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Abstract

In today's highly dynamic and interactive business environment, the role of ''customer engagement'' (CE) in cocreating customer experience and value is receiving increasing attention from business practitioners and academics alike. Despite this interest, sys-tematic scholarly inquiry into the concept and its conceptual distinctiveness from other, associated relational concepts has been limited to date. This article explores the theoretical foundations of CE by drawing on relationship marketing theory and the service-dominant (S-D) logic. The analysis also examines the use of the term ''engagement'' in the social science, management, and marketing academic literatures, as well as in specific business practice applications. Five fundamental propositions (FPs) derived from this analysis are used to develop a general definition of CE, and distinguish the concept from other relational con-cepts, including ''participation'' and ''involvement.'' The five propositions are used in the development of a framework for future research, the undertaking of which would facilitate the subsequent refinement of the conceptual domain of CE. Overall, CE, based on its relational foundations of interactive experience and the cocreation of value, is shown to represent an important concept for research in marketing and service management.
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Brodie, R. & Hollebeek, L.D., Ilic, A. & Juric, B. (2011), Customer Engagement:
Conceptual Domain, Fundamental Propositions & Implications for Research in Service
Marketing (Lead article; with commentaries), Journal of Service Research, 14(3), 252.
CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT: CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN, FUNDAMENTAL PROPOSITIONS &
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH
ABSTRACT
In today’s highly dynamic and interactive business environment, the role of customer
engagement (CE) in co-creating customer experience and value is receiving increasing attention
from business practitioners and academics alike. Despite this interest, systematic scholarly
inquiry into the concept and its conceptual distinctiveness from other, associated relational
concepts is limited to-date. This paper explores the theoretical foundations of CE by drawing on
relationship marketing theory, and the service-dominant (S-D) logic. The analysis also examines
the use of the term ‘engagement’ in the social science, management and marketing academic
literatures, as well as in specific business practice applications. Five fundamental propositions
(FPs) derived from this analysis are used to develop a general definition of CE, and distinguish
the concept from other relational concepts, including participation and involvement. The five
propositions are used in the development of a framework for future research, the undertaking of
which would facilitate the subsequent refinement of the conceptual domain of CE. Overall, CE,
based on its relational foundations of interactive experience and the co-creation of value, is
shown to represent an important concept for research in marketing and service management.
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INTRODUCTION
While the notion of engagement in business relationships is not new, significant practitioner
interest in the concept has developed in the last decade (e.g. Haven 2007; Harvey 2005). It is
suggested that within interactive, dynamic business environments, customer engagement (CE)
represents a strategic imperative for generating enhanced corporate performance, including sales
growth (Neff, 2007), superior competitive advantage (Sedley 2008) and profitability (Voyles
2007). The rationale underlying these assertions is that engaged customers play a key role in
viral marketing activity by providing referrals and/or recommendations of specific products,
services and/or brands to others. Engaged customers can also play an important role in new
product/service development (Hoyer, Chandy, Dorotic, Krafft and Singh 2010; Nambisan and
Nambisan 2008; Kothandaraman and Wilson 2001), and in co-creating experience and value
(Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004; Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantello 2009). This interest in the CE
concept observed in the business practice discourse, coupled with the recent increasing use of CE
by marketing academics, has led the Marketing Science Institute to list CE as a key research
priority for the period 2010-2012 (MSI 2010).
The term ‘engagement’ is used in a variety of academic disciplines including sociology, political
science, psychology, and organizational behavior in the last decade (e.g. Achterberg et al. 2003,
Resnick 2001, Saks 2006). Within the academic marketing and service literature very few
academic articles used the terms ‘consumer engagement,’ ‘customer engagement’ and/or ‘brand
engagement’ prior to 2005. Since then the terms are being increasingly used: 9 articles using one
or more of these terms were identified in 2005, 20 articles in 2006, 18 articles in 2007, 28
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articles in 2008, 61 articles in 2009 and 65 articles in 2010. Despite the growing popularity of the
term engagement, few authors have attempted to define the concept, or examine how it differs
from similar relational concepts, such as participation and involvement. Exceptions include
Patterson, Yu and de Ruyter (2006), Vivek, Beatty and Morgan (2010), and Mollen and Wilson
(2010) who define CE in terms of a psychological state. Bowden (2009a), by contrast, views CE
as a psychological process driving customer loyalty. While these authors highlight different
aspects of CE, relatively little attention is paid to the conceptual foundations underlying the
concept.
We suggest that the conceptual roots of CE may be explained by drawing on theory addressing
interactive experience and value co-creation within marketing relationships. Recently Vargo and
Lusch (2004, 2008a) have formally articulated this perspective as the service-dominant (S-D)
logicof marketing. This theoretical lens offers “a transcending view of relationships, which
contrasts with a more traditional, transactional view of marketing relationships, labeled the
“goods-dominant” perspective (Vargo 2009). This broader relational perspective recognizes that
specific consumer behavior outcomes are generated by customers’ particular interactive
experiences when co-creating value with organizations and/or other stakeholders.
The 2010 Journal of Service Research Special Issue on ‘customer engagement’ is of particular
relevance to advancing engagement research in marketing. Van Doorn et al.’s (2010) lead paper
addresses ‘customer engagement behaviors, which result from motivational drivers including
word-of-mouth activity, customer-to-customer (C2C) interactions and/or blogging activity. The
authors suggest “customer engagement behaviors go beyond transactions”, and may be
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specifically defined as “customers’ behavioral manifestations that have a brand- or firm-focus,
beyond purchase, resulting from motivational drivers” (p. 254). Based on this rationale a
theoretical model linking customer engagement behaviors with specific customer-, firm- and
contextual antecedents and consequences is developed.
This paper builds on the research published in the 2010 Journal of Service Research Special
Issue on CE. Its contribution lies in the provision of a broader and more rigorous theoretical
analysis of the CE concept in order to define its conceptual domain, and provide a general
definition. The paper is divided into three main sections. The first section provides the theoretical
foundations of engagement by examining the concept within the marketing, social science and
management literatures. In the second section five fundamental propositions are developed,
which are used to develop a general definition of CE. This general definition provides a
conceptualization that is applicable across a range of situations, rather than limited to a particular
situation. The final section derives a set of implications for future research.
CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
Exploring Theoretical Roots
We draw on theory about marketing relationships and interactive service experience to
examine the conceptual foundations of the emerging CE concept. This perspective of
relationships and service management was first explored by the Nordic School three decades ago
(Grönroos 2011; Gummesson 1994), although Vargo and Lusch’s (2004) seminal article provides
a more formal expression of this perspective, which the authors term the service-dominant (S-D)
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logic. The S-D logic, currently, is articulated using a set of ten foundational premises depicting
marketing relationships typified by customers’ interactive, co-creative experiences with other
stakeholders, including service personnel, firms and/or other customers (Vargo and Lusch
2008a).
Three of the foundational premises underlying the S-D logic are of particular relevance for
determining the conceptual foundations underlying the emerging CE concept (Vargo and Lusch
2008a: p.7). First, premise 6 states “The customer is always a co-creator of value, which
highlights the interactive, co-creative nature of value creation between customers and/or other
actors within service relationships. In justifying this premise Vargo and Lusch (2008b: p. 32)
state:
“...the service for service foundation of the S-D logic provides the motivation for
interaction and network development. That is, we serve use our network of
resources for othersbenefit (individually and collectively) in order to obtain
service from others. Service, as used in the S-D logic, identifies the logic of
interactivity” (Italics added).
