The Grapevine

Smartphones: Good and Evil for Retail Wine Shops

June 4th, 2013

Are smartphones good or bad for retail business? This week, let’s look at the downside. [level-members]

If you walk the aisles of your local Best Buy you will see people checking out products on the shelves and online via their smartphones at the same time. They may be reading reviews or comparing prices, but gone are the days when the seller had all the info and the buyer was in the dark. According to a recent survey by SDL, almost two-thirds (62%) of shoppers use a mobile device to check prices while in a retail store.

You may not see this too often in your shop – most of us are working in much smaller, more personal environments – but it will crop up from time to time. (About the only place you don’t see it – mattress stores. Even Consumer Reports won’t go there, so notorious are the manufacturers for repackaging the same basic products differently for different retail partners. It borders on the criminal.)

The next best way to keep this from happening is, fortunately, far more customer friendly, but plays on the same idea. Don’t stock the same commodity wines that your big-box competitors stock. Be the only game in town.

And, be prepared for the inevitable, “I see online that I can get this for $2 less per bottle, including shipping.” Being prepared doesn’t mean having your best price in mind for every SKU in your shop. On the contrary, being prepared means knowing when to say know as much as when to say yes and for how much.

All floor staff should know

  • Is there a shop-wide discount policy? Will you always or will you never or will you decide on a case-by-case basis?
  • How much they can discount. You may limit this to more seasoned staff.
  • Whether they really want the business. Price-sensitive shoppers aren’t necessarily great customers to build a business with. If it’s a regular who’s footing the wine bill for a charity event, that’s a different story.
  • Whether upselling is worthwhile: “Sure, I can do better on that for you. How many cases are you interested in? Oh, just the one bottle? Sorry we can only discount on orders of at least x bottles …”
Be wary of the smartphone wielding shopper, but don’t bar the door to them. Next week we’ll talk about ways that smartphones can be a boon to small retailers.