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Decoding the consumer's online shopping habits

Xavier Court, associate and co-founder of, talks to Felicity Murray about the findings of a European study that decodes the habits of those who purchase wines online

Xavier Court, which was recently named as the best wine sales website in France by internet users and second in the global ranking, currently sells wine on its French, German, Italian, Spanish and Belgian sites and there are plans to open a UK site in the coming months.

The study into the buying habits of online wine shoppers was led by Survey Lab, the study and trends laboratory of, in partnership with the institute of independent studies ExactEtudes.

The findings of the study, Xavier explains, revealed that people who already buy wine on the internet are serious wine amateurs, with a larger budget than those who shop offline. “For their personal consumption they spend on average up to €14 more than those who buy wine exclusively offline and up to €9 more when buying wine for guests or friends. Of these e-shoppers, 75% consume wine at least once or twice a week, compared with 46% of traditional offline consumers. Red wine is the most preferred wine by all types of consumers, but even more so by online purchasers (62% vs 53%).

“Further more, online buyers have more wine reserves (46% vs 23%) and offer wine as a gift more frequently, especially for festive celebrations (35% vs 25%). They are globally more educated about wine – 72% think to aerate their wine before serving (vs 63%) and 48% decant their wine (vs 32%).“

The study also found that online buyers of wine are the ones most interested in international wines. Wine e-shoppers privilege French, Spanish, Italian wines as they have the best image. However, they are more curious about international wines. Out of the 12 wine countries tested, wine e-shoppers had already tasted between five (Spanish) and seven (German) wines versus an overall average of four for those who buy wine exclusively offline. From those international wines, the most appreciated outside of Europe were South African (84%), Chilean (80%) and Argentinean (78%).

Women were found to be the most curious about wine on “When one compares e-shoppers who buy wine online in the general market with those who buy offline exclusively, we can observe that e-shoppers are more male (65% vs 43%), older (43 average age vs 39), more urban (44% vs 38%), and more in a couple (74% vs 66%). However, on, there is a higher proportion of female wine shoppers,” he says.

The study showed that 49% of shoppers on the site are women (against 35% in the general online market). Though the average age of wine buyers stays in line with the general market (42 years old), on women buy as much wine as men (two purchases per year on average) for an equivalent average basket value. They also spend more on wine on the site (€10-12 per bottle, on average) than offline buyers (€3-5 on average)

Aside from a wine’s origin, the online shopper also pays attention to the name of estate (82%), the grape variety (81%), the bottling (51%), the opinions of others (40%), awards and medals (34%), as well as the price (30%).

“What is incredible about these first figures that have surfaced from the study is that the buying codes have been inversed on the internet vis-a-vis offline. The price or the medals are no longer the principal criteria; the online buyer has a far more global approach and is looking for quality rather than quantity. He is better informed too, thanks to the information that he has easy access to on the net. Our wine sales website not only has good visuals but also wine experts to guide and reassure the customer that the product is a close as possible to what he wants.”

“There is certainly a growing appetite for 24/7 online shopping,” he adds, “but with vente-privee you can’t plan what you are buying because it is all about what is available for sale on that day. Therefore, people are tending to buy for a future need, and price is not the number one priority.

“People who have registered with our site, receive emails alerting them when there is a sale and they only have a very limited time – perhaps a couple of days – to make their purchase.

“The visual presentations are like advertising campaigns for the supplier companies. Our wine experts provide explanatory words or a presentation video, which includes tasting advice and serving suggestions to help novices in their selection. Around 500,000 people will have heard about the wine and will remember the real price and value and will shop for it again elsewhere.“ founded the online sales event concept and is a global leader in the sector. Specialising in selling brand overstock since 2001, online sales are exclusive to its 18 million members in Europe. Registration is free. The heavily discounted product sales are for a limited time only (3 to 5 days) and are organised in close collaboration with over 2,000 major international brands in all product categories: ready-to-wear, fashion accessories, music, homewares, toys, sports equipment, high-tech, gastronomy. In 2011, the website was launched in the US in partnership with American Express.

The site entered the wine and spirits sector in 2006 with a sale of champagne. More than 2.5 million bottles were sold on the French, German, Italian, Spanish and Belgian sites in 2012 with a sales figure of €30 million. Today holds three new sales of wine, champagne or spirits a week. With 1,800 employees in eight European countries, generated €1.3 billion gross turnover in 2012, a 22% increase from 2011.

Xavier concludes: “To succeed in this business you need to excel in four key areas: IT, production and presentation, logistics and customer services. And, yes, I do open my own mail - I do not have an assistant!”


5 July 2013