Under marketing point of view, the analysis of customers is going through a process in constant evolution. Their available information is increasingly better in quality and quantity, so they are becoming more demanding when buying certain products, the previous thing has supposed an evolution in their buying habits (Rodriguez del Bosque, Collado and Herrero, 2005; Ruiz and Sanz, 2007). In the same line, they are able to pay a higher price for products that they consider as better quality.
These changing needs are linked to new habits and values of people about the configuration of their preferences, for instance, food security and health, as they consider fundamental that products are certified and guaranteed by Official Certifying Bodies. Besides, the concept of quality is tied to a big complexity due to constant changes in customers needs, among others.
The producers of traditional food are aware about the need of carrying out new proposals in order to achieve and create value. Traditional food products can achieve competitive advantages by using quality, product differentiation and branding policy as marketing strategies. The practice of using Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) as common, generic or umbrella brands has spread ever wider in Europe, because they allow producers to exploit natural and human factors as will as geographical origin and local production methods. The proof of this is that the number of PDOs, Protected Geographical Indications (GPIs) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSGs) based on the quality systems established by the European Union has increased year by year (there are currently over 500), together with the number of firms and products covered (Fandos y Flavian, 2006).
The main aim of this paper is to analyse if higher perceived quality, measured by intrinsic and extrinsic attributes, in "Protected Designation of Origin" food products, is linked to higher loyalty and buying intention for aragonese consumers, supposing in this way a key factor the fact that this Protected Designation of Origin is only been used six years and can be seen as "young" certification by the market. The product chosen has been olive oil from Bajo Aragon with PDO.
Perceived quality, loyalty and buying intention
In the specialised literature the concept of quality has been analysed from the perspective of the products (Rao and Monroe, 1989; Rose, 1990; Chang and Kinnucan, 1991; Sjolander, 1992; Showers and Showers, 1993; Archer and Wesolowsky, 1996; Issanchou, 1996; Waller and Ahire, 1996; Chao, 1999; Kroll et al., 1999; Wang et al., 2003); the services (Parasuraman et al., 1985; 1988; 1991; 1993; 1994; Bolton and Drew, 1991a; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; 1994; Sweeney et al., 1997; Robinson, 1999; Zeithaml, 2000; Furrer et al., 2000; Brady and Cronin, 2001; Cox and Dale, 2001; Zeithaml et al., 2002; Diaz, 2005); and, the business and information management (Gonzalez and Gonzalez, 2006).
Thus, the concept of quality may be analysed from two different perspectives: objective quality and perceived quality (Brunso et al., 2005). The first concept refers to the technical, measurable and verifiable nature of products, processes and quality control procedures; subjective or perceived quality refers to value judgements or perceptions of quality by the consumer.
Thus, Olson and Jacoby (1972), Szybillo and Jacoby (1974), Zeithaml (1988), Oude Ophuis and Van Trijp (1995) and Steenkamp (1997) feel it is relevant to classify the concept of perceived quality into two groups of factors that enable the consumer to evaluate products: intrinsic attributes and extrinsic attributes.
Intrinsic attributes are related to the physical aspects of the product, such as colour, flavour, shape and appearance; extrinsic attributes are related to the non-physical attributes of the product, such as brand, quality certificate, price, country or place of origin, the shop, packaging and production information (Bernues et al., 2003).
The concept of loyalty is the behaviour pattern of customer preference for a particular brand/product from a selection of similar brands/products over a period of time that influences decision-making evaluation process (Jacoby and Kyner, 1973; Jacoby and Chesnut, 1978).
These authors suggest analysing loyalty based on two analysis perspectives: behavioural and attitudinal. From the behavioural perspective, Dick and Basu (1994) define customer loyalty as the relationship between relative attitutde and repurchase behaviour. According to de Ruyter et al. (1998), early customer loyalty studies focussed on the behavioural perspective and have recently centred on the attitudinal factor.
Thus, from the attitudinal perspective, Oliver (1997, 1999) defines customer loyalty and proposes a loyalty development model, with four main phases: cognitive, affective, conative and action. Yi and La (2004) suggest that loyalty (behavioural and attitudinal) measurements provide insights into the nature of loyal customers. Loyal customers also tend to display special preferences, commitment, positive word of mouth commentary, a low rate of change to competitive brands and a willingness to pay top prices.
