Foreign wine producers are the latest to take advantage of China’s booming e-commerce sector, and the results have been remarkable.
According to a report published by Bordeaux Management School in France, 27 percent of wine sales in China last year were made over the internet. By contrast, online sales accounted for only 8 to 10 percent of wines purchased in Europe and just 2 percent in the United States. Wine sales worldwide total more than $5 billion every year.
China has more than 500 million Internet users, many whom are prolific smartphone users, young tech-savvy Chinese wine drinkers now can make informed wine purchases with the help of the world wide web.
The country’s greatest number of online sales took place on Singles Day on November 11. In a 24-hour period, Chinese importer Summergate Fine Wines sold over 100,000 bottles.
Some foreign wine producers also have offices in China, such as LaPonty, which operates out of Beijing. Nevertheless, it is still important for these businesses to maintain strong online presences. Helene LePonty, who works in Beijing with a small team, says that mobile apps like WeChat and Weibo are essential in reaching potential new customers.
“If you’re not utilizing things such as Weibo, you’re missing out,” LePonty tells China Daily.
The United States, too, has been successful in importing wine to China. According to Linsey Gallagher, vice-president of the California-based Wine Institute, California exports to China reached $35 million last year, an all-time high that ranks the state as the fifth-largest export market. Amazon has also capitalized on the trend, and began to offer wines from California through its Chinese portal last October; over half of the initial online sales went to Shanghai.
Some wine producers have even gone so far as to hold online wine tastings, “shipping a box of their product to Shanghai before logging into Skype and walking Chinese wine experts through the tasting process.” This strategy allows wine growers to “reach across the Pacific” without incurring large travel costs, Gallagher says.
“We have to get creative and innovative — after all, that’s what our wines are known for.”