On the Behavior of the Wine Consumer
As far as I know, there isn’t any research on this subject in Turkey. There isn’t much research on other topics as well. We live in a country full of academics who plagiarize studies done in other countries without adding any original thoughts on their fields. And the publicly traded companies that sell information to corporations? Their methodologies are skewed, so I don’t see them worth mentioning.
That’s why we should focus on the bigger picture. How and why does the average consumer pick a wine from the market? Australian studies dominate this field of research. (Although the momentum of the land down under in the wine sector has stagnated in the recent years.) Australian Prof. Larry Lockshin is an expert with many studies about wine marketing and consumer behavior. He is among the researchers who had their findings published in the May 2007 issue of the Wine Industry Journal about the behavior of consumers in a multi-country comparative study.
The topic of the study was: What factors guide people in buying wine? Among the reasons; ‘tasted before’, ‘Recommended by a friend’, ‘region of origin’, ‘brand’, ‘grape variety’, ‘Whether it has an award or not’, ‘Back label information’, ‘Information on the shelf’, and ‘Attention drawing front label’.
In Australia, England, Germany and Israel, “Having tasted the wine before” is the most important decision factor. In China, it is “ brand ”- which is typical for a newly emerging country. For those countries with more established financial systems, there has been time for taste to develop. Not yet in China. They are more into Bordeaux…
According to the study, the second most important factor is “Having the wine recommended by a friend”. The information on the front and back labels, shelf information and whether the wines had won an award or not, were not primary decision factors in all the countries the study was done in. An important question the researchers failed to ask the participants was if the price was important, and if discounts played a role. That- for me- was an crucial issue that they missed.
In another study conducted by Lockshin in 2009, price and discounts are accentuated. The interesting thing about wine is the variety of brands. Any other product has about 20-30 different brands, but when it comes to wine there are between 700 and 1000 different brands of wine. So what crucial element could extinguish the confusion? It’s clear that when it comes to wine consumer behavior is more complex compared to other goods. However much information you put on the shelves, there is not enough time to read all of it. The younger wine drinkers especially have no patience when choosing. Will catchy names like “Arrogant Frog” and “Marilyn Merlot” or colorful labels seduce young consumers and abolish their lack of interest?
Does the consumer arrive at the supermarket with any preconceived notions? Does he/she go directly to previously tasted or recommended wines? Or make a beeline to the discount shelf? The taste, price, perception of quality, label, region of origin, grape variety; all these influence the consumer, yet which of these is the key factor? The answer to that question is not yet clear. There are too many variables, which cannot be controlled by the researcher. Computer simulations are used to model real-life situations, but they have a hard job to do.
What is the situation in Turkey?
In a land where there are no regulations concerning the wine sector, where wine producers can do what they want, where nobody cares about anti-monopoly rules, where the wine culture is just starting to blossom, what dictates consumer standards? We can only presume.
It is undeniable that in Turkey, the print and visual media are influential. A big majority that live here believe in what their idols hear or see or taste; rather than their own subjective experiences. They are conditioned to disapprove of 20 lira wines while drooling at 200 lira wines, to consider the expensive one more valuable, to count as the experts the ones who appear most on TV, to condescend the modest and the silent and approve of the shouting voices. Is there any objective criterion separating the 20 lira wine and the 200 lira wine, except the “A couple of my journalist friends wrote about it”. In a place where appellations and classifying systems don’t exist and the tradition is not yet strong enough, maybe the only claim to quality is having won an award at a respected wine competition. Although there is contradiction; while one company raises the price of the award winning wine two or three-fold, another company- having won the same award- can protect the wine’s modest price by not immediately raising prices. In Turkey business- presuming that the same heavy taxes apply for all companies- is based on the mercy of the producer, and the producer’s ability to manipulate the media. In current conditions, what Turkish people look for when buying local wine are these factors: The obviously primary factor is ‘quality price ratio’, immediately after ‘having tasted the wine before’, ‘a recommendation by a friend or trusted expert’, ‘grape variety’, ‘brand’, ‘award’…