A walk in the shoes of your consumer can be useful marketing therapy

There is a temptation in marketing to fix on a certain way of looking at consumer data – say, explaining the behaviour of a market on the basis of age – and become captivated by this narrative. Thus we have marketers confidently explaining changes in a market in terms of the influence of “Millennials” or “Boomers”. While this can be a correct interpretation in some instances, all too often it turns out to be a crude approximation of what’s really happening.

Not all Millennials want to get tattoos; not all senior citizens enjoy the music of Frank Sinatra, though in both data points there will probably be a correlating age bias. The question is: to what extent does the knowledge we have about someone help us understand why they have done something, and, crucially, what they might do next?

The best consumer data connects us to real-life people, each an intricate and unique blend of behaviours and attitudes. It is this ‘data DNA’, particular to each and every consumer, that provides us with the contextual information we need to gain a comprehensive understanding of who they are and why they behave the way they do, and allows us to walk vicariously in their shoes for a while, and imagine how they might react to a new product or service.

US Portraits, our segmentation of American wine consumers, is an exercise in mapping this data DNA in an attempt to ground the abstract, to do justice to the complexity and interrelatedness of consumer behaviour. In short, to provide a context that gives a face to US regular wine drinkers.

We achieve this by running an inter-measure cluster analysis, which provides us with a more nuanced view. From this perspective, we can make out six distinct groups of personalities that comprise the US regular wine drinking population. Similar segments re-emerge in the topography of our data, and those of you familiar with previous reports will recognize some of the names: Millennial Treaters, Experienced Explorers, Premium Brand Suburbans, Bargain Hunters, Senior Sippers and Kitchen Casuals.

Millennial Treaters – the branch of the now-famous demographic which cares enough about wine for it to be on their treat list – are the highest spenders. They drink wine regularly and particularly in bars and restaurants, and tend not to balk at the idea of paying the same for a glass of wine in the bar that a mid-range bottle would cost in the grocery store. As relative newcomers to the category, their knowledge level is often just skin deep, and they tend to follow trends rather than start them – they are happy when a recommendation from a well-known sommelier propels them in a new wine direction.

Experienced Explorers are veteran drinkers and higher spenders who account for 15% of US regular wine drinkers. Middle-aged, wine is a regular treat for them, often drinking in the company of friends or family in both the on- and off-premise. They too enjoy a wide repertoire, but as more mature drinkers are more sure of themselves and their tastes.

The largest group, at 32% of US regular wine drinkers, are the Premium Brand Suburbans. These are “everyday” drinkers who enjoy their wine as a staple yet who lack passion for the category. They lean more towards the off-premise, and are driven by value-for-money and brand familiarity.

Bargain Hunters, at just 7% of regular wine drinkers, tend to be older and more preoccupied with price and ‘getting a good deal’. They drink wine infrequently and primarily at home. Unadventurous, they tend to stick with what they know when it comes to brands or varietals. Similarly, Senior Sippers, accounting for 16% of regular wine drinkers, and Kitchen casuals, accounting for 18%, are older, infrequent drinkers who are typically unengaged with the category. The latter drink almost exclusively at home, with only 1 in 4 drinking in the on-premise at all.

In addition to painting a vivid picture of US regular wine drinkers in 2016, by comparing our data from this year with previous data from 2013, we are in a position to observe the direction in which these personalities are evolving. Millennial Treaters are, for example, shifting their spending increasingly online, and Premium Brand Suburbans are drinking less alcohol generally. Ironically, however, this sustained exercise in segmentation also permits us to triangulate our data and corroborate our hypotheses with view to drawing conclusions about the evolution of US wine consumers as a whole. As we see since 2013, most groups are either drinking or spending more in the on-premise, and most are tending towards a greater interest in the category, regarding wine as more important to their lifestyle or taking more care when choosing it. This suggests that wine is incrementally securing a more central position in the lives of US drinkers.

Find out more in our US Portraits 2016 report, published this Thursday in the Reports Shop.

Author: David Thompson

Email: david@wineintelligence.com