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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Business Research, Volume 66, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 105–114
Despite the extensive use of the term “engagement” in the context of brand communities, the theoretical meaning and foundations underlying this term remain underexplored in the literature to-date. Drawing on a literature review, this study adopts netnographic methodology to explore the nature and scope of consumer engagement in an online brand community environment. The study reveals the complex multidimensional and dynamic nature of consumer engagement, which may emerge at different levels of intensity over time, thus reflecting distinct engagement states. Further, the consumer engagement process comprises a range of sub-processes reflecting consumers' interactive experience within online brand communities, and value co-creation among community participants. Engaged consumers exhibit enhanced consumer loyalty, satisfaction, empowerment, connection, emotional bonding, trust and commitment. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for practice and further research.
The sophisticated information and communication technologies (ICTs), which have developed in parallel with the rise of the Internet, have served as platforms facilitating interaction with and among consumers, and the formation of brand communities (Muñiz, 2001, Muñiz and Schau, 2005 and Muñiz and Schau, 2006). Central to discussions about brand communities is the use of the terms “engage” and “engagement” to describe the nature of participants' specific interactions and/or interactive experiences. For example, in a pioneering article addressing the social influence of brand communities, Algesheimer et al. (2005) use the terms “engage” and/or “engagement” over fifty times. More recently Schau et al.'s (2009) analysis of the contribution of brand communities to value creation, draws on these terms seventy-five times. However, despite the increasing usage of these terms, marketing scholars have paid relatively little attention to the theoretical development of the “engagement” concept, and of “consumer engagement” in online brand communities to-date. Recent business practice discourse, including reports on conferences, seminars, roundtables, blogs, and organizational reports, also provides evidence of the increasing usage of the term “engagement” in the context of business relationships and branding (Appelbaum, 2001). The discourse portrays consumer engagement as a vehicle for creating, building and enhancing consumer relationships. Consumer engagement is seen both as a strategic imperative for establishing and sustaining a competitive advantage, and as a valuable predictor of future business performance (Sedley, 2008). Specifically, Neff (2007) views consumer engagement as a primary driver of sales growth, while Voyles (2007) suggests consumer engagement enhances profitability. Since 2005 the term “engagement” has been increasingly used in the broader academic marketing literature. However, despite this increasing use, scholarly enquiry into defining the term, or examining how the term differs from similar relational terms, including “participation” and “involvement,” has been limited. The Marketing Science Institute's 2010–2012 Research Priorities (MSI — Marketing Science Institute, 2010) emphasize the need for further research addressing the consumer/customer engagement concept. Within the broader priority area of “Understanding Customer Experience and Behavior,” the MSI identifies “customer engagement” as a key research area contributing to enhanced academic insight into consumer behavior in complex, interactive and/or co-creative environments. Further, the 2010 Journal of Service Research Special Issue, which includes a number of papers addressing “customer engagement,” directly responds to this MSI Research Priority. Nambisan and Baron (2007) provide further support for the need to investigate consumer engagement in the context of online brand communities. Recently De Valck et al. (2009), p. 185 define “virtual brand community” as “a specialized, non-geographically bound, online community, based on social communications and relationships among a brand's consumers.” The authors conclude that the nature of brand communities and their effect on consumer behavior remains nebulous to-date. Thus research into the nature of brand communities and their effect on consumer behavior represents an important area for research. This paper responds to De Valck et al.'s (2009) observation regarding the need for further empirical research addressing the nature of brand communities and their effect on consumer behavior. By using netnographic methodology, this exploratory research aims to provide insight into consumer engagement within a virtual brand community. The paper proceeds with a literature review addressing the conceptual roots of consumer engagement in Section 2.1, and reviews definitions of consumer engagement and related concepts in Section 2.2. Section 2.3 develops a working definition of “online consumer engagement,” while Section 2.4 discusses the expression of specific consumer behaviors within online brand communities, thus providing the context for the empirical research. Section 3 outlines the research approach, including netnographic methodology and the research setting. Section 4 presents the study's findings by first examining consumer engagement in the online community as a psychological state, followed by the broader process, and constituent sub-processes, comprising consumer engagement. Section 5 presents key implications arising from the research, and a future research agenda, which takes into account the study's limitations.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
5.1. Empirical findings This pioneering empirical study examines consumer engagement in a virtual brand community. From the literature five themes emerge, which serve as a basis for a working definition of consumer engagement in a virtual brand community context. Using netnographic methodology this study explores the proposed conceptualization. The exploratory research findings provide strong evidence to support the five underlying themes as the basis for the proposed working definition. In particular, the research highlights consumer engagement as an interactive, experiential process, based on individuals' engagement with specific objects (e.g. brands, organizations), and/or other brand community members. This finding provides support for Brodie et al.'s (2011) fundamental theme addressing the interactive, experiential nature of the engagement concept, and distinguishes consumer engagement from other relational concepts, including involvement and participation. The findings highlight consumer engagement as a context-dependent, psychological state with specific levels of intensity, thus providing exploratory support for Brodie et al.'s (2011) second theme. Consumer engagement is an interactive process, which may emerge at different intensity levels over time reflecting distinct engagement states. This observation provides evidence to support Brodie et al.'s (2011) third theme, which states that transient engagement states occur within broader, dynamic, iterative engagement processes. In addition, the research provides evidence that consumer engagement is a multi-dimensional concept comprising cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions, thus supporting the fourth proposed theme of consumer engagement. Further, the analysis shows that the consumer engagement