These generations make up the audience for the major wine publications, such as Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, and provide the all-important third-person endorsement of our brands. Reassured by these publications, these consumers have formed the ranks of our loyal fans and wine club members.
However, as these two generational cohorts age, they will stop being our customers. And wineries relying on the standard fare of acclaim and release parties, should not expect the same level of loyalty from the Generation Xers and Millennials. It is time to rethink tactics.
Fortunately, even younger Millennials (19-26) are adopting wine quickly and are positioning themselves as the darling new consumers for wine brands. In addition, both groups of Millennials are already showing a high degree of experimentation with varietals and brands they are unfamiliar with, according to the 2012 Wine Market Council report.
That degree of experimentation and their preference for friends’ referrals over wine publications indicates that wineries may have a tougher time attracting and keeping this generation in a one-size-fits-all wine club.
While we don’t have hard data on wine club memberships yet, research done by the non-profit technology provider Covio on charitable giving, found that younger generations are already loyal to less charities than their predecessors.
“Although the amount of giving goes up with age, Millennials are loyal to a smaller group of organizations. The study found that Matures give on average $1,066 annually to 6.3 charities, Boomers give $901 to 5.2 charities, Gen X’ers donate $796 to 4.2 charities and Millennials give $341 to 3.6 charities. Perhaps we can also take this to mean that younger generations will be loyal to fewer brands than that of their predecessors.”1
The other take-away from this research was how best to reach the younger generations. In order to attract the attention of the connected generation will mean a new discipline of customer engagement.
As for wine clubs, we will have to see if they remain the gold standard of customer loyalty for our industry. I predict that we will see new models that feature shorter terms, greater flexibility and perhaps, different events for the different audiences.