Aroma Republic founder Terry Xu, known as XiaoPi, is a wine expert and one of the most influential Chinese opinion leaders in the wine industry. Wei Xu started his life in the wine industry right after studying in Bordeaux (BEM). Having been certified by 6 wine regions and countries including CIVB, BIVB, BINC and WSET, Wei has held more than 500 wine training sessions since 2007. Wei has more than 250,000 followers on Wechat and Weibo.
Please tell us how you got interested in wine in the first place.
After finishing my studies in Bordeaux in 2006, I worked for a year at the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, during this time I became interested in wine and then I found a job as a sales representative for a Bordeaux wine trader in China.
The export of Italian wine to China is on the rise, do you think this is the result of increased interest from Chinese consumers or have we just filled the void from Australian wines?
I think both factors help. In recent years, consumers of “mature” wine in China have increased rapidly and many of them are now interested in good Italian wine. I think this is the key point. The gap left by Australian wines certainly helps, but in my opinion it benefits more Chilean and French producers.
When a consumer thinks of Italian wines, what do they expect? (in terms of price, taste)
I think they expect a long wine history, very wine styles, complex tastes and appreciable prices, at the same time finding it difficult to observe Italian wines if they lack knowledge about the region, grapes and winemaking techniques of this territory.
What do you think is the best way to promote wine in China right now?
For good wine, I always believe in educational tasting. People need to taste wine, get to know it and then appreciate it from the bottom of their hearts. Above all for Italian wine there is so much history, so many grapes, terroir and wine making traditions to get to know. Without training, wine sales take or in the sale of famous labels. This is one of the most important reasons why French wine has been successful in China in the previous decades. The problem in China is that we are a large country with a large population. It takes time and budget to cover and re-cover the entire country. Therefore, I suggest Italian wineries to start with first and second tier cities with mature and open wine market, for example Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Xiamen etc. That said, please use the internet and social media to help and strengthen branding efforts. A strong brand is a great competitive advantage in China. People love to share what they buy on their social media. Being present online allows you to exponentially increase your brand awareness.
Is it important to work on the brand on the Chinese market?
Is very important. The Chinese market is extremely competitive, without brand consolidation, sales won’t last long. Today in China they all have a smartphone, working on their brand is much easier through social media.
How important is it to be on a digital platform for a winery? Can you suggest 2 good platforms to promote wine in China?
I don’t recommend a winery to have their own digital platform – on Weibo, Wechat, Tiktok etc. – unless you are able to invest in the long term and rely on local professionals. It is very difficult to acquire followers, keep them for a long time and convert them into sales. The best way to be present in digital is together with the different KOL / KOC on different platforms. This way the company can connect with a much larger pool of followers. In my experience, this is the best method. Now the most active platforms with high quality wine lovers are Bilibili and RED.
What about e-commerce for wine? Is it still something dedicated to wine Or is there more space for other wines? (Tell us 2 platforms to sell wine in China)
Not anymore. In my opinion, e-commerce is now the best way to get fine wine into the Chinese market. It is cheap, there is no need to pay the rent of a shop as it used to be. You ask me, then why is wine expensive not sold on e-commerce platforms in China? Simple, people didn’t know how to run online stores.
Having an e-commerce requires a high level of competence both in the knowledge of wine and in the technical operations of managing the platform. The knowledge of wine is essential, it helps you to get high quality wine with a competitive price and it also helps you to convince consumers because your wine is better and more expensive.
E-commerce is also a very effective area for branding, so I highly recommend anyone embarking on this adventure to put as many videos / photos of the winery and list all the strong points of their wine in the e-platforms. commerce, including soil type, planting density, yield, winemaking process, ripening details, etc. Don’t underestimate the curiosity of Chinese wine consumers, especially for fine wines. Having all this information on a good platform will save you a lot of time.
Plus, you’ll need someone who knows how to get the right customers to visit your store. It’s a totally different career and honestly, there aren’t many such talents on the market. Therefore, I suggest wineries to partner with digital marketing and e-commerce agencies with a good profile and reputation to run the store.
As for sales, the best platform in China for good wine is definitely Tmall.com (belongs to the Alibaba group). It has the largest number of consumers who like to learn through shopping and spend time selecting before making a purchase decision. This is crucial for wine. Since wine is not Cocacola, we need their attention and time, so we can tell them how good our wine is.
JD.com is suitable for established brands such as Penfolds, Lafites, Yellow Tails etc. Buyers are mainly business people who have little time to spend and make decisions quickly.
Do you think KOL and Livestreams are an effective way to promote wines in China?
Speaking of KOLs, some of them are. In my experience, I suggest that you don’t be fooled by the number of followers. KOLs in China are very expensive, so it’s best to be precise. I prefer a KOL with only 1000 followers, but who are wine lovers than one with 1 million followers, but who has no idea of their profiles or interests. Also, never work with just 1 KOL, you have to make a list of quality wine KOLs that work on different platforms and then distribute the budget to work with them in turn. The first collaboration is always the most effective. For Livestreams, they require several elements to be a success. The Livestream asks the consumer to change their daily schedule and be present at a specific time. Therefore, it is necessary to grab their attention, give gifts, passion, fun. There are very few KOL wines in China capable of making a proper Livestream or having successful references. Before making a Livestream, there are many factors to take into account, pay attention.
What do you think is interesting for a wine consumer, what do they look for in the digital environment? (e.g. WeChat)
In general, people now prefer videos over text and wine buying guides over technical knowledge. In my case, my followers are mainly interested in wine tasting / evaluation videos. Some of them can buy wine right after my recommendation. Others just have fun and listen to my talk-show style comments. People are now becoming less interested in wine knowledge because they don’t like the feeling of being educated when they are home after work. Even we influencers, when we want to teach him something about wine, we have to “disguise” it in a well-designed package and make it as little as possible similar to the classic training. Despite this, as a wine KOL I still believe it is very important to teach people about wine, so I insist on producing at least one training video a month. It attracts or helps about 1/5 of my followers and also strengthens my image as a wine expert.
If you could give an Italian winemaker three tips to sell more wine in China, what would it be?
I’ll give you more than three!
1. Find a good / solid long-term partner in China who is interested in promoting your brand. He may be young, he may be small, but he must be professional and passionate about wine. If you already have one, find the second one to cover the different regions of China.
2. When sales are stable, build an e-commerce platform on Tmall.com, work with your partners to increase direct online sales. Always focus on the wine experience and brand awareness, provide as many details as possible, do not lower the price of your wine to increase sales in the short term.
3. Be supportive. Help your Chinese partner do as many tastings as possible, from tasting them, train them to become your Brand Ambassador, treat them as part of your business or family. This way, when he talks with