New Wine Intelligence consumer data shows that both during and post-virus era wine drinking behaviour is similar across markets, but there are also some intriguing contrasts within markets that warrant further investigation
As we analyse the new data coming in from our consumer surveys about the impact of COVID-19 on wine drinker behaviour and attitudes for our COVID-19 Impact Reports, we are starting to see some familiar patterns emerge.
As expected, some behaviours, such as going out to eat and attending sports events, have come to a sudden halt because of government-imposed lockdown restrictions. Others, such as online shopping for groceries, alcohol and consumer electronics, have surged, mainly out of necessity and convenience.
Fortunately for the wine category, and more generally for alcohol producers, the desire to buy and drink wine has remained solid, with many markets seeing a rise in off-premise sales to make up for the fall in eating out, and wine usage frequency has remained broadly stable (and for some people, increasing). For instance, in the US and UK, we actually see an increase in the frequency of wine occasions during lockdown compared with pre lockdown behaviour – with at-home occasions more than compensating for the loss of on-premise occasions – whilst overall rates of wine drinking in Australia have remained largely unchanged during lockdown.
Australia: COVID-19 Impact is now available for purchase and the US and UK reports will be published in May 2020.
We are also seeing similar patterns in terms of attitudes and priorities once the lockdown period ends. Not surprisingly, consumers across markets are very cautious about going back to bars, restaurants, music venues and stadia, and many, worried about finances, are de-prioritising major spending such as vacations, new cars and big social events.
However, we are also seeing some intriguing contrasts within each market between different groups of consumers, which has sent us back to the textbooks.
To start from first principles, consumer needs broadly follow the hierarchy outlined by Ivan Maslow which we explored a few weeks ago. A paper by Quelch & Jocz, published in Harvard Business Review in 2009, argued that in an economic downturn, these needs can be classified as follows:
- Essentials: Necessary for survival or perceived as central to well-being
- Treats: Indulgences whose immediate purchase is considered justifiable.
- Postponables: Needed or desired items whose purchase can be reasonably put off.
- Expendables: Perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable.
Our data so far is suggesting that, for many consumers, wine sits firmly in #2 – the “justifiable treat” category – while for others it is either #3 or #4, and therefore not part of their virus-era shopping list. For a further segment – and no doubt many readers of this article, including myself – it is firmly a #1 – absolutely essential.
Why does this matter? As we start to unpack the data on consumer priorities and intentions once life returns to something approaching normal, where our product category sits in this consumer needs hierarchy will have a significant bearing on what those consumers think and actually do. Which, for those marketers among us, means that marketing strategies post-virus need to recognise these differences and make sure that their targeting and messaging reflects this understanding.
In the same paper, Quelch and Jocz go on to set out a framework for how different consumers segments might behave in a recessionary environment based on their need states. As a result, at Wine Intelligence, we are now working with our newest data to find a way of differentiating wine drinkers in terms of how they are feeling both now and their anticipated feeling in the future. Are they financially vulnerable or economically comfortable, and how will this impact their future choices and behaviours with wine?
From this, we will then be in a position to determine what best practice brand strategy and communication might look like for our post-lockdown consumers.