Second, premise 10 states: “Value is always uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the
beneficiary. Specifically, premise 10 emphasizes the highly experiential, inherently subjective
and contextual nature of the value co-creation concept. This particular premise has its roots in the
notion of the “experience economy” (Pine and Gilmore 1999), “service encounters” and
“servicescapes” (Bitner1992). For example, Schembri (2006: p. 388) suggests that within the S-
D logic, customers typically, act as prosumers in the way they create unique experiences;
therefore [they] are not merely recipients, nor co-producers as in the rationalistic sense, but co-
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creators of their service experience. Finally, premise 8 states: A service-centered view is
inherently customer-oriented and relational, which highlights the transcending, relational
nature of service. In this context, service is viewed to generate specific customer benefits through
the co-creation value with other actors in specific service relationships by virtue of focal
interactions and/or interactive experiences.
These three premises in particular, provide a conceptual foundation for the development of the
CE concept, which reflects customers’ interactive, co-creative experiences with other
stakeholders within focal service relationships. Specifically, Lusch and Vargo (2010) suggest
particular interactive, co-creative customer experiences may be interpreted as the act of
‘engaging. Further, Vivek et al. (2010) recognize the central role of CE from what is termed an
“expanded relationship marketing” perspective which, analogous to the S-D logic, highlights the
importance of establishing and maintaining enduring, value-laden interactive customer
relationships (e.g. Morgan and Hunt 1994; Martin, Payne and Ballantyne 1993), and value co-
creation (e.g. Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004).
Further support for the S-D logic underpinning the conceptual roots of CE is provided by
scrutiny of recent literature authored by a diversity of scholars. Specifically, we identified over
fifty academic articles using the terms engage and/or engagement in discussions addressing
the S-D logic. The majority of these articles were published since 2007, with two-thirds of these
addressing specific business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships, and one-third addressing
business-to-business (B2B) relationships. Content analysis of these articles indicated the terms
‘engage’ and/or ‘engagement’ are typically used in discussions about processes, co-creation,
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solution development and/or utilization, interactions and/or relevant, marketing-based forms of
exchange. In the research addressing B2C relationships, the terms ‘engage’ and/or engagement
are also linked to customer and/or brand experience, emotion, creativity, collaboration, learning,
and/or (brand) community interactions.
Of particular note is that the terms ‘engage’ and/or ‘engagement’ appear to replace more
traditional relational concepts, including ‘involvement’ and/or ‘participation.’ For example,
Schau, Muñiz and Arnould’s (2009) recent research examining value creation in brand
communities draws on the terms ‘engage’ and/or ‘engagement’ seventy-five times, whilst
refraining from the use of the terms ‘involvement’ and/or ‘participation altogether. However,
despite the relatively profuse usage of the terms ‘engage/engagement’ in literature addressing the
S-D logic, little explicit attention is given to the conceptualization of the term, nor its conceptual
distinctiveness from traditional concepts.
Engagement Conceptualizations in Social Science/Management & Practitioner Literature
The use of the term ‘engagement’ has been traced back to the 17th century, when it was used to
describe a number of notions including a moral or legal obligation, tie of duty, betrothal,
employment and/or military conflict (Oxford English Dictionary 2009). However, since then
more volitional (e.g. Jennings and Stoker 2004) and/or discretionary (Frank et al. 2004)
interpretations of the concept have emerged in the literature, including those addressing the
notion of ‘connection, attachment, emotional involvement and/or participation used to
describe specific engagement forms (e.g. London et al. 2007). At the meta-level engagement,
as a form of social, interactive behavior, has been characterized as a transient state occurring
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within broader relevant engagement processes developing over time (e.g. Bryson and Hand
2007; Huo, Binning and Molina 2009).
In the last two decades the term ‘engagement’ has been used extensively in fields including
psychology, sociology, political science and organizational behavior, leading to a variety of
conceptual approaches. For example, while ‘civic engagement’ has been studied in sociology
(Jennings and Stoker 2004; Mondak, Hibbing, Canache, Seligson and Anderson 2010), ‘social
engagement’ has been examined in the field of psychology (Achterberg et al. 2003; Huo et al.
2009). Further, educational psychology has explored ‘student engagement’ (Bryson and Hand
2007; Hu 2010), while political science examined the ‘engagement of nation states’ (Resnick
2001; Kane 2008). Moreover, in the organizational behavior/management literature, the terms
‘employee engagement’ (Catteeuw and Vonderhorst. 2007; Crawford, LePine and Rich 2010)
and ‘stakeholder engagement’ (Greenwood 2007; Noland and Phillips 2010) have been explored.
An overview of specific conceptualizations proposed in these disciplines is provided in
Appendix A.
The initial use of the term ‘engagement’ in the business practice discourse was traced back to
Appelbaum (2001). Over the last decade a range of definitions forms has been suggested for
various engagement forms, which illuminate the concept from different stakeholder and/or
contextual perspectives including customer behavior, advertising audiences, online communities
and/or organizational performance metrics measuring the effectiveness of relevant engagement
forms. To illustrate this diversity a selection of definitions is provided in Appendix B.
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The definitions in Appendices A and B portray salient engagement states within broader
engagement processes characterized by interactions and experiences between a focal engagement
subject and object. Specific engagement objects may range from individual (e.g. a particular
person) to collective objects (e.g. a specific political institution; Kane 2008). Further, the
reviewed definitions predominantly represent engagement as a multidimensional concept.
However, the expression of specific cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions varies
considerably across focal stakeholder groups (e.g. engagement subjects/objects) and/or contexts.
Approximately fifty percent of the definitions reviewed in the academic and business practice
literature expressed engagement as a unidimensional concept and as such, is focused on either
the emotional, or cognitive, or behavioral aspect of engagement. The behavioral dimension in
particular, appears dominant within this unidimensional perspective. However, although the
unidimensional approaches possess the merit of simplicity, they fall short in reflecting the rich
conceptual scope of engagement. Table 1 provides an overview of the specific (cognitive,
emotional, behavioral) engagement dimensionality adopted in the literature reviewed.
Table 1 about here
Several investigations within the social science and management disciplines recognize specific
fluctuations in focal engagement levels across engagement states,which occur within broader,
iterative engagement processes. Specific illustrations of this observation include research
addressing ‘civic engagement’ (e.g. Balsano 2005; Jennings and Zeitner 2003), ‘stakeholder
engagement’ (e.g. Greenwood 2007; Grudens-Schuck 2000), ‘engagement of [nation] states’
(Resnick 2001; Kane 2008), ‘social engagement’ (e.g. Huo et al. 2009; Achterberg et al. 2003;
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Bejerholm and Eklund 2007; Saczynski et al. 2006) and ‘student engagement’ (e.g. Bryson and
Hand 2007; Marks 2000; Marks and Printy 2003; Vibert and Shields 2003). The review also
indicates that focal engagement processes may range from short-term and/or highly-variable, to
long-term, and/or relatively stable manifestations of engagement (Fredricks et al. 2004). Further,
while the subject’s engagement levels at the onset of the engagement process typically, are
relatively low, these tend to develop over time under particular, conducive contextual conditions
(Bejerholm and Eklund 2007), including specific favorable social interactions fostering
engagement.
