Millennials, typically defined as those born between 1982 and the early 2000s, are known for being adept at using technology, whether it's a smart phone, gaming console or social media.
When it comes to wine purchases, however, this younger generation (those of legal drinking age) prefers to buy bottles at the grocery store, according to a wine study published by Cal Poly's wine and viticulture department and the university's agribusiness department.
"The thing that was surprising is that everyone thinks the millennials will be online," said Marianne McGarry Wolf, head of the wine and viticulture department and a co-author of the study. "For them, it's a new experience, and they want to try new wines. There's also the shipping costs of buying wines, and they tend to be more cost-conscious."
Cal Poly researchers conducted the study using a survey distributed through a database of U.S. wine consumers. Of 918 responses obtained, 211 said that they purchased wine online. Those Internet wine shoppers tended to be older, married men with incomes higher than other wine drinkers. They also were more likely to buy wine at higher prices and be more knowledgeable about wine.
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Millennials in the 21-to-29-year-old range were the least likely to buy online, and so researchers conducted a second, independent survey to follow up with this group. The majority of them had never purchased wine online, and of those who had, nearly half said they weren't likely to do so in the near future, the study found.
Despite the growth of online wine purchases in recent years, online sales still represent about 5 percent of the total wine market in developed countries, the study said. The department conducted the study to offer a detailed profile of the typical wine buyer in the United States for online wine retailers and wineries that want a better understanding of the market and to expand their consumer base.
"Some of the laws are changing to make it easier for wineries to ship to more states," said Wolf. "So this is a new area that wineries can take advantage of. We wanted to find out who the people are most likely to purchase online and provide wineries with information to help them market their wines. We want to provide the industry with actionable information."
The study suggested that wine shops find new ways to cut the cost of shipping to buyers and market their wines online as "quality wines perfect for a special occasion or gift."
"It is important to help millennial consumers make a connection with the wines they are purchasing online," the study concluded.
However, it said that further research could help determine the best ways to connect with that demographic.
In the meantime, Wolf said the department has been receiving positive feedback on the current study, which was noted in Wine Spectator magazine and presented in Germany last June.