Although wine influencers on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are becoming increasingly prevalent, regular wine drinkers in markets including the US, China and the UK continue to rely more heavily on friends and family as trusted sources for wine information.
As the world moves online, accelerated in part by the pandemic, are wine consumers increasingly influenced by social media and online sources for their wine choices and recommendations? Recent findings from Wine Intelligence, a division of the IWSR Group, show that the trends are nuanced.
In China, live stream events featuring wine are becoming increasingly influential. Li Jiaqi, a lifestyle key opinion leader with more than 40M followers on TikTok/Douyin, for example, is reported to have sold 20,000 six-bottle cases of wine produced by Great Wall within 30 seconds during a Chinese New Year-related livestream in 2019. Meanwhile, Viya, a live streamer dubbed the ‘Queen of Taobao’ with more than 17M followers, reportedly sold 30,000 cases of another Great Wall-produced wine within one minute during a sponsored livestreaming session.
Despite the reach of these and other similar influencers, 43% of regular wine drinkers in China surveyed by Wine Intelligence named friends, family and colleagues as their most trusted source of wine information. The second most trusted source of wine information is a wine brand’s website (for 42% of Chinese drinkers), closely followed by online information from a wine blogger and comments on online shopping sites. This compares to 34% mentioning social media as a trusted source of information.
However, the figure rose among Millennials, and it’s this age group (rather than the younger LDA Gen Z consumers) that is leading the charge for online sources of wine information in China. 46% of Millennials (aged 25-29) state they trust online experts and 39% social media – but only 27% of Gen Z (20-24) wine drinkers chose social media as a trusted source.
“Although social media and wine blogger sources of information become more important amongst Millennial drinkers in China, friends and family, and winery websites, are more influential in guiding wine choice for these drinkers,” Lulie Halstead, CEO Wine Intelligence said.
Friends and family are an even more vital source of trusted wine information for regular wine drinkers in the US, with 70% of those surveyed by Wine Intelligence turning to them for wine guidance and recommendations – but the picture changes among the younger LDA age groups.
“Amongst LDA Gen Z, more traditional third-party endorsement (print, friends and family, and wine experts) are proportionally not as influential, and there is more wine choice guidance via social media, and online via bloggers,” Halstead notes.
40% of regular wine drinkers in the US said they trusted social media for wine information and recommendations. That figure rose to 52% for younger LDA Gen Z drinkers (21-24 years old), who are significantly more influenced by social media when it comes to wine choices. Interestingly, Millennial drinkers in the US are not significantly more influenced or trusting of social media sources for wine, with 44% of this cohort stating it guides their wine choices.
This data reflects the experience of Mar Barbera, senior influencer marketing strategist in the digital team of US-based specialist food and wine PR agency Colangelo & Partners. “When the objective is to reach wine consumers to create awareness for a winery, or educate them about a wine region, we work with ‘wine influencers’: wine enthusiasts with varying degrees of wine experience and wine education, whose audience seek wine recommendations,” she explains.
“When we aim to reach a younger LDA audience who is new to wine, we mostly collaborate with lifestyle influencers who are wine-knowledgeable. Lifestyle influencers are individuals with a desirable lifestyle and good aesthetics, who will often post about the places they visit, the restaurants they love or the products they enjoy. Their followers are open to these recommendations because they trust their taste, and often want to emulate their lifestyle.”
David Choi, owner of Angel Falls Wines and Magna Carta Cellars in California’s Napa Valley, is also a wine influencer with more than 220,000 followers on TikTok. He began posting in an effort to bridge what he calls the “big divide” between the wine industry and consumers, who he says can often be intimidated by the subject.
“We have found [our audience] to be everyday wine drinkers, and we see our audience on TikTok specifically to be the next generation of wine drinkers, at the beginning stages of their wine journey,” he says.
“We talk about all wines, but we do see that it skews to lower price-points. It leans towards the less mature wine drinker, so we’ve seen strong success between US$10-20, and they seem to enjoy our posts with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.”
While younger LDA wine consumers in the US are increasingly paying attention to influencers and other online sources of information, the same is not yet true in the UK – where Wine Intelligence found that only 29% of regular wine drinkers trust social media. Additionally, Millennial and LDA Gen Z drinkers in the UK are not significantly more influenced by social media compared with other UK wine drinkers. Levels of trust in information given by a wine blogger or expert are higher at 40%, but friends, family and colleagues (75%) remain by far the most trusted sources of information for UK regular wine drinkers.
“Social media is not yet a strong source of influence for wine amongst UK regular wine drinkers, with online wine bloggers/experts being more influential than more general social media apps,” remarks Halstead.
While social media live streamers and bloggers are beginning to influence purchasing decisions among certain (typically younger LDA) wine consumers, in certain markets (especially the US and China) and at certain price-points, the phenomenon remains in its infancy.
“This insight suggests that when wine brands, producers and distributers assess marketing spend and investment, a multi-channel marketing approach will continue to be the most successful in the near term – even for younger LDA Gen Z and Millennial drinkers,” notes Halstead.
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