Last Updated on September 20, 2023
China’s rapidly developing alcohol market continues to provide exciting business opportunities for foreign wine producers, especially those looking for sustainable ways to export their brands to the Middle Kingdom.
And now that Chinese consumers are evolving as savvy online shoppers, entering China’s wine market is more accessible than before. The only question is, can a foreign brand like yours execute successful marketing strategies in the country’s complex digital ecosystem?
In this post, we’ll discuss the trends and insights about Chinese wine consumers and the promotional strategies marketers can try to entice local shoppers into purchasing wine online.
How big is the wine market in China?
With the Chinese wine market expected to reach a revenue of US$27.17 billion in 2023 and a year-on-year CAGR growth of 3.93% between 2023 and 2027, it has become more apparent that the country’s wine industry will not slow down anytime soon.
If you look at Statista’s recent data, the total wine consumption in China reached around 0.88 billion liters in 2022, placing the country as the 8th largest wine consumer globally.
Although the way locals consume wine has changed over the years, the recent wine sales clearly show how much interest Chinese consumers have in buying wine imports. In fact, over 40% of this lucrative market segment accounts for imported wine products.
In 2001, China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) allowed more foreign companies to import their products into the country. This partnership and the middle-class disposable income growth led to a considerable increase in China’s imported wine market size, garnering over 1.4 billion euros in 2022. This massive demand made the Chinese market the 7th leading wine market importer worldwide.
What kind of wine do they drink in China?
While the local market’s preference for imported wines seems promising for foreign distribution companies, learning what kind of alcohol products Chinese consumers prefer will be helpful if you want to create an effective marketing strategy.
Based on average sales per capita, alcohol consumers in China lean more toward buying still wines. This product category includes rosé, red, or white wines. As you can see from the chart below, the expected wine sales of these alcoholic beverages have higher margins compared to fortified and sparkling wines.
Chinese Wine Industry (Market Segment Revenue) – (Source: Statista)
Australian wines used to be the top choice of Chinese wine drinkers among imported products. However, seeing the status of wine exports last year, China’s wine market seems to have shifted to drinking wine from French wine brands.
The most well-known wine companies in China are the ones from Bordeaux, France. Typically, these are red wines made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
For the average Chinese consumer, drinking bottled wines from this brand demonstrates high sophistication and internationalism. This is exactly the brand image that Bordeaux wanted to market in China, and their digital marketing strategy has been immensely effective ever since.
Besides France, wine imported from Chile, Italy, Spain, and the United States also led the race for the top exporters in the Chinese wine market in 2022.
China’s Top 10 Wine Exporters (Source: Asia Wine News)
How to Effectively Promote Wine in China
The Chinese wine-drinking culture is closely related to traditional festivities, family celebrations, and ancestral ceremonies. So, it’s only natural that Chinese consumers think of buying local wines instead of drinking products from foreign brands.
The key idea is to have enough digital presence to attract Chinese wine importers (B2B) and lay the foundation to cultivate a faithful community around the brand for smooth and successful B2C operations.
As a new wine business, you can only achieve this kind of consumer loyalty by providing higher-quality wines. But how can you do it when your target market is wary of unknown imported wine products? Here’s a quick rundown of different ways you can solve this dilemma:
1. Know Your Potential Consumers and Competitors
Before introducing new imported wines in China, a foreign brand must know to whom they’ll have to sell their products. You’ll have many competitors within the country’s wine market, so you can only get ahead of the curve by knowing which demographic of wine drinkers works well with your brand.
You can conduct a market study through intensive research and integrate the gathered data into your targeted campaigns for better audience reach and engagement. If you’re unsure how to do this, you can try working with a professional marketing agency that can work around the intricacies of China’s wine market.
Wine Consumers in China (By Age Demographics) – (Source: Statista)
Today’s Chinese market shows high wine consumption from younger generations aged 25 to 34, covering more than 36% of the local wine-drinking population. Chinese consumers under the 35 to 44 age category also contribute quite a lot to local wine sales, with a 28.4% share.
The demand on domestic wine markets is also dictated by the disposable income each demographic can spend on specific products. While high-income customers take up almost half of the wine consumed in the country, low and middle-class earners are still significant contributors to China’s wine market.
Knowing which user demographics drink wine the most in China can help foreign brands determine how to position their products in the long run.
Chinese Wine Consumers (By Income Demographics) – (Source: Statista)
There are already established non-domestic wines in China that have gained the loyalty and support of Chinese consumers. Marketers can study their campaigns and offerings to gain wine intelligence data on the industry’s changing market trends and customer behaviors.
