Consumer Perception of Value: Literature Review and a New Conceptual Framework

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Consumer value is a concept of continuing interest to scholars, marketing researchers, and to many marketing practitioners. However, the presence of multiple meanings, the use of different terms, and even the existence of a diversity of opinions regarding its features and nature reflect the complexity of its study and give rise to the possibility of confusion in its application.

This article presents a review of the existing literature on the concept of value in order to shed light on the confusion surrounding this construct. The analysis highlights the polysemy and the diversity of terms that have been used, along with the different definitions that have been proposed. Convergent and divergent elements are also identified. As a result of this review and analysis, the features that characterize the concept of consumer value are determined and a conceptual framework is proposed as a basis for future research.

INTRODUCTION

Consumer value begins to emerge in the 1990s as an issue of growing interest to business and, in particular, to marketing, at both the academic and practitioner levels. This concept is considered to be one of the most significant factors in the success of an organization and it has been pointed to as an important source of competitive advantage for the firm (Mizik and Jacobson 2003; Spiteri and Dion 2004; Woodruff 1997). Consumer value has been recognized as the fundamental basis in every marketing activity (Holbrook 1994, 1999), and it has been envisioned as a critical strategic weapon in attracting and retaining customers (Lee and Overby 2004; Wang, Lo, Chi, and Yang 2004).

Recognition of the relevance of this concept has generated important research focused on the study of its composition and its relationship with other concepts of interest to marketers such as satisfaction, trust, and loyalty. However, even though there is a significant body of knowledge about the concept of consumer value, this research is rather fragmented. The extent and heterogeneity of the various studies have created a dispersed, sometimes confusing and still-inconclusive base of knowledge about consumer value. As Wang et al. (2004) contend, different points of view about the meaning of value are advocated in the literature, with no widely accepted way of pulling views together. In this same sense, Ulaga (2001, p. 318) regards that "the fundamental question of how to conceptualize value still merits further investigation." Moreover, relevant studies have not yet yielded any unambiguous interpretations of the nature of customer value. Inconsistency pervades the terminology used, confuses the meaning of the concept, and thus its conceptual component parts.

For these reasons, the objective of this article is to develop an integrative framework that clarifies the confusion surrounding this very important concept. Accordingly, we analyze the variety of terms and meanings found in the literature. We also classify and provide in-depth commentary on the conceptual approaches available, and identify a series of common and divergent elements among the various definitions. As a consequence of this review, a conceptual framework on consumer value is outlined, the main characterizing features of this construct are highlighted, and we propose a global definition. Finally, conclusions are drawn and future research directions are discussed.

THE CONCEPTUAL COMPLEXITY OF CONSUMER VALUE

Marketing scholars have recognized a need to agree on a common definition for the concept of consumer value (Lindgreen and Wynstra 2005; Parasuraman and Grewal 2000; Woodruff 1997; Zeithaml 1988). However, such an agreement has not been reached (Ulaga 2001). This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that value is a complex (Lapierre 2000; Ravald and Gronroos 1996; Woodruff and Gardial 1996), polysémie (Kashyap and Bojanic 2000; Zeithaml 1988), subjective (Babin, Darden, and Griffin 1994; Woodruff and Gardial 1996), and dynamic concept (Day and Crask 2000; Van der Haar, Kemp, and Omta 2001). …