Engagement Conceptualizations in the Marketing Literature
The terms consumer engagement’ and ‘customer engagement (CE) have started to appear in the
academic marketing and service literature only in the last five years. In contrast to the social
science, management and business practice literatures, which offer a plethora of definitions of
relevant engagement forms, relatively few attempts at the systematic conceptualization of CE
have been observed in the marketing literature to-date. The conceptualizations identified in a
literature review are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2 about here
The most comprehensive definitions acknowledging the existence of cognitive, emotional and
behavioral dimensions comprising the CE concept are provided by e.g. Patterson et al. (2006),
Vivek et al. (2010), Hollebeek (2010) and Mollen and Wilson (2010). Drawing on research in
organizational behavior Patterson et al. (2006) suggest that, as a higher-order construct, CE
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comprises four components, including (a) absorption: the level of customer concentration on a
focal engagement object, such as a brand/organization, thus reflecting the cognitive dimension of
engagement; (b) dedication: a customer’s sense of belonging to the organization/brand, which
corresponds to the emotional dimension of engagement; (c) vigor: a customer’s level of energy
and mental resilience in interacting with a focal engagement object; and (d) interaction: the two-
way communications between a focal engagement subject and object. The latter two dimensions
(i.e. vigor and interaction) reflect the behavioral facet of engagement. Further, Vivek et al.
(2010) view CE from a predominantly behavioral perspective focused on specific actions.
However, the cognitive and emotional dimensions of engagement identified in the literature
review are implied only by the term ‘connection’ in the authors’ proposed CE conceptualization.
In contrast, Mollen and Wilson’s (2010: p. 5) online ‘brand engagement’ comprises the
dimensions of sustained cognitive processing, instrumental value (i.e. utility and
relevance), and ‘experiential value’ (i.e. emotional congruence with the narrative schema
encountered in computer-mediated entities). Further, the authors distinguish the concept
from involvement. Specifically, CE is suggested to extend beyond involvement in that it
encompasses a proactive, interactive relationship between the customer and the specific
engagement object (i.e. a brand). Accordingly, the authors posit that CE transcends beyond the
mere exercise of cognition, and unlike involvement, requires the satisfying of experiential value,
as well as instrumental value. This argument is consistent with the view of CE within the
transcending view of relationships articulated within the S-D logic, which highlights interactivity
and customer experience (e.g. Vargo 2009).
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Bowden (2009a) describes CE as a psychological process, while Van Doorn et al. (2010), and
Pham and Avnet (2009) focus on specific CE behaviors by defining the concept primarily with
reference to the specific types, and/or patterns of specific engagement activities. Further
engagement, according to Higgins and Scholer’s (2009) Regulatory Engagement Theory, refers
to a [consumer’s] state of being occupied, fully-absorbed or engrossed, thus generating a
level of attraction to, or repulsion from, a focal engagement object. The authors recognize the
existence of not only positive expressions of engagement (e.g. bonding; through being attracted
to the object), but also potentially negative expressions of the concept (e.g. dissociating from an
object). Of note is that the marketing literature, to-date, has focused predominantly on positive,
as opposed to negative, expressions of engagement.
Moreover, CE with advertising and/or specific media has been examined in advertising research
(e.g. Woodard 2006). In this field, CE has been linked to superior advertising effectiveness
(Wang 2006; Calder and Malthouse 2005, 2008; Calder, Malthouse, and Schädel 2009). For
instance, Calder and Malthouse (2008: p. 5), focusing on the experiential aspects of CE, define
media engagement as “the sum of the motivational experiences consumers have with a media
product. These authors, in addition to Van Doorn et al. (2010), explicitly refer to the
motivational nature of CE, which is also implicit in Mollen and Wilson’s (2010), Vivek et al.’s
(2010), Patterson et al.’s (2006), Pham and Avnet’s (2009) and Higgins and Scholer’s (2009)
work. Specifically, the concept of ‘motivation’ has been defined from a predominantly emotional
perspective as goal-directed arousal (Park and Mittal 1985). In contrast, MacInnis et al. (1991:
p. 34) draw primarily on the behavioral aspect by defining ‘motivation’ as “a desire or readiness
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in the undertaking of focal actions. The multifaceted (cognitive, emotional, behavioral; cf.
Table 2) nature of CE encompasses the scope of both these definitions of ‘motivation.’
Further, Algesheimer et al. (2005), who explore the effects of consumers’ identification with a
specific brand community, define ‘brand community engagement’ as “a consumer’s intrinsic
motivation to interact and co-operate with community members.” Moreover, Sprott, Czellar and
Spangenberg (2009) addresses the concept of ‘brand engagement in self-concept, which,
lamentably, fails to fully reflect the conceptual richness of the CE concept as outlined above.
Summary
The preceding analysis has shown that the conceptual domain within which CE is embedded is
the S-D logic, and the extended relationship marketing domain (Vivek et al. 2010). This
particular hybrid theoretical lens highlights the role of interactive customer experience and co-
created value as the underlying conceptual foundations of CE. Engagement, unlike traditional
relational concepts, including participation and involvement, is based on the existence of focal
interactive customer experiences with a specific engagement object (e.g. a brand).
Our review generates five themes, which may be used as a basis for the development of a general
definition of CE. The first theme posits that CE reflects a customer’s particular state induced by
the individual’s specific interactive experiences with a focal engagement object (e.g. a brand). A
second theme asserts specific CE states to occur within broader, dynamic iterative processes
typified by the co-creation of value. It is these first and second themes, which distinguish
engagement from participation and involvement, because these concepts fail to reflect the notion
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of interactive, co-creative experiences as comprehensively as does CE. A third theme is that
engagement plays a central role in the process of relational exchange in which other relational
concepts act as specific engagement antecedents and/or consequences. A fourth theme is that
engagement is a multidimensional - cognitive, emotional, behavioral - concept, where the
expression of the specific cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions is stakeholder- (e.g.
customer) and/or context-dependent. A final theme is that engagement occurs within specific sets
of context-dependent conditions, which generate different CE levels.
FUNDAMENTAL PROPOSITIONS AND GENERAL DEFINITION
Fundamental Propositions
A ‘conceptual domain’ defines the scope and delineation of a concept (MacKenzie, Podsakoff
and Jarvis 2005; Jarvis, MacKenzie and Podsakoff 2003). The themes identified in the previous
section lead to five Fundamental Propositions (FPs), which are used to define the conceptual
domain of CE, followed by the development of a general definition of CE. In developing the FPs
and the general definition, the emphasis is on providing a conceptualization that will be
applicable across a range of situations, rather than limited to a particular situation.
The five FPs in draft format were sent by e-mail to sixteen authors identified to have published
articles addressing CE in the last five years. The panel were asked to comment whether the FPs
adequately captured the conceptual domain of CE, and whether the FPs sufficiently
differentiated the concept from other relational concepts, including involvement and
participation. Twelve scholarly responses were obtained, which provided considerable feedback.
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The responses addressed the conceptual delineation of CE relative to other relational concepts,
and the dynamic nature of focal engagement processes. Respondents recognized the central role
of CE in focal relational processes and exchange, although the designation of specific relational
concepts as CE antecedents and/or consequences (e.g. involvement, trust) in the FPs was subject
to some discussion. For instance, one of the widely-cited informants stated:
While these [concepts] are relational antecedents, many of these can also be relational
consequences; specifically participation, involvement, flow, and rapport. For instance, when
customers are more engaged they will have higher participation (a behavioral consequence), [and]
a better sense of rapport (a psychological consequence). Based on my logic - feedback loops over
time - it seems to me that these can be consequences, as well as antecedents.
The comments obtained from the panel were used to derive the following revised five FPs.
Specifically, refinements were made to the wording of the propositions based on the panel’s
feedback, and a re-examination of the literature. Further, the sequence of the propositions was
modified to highlight the most fundamental CE characteristics first. A summary of the
justifications for the FPs is provided in Table 3, whilst further detail is also provided in the
following sections. The revised FPs are:
FP1: CE reflects a state, which occurs by virtue of interactive customer experiences with a
focal agent/object within specific service relationships.
