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Product Involvement, Customer Satisfaction, and Brand Loyalty: A Path Analytic Approach.
A high degree of involvement is essential to the creation of strong brand commitment. Nevertheless, there is ambiguity in the idea of brand commitment. This arises because of its relationship with the concept of product involvement. Results of a study conducted by Warrington et al. (2002) showed that brand commitment and product involvement are not necessarily related and characterize different concepts. The study was comprised of data produced by four different consumer groups comprising of members who had low to high degrees of product involvement and insubstantial to strong levels of brand commitment. A lack of association between brand commitment and product involvement appeared to be influenced by people's knowledge of the product, the significance of product attributes to them, and the sources of brand information they consulted. This finding was contrary to what had been found in previous studies.
The current research will probe on the relationships among product involvement, satisfaction and brand loyalty. This shall be undertaken using a path analytic approach. The researcher drafted his own framework to establish the linkages among the variables, and intends to validate this through the current research. There are three null hypotheses that shall be tested for the present research, as follows: Ho1: Product involvement is not a significant predictor of customer satisfaction; Ho2: Customer satisfaction is not a significant predictor of brand loyalty; and Ho3: The model culled from Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) is not sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. To put it succinctly, the introductory chapter provides a quick overview of these variables and what they mean, along with a snapshot of the justification of the research, research problem, and methodology utilised in the study
1.2.1. Product Involvement.
Product involvement is a versatile concept which is composed of three elements, namely, familiarity, brand loyalty and nominative importance. Thus, brand commitment itself is perceived to be an integral element of product involvement. On the other hand, recent studies present evidence suggesting that product involvement and brand commitment are two different concepts.
Some forms of involvement have been shown to directly and positively influence purchase and eventually create brand commitment in a positive and direct way. Ego involvement, specifically in the form of product involvement, has featured in such studies but a significant direct relationship between ego involvement and brand loyalty has not been established. Findings maintain that ego involvement (i.e., product involvement), brand loyalty and purchase involvement are concepts unique from each other. There are also other studies that provide empirical indicating that product involvement indirectly affects brand loyalty through brand-decision involvement. Overall, these studies suggest that product involvement and brand loyalty are distinct concepts.
1.2.2. Customer Satisfaction and Product Involvement.
By nature, consumers tend to give higher regard and be more attached to one brand compared to others. Likewise, there are also differences in the level of knowledge a consumer has on various products. This is where product involvement becomes more evident (Kwon, Lee, & Kwon 2008).
Product involvement pertains to the inherent needs, values, interest, and enthusiasm of consumers towards various product categories. It is positively associated with brand perception and preference. This implies that involvement with a product can best explain the consumer's brand choice (Chaudhuri & Holbrook 2001). A high involvement in the product will influence the consumer to engage in more active information search while considering a wide array of alternatives in his decision-making. Consequently, low involvement in a product will make the product differentiation relatively weaker between alternatives. In low-involvement products, a lower price will appear to be a critical product attribute and is more likely to influence decisions (Chaudhuri & Holbrook 2001; Kwon et al 2008).
The involvement of the customer can be viewed in various ways; consequently, an enormous deal of consideration in literature has concentrated on distinguishing the different meanings of the term. Vastly general, involvement has been defined as an internal condition of arousal composed of three key properties: direction, persistence and intensity (Warrington & Shim 2000). Intensity pertains to the degree of motivation or involvement of an individual. Degree of involvement runs along a continuum starting from low to high. It also differs across situations, products and individuals. Despite the fact that clients individually perceive various degrees of involvement for diverse purchase situations and product classes, a number of these are commonly viewed as more engaging than others (Warrington & Shim 2000).
Direction is described as the issue or object upon which a customer is motivated, while persistence pertains to the period of the intensity of involvement. Consumers display different levels of involvement concerning products, marketing communications and/or purchase situations (direction) in comparatively brief to prolonged periods of time (dubbed as persistence) (Warrington & Shim 2000).
Involvement is usually regarded as a function of three components: (a) individual attributes such as needs, values, goals and interests of a person; (b) situational aspects such as the purchase event or the perceived threat linked with the purchase judgment; and the (c) attributes of the stimulus or object such as the kind of communication channel or variations in the product class. Results correlated with strong involvement include more effort and time dedicated to search related activities, greater variation in product characteristics, increased probability of creating brand preference, and extensive decision making (Warrington & Shim 2000).
Involvement towards a product is hypothetically analogous to ego involvement. Ego involvement exists when an object or issue is associated with a peculiar set of values and attitudes which form the self-concept of a person. Likewise, involvement with a product exists when a merchandise category is associated with an individual's centrally maintained self-concept and values. Product involvement can be classified as being either enduring or situational. An intense, comparatively short-term level of interest in merchandise is regarded as situational involvement, whereas an individual's continuing interest in a merchandise category is pertained to as enduring involvement (Salvador, Caplliure, & Aldas-Manzano 2002).
Theoretically, the difference between situational involvement and enduring involvement is specificity. Each type of involvement connects to the client's feelings of self-association or relevance towards a product (Warrington & Shim 2000). Situational involvement is related to utilisation of merchandise in a particular situation, while enduring involvement is founded on the association of the merchandise to the client's essentially held values across all purchases. For the purposes of this research, product involvement is operationalised as the perceived significance of a product category according to the client's intrinsic interests, values and needs (Warrington & Shim 2000).
1.2.3. Brand Loyalty.
A customer's choice to purchase a particular brand in a merchandise category is known as brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is manifested among customers because they feel that at a given price level, the brand provides the right product attributes, level of quality, or image that address his needs. This perception eventually turns out to be the foundation for contemporary buying habits (Giddens 2002). Customers will initially make a test purchase of the brand. If the brand ‘passes' the customer's test purchase, the approval will allow the development of purchase habits such that the customer will continue buying the same label after perceived familiarity and safety have been achieved (Giddens 2002).
Considered as one of the most significant factors on customer brand choice, brand loyalty has elicited enormous attention among academics, marketing field practitioners, as well as consumers. Companies with a huge base of loyal clients have equally enormous market shares. This fact is crucial since market share has been revealed to be related with higher rates of investment return. Moreover, brand loyalty is supported by positive word of mouth and higher resistance among loyal clients to competitor programmes. Apparently, such findings influence marketers in creating and maintaining loyalty to a brand among customers. When pursuing such a purpose, information on the variables that determine brand loyalty among clients becomes essential (Jensen & Hansen 2006). Once the customer becomes a brand loyalist, he will develop a particular mindset characterised by devotion to the brand and openness to spending more for this brand over others. Brand loyalists are also likely to endorse the brand to others (Giddens 2002).
Moreover, brand equity is a key lever of productivity and profitability since it signifies the value of the label or product brand in the marketplace, in the form of augmented features or a more cost efficient price. Product brands possessing sound brand equity can capture and keep market share, command premium prices, attract investors, fend off new entrants as well as back up new line extensions (Quarles 2008). Sound brand equity will render an advantage to competition. An illustration is the case of an international corporation cited by Quarles (2008), which had troubles understanding why an American rival continues to beat them in sales despite their superior technology and successful sales presentation. The study later revealed that the brand equity of the mentioned American firm was solid in the United States and the only means for the international company to acquire a major position is to pay for or buy the American firm, which the international company did (Kwon et al 2008).
Brand equity is founded on a hierarchy of brand advantages or assets which include brand image, feeling of familiarity, desire for investment and/or purchase, customer loyalty, and awareness. Several market dealers muddle up brand equity along with brand image; however, there is a significant disparity: while brand equity directly contributes to the bottomline, brand image is an advantage to the bottomline only to the degree that it facilitates brand equity building (Quarles 2008).
1.3. Justification of the Research.
The findings of the study will provide additional literature about the linkages of product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty, using a path analytic approach. Using questionnaires documentary analysis as tools, it will provide a mixed methods view on the subject. It is expected that the researcher will be able to recommend substantial managerial implications. In turn, the model that shall be confirmed in the research may be able to help predict consumer behaviour; and ultimately recommend means for a company to elicit product involvement. It will also provide an additional resource for students, faculty, and fellow researchers who may be interested in a similar subject matter.
1.4. Research Problem and Hypotheses.
The following are the testable questions for this study:
1. Is product involvement a significant predictor of customer satisfaction?
2. Is customer satisfaction a significant predictor of brand loyalty?
3. Is the hybrid model of Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty?
Ho1: Product involvement is not a significant predictor of customer satisfaction.
Ho2: Customer satisfaction is not a significant predictor of brand loyalty.
Ho3: The model culled from Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) is not sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
The study will use a mixed methods approach. The research design is descriptive-correlation. It shall be undertaken through a review of related literature using secondary sources, and a survey questionnaire from which primary empirical data may be culled. Approaches that may be used in similar studies include qualitative, quantitative and the mixed methods. The qualitative approach is used to understand human behaviour and the rationale behind these behaviours, while the quantitative approach entails a numerical examination of variables which may be manipulated. The former method entails a heavier burden of proof. The mixed method approach makes use of both qualitative and quantitative data, which shall be adopted in the current research.
Secondary research from pre-existing sources will be used in the paper, and analysed through documentary analysis. Data will be collected from earlier studies, magazines, journals, newspapers, and official statistics. Church (2002) noted that analysis of secondary data requires retrieval of information from both secondary and original sources. Secondary data analysis will be used in this study to evaluate the data gathered, helping establish the groundwork for the research.
Brand loyalty itself is perceived to be an integral element of product involvement. This research will employ both qualitative and quantitative approaches to answer the aforementioned testable questions about product involvement, satisfaction, and brand loyalty. The qualitative data will be derived from the review of related literature using secondary sources; on the other hand, primary empirical data for the quantitative research will come from a survey questionnaire. Ultimately, it seeks to affirm the significance of product involvement in harnessing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
2.0. Review of Related Literature.
The review of related literature shall begin with theories on consumer behaviour and decision making. Then, it shall proceed with a discussion on other factors that affect consumers' decision making process. This discusses the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) which explicates how a customer leads to a specific purchasing behaviour. Iwasaki and Havitz' (1998) conceptual model of the relationships between involvement, psychological commitment, and behavioural loyalty is also presented, suggesting that there are two general factors which serve as antecedents of involvement. These are individual characteristics and social-situational influences. Literature on product involvement shall be presented, followed by a detailed presentation of customer satisfaction; customer satisfaction and value proposition; and customer satisfaction and perceived value. Brand loyalty shall then be defined; and a differentiation between habitual and attitudinal loyalty shall be made. The importance of brand loyalty shall also be discussed, as well as its relationship with consumer attitudes. Affective branding; brand trust; enhancing brand loyalty; and retaining loyal customers are the other topics that shall be presented towards the end of the chapter. All these meaningfully provide a backdrop for the hypotheses of the study and the variables of interest.
2.2. Theories on Consumer Behaviour.
2.2.1. The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA).
The theory of reasoned action explicates how a customer leads to a specific purchasing behaviour. The philosophy of reasoned action asserts that attitudes concerning buying and subjective norms are the precursors of behaviour. The two precursors (subjective norm and attitude) affect buying behaviour additively (Ha 1998).
