Vinexpo HK: Alibaba expects 100m shoppers for 'wine sales day'

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China’s biggest e-commerce company, Alibaba, says its first wine sales day is set to attract 100m shoppers and that it is keen to experiment with direct importing.

Image: Bruno Baudry, CEO of ASC Fine Wines (left) and Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer of Alibaba, credit Decanter
Image: Bruno Baudry, CEO of ASC Fine Wines (left) and Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer of Alibaba, credit Decanter

Vinexpo HK seminar at a glance:

- Alibaba predicts 100m will take part in 9 September 'wine day'

- Wine sales 'only at the beginning' in China, says marketing chief

- Alibaba and ASC Fine Wines work more closely to promote wines online

Alibaba, which was founded by Jack Ma, expects ‘triple-digit growth’ in its wine business in the next three years, said the company at a joint symposium with ASC Fine Wines during the first day of Vinexpo Hong Kong.

ASC said it was keen to tap into Alibaba’s 400m active shoppers in China via various online and offline ‘cross-promotions’.

It is also evaluating the possibility of selling rare and premium wines to Alibaba’s high-end consumer club members, namely the 150,000 ‘Alibaba Passport’ holders.

The two companies signed an agreement last month with ASC promising to present a ‘wider range of choice’ on its flagship online store hosted on Alibaba’s online retail shop Tmall.com.

The move also intends to support Alibaba’s first ‘Tmall Wine & Spirits Festival’ on 9th September later this year, aiming to replicate the success of its ‘Singles’ Day (November 11th)’ online sales campaign.

‘(Chinese) people have already formed a steady habit to buy online,’ especially bulky products like wine, said Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of the Alibaba Group.

Thirty percent of the total sales of wine and spirits in China happens online, and Alibaba is responsible for half of that amount, said Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of the Alibaba Group.

‘Wine representatives and wine distributors only talk to the 35m people (in China) who drink imported wine today,’ said Bruno Baudry, CEO of ASC Fine Wines.

Online sales platforms are great opportunities for the wine trade to ‘reach out to the millions’ who were not targeted before, he said.

In the next two years, the total online sales of wine and spirits in China can potentially hit 60bn, said Tung.

Alibaba would like to ‘build a bridge between wine companies and consumers,’ he said. 'If you are serious about China, you’d open a flagship store (on Tmall.com). The brand representation in other channels is never as good as a flagship store.'

‘For producers who find it difficult to find representations in China, they may want to work directly with Alibaba’, he said. As the Chinese market is still very small, these moves are beneficial to develop the market. ‘One cannot do it by oneself alone,' Baudry added.

Though the expectations are high for the upcoming ‘Tmall Global Wine Festival’, ‘we have no idea how will it (online wine sales festival) go,’ said Baudry, adding that ‘how to manage the expectations of the brands (producers)’ therefore is the key challenge for the importer right now.

*Edited at 11:00am 25th May UK time based on requests from interviewees.

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