Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management

Major Professor

Youn-Kyung Kim

Committee Members

Heejin Lim, Wanda M. Costen, David W. Schumann

Abstract

This research explored the phenomenon of online social network in the context of consumer-brand relationship. The specific research objectives were: (a) to examine whether perceived benefits of a Brand’s Social Network Website (BSN) predict BSN relationship quality; (b) to investigate whether perceived benefits of BSN predict perceived relationship investment; (c) to examine if online social connection strengthens the relationship between perceived benefits of BSN and BSN relationship quality; (d) to examine if experience with BSN strengthens the relationship between perceived benefits of BSN and BSN relationship quality; (e) to investigate whether BSN relationship quality predicts brand relationship quality; (f) to examine whether BSN relationship quality predicts customer loyalty toward BSN; (g) to investigate whether perceived relationship investment predicts brand relationship quality; (h) to investigate whether brand relationship quality predicts customer loyalty toward BSN; (i) to examine whether brand relationship quality predicts customer loyalty toward the brand; and (j) to investigate whether customer loyalty toward BSN predicts customer loyalty toward the brand.

This research employed a mixed-method approach to overcome the weaknesses in a single method approach and to provide stronger evidence for a conclusion. First, qualitative analyses explored the unique context of BSN, which was not much investigated in prior research. Specifically, Brand Pages of 22 apparel brands and 10 restaurant/coffeehouse brands, chosen as research settings, were investigated to validate the proposed research constructs. Second, quantitative analyses utilized an online self-administered cross-sectional survey method. A total of 501 complete responses collected from consumer panels of marketing research firm were used.

The results suggested that BSN benefits are important drivers of relationship mediators (i.e., BSN relationship quality, perceived relationship investment), which in turn positively influence BRQ. However, functional benefits did not influence BSN relationship quality. In addition, while customer loyalty toward BSN was predicted by both BSN relationship quality and BRQ, it did not positively influence the loyalty toward the brand. Specifically, BSN loyalty did not influence behavioral loyalty and negatively influenced willingness to pay price premium. Further discussion about the results, implications, and suggestions for future research were provided.

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