process is initiated largely by consumers' need for information. Further, the consumer engagement process is highly interactive, experiential, and based on a number of sub-processes, including “learning,” “sharing,” “advocating,” “socializing” and “co-developing” (cf. Fig. 2). By sharing personal experiences and influencing others, advocating focal brands, suggesting ways to exercise and/or improve skills in using the exercise equipment relating to Vibration Training — consumers may influence value-in-exchange and value-in-use (Lusch and Vargo, 2006 and Schau et al., 2009). Finally, the analysis identifies a number of consequences of the consumer engagement process, which arise as a result of the perceived co-created value by virtue of the engagement process. Key consumer engagement consequences include consumer loyalty and satisfaction, consumer empowerment, connection and emotional bonding, trust and commitment. This observation provides evidence to support Brodie et al.'s (2011) fifth theme, which states that consumer engagement plays a central role in the process of relational exchange where other relational concepts are antecedents and/or consequences in specific, iterative engagement processes. 5.2. Managerial implications From a managerial perspective, the research findings demonstrate the importance of understanding how consumers engage in specific brand communities, and the consequences of this engagement. The research indicates that consumer engagement enhances loyalty and satisfaction, empowerment, connection, emotional bonding, trust and commitment. The study also illustrates how the level of control over specific brands is shifting within online communities by highlighting the role of consumer engagement and empowerment in co-creating brand meanings. Specifically, online communities welcome marketers only if they are contributing to the community. Thus, businesses need to listen to and “engage in engaging” consumers in brand communications, which consumers perceive to be “non-commercially driven” (i.e. more objective), within brand communities. As such, knowledge sharing, educating, and enabling consumers to co-develop, become important tasks for marketers (Andersen, 2005 and Ramaswamy, 2009). Sawhney et al., 2005 and Ramaswamy, 2009 notion of “engagement platforms” provides a useful avenue to explore managerial applications of the consumer engagement concept, as does Payne et al., 2008 and Payne et al., 2009 recent research on managing the co-creation of value. Further managerial attention needs to be given to the relationships among relevant variables linked to the consumer engagement process, including specific engagement antecedents and consequences, and the relative importance and/or existence of any interactions among the dimensions of consumer engagement. Further, Kumar et al. (2010) extend the customer value management framework to “Total Customer Engagement Value,” which represents an important advance in managerial thinking that has implications for managing online brand communities. Finally, the modeling of the consumer engagement process generates challenges, which include both the development and dissolution of focal consumer engagement states. Bijmolt et al. (2010) provide an excellent classification of the models available to analyze these behaviors. 5.3. Limitations and further research Due to its exploratory nature, this research has a number of limitations, which provide a platform for the undertaking of further theoretical and empirical research in this emerging area. At a theoretical level, the roots of consumer engagement lie within the expanded domain of relationship marketing, and the service-dominant (S–D) logic. However, further theoretical research needs to integrate other relevant theoretical perspectives. For example, the linkages between the service perspective and consumer culture theory (CCT) provide an important avenue for research (Cova and Salle, 2008). Further, relevant links with other, consumer behavior theories that address individual and/or social identity (Kozinets, 1999) are also important within this emerging integrative perspective. This exploratory study is based on a relatively small online community, which comprises six members forming the core “highly engaged” respondent base. While the research offers initial insight into the nature of consumer engagement within a virtual brand community, further research needs to incorporate studies examining larger online groups across different product categories, and/or drawing on larger samples of consumers. Specifically, the adoption of this approach will lead to more generalizable findings. The role of focal engagement platforms, employee interactions and the co-creation of value are also important areas warranting further research (Ramaswamy, 2009). The dyadic and/or networked aspects of engagement within specific consumer-to-consumer (C2C) interactions, consumer-to-business (C2B), business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions (Forsström, 2004 and Kothandaraman and Wilson, 2001) merit further attention. Also, the specific interactive experiences between consumers, business, government and/or other agencies merit further scrutiny. Given the complexity of this emerging research area in the marketing discipline, future empirical research employing a pluralistic approach, integrating the use of interpretative and quantitative methods, is appropriate. Further research also needs to pay attention to the specific roles of different engagement objects. While the brand and the associated community have been important objects of engagement in this research, other types of engagement objects may be equally important, including the roles of specific people, organizations and/or institutions. Consumer engagement takes place within broader intra- and extra-organizational networks, and as such, generates a need for future work on consumer engagement in network settings. Additionally, the dynamic nature of focal consumer engagement processes and/or sub-processes, including examinations of focal consumer engagement antecedents and consequences, and/or the iterative, cyclical nature of such processes requires further attention. Van Doorn et al.'s (2010) theoretical model, which links customer engagement behaviors to specific customer-, firm- and contextual antecedents and consequences, provides a useful framework to guide future research in this area. Issues also exist with regard to the extent that organizations are able to manage, or influence, focal consumer engagement processes, and the extent that these are self-managing. Related to this discussion, the application of concept of “customer brand equity” (Keller, 1993) to online brand communities appears important. Central to this discussion is the extent to which specific social networks co-create value (Schau et al., 2009; Mertz, He, and Vargo, 2009). Further research may also wish to investigate the managerial applicability, within specific online environments, of Sawhney et al., 2005 and Ramaswamy, 2009 notion of “engagement platforms.” Furthermore, Kumar et al.'s (2010) concept of “Total Engagement Value” and specific models available to analyze these behaviors (e.g. Bijmolt et al., 2010) require further research. Finally, virtual communities are becoming increasingly prevalent. However, this virtual community prevalence does not imply the substitution of online, for offline, activity (Ward, 1999). Thus, there is the need for comparative research, which focuses both on consumer engagement in offline, “physical world,” and in online “virtual” settings.