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4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena, 17-19 July, 2008




Mag. (FH) Isabella Hatak

Fachhochschulstudiengänge Burgenland GmbH

Burgenland University of Applied Sciences

Campus 1, A-7000 Eisenstadt

isabella.hatak@fh-burgenland.at Dipl. BW (FH) Albert Stöckl, MA Fachhochschulstudiengänge Burgenland GmbH Burgenland University of Applied Sciences Campus 1, A-7000 Eisenstadt albert.stoeckl@fh-burgenland.at 4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena, 17-19 July, 2008


A number of research studies have looked into consumer buying behaviour as regards wine. However, as yet no-one has focussed specifically on the factors which pertain to consumers buying wine to offer as gifts. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to identify which factors affect the decision of the wine buyer in this context. A further aim is to develop a number of hypotheses which will form the basis of a future quantitative study.

The research methodology begins with a review of the relevant literature. From this a research design using projective methods in the interviews was considered as being the most appropriate way to proceed. After a pre-test, the methodology was refined and then conducted using a research group of twelve persons. This group was selected according to gender, age and whether they were considered to be ‘connoisseurs’ or ‘laypeople’ as regards purchasing and consuming wine. A total of nineteen hypotheses were then developed which will form the basis of future avenues of research.

The findings suggest that a good portion of the factors which influence buyers when purchasing wine as a gift are exogenous and can be found in existing literature. The influence of these factors in the context varies, however, depending on the knowledge of the purchaser, the perceived risk, as well as the relation to and social status of the recipient. A further important factor is the specific requirement of the gift situation e.g.

as a birthday or retirement present. The existing study highlights the fact that the purpose of an acquisition is of overriding importance when buying wine as a gift – dominating all other influencing factors which are subsequently only subject to it.

Extrinsic or intrinsic cues vary strongly in importance as a function of the specific purchasing context the buyer faces.

4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena, 17-19 July, 2008


Wine is multifaceted, rich in tradition and can, in many regards, be distinguished from other consumer products. Nowadays wine serves not primarily as a thirst quencher but often has cultural functions: meeting friends and family, socialising, indicating social class, consumed in conjunction with eating and visiting restaurants, as an aperitif, etc. Therefore this product has, in relation to others, specific cultural and luxury product attributes (Philipps, 2003).

In a 2005 survey, 88% of a representative sample of 600 wine buyers, interviewed by the Vienna University of Economics (WU) Advertising and Market Research Institute, were of the opinion that wine is ‘an ideal drink for celebrations and special occasions’ clarifying and confirming the positive conception of this consumer product (ÖWM, 2006).

What is of particular note is the giving of wine as a gift for special occasions and celebrations (Eichler, 1991). According to the above-mentioned study, wine buyers regularly purchase wine as a present (11% of all purchases). This means that the purchasing of wine as a gift is the third most important reason, after ‘dinner parties with guests at home’ and ‘simply to relax’ (ÖWM, 2006).

In Austria in 2005, 74.6 million litres of wine with a value of EUR 236 million was sold (ÖWM, 2006). When referencing this data to the study at the WU, where wine buyers stated that 11% of the bottles purchased regularly serve as a present, it can be seen that this topic is of particular relevance. In the small Austrian market alone approximately EUR 24.7 million was therefore spent on wines serving as a gift. Given the German or British wine market (turnover 2006: EUR 3.37 billion (DWI, 2007), respectively GBP 14.5 billion (International Wine & Spirit Centre, 2007), it becomes clear that knowing more about wine buyers’ intentions and attitudes towards wines purchased as a gift is important for those engaged in marketing activities in this sector.

Concerning the consumer purchasing decision, it is influenced not only by ‘situation specific motivation factors’ (Trommsdorff, 1998) but also by numerous other marketing stimuli and surrounding related factors, which are part of the exogenous factors which influence consumer behaviour (Kotler & Bliemel, 2001). The impact of these factors and the consumer perceptions of product attributes can differ from situation to situation and are strongly influenced when a good is purchased to serve as a gift (Goodwin, Smith & Spiggle, 1990). In addition, the personal involvement of the buyer can change with different situations (DeVere, Scott & Shulby, 1983). When purchasing a gift, the relation to and social status of the recipient comes into account (Lowrey, Otnes & Ruth, 2004) and influences the donor (Parsons, 2002).

Further findings indicate that wine is not only found in the category of low involvement gifts that are relatively easy to obtain (like flowers or chocolates) but also in the high involvement category where expensive, high quality and individual gifts are sought after (such as jewellery, perfumes or luxury clothing). This makes wine (along with a small number of other universal presents such as books) an ideal gift item (Belk, 1982). In the high involvement ‘luxury’ version, wine serves, on the one hand as a special gift which – in the best cases – can even evoke happy or common memories whereas on the other hand it also serves as an immediately available, rather cheap all-purpose gift that will always be suitable and appreciated.

