Either you are truly social or you need to rethink your business.

LeviathanHere’s a salient piece of advice: Businesses need to fully understand and APPRECIATE when a shopper starts taking pictures with their smartphone. If not, you will be losing out in the future.

So what sparked this post?

Yesterday, I was at one of my favourite wine stores in Calgary – the Kensington Wine Market.  I was there for two (2) reasons: (1) Window shopping – checking out some of their unique stock; and (2) They were having a sale this weekend, so I was scouting some wines to add to my cellar.

Here’s a handy detail that is not immediately obvious to most wine store employees: wine is one of my hobbies. I am not saying that to be a smart ass or a snob. Nor am I an alcoholic ;-). I will be soon working on my sommelier diploma (I have completed 2 levels already), and I enjoy the discipline of trying to figure out what wine pairs with food. So I spend what maybe a disproportionate amount of time in wine stores checking out their inventory. This entails taking pictures of wines that I would like to consider adding to my cellar. On my phone, I have this fantastic app called Vivino, it helps me keep track of my cellar and crowd sources reviews on almost 900,000 wines. Vivino has a reasonably good rating system that I have come to trust in helping me select a decent bottle of wine. That does not negate that I am willing to accept a recommendation from a friend or employee.


While I was in the store, I was taking a picture of a bottle of Leviathan (a California red) and checking it against its Vivino rating (i.e., if I was considering $50 for a bottle of wine, it better be good!). During this act one of the managers (or who I assume was a manager) came up behind me and asked if I was interested in the bottle of wine. I told them that I was but I was taking pictures for future reference of wines that like to consider adding to my cellar. This person shook their head and said that they did not like people taking pictures in the store. This struck me as odd, and I felt uncomfortable and quickly left the store without buying anything.

Let’s consider the following…

Good wine is a social thing – it is made for sharing and having a conversation over. It was an enabler of the original social media! Given my interest in wine, I follow other wine reviewers on Twitter and share my recommendations with all my friends on Facebook and Pinterest. Typically, when I find something that I like I will share a picture of the label and tell my friends where to get this wine.

wine & cell phone

Now, it strikes me as odd that a proprietor or store representative does not grasp this nuance that I am effectively a sales channel for them. A free, unpaid, advocate and credible channel. Unpaid content too. And to a motivated audience – I could potentially be driving traffic to the store to buy some pricey wine. Further, I want to have the best possible wine experience where I want to know I am buying a wine that is well rated by folks who share my taste. And this is being enabled via apps such as Vivino on my smart phone. Businesses that have archaic attitudes to such devices need to get over themselves. They are losing out on the potential of the collaborative economy. An economy that is bigger than your store. The smartphone is really your friend and gateway to a larger market. It enables a highly networked sales channel and the ability to connect with and bring thousands into a store like never before. In fact, the more that folks know you have great wine, the easier it is to covert sales.

Clearly I am but one customer. And this business has been around for years. They have a decent but dense newsletter. But if they are saying this to me (is it only me?), it makes me wonder what their vision is and their evolution strategy as people have better tools to evaluate their wine choice and share their views on their purchases. And you have to be nice. Else customers think you don’t care. You don’t get them. And you don’t get it.

While some businesses focus on remaining entrenched within the retail economy, they need to realize that they have to evolve to meet the need of the collaborative economy. Your customers are expecting more engagement. And more license to share your content and amplify their love for your business. Why not enable it?

  • Nancy Carten
    October 12, 2013

    Courtesy is part of social responsibility. Perhaps the lesson in this is to ask permission. I am the owner of the Wine Market and the woman who spoke to you. We have many customers who like to record label images for future reference. They ask permission. It is always given and much appreciated.

  • brianfsingh
    October 12, 2013

    Thanks, Nancy. Courtesy goes both ways. This is the first incident I have encountered of its kind. I have done this before in and have bought $000 of wine from your store. It would be handy to have a sign up stating that this is your store policy. I do respect your request to be asked permission. While it does seem counter intuitive to me given my willingness to do free marketing on your behalf, and it is a behaviour that you may want to empower your customers to do more of (wine is a fantastic social product!), I will ask next time I am in your store.

  • John Manzo
    October 12, 2013

    I take pics of merchandise (not wine but gadgets and such, to check specs and reviews) and have never once in my life asked, or felt it necessary to ask, for permission. It might be courteous to ask to touch merchandise as well, Nancy, but I cannot imagine a customer feeling compelled to ask if it is all right to do so. It is your stock, not your child or dog or house. Big difference.

    • Don
      October 12, 2013

      I agree with you 100 percent Nancy. Anyone walking into your store with a camera intent on taking photos of your store or your products should make their intentions known to you.

  • dblacombeDoug Lacombe
    October 14, 2013

    Several years ago my wife operated a collectibles and antiques business. We would go to auctions, stores, consignment galleries and take photos and notes. Proprietors were often uncomfortable about that at the time, suspecting we were engaging in retail espionage or something. With the ubiquity of smartphones, that paranoia has faded and most have come to accept the new reality of retail – I will look things up, share with my friends, ask my spouse to weigh in on a purchase, etc. all via smartphone and all without permission. The idea of asking permission is antiquated. Get over it, the world has moved on to an expanse beyond your walls. Retail can either embrace, harness and benefit from this *free* awareness building, or insist upon being a closed shop and stagnate. Their choice.

  • brianfsingh
    October 15, 2013

    Thanks, Doug. It is the new reality. And elaborating, can continue the conversation when the phone is produced. I know of some food stores owners who use it as an opportunity to find out where the pics are going for their own purposes and learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *