Wine Kiosks Alienating Wine Buyers. Oops!

Written by Evan Schuman
July 1st, 2010

Pennsylvania liquor stores have tried to be cutting edge. They are among the many wine merchants nationwide that are experimenting with self-serve wine kiosks. But Keystone State wine buyers are apparently rebelling, raising the possibility that the designers of wine kiosks may not have thought long enough about the wine-buying process.

Earlier this year, Amazon’s Kindle learned a similar lesson, when it had assumed that Kindles would be a smash hit with college students weary of carrying 100 pounds of textbooks on their backs. Seems that the lack of an ability to scribble notes in the margins was a surprise deal-killer.

With the wine kiosks, the apparently overlooked fact is the experience of wine buying, which means looking at labels, examining the cork through the glass bottle’s neck and possibly reading the description and winery codes. By reducing the experience to selecting a wine by name, the whole point of the wine-shopping experience is missed.

It’s akin to Amazon’s early discovery that bookstore shoppers like to browse. That knowledge made its expanded look-inside-the-book feature a killer capability. It’s all about understanding what makes shoppers shop. If they wanted a mechanical instant experience, E-Commerce and Mobile Commerce are quite capable of delivering that. In-store needs to be much more.

Well-designed and well-thought-out kiosks can extend that experience and really pull customers in. And pull in the customers who are most desired, meaning the volume buyers. For a wine store, that means catering to the serious wine buyers–or at least understanding them. Done properly, the features that would entice those volume buyers shouldn’t discourage casual buyers.

In a nicely done piece by Retail Customer Experience, the story questioned the strategy of the wine kiosk makers.

“So if you had a bunch of grocery stores, and those grocery stores sold wine, but you didn’t really want people to buy any wine, what would you do?” the story asked. “You might force people to peer through the front door of this cabinet to try to read the name of the wine they think they might want to buy, and force them to remember it until they walk down to the end of the cabinet where they are forced to swipe their credit card in order to buy the bottle. That is, if they don’t have to stand on line waiting to use the machine, which is, of course, the only way to buy a bottle of wine.”

The story also expressed concern about the kiosk’s capability to detect whether the customer is already drunk before selling him or her alcohol.

“I think that’s incredibly restrictive,” Retail Customer Experience quoted Neal Ward, sommelier at The English Grill in Louisville, Ky., a AAA Four Diamond restaurant with a wine cellar that is considered to be one of the best in the Midwest. “You have to prove that you’re not drinking in order to buy a bottle of wine? Come on, that smacks of Big Brother. I don’t see where forcing a person to take a breathalyzer test serves any good purpose other than to frustrate the consumer.”


One Comment | Read Wine Kiosks Alienating Wine Buyers. Oops!

  1. Tim Dickey Says:

    Back to the drawing board, I guess.

    At the very least you have to give credit to organizations that are willing to go out on a limb and try something different. Not every idea is going to be a big hit.

    I can also imagine that things started very different then they ended up in the solution development process. For instance, I doubt that the idea of requiring a breathalyzer test was at the top of the list, but the retailer and solution provider legal teams probably required it. If they hadn’t done this, someone would have picketed it saying that it was a danger to the neighbourhood and safety – and may have been right.

    Developing any solution is an iterative process, so hopefully this solution can be revamped. Metro AG for example has had this sort of solution in place for some time, but has the bottles in the machines where people can see them.

    If you could place the bottles under each ‘demo’ bottle, it would allow for more of the aesthetic experience the article says is missing.

    It’s tough to keep the balance between pleasing the customers and meeting all the regulatory requirements of the community.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.