4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena, 17-19 July, 2008 The wine market is incredibly complex due to the fact that, in comparison to purchasing other consumer goods, consumer buying of wine has numerous influencing factors. The customer is confronted with a wide range of information which influences the purchase (Lockskin & Hall, 2003). In addition to price, product characteristics, product brand, country of origin, grape variety, the name of the winemaker, the vintage, the alcohol content, taste, packaging and quality, there are also motivation factors. Personal dispositions regarding involvement and perceived risks also play a significant role when making a purchase decision in the retail outlet itself (Lockskin & Hall, 2003).


Numerous models and theories of how consumers come to a buying decision and what factors influence this decision can be found in the literature. Busemeyer and Rapoport (1988) investigated several alternative models of deferred decision making and Svenson (1992) developed a frame of reference for the study of pre- and post-decision processes. Many of these theories and models have also been applied to investigate the decision-making process of wine buyers. Auböck (2005) adapted the typologies established to systematize the purchasing process by Weinberg (1981) when he tried to analyse wine buyers. Two years earlier Gosch (2003) referred to Bänsch (1996) and Kotler & Bliemel (2001) to show that the purchasing decision process for wine is also mostly influenced by other persons, who were identified as initiator, influencer, decision-maker, buyer and user (Kotler & Bliemel, 2001).

Wine is a product which consists of numerous ‘experience attributes’ which can only be judged in line with consumption. (Speed, 1998). The possibilities for the buyer to evaluate the quality, taste and other attributes at the moment of purchase are therefore very limited.

Consequently, extrinsic cues and in particular packaging and bottle design play an important role for the buyer (Speed, 1998). Research in this area is focusing more and more on product packaging as a marketing communications vehicle. Brand managers agree that this field should receive more attention in marketing research, especially within the wine industry.

(Underwood & Klein, 2002) ‘Academic interest in packaging has become more pronounced over the past decade […] with scholars measuring relationships such as the impact of package size (Wansink, 1996), product pictures (Underwood & Klein, 2002) or elongation on consumer preferences’ (Orth, Malkewitz, 2006).

Empirical studies have measured the impact of package appearance on consumer attention, categorization and evaluation during brand choice (Schoormans & Robben, 1997; Garber, Burke & Jones, 2000; Rocchi & Stefani, 2006). Orth and Malkewitz (2006) state that ‘reports on wine brands such as Fetzer changing their packaging typically discuss the brand image or the essence that management hopes to communicate through the new packaging design (Caputo, 2005). Marketers charge designers with the task of developing appealing wine packaging that communicates desired brand images and corporate identity (Mackay, 2005).’ Gergaud and Livat (2006) state that ‘regarding wines, consumers mainly rely on the label to infer quality’.

Using a multi-attribute Conjoint Analysis, Haller & Ebster of the University of Applied Science in Burgenland/Austria discovered in 2005 that after the price, the closure of a bottle influenced the purchase intention most, followed by grape variety and country/region of origin. After these factors, and with comparably smaller significance, came label, alcohol 4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena, 17-19 July, 2008 content and bottle shape as influencing factors (Haller & Ebster 2006). It has to be mentioned, though, that this very same year (2005) marked a turning point in Austria’s wine industry as one out of three producers changed from natural cork to alternative closures – mostly screw caps.

Applying the Best/Worst method developed by Louviere and introduced to wine marketing research by Goodman, Lockshin & Cohen (2005), Leitner (2007) found that for wine buyers the grape variety along with ‘knew/tasted the wine already’ and country/region of origin were of significant importance, followed by (well-known) brands, ‘matching well with food’, ‘nice front label’ and ‘provides information on the back label’. Differences in importance of single factors for wine-connoisseurs compared to laypeople have also been detected (Leitner, 2007).

A paper & pencil survey at the University of Applied Science in Burgenland/Austria in 2007 showed that only by taking into account the occasion of consumption (and not generally), is it possible to identify and distinguish important influencing factors on the purchase decision.

These results contradict the findings of Haller & Ebster (2006), Leitner (2007) and others.

Thus, there are factors which always seem to play a certain role and influence the buyer when purchasing wine, but these factors differ from having a high to nearly no influence at all depending on the situation/occasion (Stöckl, 2007). While e.g. a low price could play a significant role when buyers purchase wine for themselves, it has a lower influence when a bottle is purchased to serve as a gift. Similarly, the closure becomes irrelevant when wine is ordered by the glass in a wine tavern, bar or restaurant, whereas in the gift situation it is of crucial importance (Stöckl, 2007).

Many other authors list influencing factors for the consumer purchase of wine. E.g. Bilkey & Nes (1987); Quester & Smart (1996); Art (2000); Hall, Lockshin & O´Mahony (2001) or Olsen, Thompson & Clarke (2003); Rasmussen & Lockshin (1999); Durrieu (2005);

Hauteville & Perrouty (2005); Lockshin & Hall (2001); Lowengart & Cohen (2006); Orth (2005); Orth & McGarry (2005) and Breu (2002). Altogether the literature review revealed

the following factors which influence wine buyers as either extrinsic or intrinsic cues:

–  –  –

Extrinsic cues are lower level cues that can be changed without changing the product (e.g.

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