There are a couple of significant suggestions underlying the framework of reasoned action. Initially, to picture buying behaviour, it is essential to assess the attitude of a person regarding the manifestation of that behaviour, not only the common attitudes concerning the product around which the buying behaviour is centred on. To illustrate, even if a person's attitude concerning jewelry is positive, the individual may never purchase the jewelry. Next, in congruence to the attitudes regarding the behaviour, TRA involves a second indicator of overt behaviour: the one that is known to be subjective norm (SN). SN is assesses the social factors which influence a person's behaviour (i.e., family members' expectations) (Ha 1998).
Brand loyalty will need to be expounded through a definition of cognitive actions beyond behavioural facets; for instance repeat purchases (if it needs to be managed). Prior researches on brand loyalty have mainly concentrated on the assessment of brand loyalty through looking into repeat purchases of a brand. Cognitive facets of loyalty to a brand make it feasible to envisage what buying behaviour would be assumed by a specific cognitive response. To illustrate, an unlikely attitude concerning a specific brand would lead to switching behaviours. Up to present, there have been hardly any researches of how various precursors of behavioural loyalty to a brand are interconnected. If the antecedents are understood to assess and foresee brand loyalty, the relationships will be more established and accurate over time (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004; Ha 1998).
Conceptual frameworks or models are used to guide research studies (Brathwaithe, 2003). According to Burns and Groves (2001), theories are connected to conceptual models and frameworks. In which case, conceptual models are more abstract compared to theories and the latter can be derived from models. It is further emphasized that theories are important in any study as these guide the development of the research and how its implications may be practically employed; likewise, it attempts to explain or describe the functionality of the framework and help identify the factors which are likely to inhibit or facilitate the efficacy of the intervention.
The conceptual model developed by Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) regarding the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty; as well as the conceptual model developed by Musa (2005) regarding satisfaction, attitudinal loyalty, behavioural loyalty chain and the moderating effect of trust; will be presented as conceptual models. This shall be followed by the presentation of the path analytic model that is put forth by the current research.
It has been affirmed that individuals go through psychological processes towards becoming loyal consumers. For consumers to become loyal customers, it is gauged that high level of product involvement, the development of psychological commitment to a brand and maintenance of strong attitudes toward resistance to preference of a brand are essential. Moreover, in finding a relationship between product involvement and customer brand loyalty, essential constructs must be considered particularly those involved with product involvement, brand loyalty and customer loyalty. The conceptual model of Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) may provide a deeper understanding on product involvement and its influencing factors and the derivation of behavioural loyalty from such involvement.
In reference to the conceptual model illustrated, there are two general factors which serve as antecedents of involvement. These are individual characteristics and social-situational influences. Relating to the current study, product involvement of customers is dependent on the degree of level of influence of individual characteristics and social-situational moderators. Likewise, psychological commitment to a preference is also significant as it encompasses the individual's tendency or resistance to change. In this regard, psychological commitment and resistance to change are antecedents of behavioural loyalty. In relation to our study, customer brand loyalty ought to be influenced by the strength of preference of the individual toward the product or brand as a result of the perceived value of the product that can be affected by both individual characteristics and social factors. Thus, it is perceived that product involvement is associated with the development of customer loyalty.
It is also important to gauge the satisfaction or perceived value of the customers in terms of the performance of sellers and their products. Through customer overall satisfaction, customer loyalty to the brand is also achieved. Loyalty behaviour encompasses the recommendation of the product to others, repurchasing, and price tolerance. In so doing, trust is also emphasized as a moderator of overall satisfaction, as characterised by attitudinal loyalty and behavioural loyalty.
The illustration presents the conceptual framework made by Musa (2005) which portrays a clear understanding of the relationships between overall satisfaction and loyalty of customers (attitudinal and behavioural). As such, this model also is a good fit for the study as it will help the researcher formulate theories congruent to the concepts provided by Musa (2005).
Both conceptual models are likewise relevant to the research. Through these frameworks, a clear understanding is gained about the concepts of loyalty and product involvement as well as the different factors which are involved in these respective constructs. In this regard, the study is equipped with a base or foundation for theory development subject for investigation.
2.3. Other Factors that Affect Consumers' Decision Making Process.
A universal perception maintains that holding more choices is better for the consumer and they are more likely to go to stores which present them with various, numerous options. However, contemporary research suggests that when people hardly identify which product option is favourable, they are more likely to walk out the store without a purchase. When choices are alike or the choices can be hardly compared or weighed against each other, customers will more probably get off the store without deciding on any option (Wiley-Blackwell 2009). This may be due to the insufficient time to get the essential information for landing on an option. Most people favour fewer choices than more alternatives. A notable observation of Wiley-Blackwell (2009) is that the ascent of the internet boosted the range of options that consumers have, assuming that the increase would present advantages in the consumer's process of choosing a product. Such advantage is not always applicable.
Although number of product choices rarely leads to a purchase, the customer's tendency to vary his purchases has managerial implications for brand managers, especially with respect to marketing frequently purchased consumer goods. Customers with a high comparative attitude are less likely to engage in variety-seeking; more defiant to out of stock conditions as well as competitor offers; and are consequently will more probably be devoted to their customary brand (Jensen & Hansen 2006). Hence, it is still likely for market dealers to establish loyal consumers through creation of positive attitudes concerning their products.
The assessment of comparative attitudes as well as perceived differences in brand puts forward two ways for marketers to improve their brand. First, marketers should try to elevate the purchase involvement of consumers, for instance attempting to associate the consumption condition to the value system of the consumer (Baker, 2003). Next, marketers should openly distinguish their own product brand from rival alternatives by informing the consumer how and why their brand is more beneficial than alternative brands. Within particular product classifications (e.g. food products) customers are more open to finding variations in their buys. In view of the fact that the tendency of consumers to seek variety causes them to be more attentive to offers from rival brands, it is essential for marketers to diversify their product lines (for example tea products with several different flavours), allowing customers to vary their buying experiences without having to change brands (Givon, 1984; Jensen & Hansen 2006).
When examining variety-seeking behaviour of consumers, it is essential to tell between the behaviour of “true” variety- seeking and extrinsically influenced brand switching. Brand switching behaviour should only be considered as true variety-seeking in the event that variation is focused at for its own fundamental value. Customers' need for sensory stimulation through exploration of new product alternatives is an instance of true variety seeking. Variety seeking is more probable when there is lower involvement; when lesser brand disparities are recognised among choice substitutes; and when brand preferences of consumers are weaker (Givon, 1984; Jensen & Hansen 2006).
Likewise, there is extrinsically stimulated or derived brand shifting behaviours rooted on situational concerns. This may be in the form of recommendation by friends or competitors selling their brand. Brand switches resulting from external factors are more likely to happen in situations of low purchasing involvement and where differences among brands are just little. Likewise, the perceived danger of buying another brand than the customary one (for instance, high relative attitude) lessens the probability of brand switching. Customers with a resilient attitude will more likely prevail over countervailing social customs and/or situational manipulations. Intuitive customers who are intrinsically influenced when switching brands will more vigorously be in search for other brands and consequently pay more consideration to offers from rival brands. Additionally, they are more likely to give up their customary brand in the event of stock outs. The tendency for variety-seeking seems to influence consumers' response in out of stock situations (Jensen & Hansen 2006).
Many market dealers are switching advertisement expenses from advertising to promotion of sales, as well as reduction on shelf-space and in-store displays. The maxim behind this is that even if advertising establishes brand loyalty, sales promotion leads to brand switching. This axiom emanates from a general belief that when customers experience lesser differentiation between options, they turn out to be more price-sensitive and therefore more susceptible to brands on sale (Jensen & Hansen 2006).
2.4. Product Involvement
Product involvement refers to personal importance of the object based on innate needs, interests, and values. According to the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), a vital factor that affects persuasion is whether an individual is motivated to expound on, or think about a very persuasive message. Involvement is a determinant of expounding on motivations. If a message is unimportant to a person, then he/she is not motivated to give a great amount of attention to it. Product involvement affects how consumers decide on purchases, consumer attitudes, preference of brands, and perceptions (Due 2008).
Product involvement requires an ongoing commitment of the consumer with regard to feelings, thoughts, and behavioural responses to a product category. It is independent of situational influences. A product can be interesting for consumers with high product involvement. This can occupy a consumer's thoughts without the stimulus of an immediate purchase (Ismail et al 2006). Liang & Wang's (2008) study reveals that relationship duration has a positive impact on loyalty behaviours of consumers while product involvement has a positive impact on relationship outcomes. Therefore, employees and managers of retail companies need to be trained, motivated, and rewarded for making efforts to breed long-term relationships with regular consumers.
Moreover, product involvement reflects the importance of a certain product to a person's life, his identity, and his relationship with the world. In making purchase decisions, highly involved consumers search for more information and make more comparisons against other brands to be sure of product quality and value. Consumers who have low product involvement rely more on relevant cues to make product inferences (Nkwocha, Bao, Johnson, & Brotspies 2005). Product involvement is seen as having moderate impact on switching. A study by Shukla (2004) stressed that marketers need to constantly watch usage patterns to understand the relationship between products and the satisfaction derived from them. A prolonged observation is also needed to understand how customers involve themselves with the product, to minimise brand switching behaviour among their consumers (Shukla 2004). Since confidence moderates the attitude-behaviour relationship, if consumers are not confident towards a specific brand because they are less familiar with it, its impact might be weak on purchase intentions when there is low involvement (Nesse 2004).
Various studies have sought to connect product involvement or purchase decision involvement with brand commitment. There are forms of involvement that have direct and positive influence on the purchase decision, and eventually, if the habit is established, create brand commitment. Ego involvement (i.e., product involvement), brand commitment and purchase involvement are concepts singular from each other. Continuing involvement represents a continuous concern with the purchase. This was suggested as being related to brand choices of consumers. Better value brands are chosen by uninvolved consumers than involved ones (Bei & Widdows 1999).
There are previous studies that also suggest that product involvement influences the extent of the decision-making process, interest in advertising, brand commitment, and frequency of product usage. Individuals which are highly involved, in relation to decision making, are expected to use more criteria in choosing, in searching for information on a wide range of products, accept fewer alternatives, and process information which are relevant in greater detail. (Quester 1996).
Furthermore, store brands of those products which have low involvement would be more acceptable to consumers especially with low prices; with little difference among alternatives; where risk is low; which involves little innovation; and are generally bought frequently. Moreover, consumers are less likely to accept brands which have high involvement (Miguel 2002).
As a motivational state of arousal and interest, involvement is induced by different external factors (e.g. the communication; situation; the product) and internal factors (e.g. central values; ego). When the service or product is seen as an important factor in attaining one's goals, values and needs, then the consumer will be involved. The construct of involvement is based on a hierarchy with certain interests, issues or activities that lead to people's involvement with the service or product (Kim, 2005).