FP2: CE states occur within a dynamic, iterative process of relational exchange that co-
creates value.
FP3: CE exists within a nomological network of relational exchange.
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FP4: CE is a multidimensional concept subject to a context- and/or stakeholder-specific
expression of relevant cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions.
FP5: CE occurs within a specific set of situational conditions generating differing CE levels.
Table 3 about here
FP1: CE is a state, which occurs by virtue of interactive customer experiences with a focal
agent/object within specific service relationships
The conceptual complexity of CE largely arises as a result of the concept’s interactive,
experiential nature inherent in specific service relationships. Specifically, CE occurs between a
customer, a focal object, and/or other stakeholders in specific service relationships, and as such,
requires first-hand experiences (Hollebeek 2010). Concurring with the principles underlying the
S-D logic, specific CE behaviors exhibited may go beyond individual transactions, and as such,
may include specific customers’ pre- and/or post-purchase phenomenological experiences (cf.
Van Doorn et al. 2010). Specific customer/firm interactions may also occur within a broader
network of consumers, and/or other stakeholders in focal service relationships, thus suggesting
CE may extend beyond dyadic interactive experiences.
Under the S-D logic any form of customer/firm interaction, interactive experience and/or
relationship, is based on the notion of facilitating service, which is defined as “the application
of specialized competences (skills and resources) through deeds, processes, and performances for
the benefit of some other entity, or the entity itself” (Vargo and Lusch 2004, 2008a). In this
service-facilitative process value is co-created e.g. through deeds, processes and/or performances
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with other individuals. Further, the specific interactive experiences accumulated as a result of
such co-creative service efforts, may be typified as focal ‘service relationships’ under the S-D
logic.
In the business practice literature, several types of engagement objects have been cited, with the
brand being a dominant object. For example, the Gallup Group’s consultants indicate that CE
consists of both rational loyalty and emotional attachment to a focal brand (Appelbaum
2001). Engaged customers may experience confidence in the brand, belief in its integrity, pride
in the brand, and a passion for it (McEwen 2001, 2004; McEwen and Fleming 2003). Other
engagement objects cited include specific products/services, a specific piece of communication
(e.g. an advertisement), and/or specific communication channels (ARF 2006). The review
highlights that specific interactive experiences are an indispensable component of a customer’s
particular engaged state (cf. Van Doorn et al. 2010). Such interactive experiences may include
interactions with focal stimuli, such as the products or services available (Carù and Cova 2002),
user-message or content interactions (Cho and Leckenby 1997; Massey and Levy 1999),
human/computer-mediated interactions (Burgoon et al. 1999, Rasmussen 1986), and/or
interpersonal interactions (Haeckel 1998).
FP2: CE states occur within a dynamic, iterative process of relational exchange that co-
creates value
As discussed, the conceptual roots of CE lie within the broader, hybrid conceptual domain of the
S-D logic and the expanded view of relationship marketing, which highlights the importance of
specific interactive, experiential processes co-creating value by virtue of the occurrence of
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specific human interactions (Vargo and Lusch 2008a). Examples of such co-created value
include favorably-perceived customer/firm communications, service delivery and/or dialogue,
which may contribute to future customer loyalty. Further, based on the S-D logic, specific co-
created value levels arise from the act of interacting with other individual(s) in specific service
relationship contexts. Therefore, even if no such a priori value co-creative intent is observed,
specific co-created value levels emerge by virtue of a focal interactive experience.
The engagement process may be viewed as a series of aggregated engagement states (cf. Zhou,
Hall and Karplus 1999; Dunham, Klimczak and Logue 1993). Based on this observation, the CE
processes may range from short-term to long-term, relatively stable to highly-variable,
generating varying CE levels and/or complexity over time, as addressed in further depth under
FP5. Moreover, the iterative nature of the CE process implies that through repeated interactions
with a focal engagement object over time, specific levels of the CE concept re-emerge upon each
specific interaction, which may fluctuate across individual interactions.
FP3: CE exists within a nomological network of relational exchange
The expert panel exhibited general agreement regarding the central role of CE in relevant
engagement processes, although considerable difficulty in unraveling the relational antecedents
and consequences of CE was identified.
As an emerging relational concept CE, by definition, does not operate in isolation. By contrast,
the concept is embedded within a broader network of relational exchange in which other
relational concepts, such as involvement or participation, which represent CE antecedents and/or
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consequences, respectively, within the nomological network of specific conceptual relationships.
To illustrate, the analysis of the social science/management literature and business practice
discourse revealed a lack of consensus regarding the nature of specific concepts as CE
antecedents, concurrent factors and/or consequences (Hollebeek 2010), which was supported by
the findings obtained from the expert panel. Specifically, the relational exchange process
implies that specific CE relational consequences may extend to act as CE antecedents in
subsequent CE (sub-) processes and/or cycles over time. As one panelist stated, these can be
thought of as feedback loops over time. As such, this observation serves as a further
illustration of the iterative, process-based nature of aggregated CE states addressed under FP2.
Moreover, the nature of CE as a salient variable in relational exchange is derived from the
concept’s interactive, experiential, and co-creative properties as addressed under FP2. The
remainder of this section addresses specific relational concepts extracted from a literature
review, and addresses the nature of their conceptual relationship to CE using a stronger
theoretical perspective rooted in a hybrid S-D logic/expanded relationship marketing perspective.
Specifically, the interactive, experiential aspects differentiate CE from other relational concepts
within a broader nomological network of relational exchange. Within this nomological network,
required relational antecedents were found to include ‘participation’ and ‘involvement, while
other relational concepts, including ‘flow’ and ‘rapport, were found to be potential, rather than
required, CE antecedents in particular contexts. Further, CE relational consequences may include
‘commitment,’ ‘trust, ‘self-brand connection,’ consumers’ ‘emotional attachment to specific
brands, and ‘loyalty.’
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Table 4 provides further justification for the specification of these relational concepts as either
CE antecedents and/or consequences, and thus suggests the conceptual distinctiveness of these
concepts relative to CE. While ‘participation’ and ‘involvement’ are labeled as CE antecedents,
these may continue to co-exist, or occur concurrently with CE, thus extending beyond a strict CE
antecedent state. Further, the iterative nature of the relational exchange process implies CE’s
relational consequences, including ‘rapport, commitment,’ ‘trust,’ ‘self brand connection,
emotional brand attachment, and ‘brand loyalty’ may subsequently act as CE antecedents in
iterative CE processes. Moreover, distinct CE sub-processes may be observed for new, as
opposed to existing, customers (Bowden 2009a/b). For example, while the concepts of trust and
commitment may represent CE antecedents for existing customers, these are, by definition, CE
consequences for new customers interacting with a specific engagement object, such as a brand,
for the first time.
Table 4 about here
FP4: CE is a multidimensional concept subject to a context- and/or stakeholder-specific
expression of relevant cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions
The analysis of the definitions of engagement in the social science/management literatures and
the business practice discourse (cf. Table 1) indicates that engagement has been expressed to
encompass various, context- and/or stakeholder-specific combinations of cognitive, emotional
and behavioral dimensions. However, the majority CE definitions as proposed in the marketing
literature, adopt a multidimensional view of the concept (cf. Table 2). Specifically, the relative
importance of the cognitive, emotional and behavioral CE dimensions may vary with the specific
21
set of situational contingencies under which CE is observed, thus permitting differing CE levels
and/or complexity to emerge.
