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Yelp extends reach into reservations for wineries via CellarPass

Yelp is extending booking capabilities on mobile into wineries via an integration with CellarPass, a digital reservations system designed for winery, brewery and distillery tasting.

The partnership marks the first-ever integration of a reservation-based platform into Yelp’s new transaction platform. Mobile users who book tours and tastings will experience all of the benefits familiar to regular CellarPass users, including real-time availability, instant confirmations, and reminder emails, all without ever leaving the Yelp site.

“Many guests ask us why make a reservation for a winery when you can drop in? That’s a big misnomer in wine country because legally, there are only 16 wineries in Napa Valley that are permitted to a ‘walk-in’ type atmosphere,” said Jonathan Elliman, co-founder of CellarPass.

“The rest require a prior reservation which Napa County has recently begun to enforce more actively. By booking a reservation through the mobile app or Web site, the winery is in compliance and the guest gets to keep a log of where they’ve been since many forget by the time Monday comes around.”

Red or white?
Wine consumers can rate their experience with historical visits, which will be saved to a “short list” of favorites to return to and track what wines they enjoyed most. With the advent of a ticketing platform last year, wineries are promoting their special events, concerts, release parties and winemaker dinners through CellarPass, and are all available to be purchased through mobile as well.

Working with the engineers and business development teams at Yelp for nearly a year, CellarPass recognized that just like any modern, Web-based business, exposure is key to success.

“We’ve done a great job of growing a consumer base organically through social media and different marketing campaigns, but we’ve found the most cost-effective and quickest means to growth is with partnerships with established portals like Yelp,” Mr. Elliman said.

By adding the “Book an Appointment” link on a brand’s Yelp page, wineries get to leverage the wine consumers that have already been visiting Yelp to read reviews and leave recommendations. There was no hesitation from either company’s perspectives to add the reservation link since this helps promote visitation to Yelp and wine consumers become familiar with the CellarPass service.

“We believe Yelp benefits greatly from generating recurring visitation by wine consumers to their portal once they’ve learned that they can secure reservations with multiple wineries without have to leave Yelp,” Mr. Elliman said.

This is a significant advantage, as having one Web site offer an aggregated service saves time for consumers.  Bouncing around from winery to winery, leaving voice mails and sending an email often takes far longer. This is due to the fact that many small to medium-sized wineries don’t have the staff to manage this effectively.

Location aware
Last minutes bookings are also being facilitated as the app’s GPS capabilities allows users to view a list of featured wineries around them and make a reservation quickly and easily.

The service lists available tours, tastings and upcoming special events, many of which only occur during limited times of the day or days of the week, as many wineries change their experiences 3-4 times annually.

And because many of the partnered wineries are family-owned, off-the-beaten path-type destinations, their brands are small and often hard to locate on any map. By providing a mobile app and mobile-friendly website, consumers have an extensive wine library updated daily, which is impossible with any other medium.

“CellarPass offers an amazing marketing and guest management service to these small wine brands, many of whom don’t have the budgets, nor the lavish facilities the bigger wineries have to compete,” Mr. Elliman said.

“By being on our platform, they get to leverage our marketing skills, our referral service and experience with marketing their destinations to guests located around the world.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York