Regardless of the consumer's value consciousness level, the influence of product involvement and switching cost appear to be consistent based on the insignificant interaction effects with value consciousness. It is important to note that highly value-conscious consumers are influenced by product characteristics as much as low value conscious consumers are. This remains true despite the fact that highly value-conscious consumers are generally believed to be the typical buyers of private brand products (Kwon et al 2008). Across the continuum of value consciousness, product characteristics, which involve product involvement and switching cost, affirms the robust effect of value consciousness. This implies that the identification of low involvement and low switching cost product categories is no longer just for increasing the general acceptance of private label products; it is also important in appealing to value-conscious target segments. Therefore, retailers ought to seriously consider investigating consumer perceptions of product involvement and switching costs in order to pick the right products for their private brands (Kwon et al 2008).
It is also important to note that the country of origin (COO) information influences consumers' decision-making. COO image works best for consumers when they are encountering a product they are not yet familiar with. Consumers use COO as an evidence and gauge of product performance when the latter is uncertain. This is prevalent when there is little information about the product. Among its uses, COO image could also serve as a summary cue that may be used by consumers to sum up their evaluations on products they are already familiar with (Lin et al 2006). Consumers utilise COO as a substitute for the product performance, taking in reference those products that they have already encountered before. Another concept is product familiarity. Product familiarity refers to the manner in which a consumer is acquainted with a given product category. Here the consumer is able to find a benchmark where the old product can be compared with (Lin et al 2006).
2.5. Customer Satisfaction.
2.5.1. Customer Satisfaction and Value Proposition.
The present condition of the global economy poses the challenging task of finding opportunities since it compels consumers to spend less and more wisely. Although reduced consumer spending is not a cause for optimism for the retailer, the pattern toward customers seeking added value in what they purchase could offer a perfect chance to intensify the advertisement of private branded products (Weidauer 2009). At present, consumers are becoming aware of private brand offerings for several motivations. The first among them is price. Private label products are presently viewed as a value option over more expensive trade names and not regarded as generic varieties anymore. Thus, it is but necessary to recognise the roles and inputs of store trade names in the continuing business strategy. Providing clients engaging merchandise which they cannot find in other shops encourages loyalty and steers higher margins - which are optimistic goals for traders (Weidauer 2009).
Customer perceived value can better predict customer behaviour or market outcomes than customer satisfaction. Value, which can be summed up as the benefits received from the brand minus the cost to get the benefits, is what drives loyalty. Benefits have two components: tangible, delivered by the product or service itself; and intangible, delivered by the brand name-its equity (Marney 2001). Value for money, followed by technical sophistication, escape, sentimentality, service, stylishness and general acceptance are top elements that contribute to a high-quality brand image. Price, in relation to perceived brand quality, remains one of the important purchase criteria; and consumers still say that they respond to brands which show a positive image and build a relationship (Garbarino & Johnson 1999; Bitner and Hubbert, 1994).
2.5.2. Customer Satisfaction and Perceived Value.
Customer-recognised value is very important and companies must pay great attention to it. In fact, it has turned out to be a main interest in marketing (Lin et al 2005).With the purpose of elucidating the various points of view concerning the worth perceived by the consumer, as well as analysing the familiar points of the description provided in the literature, two significant features of consumer value are examined. First, it is intrinsic to the utilisation of the merchandise, which distinguishes it from organisational or personal values. Second, it is regarded by consumers, and cannot be resolved impartially by the seller. The consumer is able to distinguish whether or not a merchandise or service presents value. On a general degree, perceived value is described as a conclusion or a valuation by the consumer of the association between the utility obtained or benefits from a product, relationship or service, as well as the perceived costs or sacrifices that go with it (Zeithaml, 1988).
Perceived value is defined by two dimensions, one is composed of the sacrifices taken (effort, convenience, time, price, and risk) and the other of benefits received (relational, economic, and social) (Buzell and Gale, 1987). The primary driver of a benefit is making an offer which allows the consumers to perceive a value higher than competition, hence attaining a viable advantage in that market (Roig et al 2006).
A study by Lapierre (2000) outlined thirteen (13) value-laden drivers chosen according to an in-depth examination of interviews and a thorough review of pertinent literature. The thirteen (13) drivers may either be relationship, service and product related. Among these, ten (10) value-laden drivers are recognised as benefits. These involve complementary solutions, product customisation and product quality (each of which is related to product). One other category is related to service, and includes flexibility, reliability, responsiveness and technical competence. Whereas the rest are relationship related, covering trust, supplier solidarity and supplier's image to customers. Three (3) value-laden drivers are determined as sacrifices, namely time/effort/energy, conflict relationship and price related drivers.
2.6. Defining Brand Loyalty.
A brand is seen as a trademark or a distinguishing name of a merchandise or manufacturer. It is a term, name, sign, design symbol, or any combination employed to recognise the products and services of a merchandiser. A brand identity carries out many main functions. It distinguishes the merchandise or service and allows the consumer to identify, refuse or endorse a product or service. It communicates information to the customer (Palumbo & Herbig 2000). Information supplied could involve statements concerning the wealth, lifestyle, or modernity of its users. It serves as a piece of lawful property in which the proprietor can invest and by way of law is protected against rival trespass. Brand names bear the image of the merchandise; “brand'' pertains to a term, name, sign, symbol or design employed by a company to distinguish its dealings from those of its rivals, to associate a product with a specific seller. Branding totes up value to goods and services (Dodds et al, 1991). This value takes place from the experience acquired from using the brand: reliability, familiarity, and decreased risk (Palumbo & Herbig 2000).
The importance of brand cannot be understated (Herbig and Milewicz, 1997). A closer look at the retailing industry could help elaborate. Retailing is comprised of brands and branding. 26% of customer loyalty and business profitability comes from the kind of merchandise sold. Nowadays, with a single click of a mouse through the internet, people can shop for anything they need on a daily basis. It now emphasizes the need for merchandise that attracts customers and communicates what the store is all about. Real presentation of a brand needs a name which customers can easily associate with and show what the store sells (Gifts and Tablewares 2006).
A customer's behaviour towards a specific brand, product or service can be described as behavioural brand loyalty, especially when the behaviour being mentioned has to do with repeat purchases. A pattern of repeat purchases can be determined as the frequency of actual purpose, the proportion of occasions in which a particular brand is bought in comparison to the total number of purchased brands and/or the actual amount or volume of purchase. Researchers who have focused on studying about brand loyalty have used such a behavioural approach by measuring the behavioural variables that predict the consumer's purchasing behaviour in the future (Ehrenberg, 1991). Despite the fact that the consumer's behaviour can be predicted, measuring behavioural brand loyalty alone has some disadvantages. This is because such a behaviour approach does not pay attention to the consumer's decision making processes, which, in turn does not differentiate brand loyalty from simple repeat purchasing behaviour. Thus, none of the operational definitions in behavioural brand loyalty research studies can show an understanding of the factors that result in brand loyal purchasing (Dick & Basu, 1994). Of course, other problems are caused as a result. These are, 1) the provision of arbitrary cutoff criteria, 2) the failure to assess the complexity of the brand loyalty concept, 3) emphasizing on the behavioural outcomes and not paying attention to the definitions that ‘reach at the underlying causative factors' (Jacoby & Chestnut, 1978).
According to Ajzen & Fishbein (1980), customers carefully think about the consequences of their alternative behaviors and they choose the one that lead to the most desirable outcomes. This thinking process can also be identified as the decision making process. The result of making choices with reason reveals an intention to actually exhibit a certain kind of behavior towards a specific brand. Apparently, the attitude of a person towards a brand is something that affects his/her behavior towards the same brand. According to Peter & Olson (1993), negative attitudes have lead many consumers to switch to another brand altogether, therefore implying that changes in attitudes are considered as a predicting factor to whether a consumer is loyal to a brand or will switch to another brand.
Oliver (1997) feels that the concept of brand loyalty is a process that is made up of three phases. These are 1) the cognitive phase, 2) the affect phase and 3) conative components of attitudinal brand loyalty. These three phases are consistent with the attitudes of a person. The first phase, cognition, is one that refers to the thoughts people have with regards to a certain product/ service. Such thoughts can be influenced by one's beliefs and values. Affect, on the other hand refers to the moods, the feelings and the emotions that are felt by a person. Affect can be measured through the collection of verbal reports or by physiological responses. Affective responses can also be negative or positive, and sometimes, both. When a person evaluates an attitude object in a positive light, he/she are more likely to experience a positive affective reaction with regards to a brand. The opposite is also true. The individual is also likely to evaluate a brand negatively and will in turn, also exhibit a negative reaction. The co-native components can also be described as the behavioral intention exhibited. It is one that consists of emotions such as liking and caring.
2.6.1. Habitual and Attitudinal Loyalty.
To create and maintain customer loyalty is a huge challenge faced by marketing-savvy companies today. Loyalty is still a baseline issue as research reveals that it takes five to seven times as much money and time to replace a customer as to make one stay (Marney 2001).
Customers' loyalty is also defined as a behaviour manifested in repeat purchases of the same brand in a category, compared to the number of total purchases within that category (Brody and Cunningham, 1968). It is based on motivation when buying, which leads to four types of loyalty: attitudinal loyalty which is absolute dedication to the brand (Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996; Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978); performance loyalty wherein the brand has some valued performance attribute no other brand can match; convenience loyalty in which it is convenient to buy the same brand compared to others; and the lack-of-choice loyalty where the customer has no other choice (Marney 2001).
There are marketers who link customer loyalty with customer satisfaction. One can have highly satisfied customers who are also disloyal at the same time. Loyal customers are not driven by price and they do not change when a competitor's price becomes lower. Repeat-purchase behaviour and true loyalty must be always distinguished by a marketer (Marney 2001).
Julia (2001) reiterates that even though a firm has many loyal customers, they still need to have people that believe in the brand. These are not only steady shoppers but rather those that have a great similarity with the business. Believing does not really equate to buying. There are four key types of customers which include believers—those with a mindset that they have bought a brand from the company. There are also people who can be persuaded to believe. The third type consists of those who do not believe. The last types are the ones who have no choice but to be loyal to a brand (Julia 2001).
2.6.2. The Importance of Brand Loyalty.
There exist three major reasons why loyalty to brand is essential. Foremost is the larger volume of sales. An average company in United States drops the number of its clients to half every five years, summing to a 13% loss of clients yearly. This statistic illustrates the challenges firms face while attempting to thrive in competitive settings. Attaining even 1% increment annually necessitates growing sales to clients, both new and existing, by 14%. Decreasing client loss can significantly improve brand loyalty. In effect, it will increase business growth, which also means higher sales given that the same brand is bought repeatedly (Giddens 2002).
Next is the premium charging or pricing ability. Literature reveals that as loyalty to brand increases, clients become less perceptive of price adjustments. In general, clients are willing to spend more for their brand of choice for the reason that they recognise some exceptional value in the brand which other options do not offer (Reichheld, 1996; Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978). In addition, brand loyalists purchase less often on cents-off deals - promotions like these only subsidize those purchases which are planned (Giddens 2002). Lastly is the philosophy of ‘retain instead of seek'. Brand loyalists are eager to look for their preferred brand and are not as much sensitive to competitive advertisements or promotions. The effect is less spending for marketing, distribution and advertising. Particularly, it amounts as much as four to six times to draw in a new client as it does to keep hold of an old one (Giddens 2002; Shukla 2004).
