Another whirlwind year and for a good part of 2011 we have been keenly watching the mobile space. Last year we did our second report on wine iPhone apps and slogged our way through over 450. In the end saw no clear winner but a lot of apps had promise. Now, eight months later we have a new iPhone 4S, and new OS for iPhone, and tons of innovation and upgrades from non-wine apps (Foursquare, Instagram, Google+, Twitter and many, many, more). But in the wine space the upgrades have been far and few between and many of the apps still look like Version 1.0. A few exceptions occurred (Drync added VinPass, Natalie Maclean did an incredible upgrade, and Cor.kz added some major features but still lags in UI) but most of the year we heard crickets from the majority of apps we analyzed.
We also saw a few new “promising apps” in 2011 (notably Vivino, Crushd and Tastejive) but as of yet, none have obtained any critical mass in users. In fact, only 2-5 apps have any critical mass in users (100K+) and no single app has over 150K in ACTIVE users.
So what is wrong with the wine app world?
- Using a wine app doesn’t fit into the normal workflow of everyday use.
- The journaling apps don’t understand the spectrum of wine journaling (from very casual to oenophile).
- Clean data sucks in the wine industry. SUCKS.
- The majority of wine journaling occurs in apps that people already use (Springpad, Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, and even Foodspotting and Opentable).
- 99% of the wine apps have no way for wineries to interact with consumers (either raw marketing or DTC efforts). The two exceptions are Drync and HelloVino. With no interactivity, they can not earn revenue from companies interested in leveraging their audiences.
- Downloads are different than users. Users are different than ACTIVE users. ACTIVE users are a nebulous term and need deeper clarification. Most apps don’t differentiate when telling their story which leads to disappointment from inflated expectations.
- Wineries just don’t spend that much money on digital. Period. In 2007 the total spend for internet advertising by the wine industry was a measly $3 million.
- There are only about 250K uber-oenophiles in the US who are the most prolific content generators and do the most detailed tasting notes. There are only approximately 1.7 million additional “aspiring-oenophiles” who journal brand, variety and region and only about 3.5 million additional consumers who mention wine on social networks. That leaves approximately 58.5 million people who don’t use anything digital to talk about wine. In a nutshell, the total addressable audience for digitally saavy wine lovers is approximately 6.5 million: only about 10% of the total US wine drinking population.
- Reference apps are great but all of their content be already be found through a major search engine or just by asking your friends/followers/fans on a social network.
Small potential user base, a market that doesn’t spend much on digital much less mobile, and usage that is irregular. It makes things look bleak for the future of wine apps. But there is hope . . . it is the notion of partnering or working with one of the more mainstream apps to mature the wine category. Take for example if Natalie MaClean partnered with Flipboard? Or maybe Corkbin/Vivino partnered with Instagram? Or partnering with major wine retailers to be a value add to their large group of customers?
What would be the perfect app for the wine industry? We are focused on one aspect of the industry that represents the highest value to all parts (consumer, trade, and winery): wine journaling.
The perfect journaling app:
- Needs to understand the spectrum of wine journaling (from taking a picture to writing complex notes) and a very slick user interface to only surface what the user needs when they need it.
- Needs to have ACCURATE wine data.
- Needs to have a rewards system to encourage usage (aka gamification).
- Needs to have a way for wineries to interact with its users.
- Needs an API both in and out.
- Needs to be social.
- Needs to publish to other social networks as a core feature and not an afterthought.
But even the perfect app won’t be enough. The power users only represent 2.75 million and the super power users only represent a subset of 250K (most of which are on Cellartracker + Cor.kz or Drync). We want to believe differently but the reality is the the bells are ringing for the current apps – get better than “most promising” or R.I.P.