CE states may be viewed to reside on a continuum, ranging from ‘non-engaged’ (i.e. absence of
customer/firm or brand interactive experience), ‘marginally engaged’ (i.e. customers are
somewhat cognitively, emotionally and/or behaviorally engaged in a specific interactive
experience), ‘engaged’ (i.e. ample levels of cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral customer
presence in a particular interactive experience), and ‘highly engaged’ (i.e. high levels of
cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral ‘presence’ in a specific interactive experience; cf. Shevlin
2007b). A non-engaged state exists either before the commencement of an individual’s
engagement with a focal object, and/or after its termination, whilst this may also occur during a
‘CE dormancy period where CE is temporarily inactive during a particular interactive
experience.
FP5: CE occurs within a specific set of situational conditions generating differing CE levels
The review highlights the nature of CE as an individual, context-dependent concept, which may
be observed at different levels and/or complexity, at different points in time. The rationale
underlying this assertion lies in the required existence of specific interactive experiences between
a focal CE subject and object within specific sets of situational conditions (May et al. 2004). For
example, Bezjian-Avery, Calder and Iacobucci (1998) address the distinct expression of CE in
online, as opposed to offline, environments; and across advertising, in contrast to other
marketing applications. Specific designations of CE levels, which were starting to be explored
22
under FP4, have focused on ‘low’ through to ‘high’ engagement (Shevlin 2007b), and ranging
from ‘actively-disengaged to fully-engaged states (Bryson and Hand 2007).
Vibert and Shields (2003: p. 225) address the importance of considering the contextual nature of
engagement: “Engagement, separated from its social, cultural and political context, is a
contradiction that ignores deeply-embedded understandings about the purpose and nature of
engagement itself.” Thus, differing levels of CE complexity occur as a function of the specific
CE dimensionality adopted. Further, particular CE levels may be moderated by specific
individual-level and/or contextual variables, including personality, mood, and individuals’
specfifc need for cognition (NFC).
A General Definition of CE
The five FPs developed in the previous section provide the basis for a general definition of CE.
Customer engagement (CE) is a motivational state that occurs by virtue of interactive co-
creative, customer experiences with a focal agent/object (e.g. a brand) in focal service
relationships. It occurs under a specific set of context-dependent conditions generating
differing CE levels; and exists as a dynamic, iterative process of relational exchange that co-
creates value. CE plays a central role in the a nomological network governing relational
exchange in which other relational concepts are antecedents and/or consequences in iterative
CE processes. It is a multidimensional concept subject to a context- and/or stakeholder-
specific expression of relevant cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral dimensions.
23
This general definition is applicable across a range of situations, rather than limited to a
particular situation. It builds on the conceptualizations developed by Patterson et al. (2006),
Vivek et al. (2010), and Mollen and Wilson (2010). However, unlike these authors’ definitions,
that have specific descriptions of the behavioral, cognitive and emotional dimensions of
engagement, the proposed definition follows the approach adopted in the organizational behavior
literature by portraying the relevant dimensions generically, rather than specifically (i.e.
narrowly) - thus permitting the effects of specific contextual contingencies on particular
expressions of the CE concept.
Further, the definition differs from that proposed by Mollen and Wilson (2010), which was
developed for application to specific online brand engagement contexts. It also extends beyond
the scope of Van Doorn et al.’s (2010) definition, which adopts a particular focus on behaviors.
Finally, the proposed, general definition is broad relative to Calder and Malthouse’s (2008)
conceptualization, which is restricted to the experiential aspects of media engagement.
It is also important to reflect on how this definition delineates CE from other relational concepts.
Essential to the proposed definition is the notion that the customer’s interactive, co-created
experiences play a central role in focal relational processes. As shown, the concept has its
theoretical roots in the S-D logic and the expanded domain of relationship marketing. This broad
theoretical perspective may be used to differentiate CE from other relational concepts (e.g. trust,
involvement) within a nomological network of relational exchange characterizing specific
service relationships.
24
As addressed, some of these associated, relational concepts were found to represent required CE
antecedents (e.g. involvement, participation), whilst others (e.g. flow, rapport) were more
accurately depicted as potential CE antecedents and/or consequences. The iterative nature of the
relational exchange process implies CE’s relational consequences, including commitment,’
trust, ‘self-brand connection,’ ‘emotional brand attachment’ and/or ‘loyalty, may act as
antecedents to subsequent interactive, co-creative experiences between the customer and a focal
engagement object, such as a brand. As aptly put by one of the experts in the panel this involves
feedback loops over time.”
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH
Research Agenda
This paper provides a conceptual foundation for further theoretical and empirical research in the
emerging area of CE. Five FPs and a general definition of CE provide a basis for the further
exploration of CE, as summarized in Table 5.
Table 5 about here
Each of the five FPs generates a specific set of research questions to facilitate the specification
and/or refinement of the conceptual domain and/or general definition of CE. The research
questions derived from FP1 focus on exploring the fundamental nature of engaged customers’
interactive experiences across contexts. The research questions derived from FP2 focus on
developing a deeper understanding the role of CE in a dynamic, iterative process of relational
25
exchange and value co-creation in service relationships. Further, the research questions derived
from FP3 focus on the nature of conceptual relationships between CE and other relational
concepts within particular dynamic relational exchange processes. The research questions
derived from FP4 shift to focusing on the multidimensional nature of CE, and examining the
specific factors driving the particular level of CE complexity under specific sets of contextual
conditions and/or contingencies. Finally, the research questions derived from FP5 focus on the
determinants of CE levels.
Broader Areas for Future Research
From a theoretical perspective further systematic, explicit scholarly inquiry addressing the CE
concept is needed. Attention needs to be given to the nature and dynamics underlying specific S-
D logic-based conceptual relationships, and the role of broader and/or higher-level marketing
theory. For example, the linkages between the S-D logic and consumer culture theory (Cova and
Salle 2008; Arnould and Thompson 2005) may provide opportunities for the further development
and conceptualization of CE by paying more attention to consumers value (co)-creative
competencies. The establishment of conceptual linkages with other theoretical perspectives,
including social practice theory, may also be relevant. For example, Schau et al.’s (2009) recent
analysis of value creation within brand communities integrates the concept of engagement within
the S-D logic and social practice theory through the identification of specific engagement
practices. Moreover, it is suggested the CE concept has the potential to contribute to other
service-centric research frameworks embedded in interactivity and value co-creation, and
establishing conceptual linkages with other, conceptually related concepts, such as Verhoef et
al.’s (2009) ‘customer experience in retailing.
26
Customers engagement with different types of objects (e.g. networked organizations, suppliers,
and/or Government) also merits further attention. While brands/organizations have been the
objects of primary focus in CE research to-date, equally important are the roles of specific
products/services, product/service categories, specific stakeholder groups and/or relevant
institutions, such as Government and industry governing bodies. Attention also needs to be given
to the dyadic and/or networked aspects of engagement within C2B, B2B and C2C interactions
(Kothandaraman and Wilson 2001). Since the five FPs developed in this paper are sufficiently
general to permit their application to alternate engagement forms, such as supplier engagement in
B2B/B2G research and/or social network engagement, these may be used to explore such other
(emerging) concepts.
Further, the specific dynamics underlying two-way, interactive engagement with particular
objects including organizations, products/services, employees and/or brands, and potential value
co-creation and/or loyalty outcomes, require further theoretical and empirical scrutiny. Future
research is required, which explores focal networked dynamics across different engagement
contexts. For example, based on the potentially divergent expressions of engagement in online,
as opposed to offline, environments future research addressing the specific dynamics in these
markedly distinct settings is expected to generate further insights into the CE concept.