Very crucial in financial markets are consumer's perception. To illustrate, clients regard insurance firms to be better compared to banks in terms of customer advocacy as stated by Forrester Research's fifth customer advocacy scorecard. This research is held annually in concurrence with Forrester's Financial Services Forum in 2008. Among the 25 top-ranking institutions in the research, 14 are insurance movers, one is an independent financial advisor and the other is an independent insurance agent. USAA has stayed number one for four consecutive years; in addition to the top ten are Allstate, State Farm and AAA (closely next are American Family Insurance, Travelers, Safeco, Nationwide and Farmers Insurance) (Burger 2008).
The standings illustrate that there is a general decline in the client's assessments of their financial institutions. This is parallel to their view that a financial provider offers what is preeminent for the clients, not only his personal bottom line. Perception or acuity is the key idea here for the reason that banking credit predicaments have damaged banks' images before the public (Burger 2008). There exists a gap between what the client perceives and what is actually delivered (Sweeney, 1994). For the major part, financial establishments do not devote sufficient time on contemplating how customers perceive them. Strong appearance of Personal lines P&C firms in Forrester ranking demonstrates the reality that this division has ventured in enhancing the experience that the customer perceives and the experience that they deliver (Burger 2008).
Likewise, the insurance industry has been fortunate that the previous two years were comparatively stable as caused by various catastrophes. However, these floods, fires and spring storms will shine a brilliant limelight towards how carriers transact with their policy holders. Insurers have evaded a couple of projectiles - eluding the rage of both the subprime mortgage chaos and Mother Nature (Burger 2008).
In a research facilitated by Advertising Age circulated in 1983, twenty five (25) firms with outstanding brand status in 1923 continued to be formidable as the top or number two spot holder in their respective industries for the past six decades (Phillips 2006). Moreover, if both the external and internal brand components (which comprise brand acceptance and loyalty) will be considered, from 1983 to 2006, Sherwin-Williams continued to be the foremost trade name in architectural paints in the United States at present. Coca-Cola Softdrinks, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Gillette Razors and Hershey's Chocolates have all continued to be on top or the second among the brands within their respective industries as well. However, among the 25 corporations examined in 1983, only these aforementioned firms thrived as the top or second trade names all the way through 2006. The rest of the 20 companies have tripped in the said period. Eastman Kodak Cameras, Goodyear Tires, Manhattan Shirts, Eveready Flashlight Batteries, Singer Sewing Machines, and the remaining others have slipped to a standing of three or below (Phillips 2006).
When it comes to marketing, brand familiarity plays a very important role. In the advertising sector for instance, popular brands are easily noticed. They also have the easiest recall and consumers are more likely to prefer seeing familiar brands on media mediums such as television, magazines, newspapers and the like, as compared to unfamiliar brands (Dawar & Lei, 2008). Thus, it is crucial for marketers to really study brand loyalty since the perceptions of their consumers matter when it comes to encouraging further patronage. The intense pressures on the economy have also meant that companies are obliged to make sure that they are able to gain returns on their investments. Instead of simply focusing on appropriate and efficient marketing strategies, it is even more important to actually change the behaviour of consumers. It has been found out that the most popular brands are those that are able to acquire a certain sense of universal awareness towards its consumers. One of the reasons why it is easier for companies to gain brand loyalty and change consumer perception is because the changes in technology allow these companies to do so. However, gaining worldwide recognition is not easy. At the very least, even gaining nationwide recognition is quite a challenge as well. Companies have to constantly make sure that the brands are able to go against the pressures of the economic cycle and the changing tastes of the market (Bowie, 2002).
2.6.3. Brand Loyalty and Customer Attitudes.
Researchers have focused on social psychological study of the relationship between attitudes and behaviours, in order to outline the procedures by which attitudes of the consumers are transformed to behaviour. A number of scholars have looked at the facets of the consumer, while others have concentrated on the influence of the social aspect, including reference groups, on the choice of the consumer. Other researchers have centred on implicit and explicit preferences of consumers and how these choices interrelate with consumer preference. Meanwhile, some researches focused on the comparative effect of cognitive against affective aspects on the preferences of consumers. Ultimately, scholars have studied the foremost frameworks of the attitude-behaviour association to elucidate on consumer behaviour. One such framework is the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). TPB is used as a facility to predict both self-reported behaviour and behavioural intentions in connection with consumption. It is among the well-supported, influential theories that are used in studying human behaviour in social psychology (Ha 1998; Smith et al 2008).
The fundamental principle of TPB is that behavioural judgments are not made on one's own accord alone; instead it is the result of a logical procedure wherein behaviour is induced, although indirectly, by norms, attitudes, and perceptions of power over the behaviour. The framework suggests that attitude (i.e., the assessment of the intended behaviour), subjective customs (i.e., recognised social pressure pertaining behaviour performance), and the PBC or perceived behavioural control (i.e., perceived power over behaviour performance) affect behaviour predominantly by their bearing on behavioural intention. For this reason, intention is perceived as the proximal indicator of behaviour. PBC is believed to project both explicit impact on behaviour and implicit effect by means of intention (Smith et al 2008).
Over twenty years of study by means of planned behaviour and reasoned action theories have supplied massive prop up for the frameworks. In addition, the prognostic capacity of these frameworks has been illustrated across a span of consumer domains, as well as food preferences, goals to buy environmentally affable products and sumptuous items such as mobile phones and watches, intents to acquire celebrity goods, intentions to be involved in consumer discontent responses, purposes to utilise e-coupons, and even plans to shoplift. Marketing psychologists have listed down TPB as a remarkably useful model not only for comprehending conduct of consumers but also for influencing it (Shukla 2004; Smith et al 2008).
When a consumer is highly involved with the purchase and there exist significant differences between brands, complex buying behaviour occurs. Such behaviour can be described to be complex when there are higher risks involved, characterized by significant financial commitments. Another characteristic of a high involvement purchase and complex buying behaviour is when the large differences among brands or products require the buyer to know a significant deal of information regarding the product to be purchased (Silverstein & Fiske, 2001). The consumers' low and high involvement purchase decisions often consist of uncertainty. For instance, when a person decides to purchase a television set, he/she would be concerned about the size of the television set to be bought, the durability of the hardware, long term pricing and the like. In such situations, the consumer will inevitably have positive or negative emotions, and these emotions play a very important role in the decision making process, according to Cubitt & Sugden (2001). How a consumer perceives a brand to be depends highly on the consumer's association with the brand, in addition to his/her own attitude with the brand, in comparison to other brands that offer the same type of product or service. Thus, the image that a consumer have possess towards a brand depends largely on the consumer himself/herself and the consumer's thoughts about the brand. Any thoughts and emotions that a consumer may have towards a brand also depends on previous patronage experiences, and to a lesser degree, the testimonials from previous customers. Thus, it seems then that the perceived quality of a certain brand is directly related to the consumer's perception about the brand. It follows that if the perceived quality is negative, then so will the consumer's perception as well (Aydin & Ozer, 2005).
On the other hand, there also exists a phenomenon known as coercive brand social power. This refers to the ability of the brand to influence a consumer's behaviour through the perception that a brand can be capable of producing negative outcomes. This is the reverse of the reward brand social power, and negative outcomes in this case includes dissatisfaction, a sense of rejection or disapproval, a negative image, a sense of failure and also a lower perceived social status. Based on the reinforcement theory, human behaviour is determined by environmental consequences (Schermerhorn, 2002). According to this theory, behaviours that are followed by negative outcomes or consequences will not be repeated (Skinner, 1953). The trick for making consumers loyal would be to decrease or better yet, to eliminate the possibility of customer dissatisfaction.
2.6.4. Affective Brand Loyalty.
By definition, affect is a feeling or emotion resulting from various reactions such as joy, anger and sorrow. Brand image and affect can be perceived by people through logos, brand names, and slogans, which can be evaluated either positively or negatively. Brand affect, in its simplest sense, is a positive feeling which a customer gets from using a certain product (Westbrook, 1987). It can be described as a happy, uplifting and exciting emotion (Chi et al 2009). There can be two possible brand affects that a person can get, namely: positive and negative brand affect. A person, when satisfied with a product, has a positive brand affect. If he feels uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the product, negative brand affect occurs. A person's mood and emotion also complements brand affect. As stated in the aforementioned paragraphs, factors such as brand name, logo or slogan can determine whether a person will feel a positive or negative brand affect towards the product. The person usually feels the brand affect after using the product itself (Chi et al 2009).
2.6.5. Cognitive Brand Loyalty.
Unit brand loyalty is created at a particular point in time. It consists of three components: the subjective custom which is the cognitive facet of brand loyalty; the purchase behaviour, the behavioural component of brand loyalty; and the attitude regarding the purchase (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975).
Each of the three components compels a customer to be either loyal or otherwise. For example, despite the fact that a customer is inauspicious to purchase one particular brand, the customer may buy the brand. In such condition, his/her attitude is not one of loyalty; however, the behaviour itself is. The behaviour of being loyal is much likely to be transformed into changing the brand with another when the circumstance holding him/her are eliminated (Ha 1998).
High loyalty merchandises are those which matter to all three components given. To illustrate, Marlboro was recognised as a high-loyalty good (Fisher, 1985). Fisher (1985) asserted that the more a brand is aligned to an individual's concept of him/herself, the more probably he/she will be to defy any alterations to it. He framed this principle as the “use/get this, this is me” principle. This is applicable to Marlboro, since their users connect specific ideas regarding status or even personality to the product. Furthermore, Marlboro appears to be vastly subject to social customs (social influence) owing to the users' intense emotional enthusiasm to prefer it. Further, Marlboro has the leading market share. These two features of Marlboro have reinforced customers' loyalty in both attitude concerning the purchase as well as subjective norms (Ha 1998).
When the attitude of a consumer as well as the subjective standard is conveyed as disloyal, they are not likely to be loyal to one particular brand at least in the nearby future. To illustrate, toys which are China made are unlikely to easily appeal to the loyalty of parents towards the Chinese brand. US customers normally perceive products made in China as substandard. When China-made merchandise is coupled with specific ideas about standing, loyalty to brand may be destroyed even more (Knudson, Nd).
2.6.6. Co-native Loyalty.
The cultural environment also determines how, when, and in what form a contemporary idea will be implemented. If the ideas, behaviours, and material machinery that must go along with innovation can influence improvements along lines previously laid down in the mores, the potential of acceptance is much better. This is not to imply that culture is the single variant that may affect innovative behaviour (that is the receipt of new brands and/or goods) (Luo, 2009). Other researches have surmised the reason for these distinctions as external aspects, items inherent to the cultural foundation of a society. These external dynamics are referred to as structure, the political and economic institutions which compose the cultural foundation of a society. Structure, by means of monetary policy, economic incentives, regulation, and the like, undoubtedly can and does sway adoptive behaviour (Palumbo & Herbig 2000).
