Purpose – There is growing research on the value of winery tasting rooms/cellar doors as an avenue for relationship building with consumers resulting in greater brand loyalty. This paper aims to examine the role of tasting rooms in this regard in an Australasian context. Design/methodology/approach – The research was exploratory, designed to explore a full range of visitors’ experiences at the winery tasting room, using a modified form of mystery shopping combined with focus groups. Findings – Establishing brand loyalty through a winery tasting room experience requires more than just good wine or good service quality, rather it results from an experience which is personalised and which establishes an emotional connection between the visitor and the winery, their product and winery staff. Generally smaller wineries were making this emotional connection more effectively than larger wineries. By contrast, staff at small and larger wineries alike were making little effort to establish concrete links to instil brand loyalty with the wine tourist post-visit by encouraging repeat visitation or promoting their mailing lists or even eliciting wine sales. Research limitations/implications – The research focused on a relatively small number of consumers in Australia and New Zealand and thus may not be immediately generalisable to other markets. Practical implications – The research highlights numerous areas for improvement in the organisation of tasting room encounters and the training of staff, noticeably with regards to making lasting connections with visitors resulting in future brand loyalty; issues which could be addressed by winery managers. Originality/value – The paper gives depth to results previously reported by researchers on the role of service provision at the tasting room to the overall winery experience, and adds perspectives on the effectiveness of efforts to establish brand loyalty and maintain post-visit contact with the winery visitor.
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