The concept of buying intention has been used in the specialist marketing literature as a measurement of prediction of a subsequent or successive purchase behaviour (Morwitz and Schmittlein, 1992; Grewal et al., 1998).
Thus, in psychology, the Theory of Reasoned Action states that the best predictor of behaviour is intention (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). In fact, intention is predicted through attitudes to behaviour and subjective norms.
In the marketing context, Notani (1987) claims that the prediction of consumer purchasing is based on this reasoning. Furthermore, for a complete representation of consumers' purchase behaviour, their attitudes, preferences, motivations and profitability perceptions need to be considered.
Similarly, it is fair to say that buying intention is a future projection of the consumer's behaviour that will significantly help to shape his attitudes. Thus, if we analyse the basic components of the attitudes model proposed by Assael (1995), it is clear that attitudes are actually developed as a result of the combination of three basic elements that are associated with the consumer's beliefs, emotions and forecast actions: cognitive, affective and conative or behavioural.
Specifically when talking about buying intention, this concept reflects the behaviour the consumer is likely to adopt in his most immediate purchase decisions (e.g. what product or brand he will be buying next, etc.). Thus attitudes are developed over time through a process of learning and are marked by family influences, membership (actual and aspirational) of social groups, information received, experience and character.
2.1. Causal relationship between perceived quality, loyalty and buying intention
Firstly, with regard to the influence that intrinsic attributes may have on consumers' perceptions and purchase behaviour, it should be said that the perception of quality is a complex process that begins with the acquisition and classification of signals that are associated with the intrinsic attributes, such as the product's appearance, colour, flavour or presentation. However, it should be pointed out that some of these attributes cannot be properly perceived by the individual until the product has been consumed (e.g. flavour and smell).
Thus, it would be fair to say that the level of perceived quality associated with the intrinsic attributes may rise on consumption and, as a result, consumer loyalty and buying intention for a PDO food product may be increased (Fandos and Flavian, 2006). In this respect, Olsen (2002) maintains that there is a strong relationship between consumers' perceived quality, satisfaction, loyalty and buying intention for foodstuffs. Thus, the following hypotheses are proposed:
H1: The perceived quality of the intrinsic attributes of a PDO product has a positive and significant impact on consumer loyalty.
H2: The perceived quality of the intrinsic attributes of a PDO product has a positive and significant impact on consumer buying intention.
With regard to the possible influence that the perceived quality of the extrinsic attributes may have, it is worth noting that the perceived quality of traditional food products is higher because the consumer recognises that the product was produced in a given region with its own specific geography and climate, tradition and know-how (Calvo, 2001).
Similarly, a competitive company should not be content with just offering products and services to the market; it should make an effort to create value for the consumer. Therefore, the more distinctive and harder to imitate a company's product is--as a result of its greater intangibility--the more likely the company is to create loyalty among its customers (Bigne et al., 2000).
Furthermore, other companies strive to exceed customers' expectations of quality in order to produce high levels of satisfaction and thus loyalty and buying intention (Stanton et al., 2004). In this respect, the extrinsic attributes of a PDO food product, such as place of origin, the image of a natural product or greater know-how associated with the production centre are all distinctive symbolic factors that are hard to imitate because of their unique nature.
Erickson et al. (1984) maintain that image variables might be the brand, price, celebrity endorsement or region of origin. In particular, there has been a review of the importance attached to the place of origin in buying intention decisions with products such as fruit and vegetables (Tootelian and Segale, 2004); what influence price and brand with regard to the country of origin have on the evaluation and buying intention of foodstuffs (Ahmed et al., 2004); and consumers' perception of the effect of the country of origin on the buying intention for luxury or convenience products for public or private consumption...
Perceived quality as a antecedent for buying intention of the olive oil from bajo Aragon with protected designation of origin/la calidad percibida como antecedente de la intencion de compra del aceite de oliva del bajo Aragon con denominacion de origen protegida.
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