As such, consumers' level of modernism stimulates their tendency to try new merchandise. Numerous researchers have discovered differences among individuals with regards to innovation. They have seen it to be positively correlated to the ability to adapt with ambiguity; ability to address abstractions; openness to variations, science, and education. As innovation is associated to forbearance of uncertainty, deviant ideas will serve a role. Those who hold traditions which are on the weak uncertainty avoidance side may be more inventive than people of traditions that are strongly inclined to avoid uncertainties. How innovation functions in cultures is dynamic collaboration with other dimensions (Yu, 2008).
Members of traditions with high power distance as well as collectivism configuration have been observed to have a higher intensity of brand loyalty. Thus, in the event that a person decides in favour of a different brand than that of the members of the group, it sets apart this individual from the set. In this context, it is favourable to settle on the perceived popular brands. This is strengthened in societies with a prominent ambiguity avoidance dimension that makes it too complex for new competitors to acquire market share (Palumbo & Herbig 2000).
2.6.7. Brand Trust.
A brand is equally a perceptual and a physical entity. The perceptual facet of a brand occurs in psychological schema - in the customer's mind. The physical facet of a brand is found situated on a shelf of a supermarket or in the service delivery. A thriving brand has an identifiable name which indicates certain attributes to the customer (i.e. value, elegance, quality). The capability to make a customer constantly search for as well as buy a brand over another, despite the fact that others provide lower prices or coupons, is brand loyalty (Palumbo & Herbig 2000).
Brand loyalty is strongly corelated to brand trust and brand affect. Chaudhuri (2001) suggested when consumers develop the habit of buying product brands to which they have high brand affect, commitment towards that brand will most likely increase. Positive word of mouth and dodging among loyal clients are the positive effects of brand loyalty (Jensen & Hansen 2006). Since brand loyalty contributes to a great extent to the bottomline of a company, the creation and maintenance of customer loyalty has become a very crucial yet daunting task to most companies today. This manifests in various efforts of companies to invest in customer loyalty research, putting up expensive customer relations management systems, among others. However, there are also studies that claim that customer retention is a relatively more costly means of increasing profit compared to recruitment of new customers. This is supported by Marney (2001) who suggested that loyalty is still a baseline issue as research reveals that it takes five to seven times as much money and time to replace a customer as compared to making one stay.
Consumers' attitudes towards companies tend to be favourable when they recognise that the brand may be associated to a cause which they endorse. This can be made possible by social marketing. Surveys of industries in the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and Australia provide evidence. Nearly all consumers favour brand and corporate advertising with a social statement. However, compatibility of solid nonprofit organisation (NPO) partnerships influences their attitudes as well (Apisit 2003). The impact on product standing is positive when promotion includes messages which illustrate the company's commitment to social accountability, specifically amongst teens of the United States. In addition, perceptions of consumers of corporate social responsibility affect their assessment of new products (Apisit 2003).
Moreover, viewing from the perspective of marketers, the 65+ market possesses the highest accretion of assets, lesser dependents, and stronger buying power than younger crowds have. As a matter of fact, the aggregate total of the market's spendable unrestricted income sums up to $26.1 billion (Kang & Hillery 1998).
Market dealers should recognise that the older segment at present considerably differs from its typecasts. Older folks are normally healthier than believed. Among those over 65, only 17% are incapable of carrying on key activities due to poor health, while 90% display no weakening of mental abilities, including memory (Kang & Hillery 1998). A study claimed that the aged market achieved three out of the four requisites of a significant segment of the market system: easy identification of the members (identity); the company's efficient and viable communication with them (accessibility); and their receptiveness or response to special effort (responsiveness). The research also advised that elderly buyers would accommodate “special treatment” coming from sellers and that they choose to be regarded as important customers (Kang & Hillery 1998).
Consumers aged 65+ also have unmet needs. Several researches revealed significant desires and concerns of aged consumers at the retail level. These include appropriate assistance from store staff, discounts, rest facilities, transportation, labels and price tags that are easy to read, store outline devoid of physical hurdles, and well located entrances and parking areas. Those displeased with store staff had several grievances. Older consumers do not want to be hurried and do not want to deal with staff who were not experienced or well-informed; were impatient; neglected the customer; were not accessible when needed; were rude; were not knowledgeable where to find items; were not eager in assisting the customer; and were chatting with friends (Kang & Hillery 1998).
Compared to younger consumers, the elderly segment had higher reliance on mass media for information. They cast fewer complaints because prior experience revealed that complaints are expressed for resolution to no avail. Although aged customers normally base their patronage choices on similar characteristics as do their younger complements, one of the determinants which has increased in significance with age were store reputation, knowledgeable salespersons and assistance in finding items (Kang & Hillery 1998).
The component of enhanced service through sales personnel appears to be among the aspects that elderly customers constantly desire and demand. Market dealers should perk up relations between older customers and retail sales personnel (Kang et al 1998). An examination of the aged market (above 50) revealed that elderly consumers have an increased likelihood to regard service as a basis for deciding on a specific place to shop than younger buyers. Personal vending at the retail level frequently appears to be the most effective way to connect with aged (65+) customers (Kang & Hillery 1998).
According to Moorman et al. (1992), Chaudhuri (2001), and Hem et al. Chernatony (2003), brand affect is the capability of a brand to produce a positive response from the customer as a result of the product's frequent use. Chaudhuri (2001) also emphasized that loyalty to a brand is related to brand trust and brand affect. These two factors determine if customers are committed to a brand and if the concept of “one-to-one marketing relationships” is present. It is now suggested that when consumers habitually buy product brands to which they have high brand affect, they are more likely to have increased commitment to the brand. Some products present vague benefits and yet can still elicit a positive brand affect. There are also pleasurable products as asserted by Chaudhuri (2001) that give high satisfaction, making customers feel a more positive response towards it.
2.6.8. Enhancing Brand Loyalty.
To establish an operative marketing scheme, it is important to first determine the target client for the private brand line. From here, the type of in-store advertising can be established. The advertising scheme should establish the appeal and visibility that would entice consumers (Dowling, 2006; Weidauer 2009). The next step is the promotion of the private label merchandises in a manner similar to those of the national trade names. A way to carry this out is to associate the private trade logo and name visually to the store's logo and name. It also recommended that private label items be ‘singled out' before being launched to consumers. Using terms like “Select” or “Choice” in the label gives an impression of the retailer's personal endorsement for the value of its merchandise (Weidauer 2009).
Shelf-edge communications which use customer perceptions can strengthen the association between the retailer flag and its private trade name suggestions. Attention grabbing messages and graphics can work as reminders of exceptional benefits. Crafting a ‘story' for the trade name so that it will level up from plain product characteristics will raise value perception. Store trade names offer an excellent opportunity for retailers to distinguish their business from their rivals, as well as to establish loyalty in an extremely competitive market environment (Weidauer 2009). Statistics reveal that shoppers at present regard quality of store brand equivalent to - or better over - that of national trade names. Ultimately, the most significant message to pass on to customers is that they do not need to compromise quality for a lesser price. Currently, that is an offer some customers will refuse (Weidauer 2009).
Co-branding is an arrangement of marketing strategies to exhaust various brand names on a sole service or product. Fundamentally, constituent brands can help one other to attain their objectives. Co-branding is a known technique for shifting the favourable associations of a company's brand or product to another. In the event that a clearly defined strategy is absent or unavailable, co-brand mergers are often motivated by short-term objectives, leading to failure and mistrust (Chang 2009).
As soon as the rudiments of a co-branding approach are lucid, five critical aspects come into view for a successful co-branding approach. These are pertained to as the 5Cs of co-branding methodology. These elements can help a company in composing an appropriate and successful co-branding method from a macro perspective (Chang 2009).
Transition Cost. It is essential to contemplate the costs of transition of two companies boarding on a co-branding strategy. For the shared type of venture, the two firms have similar accountability to both liabilities and profits (for instance Sony and Ericsson). Hence, the cost of transition for each of the parties is even. However, in the merger type, a party (like BenQ) should be accountable for the other (such as Siemens). BenQ joined with Siemens and consequently had to offer continuous financial back up. Unfortunately, BenQ's pockets became saturated from shouldering the cost of spinning around the profit-trailing Siemens unit. The expenditure for each of the parties was therefore asymmetric. The overall lesson: the costs of transition for co-branding gravely influence the future of the firms involved (Chang 2009).
Cultural Differences. A crucial consideration for two companies planning a co-branding strategy is cultural differences. An attempt to consolidate companies from other countries can create many uncertainties, especially at the level of employees. For example, if there is a conservative culture and the other one is innovative, it will be difficult for cooperation to occur. There are also other well-documented problematic cross-cultural factors which are broadly documented in the literature. Collaboration with Siemens' workers was worked out by BenQ's employees for nine months, but it failed because of the underestimation of German laws. Truly, differences of culture are a major factor for the determining the failure or success of a co-branding strategy. The second lesson: cultural differences should be considered between two companies ahead of time and implementing effective management in addressing these differences (Chang 2009).
Consumer Acceptance. “Know thy customers” is the third lesson. A design centred on consumers will successfully drive a co-branding strategy. The case of Sony and Ericsson, which launched many consumer-centric phones in years (e.g. with technology of Cybershot), is a good example. They made the functions advanced such as Bluetooth, digital video recorder, etc. in order to have a competitive edge. Siemens and BenQ, on the other hand, first targeted teenagers based on their slogan which says “enjoy matters” and then tried to give diversified models such as business and classical models for other age brackets which are not teenagers. However, Taiwan and Germany consumers are really different. It was hard to find a point of control and common ground for both countries to satisfy different types of consumers. The companies then should have identified, focused and acted in terms of what users really need and want (Chang 2009).
Core positioning. A brand's core competence is important in attracting customers. Since each brand has its own core competence, the harmony between the two brands is relevant. In a brand alliance situation, a brand which is strong should uniquely and clearly identify and position its competence so that a second brand can join it. A core competence can be heterogeneous or homogeneous. Moreover, homogenous competencies can generate a co-branding effect that is strong. On the other hand, heterogeneous competencies can complement to create a substantial synchronization. For example, the brand of BenQ has re-positioned its brand as “keep exploring” to change the slogan “enjoy matters” after the failure of the venture. The real lesson is that the core competencies of companies should be clearly identified to position the new brand successfully (Chang 2009).
Capital restructuring. As mentioned previously, co-branding can be one of two essential operational types: merger or joint-venture. For the joint-venture type, both companies need to restructure the capital structures of the original corporations. That is, each member corporation has the responsibility on the new joint-venture company, emphasizing on the financial aspects. In the merger situation, the company which is dominant should be responsible for the loss and gain after the merging of companies. For example, BenQ's capital structure was reorganised after it merged with Siemens, and a loss of around 810 million US dollars was the result, between October 2005 and June 2006. A very important lesson: enough capital for the two companies is very critical before starting the co-branding plan (Chang 2009).
2.6.9. Retaining Loyal Customers.
From loyalty card schemes to elaborate CRM software to massive data warehousing, firms have spent millions of dollars just to search for a quick solution to customer loyalty issues. But these plans will not happen unless tools are used to execute strategies which are based on true principles of loyalty (Griffin 2003).
