May 1, 2013, 3:30 PM

65% of weekend web sales are mobile at WinesTilSoldOut.com

The flash sale retailer racked up $21.9 million in m-commerce sales in 2012.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The retailer's iPhone app. The first version of the app cost $6,000; the second version cost $8,000.

Flash sale merchants are among the top financial performers in mobile commerce. The business model lends itself to mobility. Consumers never want to miss out on a great deal, so having anytime/anywhere access to the retailer is critical.

WinesTilSoldOut.com, located at WTSO.com, sells five bottles of wine every day, one at a time. When the flash sale retailer posts a new bottle at 30-70% off retail price, it notifies customers via e-mail, mobile app push notification, Twitter and Facebook. Then the frenzy begins until the bottle is sold out. And then it’s time for a different bottle and the process starts anew.

In April, 45% of web sales on weekdays and 65% of sales on weekends stemmed from mobile devices, reports WinesTilSoldOut.com, which offers customers an m-commerce site, smartphone apps for iPhones and Android phones, and a tablet app for iPads. The retailer in 2012 reached $71 million in total sales: its two stores earned $20 million, the e-commerce site brought in $29.1 million, and mobile raked in $21.9 million. 43% of web sales in 2012 were mobile. The merchant predicts 50-55% of web sales will be  mobile in 2013.

“I’ve spoken with a lot of customers who say they love the iPhone app and use it all of the time,” says Jamie Arking, chief financial officer at WinesTilSoldOut.com. “People living on their mobile devices really love us and what we are supplying.”

Mobile sales skew heavily toward the iPhone and iPad apps, Arking says. He has discovered what many retailers in mobile commerce have come to learn: Apple iOS customers are far more valuable than Android customers. WineTilSoldOut.com’s Android app has been downloaded 10,000 times, but its iPhone and iPad apps combined have been downloaded 140,000 times, the retailer says.

“The Apple customer demographic is more techie and more affluent, is an early adopter of technology, and always wants the newest thing,” Arking says. “The Apple device user is very comfortable making mobile purchases. They are not scared of the Internet.”

Mobile commerce was well worth the investment, Arking says. For example, it contracted with developer Purple Talk to build its suite of apps. The first version of the iPhone app cost $6,000; the second version cost $8,000, Arking says. The Android app cost $10,000. The suite of apps has gone on to make millions for the company, he adds.

Up next in m-commerce for WinesTilSoldOut.com is a new mobile app dedicated to its invitation-only Platinum members, the retailer’s most regular and valuable customers. Platinum customers have a special area of the e-commerce site where they must sign in to enter, but to date have no mobile outlet. Platinum customers get exclusive sales of wines not offered elsewhere on the site or in mobile.

“We move our smaller quantity products to Platinum customers,” Arking says. “We are almost finished with iPhone and Android apps for that group, which will have push notifications, will only show those products, and customers must sign in first to validate they are a Platinum member. We’re putting the final touches on that now.”

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