Have you ever found yourself in a wine store trying to project an air of knowledgeable confidence that you know just the thing you’re looking for but secretly relying on a sophisticated process of seeking out the second-least expensive selection with the pithiest name or catchiest label design? Have you ever wanted to understand a little more about a wine you are considering buying without having to admit to a live person that you understand very little about the wine you are considering buying? Do you sometimes wish there was just one more X factor that helped you make an educated decision about what to take home?
This purchase anxiety is just one element of the beverage buying experience that Augmented Reality (AR)—the latest trend in beverage marketing specifically aimed at capturing the attention of the Millennial consumer—aims to tackle.
“Right now it’s still kind of a gimmick,” says Jason Grossman, founder of the augmented reality app Out The Bottle, “but down the road I believe it will be one of the most important marketing tools anyone can have.”
While it may sound like a hallucinatory experience or a way in which you might actually enter the matrix, augmented reality is really just a lighter version of virtual reality. Think Pokémon Go—virtual technology superimposed over actual reality. Rather than transport you into a scene, the scene is brought to you by way of label recognition technology that prompts an interactive experience once you pass your smartphone (loaded with the app) over the beverage label. This could be a video from the winemaker, scenes from the vineyard or winery, historical context about the name of the wine or beverage, or even food pairing suggestions.
“It’s a way to tell the story to the consumer with very little effort,” adds Grossman, who is based in the heart of California wine country and whose app is primarily at work for small to medium sized wineries without a juggernaut name or marketing division; California brands such as Mazzoco and Haraszthy Family Cellars.
Stories Drive Sales
Evidence that story is indeed important: beverage companies began to sit up straight and take note of augmented reality after the success of Australian wine label 19 Crimes, which saw sales increase by nearly ten-fold after the launch of AR labels that merely told the story of each of the convicts-turned-colonists depicted on the brand’s bottles.
Out The Bottle provides the ability for companies to establish AR opportunities in a centralized app, rather than trying to get the desired Millennial consumer to load a different app for each brand. The model features a 15-second intro after the app connects with the label, which could feature a welcome from the winemaker or an animation—Grossman acknowledges the importance of having this first part be brief—after which the app loads three buttons for additional engagement. These could be prompts for tasting notes, info on how to join the wine club, availability maps, etc. Getting consumers to engage at this level is key, says Grossman: “Now you’ve gone past the gimmick.”
Wineries were potential early adopters for this sort of marketing technology for several reasons, believes Grossman: “Wine is a very crowded segment of any market,” with a tremendous amount of choice among a comparatively wide price point. Plus, “wine people tend to be a little more educated and more interested in the product.” Wineries also have a huge challenge in connecting with consumers, in that they have to go through distributors first, and AR also provides a more personalized opportunity to connect, perhaps even in a creative or whimsical way. And Grossman notes that some of his brands are using their AR platforms even as a way for sales reps to connect with distributors or retailers, with a method that is more interactive and less materials-intensive than passing out catalogues or tasting sheets.
“I’m not a computer geek, just a visionary,” says Grossman, who believes that augmented reality marketing models will become as ubiquitous as bar codes. “If you don’t have it you’ve missed the boat.”
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