Wine purchase behaviour unpacked

by | Apr 1, 2016 | Business and Marketing

Carla Janse van Vuuren

Marketers should ensure that product information is consumer-friendly and what they want the consumer to know about their product.

Information provided to the consumer should not only promote the quality of the wine category but also create brand loyalty. “The consumer is everchanging, always on the lookout for new eyecatching and innovative products that will capture their imagination,” Stellenbosch University, consumer behaviour lecturer Carla Janse van Vuuren says. In her current study she unpacks the influence of product knowledge, risk and involvement in wine purchase behaviour.

“We used these three independent variables in our study and two of them were accepted, with risk leaving more room for research,” she says. The study was done across all demographics and encompassed people from all economic classes.


“The market is flooded with wine selling at various prices for what the consumer perceives to be the same product, not knowing what makes one wine different from the next,” Janse van Vuuren says. For an opinionated consumer all it takes is a smartphone with a wine app to check what they are buying. ”This is where the industry has a role to play: Ensure that the information in circulation with regards to your product is consumer-friendly and what you want the consumer to know.”

Janse van Vuuren uses the example of a consumer having dinner with their boss as opposed to with friends. “Level of product knowledge in each scenario translates to confidence, since the quality of the product has to fit the occasion. I want to impress my boss but on the other hand I just want to have fun with my friends over a drinkable wine.”

Janse van Vuuren says the distribution of samples to consumers works for the food industry and could work equally well for the wine industry. ”The consumer knows what they buy based on an experience. It’s a logistical nightmare but at least the consumer is informed about the product and when confronted with a store shelf filled with different wines they would confidently grab a wine they know.”

Action to be taken

  1. Marketers should create brand loyalty for consumers.
  2. They should adopt a back-to-basics approach with marketing to reinvent the category.
  3. Industry and research should collaborate so marketers can understand the complexities that influence consumer behaviour.
  4. Sell an experience that creates a continuous relationship between the consumer and the brand.


Product quality has for decades been linked to older vintage and premium price point. In her research Janse van Vuuren concludes that in the case of wine perceived knowledge and actual knowledge are skewed, which is an indication of a less-informed consumer base. This ties in with the risk related to a purchase. “Based on previous experiences a consumer will buy wine they know to be reliable,” says Janse van Vuuren. Perceived knowledge backed up by an experience influences the purchase.

“The million-dollar question therefore is: What about the rest of the wine shelf? What about new products that are flooding the market as alternative drinks?” When aiming to change consumer behaviour through education, it can result in either scaring them away or attracting them. Noting that risk, the industry then falls into the “as long as they drink wine” mentality which at a later stage creates negativity towards the product.


The South African wine market is complex, with factors such as various ethnic groups, cross-cultural influences and affordability impacting purchase behaviour. “A personal interest in the purchase of wine results in higher-volume purchases since the consumer is aware of what they are buying,” Janse van Vuuren says. “However, the quality of the product is unknown prior to the purchase, unless the consumer has been involved with the product.”

This involvement needs to be triggered by the industry by asking consumers what they need. “The fluff of freebies, pens, caps and keyholders is great, but diverts attention from personal interest and a chance to educate the consumer about the product,” she says. This limits consumer reach in respect of the product with some consumers grabbing the freebie and nothing more. “Extend the experience for the consumer through the packaging which has a consumerdriven message,” Janse van Vuuren suggests.

Some consumers argue that the reason for higher purchases is because of a cultural relationship with the product. ”If a consumer grew up in a family setup that has wine with every meal it becomes a cultivated culture and level of involvement that’s instilled in them,” she says.

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