Pandemic-related shifts in sentiment appear to be behind the fall in Australian consumers’ recall of wine brands over the past 12 months
Over the past year, Australia has experienced the most widespread decline in wine brand awareness among regular wine drinkers of any wine market, according to the latest Wine Intelligence Vinitrac Australia consumer survey data from March 2021, released to clients over the past 2 weeks. The decrease started towards the end of 2020 and continued through the first quarter of 2021, Wine Intelligence consumer research data shows.
Australia’s negative brand awareness trend appears to be an outlier among other large global markets in the Covid-19 era, but the increased volatility of awareness generally does appear to be a function of the wine world since the start of the pandemic. In China, the US and Canada, awareness levels have been more volatile in the past 12 months than in the previous year, but there is no consistent pattern, according to the March 2021 Wine Intelligence data. Meanwhile, the corresponding UK consumer survey data shows awareness levels for the leading brands rising in virtual lockstep in the 12 months since March 2020.
Deeper analysis of the Australia consumer data shows that purchase incidence (the proportion of regular wine drinkers who buy a given wine brand) has declined, but not for all brands. Most brands showed similar recalled purchase levels between March 2020 and March 2021. This has resulted in an increased conversion rate (which measures recalled purchasers as a percentage of those aware of each brand) for leading brands. For the majority of brands, conversion rates have remained stable.
As such, where awareness has remained steady, our data shows that regular drinkers of leading brands have largely persisted in their buying habits. Where awareness for top brands has fallen, the consumers who remain aware of the leading brands appear more closely connected with the brand values, suggesting that these are the core purchasers, and their purchase incidence has also remained constant. Put another way, the reduction of awareness appears to be from people who were not strongly connected to the brands in the first place.
Since the decline of consumer awareness has affected the Australian wine market so broadly, it is safe to say this is down to changing market conditions – particularly in relation to the coronavirus pandemic – as opposed to individual brand choices. The factors listed below apply specifically to the Australian market, but some could also be present, to a greater or lesser degree, in other markets.
There are four ways in which we think that changing market conditions are shifting consumer awareness in Australia:
- New purchasing journeys change consumers’ interactions with wine brands
Over the course of the pandemic, more Australian consumers have moved their shopping online and/or over to discounter stores. In supermarkets that focus on value prices, there are fewer wine brands available (and those ‘brands’ are often captive to that supermarket), while the process of buying wine online is very different to the tactile way we browse and purchase wine in brick-and-mortar shops.
- The pull of buying local
As seen in other markets and other consumer goods categories, Australian wine drinkers became more motivated by craft and locality during 2020, developing a connection with more local, niche wines which sit outside the umbrella of mainstream brands.
- A comfort with the tried and trusted
As Australian wine drinkers are aware of fewer leading wine brands and are content with the smaller number of wine brands they know and trust, they may have retreated to this smaller, familiar group of wines. In other markets, reversion to tried and trusted has benefited large and easily identifiable brands at the expense of smaller and more obscure ones. The oddity in Australia, unlike other markets, is that all repertoires of mainstream brands appear to have shrunk.
- Changing priorities during a crisis
In times of crises, psychological literature suggests that the brain tends to shut out peripheral concerns to focus on activities and behaviours that are essential for survival. Issues such as health of family members or employment security may have taken priority over other types of knowledge, such as wine brand knowledge.
These market shifts evident amongst Australian wine consumers appear to be at odds with a broader global picture of winners and losers in the consumer brand awareness stakes, and appear to be directly connected with the upheaval of the past year. The return to a more normal pattern of consumer behaviour may foster a return to normality for brands and their presence in consumer minds. However as with any sudden change in consumer sentiment, it offers opportunities for fleet-footed brand owners to build a wider, or deeper, relationship with their consumers.