Boomers are Great, but Gen X and Millennials are Critical to Your Wine Business

For the wine business, Baby Boomers were, and still are, the reason for huge growth in wine sales over the last 25-years. A few good wine movies and some great values didn’t hurt promotion or inspiration either. The U.S. wine industry has been feeling the good fortunes almost to the point of invincibility over the past two-plus decades. Things are changing though.

Wine is dependent on a certain set of natural conditions, including weather and the terroir in order for the grapes to reach maturity and ripeness. As with consumer goods, wine is also subject to other critical elements such as marketing, distribution and yes, demographics. For small wineries, marketing and distribution are almost one and the same, as most of their revenue is from wine sold at the winery vs. distribution and sales in big box stores.

For today’s winery owners, you need to pay close attention to changing demographics and psychographics of consumers. This would be about the same as a winemaker not paying attention to the weather. Wine sales to the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1940 and 1963) are expected to decline as this huge demographic ages. So, the next big target for the wine industry is Gen X (1964-1981) and Millennials (those now 18-40), who are now coming up on their strongest point of earning and spending power. Find them and engage them… you’ll reap the rewards of their vast numbers and spending habits. But they are not an easy bunch to get to engage, especially if your marketing is, well, old school.

An example of their power, according to Bon Appetit, Millennials drink more wine than their parents did, hard to believe but true. Research also shows that 31 percent of consumers in the U.S who drink wine at least once a week are millennials between the ages of 21 and 40. Armed with this information, winery owners should seriously consider revamping at least some of their marketing efforts to match not only their age, but even more important, their psychographics: what they think, how they think and how they spend time and money.

The good news for those wineries that pay close attention to these trends in marketing is this fact – most wineries will do nothing to try and capture this critical and profitable segment, leaving those who do a much bigger slice of the pie.

While the sales of wine in the US are still growing overall, the rate of growth is flatlining. One report includes data showing that Millennials are not adopting the wine lifestyle as strongly as winemakers and wine marketers were hoping. Not to go in the weeds here (no pun intended), but cannabis legalization is actually a factor explaining Millennials’ slow adoption of wine, and wine tastings. The good news is, Millennials love experiences, and many small wineries can deliver that.

As for Generation X, now aged 38 to 53, don’t forget them, or again, you feel it on the bottom line.

Here are 5 strategies to harvest your share of the “other” generations:

1. Have a Newer and Attractive Website

This may be obvious, but it’s amazing how many winery websites are outdated or are in serious need of visual and technical enhancements that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on. A new responsive theme with new images and a video or two would enhance your site and attract more visitors. Nothing will turn off the younger generation surfing for which winery to visit on their wine tasting adventure than an old tired site… especially one that’s not responsive, meaning it does not adapt to their cell phone. They won’t hang around a site like that for more than a nano-second. For those under 50, and many over, the perception of the website is a reflection on the quality of wine, whether true or not.

2. Millennials Appreciate the Quality and Not Just the Wine

One study showed they appreciate these factors most:

  • Variety and Quality
  • The Story of the Winery, Owners and Winemaker
  • How the Product is Made, Organic or Not
  • Authenticity and Legacy
  • Winery Innovations and Techniques
  • The Farming Aspect

3. They Engage in Social Media Platforms, Duh

If wineries want to be successful at marketing to Millennials and Gen X’ers, it’s critical to engage them in social media, with quality content, not quantity. They get more value with regard to wine from social networks than they do from publications and scores in magazines. You should also use YouTube and Instagram, as these are very important channels for teaching these two generations about winemakers, the winemaking process and your overall story. Millennials are inherently social, and wineries can market to them by tapping into their lifestyles.

4. Keep Your Winery Reviews Strong

Peer and personal reviews are a very important resource for millennials. In fact, one study found that 74% of millennials said it was important to read other people’s opinions making a purchase. For wineries, you can more effectively market to millennials by integrating reviews into their product pages and social media outlets. Ultimately, most good reviews are from great products and warm friendly service.

5. Take Advantage of the #2 Most Powerful Search Engine

YouTube is the world’s 2nd most powerful and frequented search engine behind Google… Oh, did we mention Google now owns YouTube? Produce at least one professional video for your winery. It’s not nearly as expensive as you think, and unlike a magazine ad or print, it will last for years. Did you know, consumers are over 200% more likely to watch a short video than read written words. They are 400% more likely to share a video than straight copy to friends. The emotion and inspiration of a well-done video will draw Millennials to your winery’s tasting room. Here’s the big bonus: once they are at your winery, they are very likely to shoot their own video or take pictures with their cell phone, documenting their great experience… and then post on their social media platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, where the image or video instantly blasts out to friends and family. Say hello to free advertising.

The bottom line is your bottom line. Your revenue will be affected year after year as aging Boomers slow down their wine consumption and the next two generations begin to enjoy the art of wine. Capture their attention now, engage them, inspire them and you’ll enjoy the remaining Boomers, as well as their adult kids, too.

Cheers to future generations.

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