How to sell Italian wine in China in three steps

vino italiano in Cina
17 Aug 2020

Italian wine is getting more and more plaudits from the other side of the Great Wall, with sales up from 15% to 22% in the 2017 to 2019 period and an increasing market share, even if it still below that of French and Australian brands, holding 45% and 14% respectively of the total foreign wine imported into China. It is no surprise that in China among the most desirable Made in Italy excellences there are precisely the delicacies of the Food & Wine sector.

There is room for growth and win over the consumers of a young country, where the passion for wine is relatively new but buyers are numerous. So, how to build a solid strategy?

Get to know the Chinese audience

Before even talking about strategy, it is necessary to study the relevant consumers that today are highly differentiated.

They range from a very small number of multimillionaires devoted to luxury with practically no spending limits, to over 110 million people with high consumption levels and attentive to quality products with a strong symbolic impact. At the base of the pyramid there are the so-called smart buyers, i.e. millennials and middle class workers consisting of about half a billion people always connected, fast and flexible, whose tastes and consumption habits evolve rapidly.

Presently consumers of imported wines are just over 50 million and more than 60% of them drink it habitually. Within the next five years, between 60 and 70 million Chinese are expected to drink foreign wines, with an increase especially among the 20s and 30s age groups and among women.

The sophisticated, healthy and convivial aura that European and Italian wines bring with them increasingly interest Chinese between 25 and 45 years of age, of both sexes. In particular, women are proving to be the most open to experimenting with foreign brands and different varieties.Taste, brand, type of grape and quality and origin certificates are the main factors that dictate the purchase of a wine, while price is not among the deciding parameters.

41% of Chinese consumers order their supplies online on generic e-commerce platforms, while 38% choose specialized websites. A strong presence on digital channels is essential to intercept this audience, but also for daily talking with those who then buy the wine in physical stores, and properly promote the brand.

Communicate online effectively and efficiently

Introducing yourself to the Chinese web audience means primarily choosing the most suitable platforms to tell the story of Italian wine production and dialogue with consumers with the aim of promoting the direct sale of the product.

Among the basic instruments there is certainly WeChat, the most popular Chinese messaging app, with 1.1 billion active users every month.It is a perfect channel for presenting wines and explain their peculiarities with original content, offer assistance to users and open pop-up stores allowing customers to make their purchase online. WeChat allows to directly reach all attractive audience segments.

Weibo, a microblogging site with almost half a billion monthly users, can help tell the story of wine production with articles, videos, photo galleries and everything else that helps build a unique quality experience around the brand, and an important aspect for carving out a significant presence in the Chinese market.

Both channels also lend themselves to local influencer marketing initiatives, central for promoting the brand and influencing the daily habits, especially of young people.

In addition, it is worth preparing customized video content capable of explaining the origins, the properties and the passion that lies behind each bottle of wine and convey them through appropriate platforms such as Iqi, Tencent Video and Youku: this last step does not only creates direct involvement, but also provides material ready to be shared on social networks and chats.

Organize sales platforms

Studying the audience and being present on the main online sites allows you to arrive prepared for the crucial stage, namely that of directly selling the product to the Chinese public, in which the web proves to be a decisive ally.

Selling online means creating an original and recognizable e-commerce – mobile first to intercept the mass of Chinese consumers who are more used to buying via mobile devices, which accepts local payment methods and offers continuous customer support, every day of the week.

It is desirable to complement your website with a presence on the main Chinese marketplaces.

Creating your own showcase on Tmall gives you access to the largest digital store dedicated to foreign brands who want to sell in China. The Tmall platform, owned by Alibaba, guarantees companies access to all commercial data and that of buyers, thus becoming also a great marketing and business analysis tool.

Also JD.com is perfect for the sale of wine products. Since the beginning of 2020, the most important Chinese B2C marketplace boasts a collaboration with the International Wine Challenge China, to offer award-winning wines a direct sales platform in the country, and has adopted China’s wine rating system, CWE, to provide local customers with clear metrics and scores for assessing each wine.

Integrating each of these strategic tools and factors is crucial in hoping to break through the ambitious and vast Chinese wine market. The watchwords are multichannel, care of all details, strategic flexibility and the inevitable flicker of character: this is what is expected from a true Made in Italy wine that wants to be recognized abroad.