Consumer trends are interesting to anyone involved in marketing and selling and with my special interest in China, I like to keep an eye on the development of the Chinese wine consumer. Moving from a traditional and largely non-wine drinking culture, the movement in Chinese wine-drinking circles is quite intriguing and perhaps indicative of what could be the ideal wine consumer.
The detailed and insightful research and reporting done by Wine Intelligence is really invaluable to anyone who wants to make a success of marketing and selling wine. I just acquired their market report portraying the latest when it comes to Chinese wine consumers and it makes for very interesting reading. One of the most interesting segments to me, is what they call the Engaged Explorer.
This category developed from what was conventionally the Prestige-seeking Traditionalist and the Adventurous Connoisseur (according to their categorisation of Chinese wine consumers in 2017). When we started our wine marketing adventures in China, the focus was mainly on the Prestige-seeking Traditionalist – this was where wine was sold in those days. Quality red wines were chosen for their prestige. They were often consumed at business events and meetings and there was a definite sales spike around the traditional festivals when gifting was popular.
I have such appreciation for heritage and culture and the age-old traditions of the Chinese have intrigued me since my first visit to China. As established as their culture is, however, they are also leading the world of modern technology and change and this is very clear from the way the wine-drinking community has evolved over quite a short time. Being the leaders in e-commerce, the Chinese enjoy research. They are well-informed about quality and price competitiveness and I think it is the Chinese desire to know more that has really helped the wine industry move at quite a quick pace from the very unknown place it was initially.
Wine Intelligence has identified a number of new wine drinker categories – from Status Seekers to Social Newbies… While the variety of styles and offerings in the wine industry require a varied wine market, it is the Engaged Explorers category that clearly demonstrates the evolution from where we started in China.
“Engaged Explorers are younger, knowledgeable and confident wine drinkers who see wine as an essential part of their lifestyle”, says Wine Intelligence. Now what is not to like about such a consumer? If one could plot the ideal wine consumer it would definitely be someone who ticks these boxes and who is adventurous, who frequently spends on the product and is eager to learn and explore. I see this consumer as someone who engages with the product, who joins the conversation on social media, who tries the suggested wine and food pairings, attend wine tastings and events and recommend their latest finds or favourites to their friends.
All the literature available on Millennials is an indication of the importance of consumer behaviour. Long gone is the time of only putting out a product and hoping it will sell. For those of us who feel intimidated by the quick change in consumer preference, an ageing wine-drinking demographic and the challenges of keeping up with lifestyle trends, I think the evolution of the Chinese wine drinker should bring some comfort.
Not only does the maturing Chinese wine market bring more opportunity to a broader variety of wines in style and price and origin for those who sell to the Far East, it also shows us the opportunity for change in other markets. Knowing the essence and appeal of your own product and staying up to date with consumer trends and what motivates purchasing decisions, are essential to any company’s marketing intelligence.
Does your product answer to functional, mood-enhancing or social motivations? Are consumers choosing wine – or your wine specifically – because there is a personal connection or interest? Consumers with a profile similar to the Engaged Explorer, regardless of where they are in the world, are very enticing. They are interested in the product and they enjoy it for a for a variety of reasons. They are keen to be informed, to learn more and to experience quality. They enjoy wine as part of their socialising with friends and family and they choose wine as a way to relax and to have with a meal.
There are plenty of reasons for someone to choose wine. It is sometimes regarded as a “healthier” alcoholic choice, it can be value for money, it can indicate sophistication …. but finding someone who is interested in your product, regardless of what you sell, is like hitting the jackpot. Not only do they purchase the product, the are also your very valuable ambassadors.
It makes me think, are we doing enough to identify, involve and treasure these Engaged Explorers within the wine industry?