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Beer, Wine and Spirits Innovators Belly Up to the Bar

13 Aug 2015 by Susie Steckner

Technology is constantly evolving — not unlike a living organism. It isn’t static. It isn’t constant. That makes it disruptive. Businesses, even niche businesses, often forget to, or choose not to, evolve with technology and are turned upside down — because their products, their policies, their customer interface becomes, simply put, outdated. We live in a consumer-driven world, and we are often drawn to technology everything — from convenience to novelty. This is Insight’s Disruptive Technology series. We will be addressing how technology enters an industry and does exactly that — disrupts.

Treat a friend to a virtual cocktail redeemable at her favorite hangout. Or chart your course through wine country with a mobile map and deal finder. Or shop for spirits online and have them delivered to your doorstep.

Mobile innovations like these are shaking up the beer, wine and spirits industries, and experts say the largely low-tech industries are ripe for even more. The innovations are bubbling up from startups and large corporations, to small brands and big names.

The result for consumers? Greater convenience and choice, shopping rewards, personalized experiences and on-demand information like drink specials.

“Over the past three years, the world of beverage alcohol has evolved rapidly into new online/mobile commerce opportunities, and ever-changing product mix and consumer tastes,’’ said at-home delivery leader Drizly’s CEO Nick Rellas.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap right now:

  • At-home delivery of beer, wine and spirits is growing, thanks to startups like Drizly, Klink, Thirstie and Minibar and their easy-to-use apps. Drizly, which links customers with nearby retailers, recently scored funding from an unlikely tech startup investor, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. The company plans to expand to more than 30 cities nationwide by year’s end.
  • Mobile tech and lab science come together with the app Next Glass. Consumers rate drinks they’ve had in the past, and then Next Glass suggests other potential faves using its chemical analysis of a wide variety of beers and wines. Startup Liquor Limo offers a similar match-up service, with at-home delivery to boot.
  • Hello Vino bills itself as your personal wine assistant. The app offers everything from recommendations and food pairings, to suggestions for special holidays or regular backyard barbecues. Similarly, Pintly is a go-to app for beer lovers who are looking for recommendations based on likes and dislikes.
  • Shopkick, a shopping deals and rewards app, is well known to savvy shoppers at stores like Best Buy and American Eagle. But Constellation Brands, which includes names like Robert Mondavi Wineries and Clos du Bois, has partnered with the app to help boost awareness and ultimately sales. Shoppers simply scan certain barcodes — no purchase necessary — and the rewards roll in.
  • Navigating wine country or setting out on a brewpub road trip gets easier, thanks to mobile apps like Winery Finder and BreweryMap that offer tasting deals, maps, reviews, restaurant and hotel recommendations, and itineraries. After vacation, consumers can stay immersed in their beverage of choice with a bevy of wine and beer apps.
  • Planning a pub crawl across Denmark? Brewer Carlsberg wants to make the trip easier, with “smart” beer mats and its Crowdit app. The brewer has distributed NFC beer mats and installed Bluetooth beacons at more than 200 pubs and bars. Customers tap their phones on the mats to download the app, and then receive deals and promotions prompted by the beacons.
  • Forget message in a bottle. How about message on a bottle with an app that enables MEDEA Vodka owners to program personalized messages on bottles from their wireless devices. The MEDEA Vodka LED bottle relies on Apple's iBeacon bluetooth technology to allow smartphone users to wirelessly set and display scrolling messages. Think, “Happy Birthday,” “Congratulations” or “Will You Marry Me?” We can expect more of this kind of personalization as companies look for new ways to enhance consumer experience.
  • Pre-order appetizers and a cocktail. Send a friend a virtual drink. Pay your bar tab quickly. Yes, your big night out can be even better with a host of apps.
  • One buzzed-about innovation is decidedly simple: the single-use Beer!? app, spawned by the strangely popular Yo app. Use this easy messaging app to invite buddies for a brew.

Non-drinker or in need of a designated driver? There are apps for these situations, too, of course. There are a number of apps for those trying to remain sober, cut back or get a handle on how much they drink. BeMyDD (Be My Designated Driver), the nation’s largest designated driver service, launched a new mobile app in June. Sobrio connects college students who need safe rides to the designated drivers at their university. There are drink recipe and drinking game apps as well.

Whether you drink alcoholic beverages, need help mixing drinks, or are the one who abstains from alcohol to drive the others safely, you can toast to plenty of choices in your drinking and non-drinking endeavors.