The Income Effect in Personal Shopping Value, Consumer Self-Confidence, and Information Sharing (Word of Mouth Communication) Research

Article excerpt


Theory predicts that income should influence a complex set of relationships involving personal shopping values, consumer self-confidence, and word of mouth communication. Nevertheless, irrespective of income level, findings indicate that social self-confidence mediates the effects of hedonic experiences upon word of mouth communication. Similarly, the direct effects of utilitarian value upon personal self-confidence are also invariant across income groups. Findings involving the effects of personal confidence upon word of mouth communication are inconclusive. However, income does influence the nature of the relationships between hedonic experiences and social self-confidence as well as the significance of the effects involving utilitarian value and social self-confidence. The implications for these findings are discussed from the perspectives of retail management, site location decisions, and the direction of future research efforts.


The marketing discipline's sustained stream of research into the nature of hedonic and utilitarian constructs has produced a significant body of literature that has enhanced knowledge about effective marketing practices. For example, Kozinets et al. (2002) emphasized that retail environments should incorporate hedonic and epistemic (utilitarian) designs (cf. Titus & Everett, 1995) when formulating retail themes. Such recommendations rested on solid empirical grounds. To be more specific, research indicates that the level of the shopping environment's hedonic value contributed significantly to explaining differences in shopper's reactions to mall and store atmospheres (Babin, Darden & Griffin, 1994; Michon, Chebalt & Turley, 2005 ; Wakefield & Baker, 1998). Similarly, findings indicate that utilitarian value is a factor in clarifying the nature of purchasing behavior (Babin & Attaway, 2000; Babin, Darden & Griffin, 1994).

The effects of hedonic and utilitarian experiences upon shopper's responses to marketing activities extend beyond immediate reactions to the shopping milieu. That is, hedonic experiences and utilitarian outcomes have been researched as antecedent variables in word of mouth communication. A significant causal relationship between hedonic atmosphere and patronage intentions included the shopper's willingness to recommend the store to a friend (Grewal, Baker, Levy, & Voss, 2003). Other research (Paridon, 2005a, 2005b) suggests the viability of a model in which utilitarian value directly affects personal outcomes confidence while hedonic value influences social outcomes confidence. However, only social outcomes confidence has been found to mediate the effects of hedonic value upon information sharing.

The aforementioned contributions to the discipline's understanding of interpersonal influence notwithstanding, research suggest the possibility of extending the significance of those initial results involving word of mouth communication. To be more specific, interest in the potential for demographics to moderate findings in the area of consumption and interpersonal influence is not unknown. For example, Holbrook and Hirschman ( 1982) postulated an income effect and an income difference was expected but not confirmed in research on hedonic shopping motivations (Arnold & Reynolds, 2003). Other research has hypothesized and confirmed the interaction effects of hedonic/functional usage, social/personal consumption context, and income upon purchasing behavior (Wakefield & Inman, 2003). Since purchasing behavior frequently precedes word of mouth, this study examines income as a possible moderator in research involving personal shopping value, consumer self-confidence, and word of mouth communication.


Building upon a number of studies about the availability of product information, merchandising practices, and store design, Titus and Everett (1995) proposed the consumer retail search process model. …


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