There are also those firms with high levels of customer loyalty which also have high levels of staff loyalty. It is very hard to build strong loyalty with disloyal staff because customers associate well with familiar brands and relationships. They want to purchase products from people who know them and their needs. A basic rule of loyalty is being able to serve employees first so they can also serve the customer (Griffin 2003). Nowadays, customers are more informed, smart and narrow-minded of products being sold and they expect the business transaction to be problem-free and rewarding. Customers believe that business is earned with pleasant service, which is characterised by being personalized and also being productive (Griffin, 2003).
Gaining customer loyalty by building long-lasting relationships is what successful merchants have understood and carried out even before. Customers support these relationships by selecting products effectively, through an evaluation of competitive prices, location, ambiance, and staff. But the real solution to retaining the loyalty of buyers is to understand how they buy (George 2002).
To gain a customer's loyalty and be able to retain them, marketing consultants need to establish who the customers are. Marketers should also go beyond demographics by learning about the customer's needs and perceptions, building harmonious relationships and reinforcing values. Communication is a factor that unites the customer to the firm and brand; thus it is important to communicate with customers. One should remember that not all customers are equal; they are individuals with peculiar needs (Marney 2001).
Customer loyalty research is more than understanding a person's opinion about the product; it is also the understanding of the elements of the relationship that exists between the customer and the company. The customers will not just buy the product; they can also affect sales, delivery methods, quality control teams, advertising, and other systems that work together to form people's opinion about the company (Large 2003).
The data from customers help in making strategic decisions. By combining data on how people buy with marketing programmes, marketers can increase the percentage of customers who stay. The important thing is personalized communications. During product launches and redesigns, marketers can still use the said data (Marney 2001).
However, another study suggests that loyalty is not always important. Why exactly is it that numerous market dealers and their agencies persevere with loyalty approaches? The origin of the loyalty mania seem to go in retrospect to a well-known statement by Bain & Co., management consultants way back in the 1980s, that a 5% upgrade in consumer retention can actually lead to a boost in profitability somewhere in the middle of 25% and 85%. All of a sudden, the birth of customer-relationship-management movement was in the spotlight and market promotion went crazy over loyalty (Pringle 2009). The trouble with the statement is that it is simply a thought testing, a ‘what if' concept which theoretically became effective to its logical assumption on profits. It was anchored on the idea that the most profitable clients of a brand were in almost all cases its most loyal ones. It asserts that if a company converts less loyal clients into extra loyal ones, extra profits will follow, in concept or theory. When there is a decrease in sales, the firm embarks on client-recruitment marketing (expensive), and then proceeds with client-loyalty communications (comparatively inexpensive). This has been subjected to scrutiny since it is not easy to implement. However, with Ehrenberg's statement that penetration or infiltration growth is more cost-effective and more profitable, growth in loyalty has turned out to be less viable (Pringle 2009).
Working for loyalty is significantly less profitable compared to pursuing penetration. Although promotions which aim to enhance loyalty are highly beneficial, the earnings from the activity could be attained by means of penetration growth. This does not signify, nonetheless, that trade names must refuse maintaining the satisfaction of their present clients. Apparently, an unsatisfied client will turn out to be another's client; therefore penetration will dramatically be lost. More importantly, a satisfied client can become an influential recruiter of added clients. The most successful promotions intend to communicate with both existing and new clients - and preferably convert the latter into endorsers of the brand. Ironically, there may also be instances when an unsatisfied client's defection may make other lingering clients more satisfied (Pringle, 2009).
The advantage of maintaining satisfied clients who assist in recruiting new clients has been affirmed by Bain & Co's creation of Net Promoter Score in recent years. The Net Promoter Score is a gauge of a client's readiness to suggest a trade name to their peers. They have projected that a soaring NPS is associated with long-term growth in profit. The number of databank promotions which pursued loyalty through publicity illustrated how well they took care of their clients, who eventually recruited numerous new ones. Communicating to non-clients that current clients are well-taken cared of is an effective way to entice them (Pringle 2009). A couple of U.K. trade names are examples: retailer Tesco and 02 mobile communications. 02's loyalty scheme actually became an enormously effective recruitment strategy: 2/3 of the very substantial growth came from new clients, with the remnant from diminished churn. A similar observation is apparent with the Tesco Club card. There are several advantages in establishing a database of eleven (11) million clients; however a principal benefit of this strategy - which costs Tesco nearly 100 million every quarter - is the impact it projected on the gaining of clients as well as on the capacity of Tesco to influence them to expand their buying beyond the initial core grocery classifications. Therefore in practice, what the public pertained to as “loyalty” promotions frequently included the cross-selling of other associated products (Pringle, 2009). While it can create a huge impact on penetration, marketing communications does not seem to be able to significantly cultivate loyalty. Thus, as a firm determines how they will spend for marketing, Pringle (2009) advised them to see loyalty in a different light.
Product involvement refers to personal significance of the brand based on several criteria that the customer strongly considers, including innate needs, interests, and values. It affects the consumers' choice of products, their purchasing habits, consumer attitudes, preference of brands, and perceptions (Due 2008).
Considering a list of alternatives in their decision-making, the customer will be persuaded to a have a more vigorous information search under high involvement in the products. Consequently, if the customer's involvement in a product is low, he will find it harder to differentiate against alternatives (Kwon et al 2008). In these situations, the classic differentiation by price will come into play with customers demanding more of the product, or the alternative that offers a lower price. Price will then become a critical product attribute and is more likely to influence purchasing decisions (Kwon et al 2008).
Serving as an identifier, a brand is a trademark or a distinguishing name of a merchandise or manufacturer that may come in the form of a term, name, sign, design symbol, or any combination employed to recognise the products and services of a merchandiser. Having brand identity serves many functions including the easy identification of the merchandise or service. It also empowers the consumer to identify, refuse or endorse the brand. It communicates information to the customer such as those concerning wealth, style, or modernity of their users (Palumbo et al 2000).
Customer loyalty is based on motivation when buying and has four types: attitudinal loyalty-absolute dedication to the brand; performance loyalty where the brand has some valued performance attribute no other brand can match; convenience loyalty in which it is convenient to buy the same brand compared to others; and lack-of-choice loyalty wherein the customer does not have a choice (Marney 2001).
The next chapter shall expound on the methodology of the research.
In today's economic situation and orientation of profitability of products and services, effective and successful relationship marketing strategies gain widespread preference to gain competitive edge (Chu and Shiu 2009). In relationship marketing, a customer's trust and loyalty are the basics which drive a service or product's advantage over other competitors. A customer's perception and satisfaction are based on personal experience with a service or product influence the consumer's brand loyalty. Therefore, assessing product involvement is exigent to any company as this provides insights on how the product or service will be improved or developed according to the needs, preferences or interests of the target consumers. Given the current economic conditions, companies are in stiff competition to attract more buyers or customers to purchase their product or service in order to maximise profit. Therefore, the importance of gaining knowledge about the product's capability to satisfy the customers are of utmost importance as this will also bring in more customers who are convinced with the product's offering.
Loyalty and trust are essential ingredients in the development of a long-lasting relationship between sellers and buyers. According to Heskett et al (1994), loyalty and trust of customers are influenced by high customer value which is provided by companies through their products and services. If the consumers' needs are met, positive affect and cognition about the product or service follow. Moreover, satisfied consumers manifest commitment to specific product and its services (Sudhahar et al, 2006). Loyalty is achieved in the process and this is likewise good for the company. On the other hand, the study of Warrington & Shim (2000) contradicted this as the results of his study suggested that product involvement and brand commitment are not highly related and indeed represent unique constructs.
The paper gauges customer brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and product involvement, as its main topics. By conducting research on this topic, a wider audience is believed to benefit from the results. These are the companies that provide products and services to people and the advertising companies which serve as medium for endorsing their brand to a larger consumer population. A study of customer brand loyalty ought to provide insights on how companies may be able to increase the number of loyal customers to their brand by aligning and even exceeding the product's offerings based on the characteristics of the targeted consumers and their satisfaction.
It is believed that customers are not only satisfied by the core attributes of a product as these may also derive from competitors. The important idea is that innovation and quality of service are important to the satisfaction of the customers (Sudhahar et al 2006). Targeting the consumers' general attitude and behaviour toward the brand is important to gain loyal and satisfied customers. In this manner, the firm could have the information vital for their marketing initiatives and from there, seek ways to improve and maximise profit (Garbarino & Johnson 1999).
Moreover, advertising companies may also influence the initial perception of the customers of the product. As such, branding of a product through commercials and other means of endorsements may create impact on the perceived value of the product by the consumers. However, it is also significant to know whether such process can influence customer's brand loyalty after experiencing product or service themselves. The research design and means to collect data, sample and setting of the research, as well as the instruments and data analysis employed to analyse the data or information were discussed.
3.2. Research Problem.
The main topic of this study is on interrelationships of product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. However, this is somewhat a general theme, a broad topic that will likewise make the process difficult for the researcher. In order to make the task easier, sub topics are provided to serve as guide and direction for the smooth flow of the research study. The subtopics which will be the core objectives of this research ascertain the interrelationships among these variables through an assessment of a particular lipstick brand. Defining the research problem compels the adherence to scientific process, which is a main thrust of any research methodology (Shuttleworth 2008). In this case, the study seeks to gain understanding of the role and value of product involvement in eliciting customer satisfaction; and the latter's influence on brand loyalty.
3.4. Research Approach.
A mixed methods approach will be employed as a methodology for this study as it involved describing the aspects of the variables involved, objective analysis to produce valid and reliable results, independence of the researcher from the subject being observed, and the need to formulate hypotheses for subsequent verifications. As such the following are the research questions which have guided the entire research process:
1. Is product involvement a significant predictor of customer satisfaction?
2. Is customer satisfaction a significant predictor of brand loyalty?
3. Is the model culled from Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
3.3. Research Framework.
The importance of research is found in its role as agent to produce novel concepts or ideas embodied as new knowledge for the benefit of a profession or discipline. Through process of enquiry and investigation, data are collected, analysed and interpreted in a systematic procedure where results are intended to provide further understanding and insights for people (Amaratunga et al, 2002). Likewise, there are different schools of thought that transcends to be influencers of research implementation. Positivism involves causal explanations including fundamental laws that guide the flow of research from a general or whole topic to its simplest possible elements. It is believed by positivists that everything has its own cause and effect which predicts reality. In this regard, it opts to conceptualize social facts and structure by means of testing hypothesis such as in quantitative methods (Remenyi et al 1998; Shaw 1999).
Dash (2005) further stressed that true knowledge is attained because of our senses which help to explain the elements and events in the surroundings. This understanding according to him is possible through observation and experiments which indeed supports the proposition of positive thinkers suggesting the scientific method as medium of gaining this knowledge. In addition, Dash (2005) explained that the paramount goal of science is to integrate and systematise information into a meaningful pattern or theory. And theory is still tentative and not the ultimate truth;, it is open for further modification as new findings evolve as a result of continued experimentation or verification. In this regard, positivism implies systematised knowledge generation through the help of quantification.