Moreover, further testing, refinement and validation of Vivek’s (2009) proposed scale of
consumer engagement is required, thus generating further opportunities for future research in
this area. Scrutiny of iterative CE dynamics and processes over time is also recommended.
27
Further, the highly context-specific nature of the engagement concept leads to questions about
whether the development of a generic CE scale, similar to Zaichkowsky’s (1994) revised
‘Personal Involvement Inventory, is appropriate. In order to develop such generic scale,
engagement research across a wide range of service contexts would first be required to gain a
detailed understanding of the specific, generalizable engagement facets, as distinct from those
not readily transferable across contexts. For this reason, further development, refinement and
validation of the conceptual domain of CE is first recommended.
Given the multi-faceted nature of CE and other engagement types, pluralistic empirical research
integrating relevant interpretive and quantitative methods of inquiry, is recommended in this
emerging area. Based on the limitations inherent in traditional, cross-sectional research methods
(Rindfleisch, Malter, Ganesan and Moorman 2008), longitudinal (panel) investigations of CE are
expected to contribute more effectively to developing scholarly understanding of specific
engagement processes.
Further insights into the effectiveness of specific managerial applications of CE also remain to be
undertaken. While speculation abounds regarding the concept’s potential contributions, these
claims are yet to be investigated empirically. Sawhney, Verona and Prandelli’s (2005) and
Ramaswamy’s (2009) notion of ‘engagement platforms’ provides a useful avenue for exploring
managerial applications of the concept, as does recent research on managing the co-creation of
value (e.g. Payne, Storbacka and Frow 2008; Payne, Storbacka, Frow and Knox 2009). Although
CE is suggested to be a superior predictor of customer loyalty relative to traditional relational
28
constructs (e.g. involvement) in interactive environments, corroboration of these contentions
through empirical research is yet to be undertaken.
Kumar et al.’s (2010) Total Customer Engagement Value framework represents a major
advance in managerial thinking, while Bijmolt et al. (2010) provide an excellent classification of
the analytics available to examine CE behaviors. However, further research responding directly
to specific, context-dependent managerial needs in the emerging CE area is also needed (MSI
2010). Finally, the relatively recent emergence of the CE concept may generate specific
managerial challenges for the optimal design and implementation of relevant CE campaigns and
programs. Such challenges may include both the development and dissolution of CE, which
therefore also merit further scholarly inquiry.
Summary
This section has addressed the importance of undertaking further research addressing the CE
concept, and other engagement forms alike. The emerging CE concept was found to have its
conceptual roots in the S-D logic, and the expanded domain of relationship marketing. This
perspective provides a conceptual foundation for the development of the concept of CE, which
reflects customers interactive, co-creative experiences with other stakeholders within specific
service relationships. For this reason, the adoption of a service-centric perspective is found to
represent a useful theoretical lens, facilitating the development of a general definition of CE, and
delineating CE from other, relational concepts. The rationale underlying this assertion is that CE,
unlike traditional concepts, including involvement and participation, is based on the existence of
focal interactive, co-creative experiences with specific engagement objects (e.g. a brand). The
29
concepts of involvement and participation,’ therefore, may be viewed as CE antecedents,
rather than components.
The five FPs and the proposed general definition of CE provide a framework for further research
investigating the relationships between relevant variables linked to the CE processes including
their particular antecedents and consequences, and the relative importance and/or existence of
any interactions amongst the dimensions of CE. Van Doorn et al.’s (2010) pioneering analysis
and the other papers in the Journal of Service Research Special Issue, which focus on the
behavioral aspects of CE, have started to explore these issues. As outlined in Table 5, a rich and
challenging set of research questions emerges from this analysis, which merits further empirical
investigation in order to fully explore, refine and validate the conceptual domain, and proposed
general definition, of CE. Finally while these research questions have focused specifically on the
customers’ engagement it is suggested that many of them extend across human/social interactive
behavior more generically.
30
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Discipline
Construct
Author(s)
Definition/Key Findings
Dimensionality
Sociology
Civic
engagement
Jennings and
Stoker (2004)
Involvement in voluntary organizations and the performance of volunteer work,
facilitating the development of social networks.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Montak et al.
(2010)
Civic engagement levels are impacted upon to a significant extent by the Big Five
Personality dimensions.
Undisclosed
Political
science
State
engagement
Resnick
(2001)
Iterative process aiming to influence political behavior of a target state through
maintained contacts with that state across multiple issue-areas (e.g. diplomatic,
economic) and focused on generating a relationship of increasing interdependence.
Unidimensional:
B
Comprehensive
(state)
engagement
Kane (2008)
A comprehensive engagement campaign comprises three key elements: (a) Mindset
change; (b) Mechanism for change; (c) Possible staff change.
Multidimensional:
C, B
Psychology
Social
engagement
Achterberg et
al. (2003)
A high sense of initiative, involvement and adequate response to social stimuli,
participating in social activities, interacting with others.
Unidimensional:
B
Huo et al.
(2009)
Represented by group identification and group-oriented behavior.
Multidimensional:
E, B
Task
engagement
Wright
(2008)
Effort or active striving.
Unidimensional:
B
Matthews et
al. (2010)
Vigilance performance on a particular task; attentional resource availability, sustained
attention and alertness.
Multidimensional:
C, B
Occupational
engagement
Bejerholm
and Eklund
(2007)
A lifestyle characteristic which describes the extent to which a person has a balanced
rhythm of activity and rest, a variety and range of meaningful occupations/routines
and the ability to move around society and interact socially. Levels may vary along a
continuum.
Multidimensional:
C, B
Educational
psychology
Student
engagement
Bryson and
Hand (2007)
On a disengaged-engaged continuum, a student may exhibit differing engagement
levels to a particular task/assignment, module, course of study and Higher Education.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Hu (2010)
The quality of effort students put into educationally meaningful activities.
Multidimensional:
C, B
London et al.
(2007)
Students’ academic investment, motivation and commitment to their institution;
perceived psychological connection, comfort and sense of belonging towards their
institution. Engagement comprises institutional, situational & individual aspects.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Organiza-
tional
behavior
Employee
engagement
Frank et al.
(2004)
Employees’ desire/willingness to give discretionary effort in their jobs, in the form of
extra time, brainpower/energy (includes cognitive, affective and behavioral aspects).
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Catteeuw et
al. (2007)
The degree to which employees are satisfied with their jobs, feel valued and
experience collaboration & trust. The result is a high-performing, productive
Multidimensional:
C, E
company.
Luthans and
Peterson
(2002)
To be emotionally engaged is to form meaningful connections with others (e.g. co-
workers/managers) and to experience concern/empathy for others’ feelings. Being
cognitively engaged refers to the degree of awareness of an employee’s mission and
role in the work environment. Behavioral engagement plays a lesser role.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Saks (2006)
The amount of cognitive, emotional and physical resources an individual is prepared
to devote in the performance of his or her work roles. Result is contingent on the
economic and socio-emotional resources received from the organisation.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Macey and
Schneider
(2008)
A broad construct consisting of state, trait and behavioral forms that connote a blend
of affective energy and discretionary effort directed to one’s work and organization.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Crawford et
al. (2010)
The harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles by which they
employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role
performances (Kahn 1990).
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Author(s)
Definition/Key Findings
Appelbaum
(2001)
Consumer engagement consists of both rational loyalty (includes overall satisfaction, intent to repurchase, and intent to recommend)
and emotional attachment (including confidence in a brand, belief in its integrity, pride in the brand and passion for it).
