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Q&A with Ian Dai DipWSET, Senior Vendor Manager, Wine & Spirits, Amazon China

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Ian Dai DipWSET is Senior Vendor Manager, Wine & Spirits, Amazon China. Previously he has worked in many sectors of the wine and spirits industry; wine educator, wine book translator, sommelier and wine event organizer. Ian achieved his WSET Diploma in 2014 and is currently working towards his Master of Wine.

We spoke to Ian about how Chinese wine consumers are changing the way they shop.


What are the biggest challenges you face when sourcing wines and spirits for a distributor such as Amazon China?

China is a developing market for wines and spirits, but it’s not just the consumers who are changing, the supply chain is evolving too. The major challenges we currently face are fulfilling the real demands of consumers while proving to suppliers and distributors the importance and value of e-commerce.

According to Wine Intelligence China has around 21 million online wine buyers, what are the expectations of these customers and how do you believe online sellers in China need to evolve to further grow their market share

E-commerce has great potential in China given its unique market structure and is forecast to take a large share of the retail market in the future. E-commerce has the advantage of providing wider spectrum of choices and offering better value. The authenticity of wines is the foremost expectation and concern for consumers, so meeting that concern will be key.

What do you think are the major forces driving recovery in the consumer market after the austerity-era decline in wine sales?

Prior to the anti-corruption campaign, the market was “not real” and full of bubbles. The major driving forces include the growth of China’s economy, the change of drinking habits and the pursuit of a different lifestyle.

What advice would you give producers who are looking to break into the Chinese market?

Respect the market, and you will get rewarded.

What trends and preferences are you seeing amongst younger "developing" wine drinkers in China?

The market is still at such an early stage it is still too young to show any real trends or preferences, plus China is just too vast for generalisation. As yet, there are no brands, importers or distributors with enough influence to artificially create such trends.

55% of alcoholic-beverage drinkers in China say they purchase liquor and wine online, while 90% say they buy alcohol offline, according to a Nielsen survey.

Frank Tong, Senior editor China, Internet


What do you think have been the biggest changes over the past 10 years in the consumer market in China?

The market in some coastal regions, such as Shanghai, has developed very fast and become way more sophisticated in its wine drinking preferences. However, these changes are hard to detect in most other regions.

What do you think will be the biggest changes over the next 10 years in the consumer market in China?

China’s wine market is still at the infant stage and the development is slow. A lot of patience is needed before we see it develop into a more mature and sophisticated market.


Ian Dai will be presenting one of WSET's masterclass sessions at ProWine China (7-9 November 2016). See the full schedule here.