On the other hand, the phenomenological approach uses a qualitative or naturalistic method that allows an inductive and holistic comprehension of human experiences. From this viewpoint, phenomenon are sought to be explained and understood in themselves, instead of searching for other causes or fundamental laws. Therefore, it establishes meanings through qualitative methodology (Remenyi et al 1998; Bryman 2002). In contrast to positivism, which totally disregards a subjective stance, the anti-positivism approach views that subjectivity in the process of enquiry is more important than objectivity. Here, the emphasis is given on the exploration of a broader dimension of a phenomenon to establish specific relationships among components.
A mixed methods approach will be employed as approach for the research. In the study of Karami et al (2006), it was emphasized that research questions and context are important in the selection most suitable methodology. In this connection, the research questions provided herein suggested the need to find answers on the relationship between product involvement and brand loyalty as well as the relationship between customer satisfaction and product involvement. This shall be answered quantitatively. Other problems that will be gauged in this study include identifying how brand loyalty contributes to bottom line and how firm elicit product involvement. These shall be answered through documentary analysis or review of literature. Likewise, it is clear and precise that these sub topics are better off explored through a mixed method approach.
Using a mixed methods methodology allows for investigation and interpretation of facts through deductive logic (Horna 1994). Since the study will focus on customers' brand loyalty, satisfaction, and product involvement, the independence of the researcher's subjective analysis is also important to assure that results will reflect the objective and actual responses of the participants. However, it is also perceived useful to use a qualitative approach to complement the strengths of quantitative methodology through deeper exploration of the meaning derived from the latter's statistical and objective analysis of data (Bryman, 1988).
The effectiveness of the study relies on the capability of the researcher to assess the appropriate tool and design that suits the objective or aim of the paper. As stressed by Yin (1994), a research strategy ought to be a function of the research situation. The distinctness of different approach is acknowledged and therefore, Yin (1994) believes on the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy. He further elaborated that the effectiveness of the chosen strategy will depend largely on the type of research questions, the control over the subject's behaviour, and the degree of focus on historical or contemporary events. Therefore, to direct or guide the research process, this chapter ought to provide a comprehensive, detailed structure or framework for the study based on the conditions mentioned.
Every study regardless of discipline requires a base or rationale for conducting research. As such, a theoretical framework is important as it serves as a conceptual model that directs the researcher in making a logical analysis of the relationships between several factors relevant to the study (Sekaran 2000). In this regard, the very essence of a theoretical framework is to present a larger image or picture of what the study is all about. From here, an understanding of the key points to consider in gathering literature will be gained as well as the direction of research objectives. Likewise, a theoretical framework presents a schematic description of relationships between and among variables (i.e., independent, dependent, moderator, control, and extraneous variables) in order to bring forth understanding for the readers in regards the theorised relationships. As explicated by Furst (2004), hypotheses are formulated to provide possible answers to the research problem, which are subjected for empirical investigation. The result of the assessment helps establish theory. Nonetheless, prior to full development of a predictive model, a series of testing or enquiries must be done to assert a viable theory.
It is also worth noting that in building a theoretical framework, the researcher ought to understand how to link it to the research type and results of the study as well (Radhakrishna and Ewing 2007). The next image presents the theoretical framework of this study in relation to the study's preferred research type, which is partly adapted from the frameworks of Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005). The former considered product involvement and brand loyalty, but has not considered customer satisfaction. The latter, on the other hand, considers customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, but not product involvement. The resulting framework is a hybrid of these two. This study is also unique in using a path analytic approach as an empirical way of establishing the interrelationships among these variables.
3.3.1. Hypothesis and Model.
An essential component of a quantitative research is the formulation of hypotheses that will be subject to testing and verification (Neuman, 2006). In this regard, there are key points to consider in building hypothesis. First, there is a need to ascertain the adequacy of the sample size, availability of data, time commitment, cost and inclusion of all relevant variables in the data set. Next, it is important that the problem or question captures the interest of the readers. Third, knowing the novelty of the problem or question is also significant - it will allow insight on whether the current research shall be confirming or refuting previous findings, extending previous findings or provide new findings. Fourth, it is also vital that the question is ethical. In this manner, researchers ought to consider informed consent, identification of individual subjects and confidentiality of data. Fifth, the researcher must ensure the relevance or significance of the question to the theme of the study as these questions will direct the flow of the research process (Hulley et al. 2001). In this case, the study ought to establish the existence of a relationship between product involvement and customer satisfaction; and the latter and customer loyalty toward a brand or product. In which case, the hypotheses are stated below:
Ho1: Product involvement is not a significant predictor of customer satisfaction.
Ho2: Customer satisfaction a significant predictor of brand loyalty.
Ho3: The model culled from Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) is not sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
3.4. Research Paradigm/Justification:
In the previous segment, the research framework of the study has been explained and described for comprehension of the readers. In which case, positivism and anti-positivism paradigms are presented. Based on their characteristics and application, this study opts to adopt the mixed method approach to the study the variables of interest. This approach allows the application of both quantitative and qualitative means that are appropriate and suitable for the topic. Finding the levels of product involvement and customer loyalty of participants toward a brand will need to have objective approach that focuses on quantifiable methods like surveys, experiments, etc. Nonetheless, it will also employ qualitative methodology through documentary analysis to further support the results of the first method. As the study delves into the actual responses of the respondents regarding their own preferences or opinions about the brand to assess their loyalty and product involvement, it has to be free of biases and subjectivity of the researcher. Therefore, the approach based on positivist viewpoint is applicable.
Moreover, it is presumed that relationships exist among these three variables, and it can only be gauged through statistical means of data analysis. Testing hypotheses is one key aspect of quantitative methods. Since the study also intends to explore the results of the study in support of the numerical results, a phenomenological analysis will also be implemented. By using both approaches, the study will be able to derive a more comprehensive meaning from the data and a more robust and generalisable conclusion because of the complementary analysis.
3.5. Research Design.
Enz (2002) described research as the means to identify, describe and solve problems. Applied research can either be quantitative which relies heavily on empirical data and analysis or qualitative, which relies on case studies and rich contextual information. On the basis of the objective of this study, both methods ought to be employed as research design. In an empirical study, data are quantified using statistical tests and measurements to assess the implications and reliability of information gathered (Creswell, 2003). In connection, the main theme of the study implies that of the marketing sector. In this regard, quantitative research is the most commonly applied method in determining market factors, identifying customer's characteristics and behaviours, as well as in measuring the attitudes and opinions of customers. In regards attitudes and opinions of consumers, product requirements and feature preferences are measured, brand perception and product performance as well (Grossnickle and Raskin 2000).
Moreover, it is also depicted that this study will use a qualitative approach to ensure that a more comprehensive analysis of data will be provided. This is to support the results of the numerical statistics derived from quantitative methodology. Furthermore, this study also adapted a descriptive and correlational research as the locus of the study allows a description of the present characteristics under study to create a frame or ‘snapshot' of what is being studied (Enz 2002; Ethridge, 2004). Thus, it aims to synthesize patterns and to create a framework based on descriptive understanding of the present situation. On the other hand, as a correlational study it aims to establish any possible relationships between product involvement, customer satisfaction, and customer brand loyalty. In this way, the main interest lies on whether two variables covary and if so the researcher tries to seek the direction and strength of the relationship (Walliman, 2005). In a correlational study, neither manipulation of the variables involved nor the random assignment of the subjects into group is observed (Van Cantfort, n.d).
3.6. Sampling Techniques.
Regardless of the type of research design, it is acknowledged that selecting participants for the study is essential (Lodico et al 2006; Garson, 2009). In quantitative research, sampling can be done through a number of different techniques; all of which purport to select a sample that represents the larger population. These are simple random sampling, stratified random sampling and cluster sampling. Convenience and census sampling are part of the nonrandom sampling techniques. A random sampling technique allows the researcher to generalise the findings of the study back to the entire population. However, this involves more time and effort in order to avoid biases. In cases where the researcher lacks the time, resources or purpose, the non-random sampling technique is applicable (Lodico et al 2006).
For this study, it is more apt to use random sampling method than non-random techniques due to the fact that the study aims to yield reliable and valid outcomes through numerical results. Therefore, it is more appropriate to conduct simple random sampling as this provides an equal chance for each subject to be selected as a representative of the population. Thus, bias is avoided. However, as the study tries to assess customer loyalty toward a product or brand, the selective process ought to involve selecting appropriate locations or settings where the study will be conducted, such as a community, marketplace and groceries where people can purchase and experience the product. The particular product that shall be used is a known lipstick brand. From these selected locations a random selection of respondents was implemented. The purpose of selecting these settings is that consumers are easily located in marketplace and groceries. In a community, each household can also be source of information regarding their consumption experience about the product/brand. A total of 60 respondents were enlisted in the sample.
3.7. Data Collection and Analysis.
The data used in the study were garnered through survey questionnaires which are adopted from Zaichkowsky (1994) for product involvement; whilst, brand loyalty was gauged through adoption of the scale of Sudhahar et al. (2006). In the first questionnaire, the Revised Personal Involvement Inventory was utilised to assess involvement of the participants toward the product/brand. It has been asserted that this instrument is a context-free measure applicable to involvement with products, with advertisements and with purchase situations. The revised test is comprised of ten items.
On the other hand, the Loyalty Measurement Scale which was adopted for assessing brand loyalty is comprised of 28 items. In this instrument, seven scales constructs are evaluated in relation to customer loyalty. These are behavioural, attitudinal, cognitive conative, affective, trust and commitment dimensions. All these are found important for this study as they assess customer brand loyalty.
The following are the items covered in the Behavioural scale: I will buy this product again in the future; I will try new products that are manufactured by this brand company; I will recommend other people to buy this product/brand; and I will say positive things to other people about this product/brand.
Moreover, the Attitudinal scale is composed of the following statements: I will continue to patronise this brand/product even if its price increases; I have strong preference to this product/brand; I will keep patronising this product/brand regardless of everything being somewhat changed; and I am likely to pay a little bit more for purchasing and using this product/brand. The Cognitive scale consists of: To me, this product/brand rank first among other similar products; I would patronise this product/brand for a long period of time; I will purchase exclusively this brand for my other needs; I think of this brand as my own brand; and The product/brand I patronise reflect a lot about my needs. In addition, the Conative scale is made up of: I have found this product/brand better than others; I always find the value of this product/brand superior; and repeatedly, the performance of this product is unparalleled to that of competitor's one. The Affective scale measures: I like this product /brand; I like the performance of the product/brand; I have a positive experience with this product/brand; and I am satisfied with my decision to choose this product/brand.
Trust was gauged through: This brand is like a friend to me; this brand continues to enhance product for the benefit of the consumers like me; The brand's company promptly assists customers if there is a problem; and The brand's company are filled with professional and dedicated employees. Finally, Commitment was ascertained through: I am very committed to this product/brand; Even when I head negative information about this product/brand, I still stick with it; I like switching from one product/brand to another; and My continued experience with this product/brand is important to me.
