shutterstock 201043514 - The apps have it

Popular wine apps may be changing how UK consumers purchase and enjoy wine

Whether they are casual buyers or heavily involved in the category, UK wine consumers have always had questions about their purchases. Do I stick with a favourite or try something new? Does this wine suit my tastes? Am I getting the best value for money at this price?

Now, the answers to these questions have appeared at the fingertips of consumers in the form of mobile wine apps. While these applications have a range of functionalities, their ultimate goal is the same: to educate and inform consumers, enabling them to make buying decisions armed with as much information as possible.

Vivino is one of the most popular wine apps for both the iOS and Android operating systems. Developed by a Copenhagen-based company, the app boasts over 7 million users worldwide. There are over 3 million different wines stored in its database, with photos, reviews, ratings, and pricing information all uploaded by the users themselves. The app allows you, amongst other things, to identify and learn about a wine by snapping a photo of the wine label, to share one’s wine reviews with friends through built-in social media features, and to track past wine purchases and ratings.
My experience with Vivino has not been free of certain performance issues. For example, the label scanning function often returns the right brand of wine with the wrong vintage, and occasionally produces an entirely wrong result; moreover, I have often found the pricing information to be at odds to my own observations – this could be due to Vivino’s global user base reporting massively varied prices in their own locales.

However, Vivino’s diversity of features is impressive for a free app (there is a premium option, available to purchase in-app, which unlocks even more services): whether you need personalised wine recommendations based on your past ratings, or to find the offering range at a retailer near you, Vivino has you covered. You can also find a wealth of information on the profile pages of different wines, especially the more popular products, both provided by the app itself and its legions of users. The interface itself is polished and relatively easy to navigate.

The winning feature here is most likely in the app’s well-developed social media functions. Oenophiles are identified both by their thirst for knowledge, as well as their tendency to share and communicate their wine journeys (with a healthy dose of one-upmanship found in those posts about rare and expensive wines), and Vivino hits just the right notes to be an addictive experience for wine lovers, while remaining useful to the average consumer.

By contrast, wotwine? is a leaner wine app that is also gaining popularity. Targeted specifically at those who shop for wine in UK supermarkets, the app has a catalogue of over 6000 wines sold at these locations. Behind wotwine? is a panel of tasters, comprised of wine academics, professionals and technologists, who give these wines their own pricing based on semi-blind tastings. All the user has to do is scan the barcode of the wine, compare the app’s ‘expert pricing’ against the retail price, and they will know if their purchase will be a good deal.

In comparison to Vivino’s myriad features, wotwine? is considerably more focused. This is no disadvantage, however, as wotwine? does its job extremely well. The barcode scan retrieves information about the bottle instantly, and the wine profiles are formatted in an accessible manner. Within a matter of seconds anyone can determine if the bottle in their hand is being overvalued or undervalued. The efficiency of wotwine? makes it an indispensable supermarket shopping companion for any wine buyer.

These wine apps bode well for the UK wine market for a number of reasons. A person beginning to be curious about wine might become significantly more involved through the knowledge and the interaction with other enthusiasts that these apps impart. Consumer reviews should hopefully lead to a ‘survival of the fittest’ effect, whereby people are empowered to buy better quality wines, and low value for money plonk will fall by the wayside. On the other hand, a supermarket-focused app such as wotwine? may continue to limit consumers to supermarket wine, which is a shame for the myriad of independents selling a wider variety.

Author: Bill Wu