Multi-dimensional nature of perceived value

Apart from the context-dependent nature of perceived value, the literature also confirmed its multi-dimensional nature, referring to multiple axiological dimensions or components of value. Researchers tried to classify the underlying dimensions with regard to purchasing and consumption. A broad approach is offered by Sheth et al. (1991); they distinguished between five dimensions of value:

  1. Functional value (attributed-related, utilitarian benefits)
    • Functional value is concerned with the utility derived from the product quality and product performance.
  2. Social value (social or symbolic benefits)
    • Social value is the utility derived from the product's ability to enhance social self-concepts, such as status.
  3. Emotional value (experiential or emotional benefits)
    • Emotional value refers to the utility derived from the feelings, or affective states that a product generates.
  4. Epistemic value (curiosity-driven benefits)
    • Epistemic value refers to the surprise or novelty aspect of a product; a product's capacity to arouse curiosity, offer novelty or satisfy a desire for knowledge.
  5. Conditional value (situation-specific benefits).
    • Conditional value refers to the situation in which the value judgment is made. For example, specific situations such as Valentines Day and weddings can strongly enhance the perceptions of value.

Products often deliver a mixture of these types of values. For example, wine can act as an occasion (conditional value) and/or celebration enhancement (emotional value), while also complementing meals and enhancing the taste of food (functional value). Moreover, consumers sometimes seek to heighten their status by being knowledgeable about wines and to create a favorable impression within a social atmosphere (social value). The classification of Sheth et al. (1991) is characterized as benefit-driven because it onlydiscusses the benefits without explicitly linking it with the costs consumers bear (Duman 2002).

Based on the classification of Sheth et al. (1991), Sweeney and Soutar (2001) developed a multiple item scale (i.e. PERVAL) to measure perceived value. They omitted conditional value and epistemic value, as they were seen as less critical for a general measure of perceived value. Conditional value was omitted because it arises from situational (temporary) factors, whereas epistemic value was left out because the novelty or surprise aspect might only be apparent for hedonic products rather than for a wider product range. Based on the work of Zeithaml (1988), they split up functional value into quality and price arguing that some consumers perceive value as low price, whereas others perceive value when there is a balance between quality and price. The two components (quality and price) have different effects on perceived value for different consumers. Consequently, the perceived value scale comprised four dimensions: quality/performance, price/value for money, emotional value and social value. The scale was tested based on the consumers' perceptions of a consumer durable and found to be reliable and valid in a prepurchase and postpurchase situation.

Other classifications have also been used to represent the axiological value dimensions. De Ruyter and his colleagues (De Ruyter et al. 1997; Lemmink, De Ruyter and Wetzels 1998) used the following value dimensions for services: emotional, practical and logical value. The emotional value dimension represents the emotional or affective side of the consumption experience, whereas the practical dimension refers to the functional consumption-related benefits. The logical dimension concentrates on the evaluation of the benefits against its costs (i.e. service quality vs. price). While the classification of Sheth et al. (1991) only discusses benefits, this classification takes into account the costs.

These classifications clearly broadened the concept of value by going beyond the functional value of purchasing and/or consuming products. It made clear that consumers also derive social, emotional and epistemic value from their shopping activities. These abstract value dimensions that were originally designed to elicit the product or service value dimensions can also be translated to a channel context. In doing so, functional value refers to the instrumental product-related and shopping-related benefits and costs consumers obtain from using the channel, whereas the social value refers to the utility derived from the channel's capability to enhance social concepts, such as self-confidence and status. When consumers use channels for purchasing, they may also derive emotional value through experiencing affective feelings and/or epistemic value through surprises and curiosities. The value of using channels under specific situations can obviously attenuate or increase value (conditional value).