The Grapevine

Factory Workers, Paralegals, Radiologists, Wine Shop Owners?

November 15th, 2016

Are local wine shop owners in the crosshairs of technological innovation? Are our livelihoods under pressure from outsourcing and other “advancements?” Could be according to this recent report from Bloomberg. [level-members]

Last week, Bloomberg reported on a new way to buy wine that relies on an algorithm to help determine whether a wine you’ve never tried before may be to your liking.

At first glance that’s clearly a threat to independent wine shops without the deep-pocketed investors who can fund the technology required to create that sort of application.

And yet, it’s also an endorsement of everything we stand for.

“Just because an employee thinks a wine is awesome doesn’t mean a customer is going to like it,” says the sommelier behind this “new way to buy wine.”

And he’s right. Walking anonymously into a supermarket or wine superstore, a consumer is either looking for something with which she’s already familiar, or she’s shopping on some combination of price and label appeal.

Compare that to our shops, where you know your customers and, if you’re smart, you know what they like and why they like it. That gives you the ability to recommend wines with some level of confidence – and gives them confidence that you’re probably right.

So stick to your guns and keep the personal touch. But unless you’re 100% confident in your ability to have 100% recall, you might consider keeping records. Note what they’ve purchased. Send a personal email after the fact to ask what they’ve liked and haven’t liked, and add that to a customer profile so that others who work in your shop can take advantage of the institutional knowledge you’re gathering.

You might even create a form on your website that let’s people send you their thoughts on a wine. Computers are only as smart as the people who programmed them, and I’m not buying that we can’t continue to outthink them. [/level-members]