer’s perspective as they do not complete the purchase but most are very good nonetheless.

Hello VinoHelloVino wine app home

Arguably the top wine app out there for a wine drinker.

A number of excellent ways to search for wines that seem to end with a varietal page plus some recommended wines (though only 3, I’d have more than that). Integrates well with facebook and twitter to help encourage sharing.

It also integrates with some good wine blogs to provide some articles, and snooth for wine data.

It has sometimes has a wine.com Buy button that links to the relevant wine.com page. This suffered the same problem as when I tried to purchase from wine.com. But at least the Hello Vino app remained open and the wine.com website was opened inside it – a much smoother experience.

It also sometimes has links to wine stores and winery websites. However these links open in a web browser.

SnoothSnooth app wine results

Once you get past the annoying sign in page (why can’t this be optional?), this is actually a very good app and is giving Hello Vino a run for their money.

It has great search and navigation and of course all the snooth community wine reviews and ratings. The added benefit, vs Hello Vino, are the website merchant partner stores. This ties nicely into geolocation allowing you to find (using iPhone GPS functionality) the nearest stores by listing, or by google map.

When you want to purchase it falls back on providing a website address for the retailer. When you click on this it takes you to the retailer’s website by browser – though within the app like Hello Vino not wine.com. Purchase is then dependent on how good the retailer’s mobile site, or normal website, is on a mobile phone.

Snooth also has a paid version that allows you use image search. So you take a photo of a label and then the software matches it with a snooth website listing. Very cool idea and a step up on QR codes if it works well.

==== Sidenote ====

An insight from reviewing these apps is that your store could be referred to by external mobile applications so, regardless of whether you have an app, you will need to have a good mobile website. This almost certainly won’t be your normal website – see this post re app vs site.

================

Drync WineDrync wine app top wines page

I like the “instant” search part of this app – in other words it tries to give you options as you type which is great for a small touch typepad.

Each listing provides the usual wine data plus reviews and ratings from CellarTracker.com, WineAccess, Wine.com, Wine Library (video) and others. Each review has a subtle link that opens externally from the app in the mobile browser to the relevant website.

It has an excellent Featured, Most Popular and Top Wanted; and great share functionality via twitter, facebook and email.

It also has good wine journalling with a Drank, Own Want section. A useful feature might be “Quick Notes”. This allows you to save a note when you don’t have an internet connection and upload it when you’re back online.

Wine Prices

Vinfolio is behind this app. Wine Prices app home pageIt allows you to put in a year and a wine then it will list various matches with prices. Simple idea that I kinda like.

When you click on a listing it brings up the Retail average prices and Auction average prices. It lists the stores but there is no link to them.

It also has ratings and reviews from International Wine Cellar and sometimes others.

A useful price checking or comparison tool for a consumer.

I also looked at Wine By the Bar, Cor.kz, Wine Events and Wine Notes. Each had some interesting points around barcode scanners (using the camera feature), general wine info “Pedias“, wine tasting events and good ways of taking wine tasting notes.

Who’s the best?

It should have been wine.com as they were the only wine retailer. The rest were essentially content publishers, store locators and note recorders.

Wine.com should have had a shopping cart inside the app, that actually worked! They do everything very well up to that point – then fail miserably.

Hello Vino, Drync Wine and Snooth are all excellent.

Hello Vino I really liked despite the limited number of wines it recommended. It also linked to wine.com which failed – and failed inside the app so it looked like Hello Vino’s fault (though it wasn’t). A great user interface and integration with social media.

Drync Wine and Snooth were also excellent but both opened wine stores in an external browser.

For every app reviewed and every time I clicked on a link to another company’s web page, the web page was not optimized for mobile. So the user experience flounders at the purchase stage. Not the app developers’ fault but they may need to educate their retail partners to improve the user experience.

Until someone can offer an end to end service I ain’t pickin’ anyone

There you go app developers – the challenge is out!

Snooth or wine-searcher should be in a good position to do this with their extensive database of wines and retail partners. Wine-searcher currently let’s others use their data by opening an interface to their system (“API”). Maybe it’s time they created their own app? Their large Facebook following would be keen users I imagine.

What’s your thoughts? Have I missed a¬†particularly¬†good wine app? Have I been unfair in my analysis? Do you plain disagree? Feel free to comment below.

Comments

  1. Thanks for including Hello Vino in your review of the best wine apps, Bruce. We appreciate your thorough analysis, and your assessing Hello Vino as “excellent”.

    For the number of wine brands recommended by the app, we only *initially* serve three wines (categorized by their acclaim, popularity, and value). There is a “Show More Recommendations” option on this screen to refresh the wine brand suggestions. Our database includes thousands of brands, and we also “mash up” wine brand results from both Wine.com and Snooth, when needed.

    You bring up some great points about retail integration. We have some incredibly exciting news on this front, which we’ll be announcing very soon. Hint: Location-based recommendations at major U.S. retail establishments.