Smith and
Wallace (2010)
Customer engagement (CE) refers to the types of connections consumers make with other consumers, companies and specific brands;
CE is viewed as being conducive to enhancement of brand loyalty.
PeopleMetrics
(2010)
Customer engagement includes: (a) retention; (b) effort; (c) advocacy; (d) passion.
ARF (2006): Blair
Engagement behaviourally summarizes the impact of marketing/branding communications activities in the hearts and minds of
consumers in a manner that leads to sales, margin, market share, market value and cash flow.
Campanelli
(2007)
Consumer engagement is emotional connection and empowerment of consumers.
Foley (2006)
Engagement is a multidimensional concept, even a multidimensional process, with the end result defined as consumer connection in
terms of cognitive, behavioral, emotional and aspirational facets.
Ghuneim (2006)
Consumer engagement is a consumer-based measurement that relates to interaction with an aspect of a brand or media property.
Harris (2006)
Consumer engagement is a multidimensional concept: a brand’s ability to connect meaningfully with the consumer.
Haven (2007)
We propose a new metric, engagement that includes four components: involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence”.
Peppers and
Rogers (2005)
Engagement is a series of customized informational and financial transactions that occur over time and increase both the consumer
value to the company and the value of the company to the consumer.
ARF (2006):
Plummer
Engagement occurs as a result of a brand idea/media context experience selected and attended to by a consumer involved in a category
which leaves a positive brand impression.
Sedley (2007)
Consumer engagement is repeated interactions that strengthen a consumer’s emotional, psychological or physical investment in a brand.
Consumer engagement is not a nirvana that can be reached; it is a process of developing and nurturing relationships.
ARF (2006):
Hamill
Engagement is a measure of attention paid by a consumer to a piece of communication. There is a two-way flow of information
resulting in easier measurement.
Heath (2007)
Consumer engagement is a subconscious emotional construct. Level of engagement is the amount of subconscious ‘feeling’ going on
when an advertisement is being processed.
ARF (2006):
Laborie
Consumer engagement is a positive consumer attitude resulting from the communication of (a) a given brand, (b) a given category
(product/service/etc.), which is delivered through (i) a contact /communication channel (e.g. mass media), (ii) via a vehicle, e.g.
magazine, etc. Engagement can turn into action/behavior, e.g. communication and/or purchase.
Shevlin (2007)
Consumer engagement is repeated and satisfying interactions that strengthen the emotional connection a consumer has with a brand (or
product, or company).
Owyang (2007)
Online engagement indicates the level of authentic involvement, intensity, contribution and ownership, summarized by “apparent
interest.” Engagement Formula: Attention + Interaction + Velocity + Authority + Relevant Attributes (variable)
Peterson (2007)
Consumer online engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site, measured against a clearly defined
set of goals. Each organisation’s version of engagement will be unique. It will be derived from a number of root metrics, probably
under a dozen. Common root metrics include frequency, recency, length of visit, purchases and lifetime value.
42
Table 1: Engagement Dimensionality: Unidimensional vs. Multidimensional Views
Engagement
Dimensionality
Social Science & Management
Literatures
Business Practice Literature
Unidimensional
Emotional
Catteeuw et al. (2007)
Roberts and Davenport (2002)
Heath (2007)
Campanelli (2007)
Shevlin (2007b)
Smith & Wallace (2010)
Cognitive
Blumenfeld and Meece (1988)
Guthrie (2001)
Guthrie and Cox (2001)
Customer Engagement Strategies
(2006)
Behavioral
Balsano (2005)
Greenwood (2007
Pomerantz (2006)
Downer et al. (2007)
Resnick (2001)
Saczynski et al. (2006)
Achterberg et al. (2003)
Grudens-Schuck (2000)
McConnell (2006)
Peppers and Rogers (2005)
Peterson (2007)
Ghuneim (2006)
Jasra (2007)
Multidimensional
Cognitive/Emotional
Koyuncu et al. (2006)
London et al. (2007)
Marks (2000)
Marks and Printy (2003)
Passikoff (2006)
Harris (2006)
Emotional/Behavioral
Norris et al. (2003)
Huo et al. (2009)
Shevlin (2007a)
Cognitive/Behavioral
Bejerholm & Eklund (2007)
Kane (2008)
Matthews et al. (2010)
Hu (2010)
Sedley (2006)
ARF (2006)
Harvey (2005)
Haven (2007)
Owyang (2007)
Cognitive/Emotional/
Behavioral
Macey & Schneider (2008)
Appelbaum (2001)
PeopleMetrics (2010)
Author(s)
Concept
Definition
Dimensionality
Patterson et al.
(2006)
Customer
engagement
The level of a customer’s physical, cognitive and emotional presence in their relationship
with a service organisation.
Multidimensional:
Absorption (C),
dedication (E),
vigor/interaction
(B)
Vivek et al.
(2010)
Consumer
engagement
The intensity of an individual’s participation & connection with the organization's
offerings & activities initiated by either the customer or the organization.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B
Mollen and
Wilson (2010)
Online brand
engagement
The customers cognitive and affective commitment to an active relationship with
the brand as personified by the website or other computer-mediated entities
designed to communicate brand value.
Multidimensional:
Sustained
cognitive
processing (C),
instrumental
value (C),
experiential value
(E).
Bowden
(2009a)
Customer
engagement
process
A psychological process that models the underlying mechanisms by which customer
loyalty forms for new customers of a service brand as well as the mechanisms by which
loyalty may be maintained for repeat purchase customers of a service brand.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B*
Van Doorn et
al. (2010)
Customer
engagement
behavior
Customers’ behavioral manifestation towards a brand or firm, beyond purchase, resulting
from motivational drivers such as word-of-mouth activity, recommendations, helping
other customers, blogging, writing reviews.
Unidimensional:
B
Hollebeek
(2010)
Customer brand
engagement
The level of a customer’s motivational, brand-related and context-dependent state of
mind characterized by specific levels of cognitive, emotional and behavioral activity in
brand interactions.
Multidimensional:
C, E. B
Pham and
Avnet (2009)
Engagement
behavior
Finds that engagement “seems to be inferred from a pattern of action or withdrawal with
respect to a target object (p. 116).”
Multidimensional:
C, B*
Higgins and
Scholer
(2009)
Engagement
A state of being involved, occupied, fully absorbed or engrossed in something (i.e.
sustained attention), generating the consequences of a particular attraction or repulsion
force. The more engaged individuals are to approach or repel a target, the more value is
added to or subtracted from it.
Multidimensional:
C, E, B*
Fundamental Proposition
Justification
FP1
CE reflects a state, which occurs by virtue
of interactive customer experiences with a
focal agent/object within specific service
relationships.
The focal agent/object a customer interacts with may be a brand, product, or
organization within a service broader network of customers, stakeholders and other
actors in specific service relationships.
Focal CE behaviors that have a brand- or firm-focus extend beyond
transactions/purchase (Van Doorn et al. 2010).
Two-way interactions generating CE may also occur within a broader network of
customers, stakeholders and other actors in specific service relationships.
FP2
CE states occur within a dynamic, iterative
process of relational exchange that co-
creates value
CE processes may range from short- to long-term; relatively stable to highly-variable
processes typified by CE levels varying in complexity and intensity over time.
CE occurs within specific service relationships comprising networked agents including
customers, organizations and other stakeholders that co-creates value.
FP3
CE exists within a nomological network of
relational exchange. .
