Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: How to win in the Chinese wine market

China Paradigm interviewed Claudia Masueger, the founder and CEO of CHEERS Wine, one of the leading distributors of imported wine in the Chinese wine market, to learn her secret business strategies of doing O2O in China and how a strong corporate culture leads to success.

Claudia Masueger, a true master in the Chinese wine market

Claudia Masueger was born in a small village in Switzerland and has never been to university. With a family background of selling wine for four generations, Claudia has developed a huge passion in the Chinese wine market from a very young age. In January 2008, she arrived in China with two suitcases full of wine samples and a big will of conquering the Chinese wine market.

In the same year, she founded MQ Wines, a successful B2B wine wholesale within offline and online retail in China. However, because of the changing landscape of the Chinese wine market and a massive warehouse fire in 2010, MQ Wines was forced to be closed.

Despite four months without any business, Claudia was not intimidated by the hardship. She came back with an idea of building a fun and affordable Chinese wine culture for younger generations and opened the first store of CHEERS Wine in 2011, which immediately became a huge success in the Chinese wine market.

Chinese wine culture
[Claudia Masueger, founder and CEO of CHEERS Wine, an imported wine wholesaler in the Chinese wine market]

CHEERS Wine: Creating a fun Chinese wine culture

The first CHEERS Wine store opened on the 9th of April 2011 in Beijing. Now, this successful distributor in the Chinese wine market owns more than 60 stores and franchise partners all over China with 80 employees.

online retail in China
[CHEERS Wine, a well-known imported wine distributor within offline and online retail in China]

According to Claudia, CHEERS Wine upholds a long-term goal other than succeeding in the Chinese wine market.

“Our mission is much more important than how much wine we sell. Our mission is to make customers smile. We give customers good feelings so that they feel trusted.”

Unlike Western countries where people consume wine on a daily basis, the Chinese wine culture was still immature when Claudia entered the market. Chinese consumers would prefer wine with a sweeter flavor, instead of heavy ones. After she realized that it is essential to create a new and unsophisticated Chinese wine culture for younger generations, Claudia started to dedicate herself into building a strong corporate culture in China.

“When we designed our first store, I wanted the interior design to be as non-traditional as possible. We wanted to create an uncomplicated wine culture so that youngster would just discover the Chinese wine market.”

Moreover, she founded CHEERS University to provide wine knowledge to her employees and franchising partners for them to immerse into this corporate culture in China of enjoying wine. “They have to understand the Chinese wine culture is huge and endless to learn,” said Claudia.

For her, this strong corporate culture in China is one of the reasons behind her triumph over the copycats, because “at the end of the day, it’s all about building an honest attitude with extraordinary good products and knowledgeable customer service,” said Claudia.

How does O2O in China influence the wine market?

Back in 2011, Claudia established a business goal for CHEERS Wine, which was to open 888 stores in China. That was at a time before O2O in China starts to boom. Now the business objective for CHEERS Wine is no longer opening physical stores, but “integrating offline and online retail in China together with organic growth.”

CHEERS Wine expands its territory into online retail in China by selling wine through online channels like WeChat Shop Weidian, JD, Taobao, etc. With the increasing demand for delivery service in Beijing, CHEERS Wine also adopts the online delivery platforms into its O2O ecosystem like Ele.me and Meituan with a shorter delivery time of only 20 minutes.

“O2O in China for me is driving traffic offline to online, and online to offline,” Claudia explained, “It’s in both directions, instead of one-way.”

According to Claudia, in order to stay on the top of these platforms of online retail in China, CHEERS Wine has to be present offline first with small outlets all over the place. The offline stores also hold occasional wine tasting for customers to have a one-time life experience. After customers start to discover the fascinating Chinese wine culture, they can enjoy the convenience of ordering online from home through the touchpoints integrated with offline stores smoothly.

“Nowadays, offline is not working alone anymore,” Claudia said, “It is very important to have a good balance between offline and online retail in China.”


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