In case you haven't noticed, young adults no longer wear watches. Is it because they are indifferent to the time of day and have nowhere to be? Of course not. It's because smartphones have taken the place of watches, as well as encyclopedias, dictionaries, phone books and in many cases, even traditional computers in the lives of many so-called "Millennial" consumers.  

But trust us, they remain just as interested as their parents in the time of day. But unlike their parents, they have an entire digital world of information at their fingertips, offering wine marketers a unique opportunity to engage this information-thirsty demographic. Their phone is their lifeline and the key touch point to engage them with your brand. It is changing the way consumers, especially Millennials, purchase wine.

 The needs and behaviors of Millennials greatly differ from laptop or desktop users. They are in wine bars, grocery stores, Starbucks shops and while commuting. And, they are using their smartphones to search, discuss, share, and decide what wine they are going to have with dinner, at a party or at a special occasion.

They are on the go and have less time to browse and are more interested in purchasing. They want to be taken to a wine brand’s site that is mobile-optimized. [See "Wineries consider one-site design for web," July 23.] That is fast page and image loading, no “pinch-and-zoom fatigue” for this group. Wine marketers will need to adjust to the fact that you just can’t take your desktop website and scale it down to fit the screen size of a smartphone to capture this sale. If your site does not serve your brand well on mobile, you can bet on Millennials quickly leaving and potentially never returning.

Mobile is now becoming a key driver to closing the sale at the store shelf. This audience does not take a store salesperson’s recommendation for a particular wine as gospel. Often when store personnel recommend a wine, they will search Google for the wine on their phones to learn more before purchasing. Wine marketers may spend a lot of money and effort on their upcoming Halloween display. It makes strategic sense to deliver that same program on the brand’s mobile site, because while you can sometimes get your Halloween display placed in some stores, you can always deliver your Halloween promotion to the Millennial on a mobile-optimized site in every store.

In recent years, winemakers have pushed the envelope in bringing new brands and varietals to the market in an effort to broaden the appeal of wine to Millennials. With the introduction of The Divining Rod brand by C. Mondavi and Family, we created a mobile experience that delivered a story to “take with the bottle” and enable Millennials to easily engage with the wine and share with friends.

Our mobile-optimized site featured a video with Alycia Mondavi describing her father's unique ability to locate underground water using divining rods. This gift earned Marc Mondavi the title “Water Witch.”

We know Millennals love to pair different wines and food. The "Our Divine Foods" website tab suggested pairing the wine with burritos, French fries and s’mores.

For this audience of wine drinkers, we knew it wasn’t about wine scores and oak barrel aging. So we created a “Conversation” site tab about water witching and how important water is to wine in a way that was fun and informative and that Millennials could discuss over a bottle of The Divining Rod wine.

Knowing how important the environment and sustainability is to this age group, we included a “Do More” section of the site. That enabled visitors to tap and learn how to donate to “Charity: Water,” a nonprofit organization run by Millennials that brings clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. One hundred percent of all public donations directly fund water projects.

According to Paul Englert, vice president of marketing for C. Mondavi & Family, “The Divining Rod wines appeal to the Millennial buyer and we felt mobile was the perfect marketing tool to engage this audience. … For this key target audience whose mobile phone is their lifeline.”

Google searches on mobile devices now trump desktop searches. It is a key consumer touch point for wine marketers when it comes to where they allocate their marketing spend to reach Millennials and more seasoned wine buyers. At my agency, KAI2, we advocate to our wine and high-tech clients that they should take out their marketing calendar for the year, and add a mobile-first touch point to each and every one of the items on the calendar.

So the next time you pass someone on the street that isn't wearing a watch, you can bet they can tell you more than just the time. In fact, they can likely answer any question you can think of, with a few simple taps on their smartphone....

Terry Pickett (E.terry@kai2comm.com, 415-407-3583) is a founding partner in KAI2, a mobile strategy and marketing firm located in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. His first agency work in the wine business with Jess Jackson to introduce Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, Cambria, and LaCrema. Since then he has worked on over 25 different wine brands  and high-tech brands including Apple, HP, and Google.