Required relational CE antecedents include ‘participation’ and ‘involvement’, which
may also extend to coincide, or occur concurrently, with CE.
Other potential relational antecedents may include ‘flow’ and ‘rapport’.
CE relational consequences may include ‘commitment’, ‘trust’, self-brand
connections’, consumers’ ‘emotional attachment’ to focal brands, and ‘loyalty’.
The iterative (cyclical) nature of the relational exchange process implies that specific
CE relational consequences may extend to act as CE antecedents in subsequent CE
(sub-) processes and/or cycles.
FP4
CE is a multidimensional concept subject
to a context- and/or stakeholder-specific
expression of relevant cognitive,
emotional and behavioral dimensions.
The relative importance of the particular cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral CE
dimensions varies with the specific CE stakeholders involved (i.e. engagement subject,
e.g. customer; engagement object, e.g. brand) and/or the set of situational conditions,
thus generating distinct CE complexity levels.
FP5
CE occurs within a specific set of
situational conditions generating differing
CE levels.
Specific interactions between a customer and a focal agent/object and other actors
within specific focal relationships may generate different levels of cognitive,
emotional and/or behavioral CE intensity, depending on specific CE stakeholder (e.g.
customer, brand) and contextual contingencies driving particular CE levels.
45
Table 4: Customer Engagement Conceptual Relationships
Concept
Definition
Conceptual Relationship to
Customer Engagement
Involvement
An individual’s level of interest and personal relevance in
relation to a focal object/decision in terms of his/her basic
values, goals and self-concept (Zaichkowsky 1994; Mittal
1995).
Antecedent to engagement
required prior to the expression of
a customer’s relevant engagement
level.
Participation
The degree to which customers produce and deliver
service (Bolton and Saxena-Iyer 2009).
Antecedent to engagement
required prior to the expression of
a customer’s relevant engagement
level.
Flow
A state of optimal experience characterized by focused
attention, clear mind, mind & body unison, effortless
concentration, complete control, loss of self-
consciousness, distortion of time & intrinsic enjoyment
(Csikszentmihalyi 1990).
May act as an antecedent of
engagement in specific contexts,
including online environments.
Rapport
Perceived level of harmonious, empathetic or sympathetic
connection to another, which is viewed in some way as
congruent to the self (Brooks 1989); A sense of genuine
interpersonal sensitivity & concern (Ashforth &
Humphrey 1993).
May act as an engagement
antecedent for existing customers
in specific contexts; May also act
as an engagement consequence
for new customers.
(Cumulative)
customer
satisfaction
An overall evaluation based on the total purchase and
consumption experience with a good/service over time
(Johnson & Fornell, 1991).
‘CE behavior’ antecedent (Van
Doorn et al. 2010), i.e. for
experienced &/or existing
customers; By contrast, may act
as a CE consequence for new
customers.
Commitment
Valuing an ongoing relationship with a specific other
party so as to warrant maximum efforts at maintaining it,
i.e. a desire to maintain the relationship (Morgan & Hunt
1994; Moorman et al. 1993).
Engagement consequence of a
potentially positive relationship
with the identification dimension
of engagement (cf. Saks 2006).
Engagement antecedent for
existing customers (Bowden 2009
a/b). Van Doorn et al. (2010), by
contrast, view commitment as a
‘CE behavior’ antecedent
(existing customers).
Trust
Consumer-perceived security/reliability in brand
interactions and the belief that the brand acts in
consumers’ best interests (Delgado-Ballester et al. 2003;
Rotter 1967).
Engagement consequence for new
customers; engagement
antecedent for existing customers,
(Bowden 2009 a/b). Van Doorn et
al. (2010), by contrast, view trust
as a ‘CE behavior’ antecedent
(existing customers).
46
Self-brand
connection
The extent to which individuals have incorporated brands
into their self-concept (Escalas 2004; Escalas & Bettman,
2005).
Potential engagement
consequence, which may develop
based on customers’ specific
interactive brand experiences.
Emotional
brand
attachment
Emotion-laden target-specific bond between a person and
a specific brand (Thomson et al., 2005)
Potential engagement
consequence, which may occur as
the result of a consumer’s
specific, interactive brand
experiences.
Loyalty
Repeated purchases (behavioral loyalty) prompted by a
strong internal disposition (attitudinal loyalty) (Day 1969)
over a given period of time (Guest 1944).
Potential engagement
consequence (Bowden 2009a;
Patterson et al. 2006).
47
Table 5: Customer Engagement (CE) Research Implications Arising from the Five Fundamental Propositions
Fundamental Proposition
Customer Engagement (CE) Research Implications
FP1
CE reflects a state,
which occurs by virtue
of interactive customer
experiences with a focal
agent/object within
specific service
relationships.
How does the nature of specific customer/firm interactive experiences (e.g. online vs. offline) impact
upon resultant CE levels across specific contexts?
How do specific individuals (e.g. firm, customer), and/or situational factors affect and/or interact, to
generate particular context-dependent CE levels?
Are particular customer/firm interactive experiences subject to change, maturation and/or termination
over time, and what are the specific ensuing customer behavior outcomes?
Do specific CE-based interactive experiences within a particular service network transcend and/or
replicate in other (e.g. broader) service networks?
How does CE valence (positive/negative) influence particular customer behavior outcomes?
What are the specific bottom-line, double and triple bottom-line performance outcomes of
interactive, experiential CE levels?
FP2
CE states occur within a
dynamic, iterative process
of relational exchange that
co-creates value.
How are the changing levels of focal CE states’ intensity & complexity throughout relevant CE
processes best conceptualized and modeled?
Which, if any, are the key CE sub-processes occurring within broader CE processes, and what are
their key characteristics?
How are focal CE states aggregated and/or modeled to comprise relevant CE processes?
To what extent does the intensity of CE during vary within specific CE phases and/or processes; and
what are the relevant outcomes/implications of these?
How is value co-created within specific CE states and/or phases, and in which specific CE
state/phase, typically, are optimal co-created value levels observed?
FP3
CE exists within a
nomological network of
relational exchange.
Which particular concepts act as CE antecedents and/or consequences in specific contexts?
How does interactivity drive the role of specific concepts to extend beyond pure antecedent and/or
consequence states, for example by co-existing with CE, within relevant CE processes?
Are the roles of specific relational concepts (e.g. involvement, trust) within the nomological network
stable, or relatively variable?
What are the key triggers and/or inhibitors of such stability and/or variability of CE conceptual
relationships?
FP4
CE is a multidimensional
concept subject to a
context- and/or stakeholder-
specific expression of
relevant cognitive,
What are the key drivers of relevant cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral CE dimensions, and to
what extent may these be generalizable across contexts?
What is the optimal dimensionality of CE for particular CE stakeholders (e.g. customers, brands,
firms) and/or specific contexts?
Which factors are the key drivers of CE complexity across contexts?
48
emotional and behavioral
dimensions.
What, if any, are the universal engagement facets applicable in any CE setting?
FP5
CE occurs within a specific
set of situational conditions
generating differing CE
levels.
Which factors are salient and generalizable in driving CE levels across contexts?
What are the key triggers of particular CE intensity within specific contexts?
What are the key determinants affecting the duration of specific CE states?
Does a CE ‘optimum’ exist, yielding the best possible CE outcomes under particular contextual
conditions?
What levels of CE intensity are most conducive to driving customer loyalty?
How does a customer’s interactive experience with multiple objects concurrently (e.g. CE with
personal sales agent/service brand, or online community/service brand) affect CE intensity within
particular contexts?
Article
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