PurposeA customer’s visit to a retail website is a critical “moment of truth” during which contemporary retailers attempt to simultaneously, during a single web navigation, capture customers’ attention, build rapport, and prompt them to act. By showing how to capture customer commitment over the course of a single website visit, the concept of customer website engagement, defined as “the process of developing cognitive, affective and behavioural commitment to an active relationship with the website”, addresses strategic concerns. Drawing from literature on engagement, the purpose of this paper is to consider how retail websites can engage customers during the course of a website navigation. A conceptual model of website customer engagement underpinned by relationship marketing and communication knowledge, shows how perceptions of the website’s exploration and sense-making potential can activate consumer engagement, and is then empirically tested.Design/methodology/approachUsing survey data, measures of the four dimensions of engagement (interaction engagement, activity engagement, behavioural engagement, and communication engagement) and of three drivers are developed and validated. The model is tested empirically (n=301) using structural equation modelling.FindingsThe results support the process conceptualisation of engagement, which identifies organismic as well as conative stages, and show the distinct roles played by perceptions of informational exploration, experiential exploration and sense-making in activating engagement.Practical implicationsThe study provides online retailing practice with an organising framework enabling online retailing managers to consider how, depending on their product category and their size, they might (re)design their website to optimally produce customer engagement.Originality/valueThe study contributes to online marketing and retailing knowledge by showing the relevance of the concept of engagement as it pertains to customers’ single navigations on retail websites, and by empirically showing, through a parsimonious model, how engagement can be activated and unfold.
international Journal of Retail & Distribution Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 8, 2016
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