Through this competitive intelligence data, wine brands can assess which digital marketing strategies will work.
2. Enhance Your Brand’s Visibility Through Baidu SEO
Remember that one of the reasons why your target consumers go for domestic wines is their brand reputation. To stand out in the domestic wine industry, you must localize your brand and resonate with wine lovers and local importers in China through SEO.
A reputable online presence on Baidu is crucial as the site accounts for 75% of all search engine queries in China. Wine brands that want to interest major Chinese importers and distributors, such as COFCO, Torres China, Summer Gates, and Globus Wine, must rank as high as possible on Baidu.
RIOJAWINE Top 1 search result on Baidu
Here are some of the optimization strategies you can try to get traction among Chinese wine consumers via search engines:
● Optimizing The Right Keywords
Baidu ranks sites based on what the user is searching for.
Finding which keywords to use can increase the likelihood of your site ranking higher, especially terms and words related to the Chinese wine market.
You can use keyword research tools to help you find which specific keywords Chinese wine consumers and local importers typically look for in Baidu.
● Mobile Friendly
99.1% of Chinese netizens are accessing the Internet through their mobile devices.
It means that consumers in China are more likely to purchase wine on their phones instead of computer desktops.
If you want Baidu to consider your site useful to most Chinese consumers looking for wine in China, you will need your pages to be functional via mobile.
Example of mobile-friendly website localization for our Client: Rioja Wine
● Website Localization
You can’t effectively promote imported wines if your brand’s website is not using a Chinese (or China-friendly) server.
Skipping this step will cause your web pages to load slowly, eventually leading to losing potential wine sales. It also means that Baidu’s “spider” technology won’t be able to rank your site correctly.
The worst-case scenario of not localizing your website is getting blocked completely due to China’s great firewall policies.
3. Utilize Online Press Releases for Added Credibility
Trust and authenticity are a huge part of the Chinese culture when it comes to consumerism. And since the local government closely regulates online press releases, wine import enthusiasts consider them credible information sources.
Sharing positive reviews, advice, and instructions about your brand on these publication sites will lead local wine consumers and potential partners to gain confidence in your products.
Learning more about your wine production can also produce high-quality B2B leads.
4. Explore B2C & B2B Opportunities with WeChat Mini-Programs
Marketing on social media in China means launching promotions on WeChat. WeChat is China’s number one social media platform, with over 750 million users. The app is a great place for connecting with consumers and distributors.
In 2017, WeChat released a new feature called “Mini-Programs” (小程序), essentially an additional app within WeChat and readily accessible to users. These extensional apps provide various B2C possibilities through the revolution of e-store mini-programs, but this is not their only function.
Example of our Client’s WeChat Mini-Program e-Store: Spain Top Wine
Mini-Programs also offer unlimited B2B opportunities for interacting with wine market importers. These online channels can be a hub for importers/distributors, an access point for importers to find information about the brand, an interface for specific communities to connect, an online loyalty card, or a place to run contests and promotions to reach more Chinese wine consumers.
5. Create Engaging Content Through the WeChat Social CRM tool
Given the Chinese wine market size, launching a generic social media campaign won’t be as effective as some foreign marketers think. Fortunately, you can connect with wine drinkers on WeChat using its social CRM features.
WeChat Official Accounts (OAs) are marketing platforms in WeChat that allow subscribers of the OA to receive brand-orientated content, be redirected to H5 pages, and communicate or ask questions about the brand with direct and group messaging.
They are trendy in China, with 26.7% of users following more than 20 WeChat OAs. With users constantly receiving multiple articles and branded content daily, the competition for user attention has become extremely fierce.
Example of our Client’s WeChat Social CRM system: Rioja Wine
However, a WeChat Social CRM tool provides brands with an integrated management system to send engaging content to users. Importers and distributors can access your OA by searching for it on WeChat or through an O2O approach by scanning a QR code at an e-trade fair. By using a WeChat CRM, you can create unlimited QR codes.
After submitting their details, such as age, interests, occupation, industry, etc., the WeChat CRM will tag importers into specific groups and send them ultra-targeted content. For example, a wine importer who wants to import your wine can be sent a wine catalogue or a beer importer can receive industry-related content.
6. Sell Through E-Commerce Channels
E-commerce has become the primary avenue for Chinese and international wine producers to thrive within the domestic wine industry. With 73% of local consumers already adept at buying wine exports online, it’s becoming more and more easier for foreign bands to sell world wines to the Chinese market.
