Interview Series: Q&A with Joseph Sheahan of Savvo Digital Sommelier Solutions

Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview with Joseph Sheahan, cofounder and CEO of Savvo Digital Sommelier Solutions. Savvo is a 3rd party marketing firm that specialises in informational display kiosks that help educate shoppers on wine within grocery stores. Its new kiosks bring category management into the 21st century with curated, digital information for casual wine shoppers. With an emphasis on education and catering to the end consumer, Savvo has injected itself into the path-to-purchase by being genuinely helpful.

Savvo‘s Digital Kiosk for Wine and Beer

Savvo Kiosk

Source: Savvo Digital Sommelier Solutions

How did Savvo get started?

I started in the restaurant and hospitality business where I identified a common problem—people love wine but know very little about it. I wanted to help bridge the informational gap with an online wine education platform, but couldn’t validate that people had time or money for education, but they all were asking for help with the selection process. At your average store, most people just look at the labels, but judging based on labels alone is a bad way to get the right information. Millennial shoppers especially are expecting more information these days, mostly via digital platforms. Display kiosks are the endcaps of the 21st century.

What information does the kiosk display?

Two important things. The first is similar to anything a supplier might put on their own label. The second is Savvo generated information. We found out that sweetness and body are the two most sought after indicators that shopper wanted to know about a wine before purchasing, so we make that well known. We also allow shoppers the ability to see additional information on tasting notes and food pairings, with three different cheeses and three different proteins available per wine to give them adequate choice. However we are wary of the paradox of choice, so instead of some long list, you click on one of the six featured wines and all this extra information is on one page, which you can share via email.

Who uses your kiosk?

People that enjoy wine, but know very little. This is 80% of the wine buying population. Our model has shifted to cater to them. Their purchasing decision isn’t very complex. They want to make it easier, so Savvo gives them a high level snapshot alongside a few helpful pairings.

And who pays for your kiosk?

We sell to suppliers of brands because they need the platform and our curated kisoks lets them stand out from the sea of bottles and better connect to customers.

What’s in it for the retailers?

Retailers want to differentiate their stores, but they rely on the suppliers to do their own marketing. As a 3rd party marketing firm we are allowed to facilitate the marketing of the brands and place these valuable informational resources in stores where they might not be otherwise. One example is being able to market across categories, putting wines by the cheeses that we suggest they be paired with for instance.

What sort of retailers are you primarily located in?

We go after grocery stores for a few reasons. First and foremost, they have food items available which help with the experience building component that food pairings create. Unlike liquor stores, they also lack trained sales associates that can help lost customers navigate the wine selection. Finally, we find that grocery is more easily scalable considering the number of chains out there.

How does Savvo facilitate bargain hunting?

We just started distributing coupons, and have had good relations from retailers, brands, and shoppers. Customers have to input some information and then the coupon is sent directly to their phone via text or email. We recognize that not everyone likes to input information and are currently testing how to balance this with staying 100% digital. We are also excited to try beacons and push notifications with retailers that have their own apps which is something we are testing soon.

Any expansions planned? I noticed a connection to the BeerMapper app on your website.

We have our first customer from the beer industry and will be rolling out that kiosk by July 1st. With that expansion we are also opening ourselves up to feature spirits. The BeerMapper app is a licenced technology that is a robust recommendation engine which we will eventually use to help give more personalized recommendations to shoppers without them having to be able to describe their preferences.

What are Savvo’s ultimate keys to success?

Success is wrapped around getting shoppers to love what we do. We are not about primarily satisfying retailers or brands because if we bow to their demands that means that we will lose our focus on shoppers and no longer be as valuable to them as we need to be.