How to: Market Wine to Chinese Consumers

Market Wine

There are six groups of wine drinkers in China based on consumption behaviors.  To better target each consumer segment, businesses need to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.

Chinese Consumer Groups: Traits and Preferences

The Social Newbies

Social Newbies are those who are new to wines. They are beginning to explore and learn about wine and view it as an interesting beverage during social occasions. This group is the biggest consumer segment, representing 26% of Chinese wine drinkers. These consumers tend to pick low-priced vintages.

Since most of the Social Newbies are young adults, companies should come out with fresh ideas to cater to this demographic. Packages with more innovative designs, such as bright colors and bold logos, that focus on the individualism of the wines will be more attractive in the eyes of this group than the classic-style wine packaging.

The Developing Drinkers

The Developing Drinkers are turning out to become the future generation of premium wine connoisseurs in the country, accounting for 22 percent of China’s wine drinking population. They usually choose wine of entry-level to mid-tier prices and they drink to enjoy and relax. Unlike the Social Newbies, they are more aware of what taste they like but remain experimental and open-minded. This group and the Social Newbies are the growing and increasingly influential segments. The associated social status is less valuable to them. Instead, they value quality, service and value.

This segment also tends to be heavily influenced by their peers’ purchasing decisions. These tech-savvy young consumers like researching wine information online. Many winemakers have started to recognize this behavior as they are putting more effort into online marketing campaigns, establishing Chinese social media presence and online stores.

The Adventurous Connoisseurs

These wine aficionados account for the nine percent of the wine drinkers in China. They are typically high-income consumers who pursue high-end brands. These people are confident in their wine knowledge, having a broad grasp of countries and regions of origin, as well as varietals and brands.

The Adventurous Connoisseurs are frequently seen attending tasting exhibitions to try imported and local wines. Although representing a small portion of the overall market, they are willing to spend a lot of money on their interest. No wonder, this group is the focus of select, high-end vineyards from the New World (US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina).

Aside from wine tasting events, companies may opt to appeal to this group by banding together with other local wineries and conducting tours. Since brand loyalty is low in this group, winemakers can offer competitive loyalty programs to keep them interested. Freebies and appreciation gifts may turn them into loyal customers for years.

The Prestige-Seeking Traditionalists

Accounting for 16 percent of the Chinese wine-drinking population, the Prestige-Seeking Traditionalists are a wealthy and conservative group. They see wine as a symbol of social status, rarely venturing beyond labels like those from Bordeaux and Burgundy, France. Due to the rise of Social Newbies and Developing Drinkers and (in part) the government’s crackdown on corruption, this group is shrinking.

Traditionalists are image seekers. They purchase wines more for business gift-giving than pleasure and see exclusivity as prestige. To get their attention, businesses should make sure their offers stand out and could reflect a perceived high social status. Making small amounts of high-quality wines and promoting them as exclusive and limited may do the trick.

The Health Sippers

This segment makes up 18 percent of the wine drinkers in the country, mostly made up of middle-aged and elderly consumers. They drink wine for its perceived health benefits. The Health Sippers are a price-conscious group and prefer entry-level to mid-tier wines.

To this day, a huge number of the Chinese population cite health functions as their primary reason for drinking wine. The trend for health and wellness remains strong in the country, creating opportunities for specialty wines, particularly natural, organic and fortified ones. Wineries targeting this group should highlight that their wines are nature-friendly, use fewer synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, etc.

The Frugal Occasionals

These are the infrequent wine drinkers, mostly drinking during special occasions. They are low-engaged, have limited knowledge of wine, and usually older. When purchasing wine, they opt for the low-priced ones while seeking out promotional offers.

To appeal to this group, businesses should consider selling wine in smaller, cheaper bottles. The trend for wine in 2018 is for single serve and ready to drink formats as well as pouches and bag-in-box.

Closing Thoughts

When it comes to the wine market in China, opportunities for foreign wineries are large and expanding. Establishing a clear market development strategy with a focus on the unique consumer behaviors of the Chinese is not only important, but necessary.

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