Your Wine Recommendation Engine: Hello Vino

Tasing
In the next weeks, I will post some interviews with startups active in the wine industry. I will focus on wine apps as well as companies working on the delivery side.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet Rick Breslin, co-founder of Hello Vino and Head of Product Design. You all know many wine apps: it’s a crowded space now, and it’s becoming more and more competitive. But Hello Vino was founded in 2009 – one of the earliest players in the space – and has been growing organically since then.

There are three full-time employees and a lean structure to support 2 million users. Above all, there is a clear path to becoming what they want to be: an app that actually helps the everyday wine shopper.
It is really focused on helping the user choose the wine in many situations:
  • you know what you are cooking and you need to pair the wine,
  • you are going to a dinner and you have to bring the wine or
  • you just want to find new wines that fit with your taste preferences.

The Features

You can research and buy the wine in the app, you can even call a concierge and receive advice from a pro. And if you were too good at picking the wine and everyone drank too much for driving… you can call Uber from the app.
The Speak-to-Concierge feature is cool and Rick told me that users literally call from the aisles of the supermarket. In that case, they have a high intention to buy, but the purchase is in the supermarket. However, if the service is valuable, they will use it again. And if they plan a dinner or a party, then Hello Vino can capture the value of the transaction.
There are also features common to other wine scanning apps, such as taking a photo of your wine to never forget it. But those are paid features and not core to the app: the partnership with Camfind provides human-recognition with an average response of 12 seconds.
Hover over the image (or tap it on your smartphone) to see the red circles and the interactive images.

Marketing

As you can imagine, a small team needs to prioritize and create partnerships. To create a valuable product and provide a compelling user experience, you need to work hard to know your customers and their behaviors. I first heard of Hello Vino when I found “The Influence of Mobile Apps on Wine Purchases“, a research they wrote with Lotus Growth. It’s an insightful paper and I suggest you to read it.
During our conversation, Rick explained to me that they used to do a lot of content marketing activities: research, blog posting and social media. But it was time-consuming and you need a larger team to do it properly, so they scaled it down. However, if you enjoyed the research, be ready for a new publication about user behavior (Rick is working with some Berkeley students on this topic).
The effort previously focused on content marketing shifted to a daily update of the recommendation section of the app (such as Spring drinks,…) to improve the user experience.

Revenue Streams

Now, some of you may want to know where the wines you purchase come from.
Some of the wines are offered by the wineries that work with Hello Vino. They have a dashboard where they can update pictures and descriptions of the wines as well as create promotions. The wineries can also advertise in the app (you can upgrade the app to be ad-free).
In other cases, the concierge takes care of the order. The partners can be Wine-Searcher – you can find in the app a reference saying “Powered by Wine-Searcher” – wine.com, Amazon, Drizly…
If the specific wine isn’t available, the concierge provides a recommendation for similar wines.
Once again, the effort is on creating a great product and not just growing to compete with big players. One of the next wine startups that we will interview focuses on the delivery: they compete with giants such as Amazon.
In summary, how does Hello Vino make money?
  • advertising in the app
  • in-app wine purchase
  • app upgrade to hide ads
  • credits for wine scan -> you get some free scans if you share your email address

I asked if they are selling data and the answer was negative. It might happen in the future in the form of a quarterly report for retailers. It won’t be a behind-the-scenes sales of data, which involves a lot of privacy issues.


What’s your experience with wine apps? Do you use any of them?

 

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