Academic journal article Management Dynamics

Relationship Intention as a Predictor of Clothing Retail Customers' Satisfaction, Trust, Commitment and Relationship Quality

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

Relationship Intention as a Predictor of Clothing Retail Customers' Satisfaction, Trust, Commitment and Relationship Quality

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The strategic use of relationship marketing in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, such as retail, has been the focus of intense research interest on the part of both scholars and marketing practitioners (Huang, 2015: 1318; Jones, Reynolds, Arnold, Gabler and Gillison, 2015:188; Halimi, Chavosh and Choshali, 2011: 49). Despite this interest - and in the face of increased competition - retailers are struggling to maintain a competitive advantage and improve customer retention levels (Ou, Shih, Chen and Wang, 2011: 194). Retailers have traditionally competed primarily on the basis of product-centric approaches (such as offering unique merchandise or superior quality); but globalisation has resulted in most retailers gaining access to relatively similar merchandise (Swinker and Hines, 2006: 218; Marzo-Navarro, Pedraja-Iglesias and Rivera-Torres, 2004: 425). This product parity has eradicated a once strongly-held competitive advantage based solely on a product-centric approach. Retailers have thus come to see that a sustainable competitive advantage is rooted in their ability to retain customers, and that this requires a long-term, customer-centric approach (Lin, 2013: 205; Ou et al., 2011: 194). More specifically, retailers are acknowledging the importance of developing strong customer relationships in their pursuit of customer retention (Beneke, Blampied, Cumming and Parkfelt, 2015: 212; De Cannière, De Pelsmacker and Geuens, 2010: 87).

Strong customer relationships offer retailers several advantages, including maximised customer lifetime value and decreased customer acquisition costs (e Hasan, Lings, Neale and Mortimer, 2014: 788; Bojei, Julian, Wel and Ahmed, 2013: 171; Reichheld, 1993: 63). Further, De Wulfand Odekerken-Schröder (2003:106) argue that competitors find it hard to imitate the intangible bonds resulting from strong customer relationships, thus contributing to retailers' competitive advantage. Against the backdrop of these advantages, retailers often measure customers' satisfaction, trust, and commitment, as these constructs are the keystones that distinguish relationships from mere transactions (Garbarino and Johnson, 1999; Morgan and Hunt, 1994). Satisfaction, trust, and commitment are believed to be the three dimensions that form relationship quality, which is considered to be the essence of strong relationships (Agarwal, Singhal and Goel, 2014; Qin, Zhao and Yi, 2009). Relationship quality, in turn, influences customers' decisions to continue with a retailer relationship, especially as it has strong links with customer loyalty and retent ion (Esmaeilpo ur and Alizadeh, 2014: 226; Adjei and Clark, 2010: 73).

While the outcomes of successful relationship marketing are well-established, a precursor of such a relationship is the consent of all the parties involved (Lin, 2013: 205). Thus, organisations might invest heavily in relationship marketing strategies to develop and sustain close customer relationships, only to find that such investments are in vain if customers are indifferent or averse to these endeavours (Mende, Bolton and Bitner, 2013: 125; Godfrey, Seiders and Voss, 2011). So customers' relationship intentions must be determined, because they underlie a stable tendency to maintain long-lasting relationships with an organisation (Adjei and Clark, 2010: 74; Odekerken-Schröder, De Wulf and Schumacher, 2003: 177). Moreover, because people's intentions predict their actual behaviour, it can be argued that customers with relationship intentions are more likely to respond to organisations' relationship marketing strategies (Mende et al., 2013: 129; Raciti et al., 2013: 616; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975: 16). Relationship intentions thus determine customers' conscious intentions initially to participate in organisational relationships, and ultimately to be part of the effectiveness of relationship marketing in B2C markets (Racti, Ward and Dagger, 2013: 616; Kumar, Bohling and Ladda, 2003: 667). …

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