In his fascinating book, Futurewise, Patrick Dixon explores the world around six letters – the letters of the word “F.U.T.U.R.E” : F as Fast, U as Urban, T as Tribal, U as Universal, R as Radical and E as Ethical. It is the definition of the new consumer. Let’s see what the “fast consumer” is about in the wine business.
The international consumer lives in a fast world : fast-changing technologies, fast-changing products, fast-changing world, fast food, fast travels. “The developed world, is cash-rich, time-poor and intensely impatient”, Dr. Dixon sums up in a striking sentence.
The rise of the Internet is certainly one of the most significant changes in the way consumers can access new products, new information and new people. News now travels almost instantaneously, as the phenomenon of “breaking news” on the American news channel CNN shows. Consumers are used to zapping from one TV channel to another, and apply the zapping technique to brands. They are not loyal to a brand anymore and keep changing, depending on the ad, the novelty or the appeal.
Because the technology is changing, the market is changing. The consumer requests diversity and quality, as well as immediate access to the product he wants to buy, taste or try. The answer is e-commerce or the sale of the goods on line.
Yesterday, Europeans were drinking their father’s cellars and building cellars for their children. The Americans were recovering from the Repeal of Prohibition and were building their wine industry. The Japanese were recovering from World War II and getting acquainted with Europe. Today, the French, Americans and Japanese are “zapping” from one wine to another, experimenting with new tastes, new countries and new styles. Yesterday the French were drinking 80 liters a year; today they are drinking 55 liters a year. Americans were drinking beer, cocktails and whiskey; they are now drinking 8 liters of wine a year. Japanese were drinking sake and tea; now they are drinking French classified growths and other European fine wines. Yesterday, wine was served everyday at lunch and dinner in Europe. Today, the French, the Americans and the Japanese are eating sandwiches in front of their computers, reaching for the bottle of water and the cup of coffee. Dinner time is very often some frozen food reheated in the microwave by an overworked parent, or some pizza ordered by phone. Yesterday, before the family meal, Mr. Dupont went into his cellar, chose his bottle carefully and put it on the table to complement the nice dinner home-cooked by Mrs. Dupont. Today, Mrs. Dupont chooses the wine and gets in her car to buy it at the nearest supermarket. Yesterday, Mr. Smith was drinking beer and Mrs. Smith milk. Today, they are all drinking sodas, beers or wine. Yesterday, regional branding was an important element to help wine enthusiasts develop an understanding of the global wine world. Today, the New World favors varietals, while the Old World is switching strategy.
Today, all of them – Japanese, Europeans, Americans, Indians, Chinese, Russians – are connected by phone and through the Internet, and to the Internet through their phone. The M Generation of Patrick Dixon could also be called the “Mobile Generation”, because their mobile phone connects them to the world through the Internet. The M Generation can buy on line by phone after they have got the information they were looking for on the Internet. Because it is connected to the world by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if it want to be, the M generation is also a giant online community. Ben and Linda Smith, two young Americans interested in wine, are connected to the Internet. Their counterparts in Europe are Pierre and Sylvie Dupont, in India Chandra Singh and in China Yin Li. All those people are going to surf the Net to find information on wine, exchange ideas and tips or share their tasting notes on their favourite wines or addresses of good wine and e-commerce sites.
What do those people living in different cultures and speaking different languages have in common? Mostly they share the same interest in wine, food and a quality lifestyle, speak English or have a decent knowledge of English and have access to the Internet. Sooner or later they will cross paths on a forum, on a blog or on an informational site on wine. They will be part of community-building projects, such as wine encyclopedias, wikis, blogs or forums. “The spirit of the online community,” explains Patrick Dixon, “will continue to be a passionate belief that information should whenever possible be given away for the benefit of humankind as a whole. This ethic will have a profound effect on many businesses […].” Dr. Dixon can now switch to the present tense. Almost everyday a new site is born to sustain the international online community of wine consumers. Wine forums, wine blogs and even wikis are now so popular that their numbers have exploded.