Consumers who bought or considered to buy wine online in 2021 (Source: Statista)
Here are some of the e-commerce platforms where you can reach most of China’s wine consumers and local importers:
Tmall.com holds the throne in China’s wine e-commerce sector, boasting an impressive 50.8% market share.
Its affiliation with the Alibaba Internet empire is a significant driver of its success, as it leverages cross-promotional opportunities with Alibaba-owned properties, such as Weibo and Taobao.
Many foreign wine e-commerce retailers in China, like Wine Australia, have established their virtual storefronts on the platform to bolster their brand presence among Chinese consumers who drink wine.
This platform stands as Tmall.com’s closest rival in the e-commerce world. It’s an excellent place to start your promotions, mainly because it was reported that wine products on JD.com cover 25% of the app’s overall online alcohol sales.
With traditional consumers shifting to drinking wine, the significant rise in its sales is an excellent business insight that foreign alcohol exporters can’t ignore. Other global wine products with a solid market presence on JD.com are Penfolds, Yellow Tail, Casilleros del Diablo, and Lafite Rothschild.
7. Manage Online Reputation in Zhihu (知乎)
Brands should also look to develop their non-official reputation through sites such as Zhihu (知乎). Like Quora, articles posted on Zhihu have an authentic and natural element. Responding to feedback and questions on these forums is crucial to bolster the relationship between brand and consumer.
The Zhihu article below offers readers more information about Bordeaux wines. These articles aim to increase brand awareness through user engagement, conversation and sharing and to generate better informed and more quality B2B leads.
Translation: “Most of the French Bordeaux wines that Chinese people drink are regional wines.
Why do I say that? Read this article and you will find out.” (Source: Zhihu)
8. Collaborate with KOLs in the Local Wine Industry
As previously stated, the average Chinese consumer is often wary of products they’re not familiar with. So, an excellent strategy to go about this dilemma is to generate a positive reputation by collaborating with trusted experts and online personalities within China’s wine industry.
These Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) have dedicated followers who trust and watch for their recommendations and content. If the collaboration campaigns are done correctly, marketers can tap into an influencer’s fan base to reach their target audience.
While getting enticed into working with big KOLs with massive followers is easy, remember to select a brand representative that resonates with your target audience. You must also be careful not to choose people with bad online reputations, or you’ll risk the brand’s local image.
Fongyee Walker MW, one of the most influential wine consultant in China (Source: Tatler Asia)
Can you export wine to China?
Yes, you can export wine to China even as a foreign business entity. You can find a local importing company or enter through other distribution channels. After that, try to work with a digital marketing agency with enough industry experience in the wine market in China to enhance your brand reputation and visibility.
However, if you plan to export bulk wine into the country, remember that it’s subject to import license requirements and other tariff obligations. You must apply for the necessary permits to proceed with the exporting process.
The wine products you’ll ship should also abide by the local food safety law, from the standards to trademark regulations.
Chinese Wine Market Trends Foreign Brands Should Know
- Older Chinese Wine Lovers prefer products with health and beauty benefits
Unlike the younger generations, older people drink wine because they believe these products have health and beauty benefits. Consumers aged over 45 also don’t mind paying for more expensive liquor since they already have extensive drinking experiences.
- Fine wines are often for business meals or gift-giving
Consumers will buy your product not only to drink wine but also to pair it with certain foods, serve on specific occasions, or send it as a gift. Considering these factors in your promotional campaigns is crucial as they can help you reach more potential customers.
- Most Chinese consumers have a preference for red wine
Red wine is one, if not the most consumed type of liquor in China. Besides its beneficial ingredients that entice older consumers, Chinese people predominantly believe that the color red is a symbol of health and wealth.
Due to this culture, they often drink red wine on important occasions like weddings and the Chinese New Year.
- Chinese consumers are intelligent online shoppers
A typical wine consumer gets inspired to buy a product from the trends and promotions they see online or the ones their friends posted. However, before buying anything, these savvy shoppers often research first and try to find as much information as possible.
After purchasing the wine, the average wine consumer will either share feedback with close friends and family or post it online. This consumer cycle proves how important social media promotions are for your wine brand.
Ready To Dominate The Chinese Wine Market? Get In Touch With Us Today!
The local wine market in China may seem lucrative, but the reality is you need extensive knowledge to thrive in this business scene. At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the subtleties inherent to the Chinese wine market – including consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving trends that shape it.
With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and secure a formidable position as a leading entity in the industry.
If you are a Wine and Spirits professional and you need more info about how to enter the Chinese Market or how to take your already established brand to the next level, send us your inquiry, and we’ll be happy to look into it and schedule a free consultation with one of our China Marketing Consultants.
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