    For the “store locator” feature, we’ve been working with a few data partners, but the data (as a whole) just isn’t there yet. Wine-Searcher.com does offer an API to access store listings, but they are heavily skewed towards online retailers, who (unfortunately) don’t have mobile-formatted sites. Before we make the promise of delivering brick-and-mortar “stores near you” that carry the wines recommended, we want to make sure the app doesn’t fall short.

    I would very much like to continue this conversation with you offline, to share some of the challenges we’ve met with integrating into retailers’ inventory systems. I’d also love to hear more about your experience working directly with wine retailers.

    Thanks for the great posts, and for sparking these discussions.

    Rick Breslin
    Hello Vino

    • Anonymous says:

      Rick, re retail integration and “the data not being there”. You’re quite right of course.

      The big comparison shopping engines face a similar problem as do internet wine retailers. In fact it has got to the point where yourwineyourway.com (with the vintank guys advising) has been trying to standardize wine data.

      The integration can be kept simple (manual, csv file, RSS feed) but as yet there is not enough demonstrable benefit for many retailers to go online, much less create a live RSS feed and have a mobile website.

      Hopefully this blog helps make the case for doing some of those things.

  2. Thanks for including Hello Vino in your review of the best wine apps, Bruce. We appreciate your thorough analysis, and your assessing Hello Vino as “excellent”.

    For the number of wine brands recommended by the app, we only *initially* serve three wines (categorized by their acclaim, popularity, and value). There is a “Show More Recommendations” option on this screen to refresh the wine brand suggestions. Our database includes thousands of brands, and we also “mash up” wine brand results from both Wine.com and Snooth, when needed.

    You bring up some great points about retail integration. We have some incredibly exciting news on this front, which we’ll be announcing very soon. Hint: Location-based recommendations at major U.S. retail establishments.

    For the “store locator” feature, we’ve been working with a few data partners, but the data (as a whole) just isn’t there yet. Wine-Searcher.com does offer an API to access store listings, but they are heavily skewed towards online retailers, who (unfortunately) don’t have mobile-formatted sites. Before we make the promise of delivering brick-and-mortar “stores near you” that carry the wines recommended, we want to make sure the app doesn’t fall short.

    I would very much like to continue this conversation with you offline, to share some of the challenges we’ve met with integrating into retailers’ inventory systems. I’d also love to hear more about your experience working directly with wine retailers.

    Thanks for the great posts, and for sparking these discussions.

    Rick Breslin
    Hello Vino

  3. Terrific review of these wine apps Bruce! I hope you’ll consider reviewing Nat Decants Wine Reviews, Pairings and Recipes in the future. It bundles 10 apps in 1 for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones … and it’s free.

    It takes a different approach from most wine apps by providing:

    – Find 380,000 professionally tested food and wine pairings
    not generated by computer algorithm
    – Access 50,000+ of wine reviews by an independent journalist
    rather than by the wine store or winery that represents the wines
    – Search the reviews by winery, price, score, region, grape, vintage, food match, product code
    – Track your wines in your virtual cellar and add your own journal notes and scores
    – Search a directory of 10,000+ wineries to buy wine or plan a visit
    – Find thousands of tasty, tested recipes for every wine
    – Get wine savvy with articles, glossary definitions & blog posts
    – Share on Twitter, Facebook and e-mail with friends

    Cheers,
    Natalie

    • Anonymous says:

      Heck you’ve put a lot of content into that App Natalie!

      A key thing I’m looking for is how the app completes a purchase or at least interacts with wine stores. When I click on “Find this wine in stores now” it takes me to a general Reviews menu rather than to a way to purchase. Am I missing something?

      • Thanks Bruce! Yes I do have store look-up functionality and stock numbers for certain areas though the issue remains as for all other apps: lack of retailer info. We will soon be launching a new feature that will make this a lot easier and several other key features. For now, it offer fairly comprehensive wine info that takes you from pairings to wine brands to recipes for those wines to recording that info in your personal cellar to visiting the winery with maps. Stay tuned for much more!
        Natalie

    • Hello Nathalie, hello Bruce
      I actually have a slightly different take on this issue : to me the key for success is ONE APP = ONE PURPOSE.
      The more functionnalities you cram into an app the more cluttered and less user-friendly it gets.

      Am I the only one to think this way?

      • Anonymous says:

        Good point @juju. The purpose is to make the sale so everything should funnel into that.

        The problem I have with this approach though is that people often have to warm up to an ecommerce site. So the additional information helps to provide encouragement, trust and authority.

        What’s your thoughts?

Trackbacks

  1. […] ideal wine retail app should have.1. CatalogYour app should have an easily searchable and navigable wine catalog. Pretty obvious huh.2. Backend IntegrationIt should be integrated with your eCommerce system. Only […]

Speak Your Mind

*