How personal is individual wine choice? Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in wine consumption in many parts of the world, and this trend is likely to continue. Today consumers are faced with a bewildering selection of wines, all boasting attributes designed to catch their attention and encourage them to come back for more ‒ from an impressive quality rating and well-known brand name, to attractive labelling.
Not surprisingly, choosing a wine is becoming an increasingly daunting task for many consumers. Yet wine purchases are rarely made on a whim. Consumers assess wines on the basis of several obvious and less obvious attributes, with their choices heavily influenced by whether they are wine experts, complete novices or somewhere in between.
Understanding what consumers look for in a wine and where a particular product is perceived to be on the value-price fulcrum lies at the heart of an effective wine marketing strategy.
Product knowledge is a very important, but often overlooked, factor in the evaluation of different types of wine. Such knowledge may be subjective or objective. Subjective knowledge refers to what individuals think or believe they know about a particular topic, while objective knowledge refers to what people actually know about a topic in a practical sense, which can be verified or demonstrated to be correct.
One could say that subjective knowledge is imagined while objective knowledge is real. Objective knowledge is typically associated with experience and expertise, and is therefore considered more reliable than subjective knowledge which could be the result of hearsay, preconceived ideas or bias. Yet, subjective knowledge is increasingly found to influence consumer behaviour.
Both subjective knowledge and objective knowledge are equally important to wine marketers because what consumers think they know and what they actually know about wine will influence the marketing strategy.
The ‘intrinsic’ attributes of wine include colour and taste. The ‘extrinsic’ attributes of wine include price, age (or vintage), brand and region of origin. Extrinsic attributes appeal to consumers’ senses in more complex ways than intrinsic attributes, often making the marketing of the former more challenging.
However, a wine’s extrinsic attributes cannot be divorced from its intrinsic attributes. Thus, wine production and marketing are inextricably linked.
Extrinsic attributes have been defined as those that ‘are known or can be known to the consumer before buying the bottle of wine and are separated from the actual characteristics of the wine’. Literature on wine marketing focuses increasingly on the ‘extrinsic’ attributes of wine, but what has not been researched is how product knowledge – both subjective and objective – influences the importance that consumers attach to extrinsic attributes.
How personal is each individual’s wine choice?
With the global wine industry becoming increasingly congested and competitive, wine producers and marketers need to appeal to consumers in ever new and innovative ways. Understanding what motivates consumers to buy particular types of wine is a critical part of this process.
What is interesting is that even novice consumers, with limited practical knowledge of wine, constitute a distinct market segment because they display common tendencies when evaluating and choosing wine, which marketers should creatively tap into.
This study lays an important foundation for more in-depth studies into the influence of product knowledge on wine purchasing behaviour, taking additional attributes into consideration. Wine labels and bottle characteristics, for example, could be included in the product attribute mix as visual cues can steer consumers in very clear directions.
In line with the global focus on terroir in wine, region did in fact have the greatest influence on wine drinkers when considering both novices and experts. All this underlines why personalising marketing product selection to each consumer is essential for online wine ecommerce, and general DTC sales.