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What is most important to wine consumers? Is it selection or price or both?

Recently a forum I follow has had a very active discussion about what is most important to wine consumers (linkedin: Vintage Wines).

At first glance I didn’t think so many people would comment but as at 11 July there were 67 comments!

They were split among the usual “suspects”: drinkers, wineries, retailers, other pros… and an interesting comment by a wine researcher.

Her name is Isabelle Lesschaeve. She gave a great summary of wine consumer research, so I asked her permission to paste much of what she said below. My comments are italicized and in [square brackets], I also paraphrase by using [ ] , and any bolding is my own.

========= Isabelle in linkedin: Vintage Wines, start quote =========

We don’t make the purchasing experience easy for consumers

There is an overwhelming number of SKUs to choose from, many labels look the same, the classification by wine origins is not obvious for everyone.

For most consumers, it’s intimidating. It has been established that in average, consumers make a wine selection in 40 seconds, [so wine labels] being visible is important.

Isabelle Lesschaeve

[But I do] admit there is not one consumer, but a diversity of consumers. There are few differences in purchase decisions that can be explained by gender, although females seem to become the primary shoppers.

Researchers like segmenting consumers according to different criteria, Lifestyle is one of them and Bruce gave an example before [this was to do with these posts here and here that I had briefly summarized].

Another criterion that was found critical to explain behaviour differences is the consumer involvement with wine.

High involved consumers are these enthusiasts who like to learn more about wine, read magazines, belong to wine clubs: they will select wine based on origin, appellation, varietals or style.

Low involved consumers are the confused ones (about 2/3 of the population) and yes they use strategies to reduce the risk of making the wrong choice.

Although you all [meaning the previous 50 odd commenters] seem very keen to assist your consumers on the floor, low involved consumers are intimidated and afraid to ask, because they don’t want to look like idiots (nobody likes that). So they use price, awards, cool labels as risk reducing strategies.

What I found fascinating and upsetting at the same time is that the sensory experience consumers have when tasting the wine can be influenced by those extrinsic cues (label, award, price, etc.). As it was mentioned before some consumers drink labels not wine.

Several experiments have demonstrated that wines tasted blind were usually not appreciated the same way as wines tasted with all these cues. And this was found for all types of consumers, including highly involved people and wine professionals.

So what is the most important to consumers?

It depends but I would say a good match between the imagery (brand, labels, story etc.) and the taste of wine.

How do we accomplish that?

Not easy. By recognizing maybe that we – wine professionals – represent only a small % of the wine drinker population.

Most of consumers like fruity and sweet wines and some marketers got it right by making their labels very visible so that in 40sec they can be seen and bought.

How do we take these consumers to the next level?

May I suggest by “involving them”. The professional talk might not be the right strategy or the glamorous image of wine might not be so appealing to these consumers.

The good news: the coming generation of wine drinkers (Gen Y, Millenials) does drink wine and likes to experiment. However, they don’t recognize themselves in the wine culture and wine advertising currently proposed.

One of the challenges that wine professionals will face is to adapt their communication and customer relations differently to make wine accessible and understandable.

[In a latter short post she continued]

Here are few groups thinking outside the box. All are wine lovers and wine enthusiasts, and their approach to “convert” consumers is certainly different to what is taught in many classical wine appreciation classes.


====== end of Isabelle’s comment  =======

And here’s some screen grabs of those groups:


Billys Best Bottles screen shot


iyellowwineclub screen shot


qwoff screen shot

So my question, dear readers, is how would you think outside the box? What could you do differently in a sea of consumer confusion and a highly competitive wine retail scene?


  1. […] One of the participants, Bruce, a wine enthusiast from New Zealand, asked if he could post my comments on his blog http://www.mylittlewinestore.com. I of course accepted and I invite you now to read my response annotated by Bruce. […]

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