The Trend to Mobile

Don’t be Left Behind

Consider this: In the German city of Augsberg, officials have embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so smartphone users don’t have to look up from their texting or tweeting as they walk. It’s just one more sign that we are increasingly living our lives on our smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices. For a liquor retailer, this is also a reminder that business is increasingly going mobile.

Last year, Pernod Ricard CFO Gilles Bogaert told the news website Business Insider that the digital revolution is the single biggest change affecting the liquor industry. The digital revolution “fundamentally changes the way we interact with the consumer, it changes the way marketing is done, and it can bring us a competitive advantage if we move ahead of the others,” Bogaert told the site.

Today’s consumers expect information quite literally at their fingertips, 24/7. They expect immediate communication and response. They expect options that are fast and easy. A business that doesn’t cater to those expectations risks losing out to a competitor that does. Yet the Canadian Internet Registration Authority reports that some 40% of Canadian small businesses don’t even have a website, let alone mobile capability.

So just how should you go about making your own business mobile-friendly?


The Basics

First, you have to understand what “mobile-friendly” actually means. At the very least, your marketing information needs to be compatible with mobile devices – that is, easy to read on a smartphone or tablet. If someone is looking for your store’s address or opening hours, and your website appears in a font so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read it, that’s not only annoying, it doesn’t get your information across and can lead to lost business.

The solution? Make sure your website is designed to be readable on mobile devices. Alternatively, you can launch a mobile site – a stripped-down version of your website that has been redesigned specifically for mobile devices. It’s also worth signing up for a free Google business listing. This ensures that when people search your business name, a box pops up on the screen with your address, hours of operation and other essential information in easy-to-read type.

Socially Mobile

Most people use their devices primarily to follow and post on social media, which may be the most valuable feature for retailers too. Social networks are an effective and virtually free means for building community. Loyalty programs, discounts, sales, special events, games and contests can all be run though Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat. And for a business that doesn’t have a website, a site like Facebook, which is still North America’s most popular social media site, can offer many of the same advantages. (That said, Instagram, which just hit one million ads, is fast catching up.)

Social media is especially effective for targeting younger customers, who virtually live on their smartphones. However, it can draw in consumers of all demographics with promotions, contests and notifications about free in-store tastings, seminars, winemaker dinners, and social events.

Being mobile means a retailer can respond to customer feedback instantly, no matter where they are or what time it is.

Perhaps more importantly, social media also allows a retailer to control the messaging about their brand, especially when there has been a complaint. A smart, sincere and speedy response can nip bad publicity in the bud. Being mobile means a retailer can respond to customer feedback instantly, no matter where they are or what time it is.

The latest wrinkle is that some retailers are using social media as a sales channel by posting a “Buy Now” link alongside their product. This is known as “social-retail integration”, but it has so far not been wildly successful because consumers famously look to social media for authenticity, not a forced sales pitch.

Drink App

Websites and social media aside, there are also apps (short for “applications”) that are specially designed software to be used on a smartphone or mobile device, typically with a narrow focus. (Think social platforms like Twitter or useful ones like Google Maps.) When it comes to beverage alcohol, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of apps for everything from choosing wine in a restaurant to finding classic cocktail recipes.

For instance, Delectable is a wine app that is favoured by wine writers and sommeliers. If you scan a photo of a wine label, it will provide expert tasting notes and suggested food matches. Vivino is similar, except that it offers a feature that lets you scan a restaurant’s wine list too. Meanwhile, UnTappd is a social-network-driven app for beer lovers that offers tasting notes from millions of users and also helps consumers find beers and bars.

Retailers may be especially intrigued by recent innovations like Drync (, which so far is only available in the US. It allows consumers to shop real-time inventory of wine, spirits and beer from a store’s mobile app – with no markups or other fees. Then there is Turnstyle (, a positioning system that pings customers’ phones via WiFi, relaying information to the retailer on first-time visitors and repeat customers.

Browsing and Shopping

Of course, what any retailer really wants to know is how to increase sales. The answer is: Go mobile, because that’s where sales are going.

Many consumers now expect to plan and order their purchases from their phones and tablets.

Many consumers now expect to plan and order their purchases from their phones and tablets. The American alcohol delivery app Drizly – that promises alcohol delivery within one hour – launched in Calgary and Edmonton last year, joining companies like Beer Budz, Calgary Dial a Bottle and Pick N Drop that deliver alcohol on demand. Even some retailers, such as Everything Wine, will let you order from a mobile site for either pickup or delivery. Offering a delivery service is a big investment for a small retailer, but working with one of the delivery companies is not.


How consumers pay is also going mobile. Repsly, a data collection site for customer relationship management, reports that as mobile security improves, more consumers are embracing the idea of paying for purchases using a smartphone or wearable devices such as an Apple watch. Trend watchers anticipate that consumers will soon expect retailers to accept mobile payments the way they currently accept credit and debit cards. Brick and mortar retailers that don’t adapt will be left behind.

Fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and iris recognition will soon replace passwords.

Security has been one of the biggest concerns about so-called “mobile wallets,” but that is changing too. The Future of Money Report by Oxford Economics surveyed 2,000 consumers and 300 business executives in eight regions from the US to Scandinavia to Kenya. It found that while 70% of consumers and 59% of executives feared that hackers could steal their information from a mobile wallet, those fears were allayed by the use of multi-step and biometric authentication features. That means fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and iris recognition will soon replace passwords.

In other words, the future is now. It’s a brave new world for retailers, and those who don’t climb aboard the mobility trend will surely be left behind.