Date of Award

5-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Youn-Kyung Kim

Committee Members

Laura D. Jolly, Ann E. Fairhurst, Russell L. Zaretzki

Abstract

This study was designed to examine “customer love,” a new customer-retailer relationship construct, within a comprehensive nomological net. The specific research objectives of this study were: (a) to investigate whether relationship-inducing factors (i.e., tangible rewards, interpersonal communication, preferential treatment, and service quality) have a differential impact on perceived relationship investment; (b) to investigate whether customer love is predicted by perceived relationship investment; (c) to analyze whether the effect of perceived relationship investment on customer love is contingent on two consumer characteristics (i.e., emotional intensity and need for variety); (d) to investigate whether customer love is predicted by two emotion-inducing factors (hedonic store experience and symbolic store experience); and (e) to investigate whether customer love affects four relational outcomes (i.e., self-disclosure, positive word-of-mouth, behavioral loyalty, and competitive insulation).

This study was conducted in the context of apparel and grocery stores. An online self-administered, cross-sectional survey methodology was employed to collect the data. 604 completed responses (301 for apparel and 303 for grocery) were used for the data analysis. Regardless of retail category, the positive relationship between service quality and perceived relationship investment was confirmed. Also, perceived relationship investment, hedonic store experience, and symbolic store experience played an important role in predicting customer love. Across both samples, customer love was found to be a significant predictor of each of the four relational outcome variables. Managerial implications and suggestions for future research based on the findings were provided.

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