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Wine Store mCommerce App: your wine store in their hands

Having reviewed most of the ways you can use mobile phones to sell more wine, lets wind this series up with my thoughts on what I think should be in a wine retailer mobile app.

Firstly I outline the ideal features with a bit of commentary. Then I list those that I think are Must Have vs Nice to Have in a m-Commerce requirement document format. Lastly I suggest ways you could build such an app.

As always I’m assuming a smallish local wine retailer.

Browser version first

Before you develop an app I believe you should create a mobile optimized version of your website first. This is mainly due to the fact that, regardless of having a wine app, wine drinkers will browse to your site on their phones – either through their mobile browser, or through a third party wine mobile app link.

But also because it is likely to be relatively easy and cheap. iPhone wine mcommerce icons

Wine Retailer App Features

In no particular order here are the features the ideal wine retail app should have.

1. Catalog

Your app should have an easily searchable and navigable wine catalog. Pretty obvious huh.

2. Backend Integration

It should be integrated with your eCommerce system. Only a few parts of the administration backend will be mobile specific almost everything else will be similar for your eCommerce website.

You want to be able to edit all your written product descriptions, ratings and reviews once – for the website and for the mobile.

It should also be able to integrate and display the age confirmation, shipping, and sales tax issues that you have in the eCommerce website payment process.

3. mCommerce In App Purchase

Purchase should be completed inside the application. Not close the app and open the mobile browser to your website’s purchase page.

Some systems may be able to “fake” this well enough so that you don’t need to technically stay in the app (especially if you have a web optimized website).Starbucks iphone app

PayPal now has a mobile payment library a developer can use and no doubt 2011 will see more in app payment systems launched. So by this time next year I expect In App purchase to be the norm.

4. Click to call

Let’s face it the touchpad isn’t ideal for typing so best to provide your customer with a click to call option as part of your payment process.

5. In-Store Availability: Accurate Inventory

Google has published research that shows the following online to offline behavior:

  • 42% research online and then buy online
  • but 51% research online and then buy in-store
  • 32% research online, visit store, then buy online
  • 16% visit store, and then buy online

So you can’t do the old trick of having, er, “virtual” inventory (i.e. at the wholesalers warehouse), cause you’ll be found out when your customers come to buy the wine in-store.

You could however flag wine availability (say within 24 hours of customer’s order).

6. Facebook Connect, Twitter

Both for sharing and for logging on. All the benefits of sharing wines, tasting events and deals with your friends.

Also not requiring yet another username/password by utilizing Facebook Connect.

7. Check-In (and gaming)

Probably Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook Places. Allow people to check-in to your store from your app (and other apps). Possibly add SCNVGR to this list as well for its gaming facility. Possibly have your own badges – Pinotphile, French Lover…

8. QR Code Scanner

Assuming you have QR codes in-store. Connect your online and offline environments with QR code stickers on your shelves with website information on your customer’s mobile.Starbucks scanner

9. Mobile Payment

At the time of writing this post I’m referring to the PayPal mobile app integration. If you know of some other good ones please comment below.

Surely the banks will start to offer their own forms of integration (hmmn, I take that back, they’ve missed a number of things lately – like, er, collaterized bond obligations 🙁  )

10. Reward or Loyalty Programs

If you have wine clubs, groupon, or other rewards, deals and discounts.

11. Blog feed

Connect to your blog or newsletter for your latest wine thoughts, info and promos.

12. Wine Journal and Wishlists

Allow your customers to create wishlists, cellar lists, and put in their own ratings and reviews, private or public.

13. Integration with other wine sources

Assuming you don’t have much information yourself, can you integrate with other wine blogs feeds and “pedia” databases?

14. Store Locator

Integration with native GPS maps to show where you are. Also phone number, opening hours etc

15. Service

Low cost, forum only support (which is what I’m happy with). Or do you need higher cost but quicker 24/7 support.

16. Brand Design

It doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, a Picasso. Just a trust-inspiring professional design with your logo.

17. Mobile platforms

First for iPhone then for Android. Maybe for Blackberry. Some developers use development software that creates apps for all three.

What I haven’t included

Price Comparison. So your customer is about to purchase one of your wines but just as he is about to click on Buy or take the wine to the counter you offer him the opportunity to see how much BevMo is selling it for? Not a good idea.

Perhaps you could make the argument that it’s better to have that inside your app. Rather than forcing the customer to look at an inaccurate or competing app. If there was some way to show taxes and freight then, well, maybe. But it seems to me to be redirecting a sale.

Requirement Document

The best practice for hiring a development company is to ask them to quote on a requirements list.

You’re likely to find that your ideal app is too expensive. By identifying what is most important you can control your budget and build your app in stages (or “releases”).

Here’s my suggested requirements list:


Where to get this app?

I think we’re right at that point between cutting edge and bleeding edge. The former is new and solid technology, the latter is new and immature problematic technology.

Mobile Developer and SDK

To be safe you could just get a mobile developer to make you a custom mobile app. They will use the iPhone software development kit (SDK) and the Android SDK. It will be a bit like web development in the nineties – lots of coding therefore probably reasonably expensive.

App Development Software

Some of them will use something like Appcelerator or Phonegap. To me these are like the early versions of Dreamweaver which helped developers create websites more quickly but still required some coding. This may help reduce cost somewhat.

eCommerce Provider

Nowadays your eCommerce provider will sometimes offer an app e.g. magento, so check with them first. Though most of the eCommerce systems seem to offer mobile optimized websites not downloaded apps. I suspect that it will become commonplace to offer an apps as an add on option.

DIY

Lastly there are some interesting new ventures.

The ones that I have my eyes on are:

These are like Volusion or WordPress website development services – template driven reasonably easy to use software.

These apps still have some major issues but the internet market moves so fast I have high hopes that there will be an obvious solution(s) rising to the top in 2011.

What’s your favorite wine app? What about development tools? Do you agree with my requirements list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of: Starbucks Mobile Card iPhone App, Starbucks Mobile Card scanner

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