In quantitative data analysis, statistical techniques are performed to analyse data (Amaratunga et al, 2002). In this case, correlation method shall be applied to gauge on the direction and strength of relationship between product involvement and customer brand loyalty. Other statistical findings will include the results gained from adopted tests or questionnaires for the two variables, product involvement and customer loyalty. Moreover, documentary analysis was also used. It is a qualitative technique which involves collecting data from secondary sources such as research studies found in journal database, magazines, newspapers, websites, and other pertinent official data statistics. Through this approach, the results of the survey will be supported by the findings collated from the documentary analysis.
The researcher used the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 15.0 for computing descriptive statistics used in the study (Kent, 2001). Moreover, AMOS, statistical software, was used to ascertain the statistics involved in path analysis.
3.7.1. Primary Data Collection.
According to Duval (2005), primary data collection is necessary in finding necessary data if secondary sources are not feasible. Different methods for primary data collection include observation, focus group, personal interviews, telephone interviews or survey, and self-administered survey (mail/internet). In this regard, this study chose to apply survey research as primary data collection. Through surveys, a large volume of responses may be gained, and lends a simpler and more cost-effective means of gathering primary data.
3.7.2. Secondary Collection.
Secondary data are usually collected for the purpose of obtaining information other than the primary data collected through research study itself (Stewart and Kamins, 1993). In this regard, secondary data are much simpler and cheaper in nature compared to primary data collection methods. Such include utilisation of outcomes arrived at by other researchers which are found significant and relevant to the study. Moreover, it is not time consuming compared with primary data gathering (Crawford 1997). Thus, the study will use this method by obtaining relevant information from different resources such as journal databases and websites. All these information are considered vital in supporting the primary data.
The study is limited to an assessment of customer loyalty, satisfaction, and product involvement of the respondents toward a particular lipstick brand. However, there are still other important issues which could provide a more meaningful assessment for the study such as the influence of advertisement on the perception of the product or brand and in turn its relationship to loyalty behaviour of customers.
This study will ensure that ethical practises are strictly adhered to. The researcher provided respondents with a consent letter requesting permission to conduct research. Privacy and confidentiality of information were also applied.
As a final part of this chapter, it is concluded that the study, after gaining much knowledge and data, which also supplied conceptual models for basis of theoretical framework, will make use of a mixed methods approach using both qualitative and quantitative means. Hypotheses were made which imply the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty. Being an empirical investigation, the problem is subject to be analysed and interpreted using statistical means and through qualitative analysis, which will employ documentary analysis.
All data gathered through survey questionnaire and documentary analysis helped determine the present product involvement, customer satisfaction, and behavioural loyalty of the respondents toward the lipstick brand and this will form the basis for conclusions on the variables of interest and the interrelationships between them.
4.0. Results and Discussion.
The following tables and the subsequent descriptions reflect the responses to the survey questionnaires on a particular lipstick brand. Each respondent was informed of the lipstick brand, and when they said they have used it, they were enlisted as a survey respondent. A total of 60 respondents formed the sample. The first portion of the results section presents the descriptive statistics on loyalty, broken down into the following facets: behavioural, attitudinal, cognitive, conative, affective, trust, and commitment. Moreover, the descriptive statistics for product involvement are presented. These are followed by the Pearson r coefficients. The last tables show the results of the path analysis from AMOS, showing the regression coefficients to brand loyalty. These last set of statistics provide the basis for rejecting or accepting the three null hypotheses.
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics: Behavioural Category.
Valid N (listwise)
N stands for the number of respondents; Minimum stands for the smallest response value for that item; Maximum represents the biggest value for the item; the mean is the sum of the responses for the statement divided by the total number of responses. Finally, the standard deviation is the square root of the variance; it is a measure of deviation or differences among responses to an item.
The following are the means and standard deviations garnered for the Behaviour category: I will buy this product again in the future (Behave I) (X=3.42, sd=.98); I will say positive things to other people about this product/brand (Behave IV) (X=3.27, sd=4.08); I will try new products that are manufactured by this brand company (Behave II) (X=3.08, sd=1.00); and I will recommend other people to buy this product/brand (Behave III) (X=3.00, sd=1.48).
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics: Attitudinal Category.
Valid N (listwise)
The results for the Attitudinal category are as follows: I will continue to patronise this brand/product even if its price increases (Attitud I) (X=3.17, sd=1.04); I am likely to pay a little bit more for purchasing and using this product/brand (Attitud IV) (X=3.03, sd=1.06); I will keep patronising this product/brand regardless of everything being somewhat changed (Attitud III) (X=2.93, sd=1.46); I have strong preference to this product/brand (Attitud II) (X=2.87, sd=1.10).
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics: Cognitive Category.
Valid N (listwise)
For the Cognitive category, the following are the means and standard deviations of the statements: To me, this product/brand rank first among other similar products (Cognitiv I) (X=3.400, sd=1.03); I would patronise this product/brand for a long period of time (Cognitiv II) (X=3.17, sd=1.22); I will purchase exclusively this brand for my other needs (Cognitiv III) (X=3.15, sd=1.47); The product/brand I patronise reflect a lot about my needs (Cognitiv V) (X=3.05, sd=1.21); I think of this brand as my own brand (Cognitiv IV) (X=2.98, sd=1.36)
Table 4. Descriptive Statistics: Conative Category.
Valid N (listwise)
The Conative category yielded the following results: I always find the value of this product/brand superior (Conativ II) (X=3.07, sd=1.31); I have found this product/brand better than others (Conativ I) (X=2.97, sd=1.19); and Repeatedly, the performance of this product is unparalleled to that of competitor's one (Conativ III) (X=2.97, sd=1.10).
Table- 5. Descriptive Statistics: Affective Category.
Valid N (listwise)
For the Affective category, the means and standard deviations yielded are the following: I dislike this product /brand (Affect I) (X=3.12, sd=1.51); I am satisfied with my decision to choose this product/brand (Affect IV) (X=3.02, sd=1.65); I have a negative experience with this product/brand (Affect III) (X=2.90, sd=1.83); and I like the performance of the product/brand (Affect II) (X=2.77, sd=1.70).
Table 6. Descriptive Statistics: Trust Category.
Valid N (listwise)
The Trust Category has garnered the following results: This brand continues to enhance product for the benefit of the consumers like me (Trust II) (X=3.13, sd=1.28); The brand's company are filled with professional and dedicated employees (Trust V) (X=2.98, sd=1.53);This brand is like a friend to me (Trust I) (X=2.83, sd=1.35); and The brand's company promptly assists customers if there is a problem (Trust III) (X=2.78, sd=1.50).
Table 7. Descriptive Statistics: Commitment Category.
Valid N (listwise)
On the Commitment category, the results are as follows: Even when I head negative information about this product/brand, I still stick with it (Commit II) (X=3.10, sd=.127); My continued experience with this product/brand is important to me (Commit IV) (X=2.93, sd=1.49); I am very committed to this product/brand (Commit I) (X=2.83, sd=1.39); I like switching from one product/brand to another (Commit III) (X=2.82, sd=1.35).
Table 8. Descriptive Statistics: Product Involvement Category.
Valid N (listwise)
On the attributes of Product Involvement, the following are the results: important (Involve I) (X=2.77, sd=1.11); interesting (Involve II) (X=2.63, sd=.84); appealing (Involve VI) (X=2.63, sd=.95); needed (Involve X) (X=2.63, sd=.88); means a lot to me (Involve V) (X=2.43, sd=1.29); valuable (Involve VIII) (X= 2.37, sd=1.35); involving (Involve IX) (X= 2.35, sd=1.09); exciting (Involve IV) (X=2.30, sd=1.29); relevant (Involve III) (X=2.17, sd=1.05); and fascinating (Involve VII) (X=2.13, sd=1.06).
Table 8. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient: Brand Loyalty Categories vs. Product Involvement.
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
The foregoing table shows that product involvement significantly and positively correlated with all categories of brand loyalty: attitudinal (r=.723, p=.000); commitment (r=.712, p=.000); trust (r=.700, p=.000); behavioural (r=.696, p=.000); conative (r=.696, p=.000); cognitive (r=.682, p=.000); and affective (r=.651, p=.000).
Table 9. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient: Brand Loyalty Total vs. Product Involvement.
Table 10. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient: Customer Satisfaction vs. Product Involvement.
Path Analysis Results
AMOS has been used to compute for path analysis statistics more systematically. The sample size for the current study is 60. The observed, endogenous variables are customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, whereas the observed exogenous variable is product involvement.
Table 11. Standardized Regression Weights: (Group number 1 - Default model)
The standardized regression weight between product involvement and customer satisfaction is .655. This suggests that for every unit increase in product involvement, there is a corresponding one unit increase in customer satisfaction. Moreover, the relationship between customer satisfaction and brand loyalty has a standardized regression weight of .883, suggesting that for every unit increase in customer satisfaction, there is a corresponding one unit increase in brand loyalty.
Table 12. Squared Multiple Correlations: (Group number 1 - Default model)
Looking at the squared multiple correlations, it is seen that 42.8% in the variance of customer satisfaction is explained by product involvement. Moreover, 78% of the variance in brand loyalty is attributed to customer satisfaction. These suggest the strong interrelationships between the bivariate pairs.
Table 13. CMIN
CMIN compares the current model and independence models with the just-identified or saturated model. Since the index exceeds 3, this suggests that there may be too many paths that have not been considered.
Table 14. GFI
The GFI indicates the proportion of the variance in the sample variance-covariance matrix attributed to the present model. By convention, this should be greater than .9 for a good model. The GFI for the current model is .925, suggesting that it is sufficient. However, the outcomes on the CMIN (Table 5) do indicate that while it has enough fit, the latter may be improved, as too many paths may have been deleted. Therefore, the current model may be enhanced.
The discussion focuses on the three hypotheses that have been tested in the current study. This is to ensure that all the objectives of the study have been adequately addressed.
Ho1: Product involvement is not a significant predictor of customer satisfaction.
The null hypothesis is rejected, since product involvement has a strong, positive direct effect on customer satisfaction. This suggests that consumers tend to manifest higher satisfaction to one brand compared to others when product involvement is high. Consumers also have different perceptions or familiarity with one product to another. Thus manifesting product involvement scaled through consumers' knowledge of what they purchase (Kwon, Lee, & Kwon 2008).
Reviewing the literature, product involvement is comprised of the consumer's intimate needs, values, and interests to the product. On a factual basis, it is said that product involvement is closely linked with consumer's view and desire of the product. With this, involvement of a consumer with a product leads to its choice and purchase. Corollarily, low product involvement will likely cause the consumer to be more open to trying alternatives that best suits his needs. According to Kwon et al (2008), if a consumer has low product involvement, he is also most likely to choose the brand of a cheaper cost. Therefore, one other implication of this finding is the fact that consumers tend to be less price sensitive if they have a high product involvement, and are more likely to be satisfied on the product.
Warrington & Shim (2000) attributed that involvement is of three compartments: (a) the individual's impression of the product, goals, and necessity; (b) situational factors like purchase event or foreseen event that affects purchase judgment; and the (c) factors that intensify the object like how it was introduced to the market. Because the current study shows that product involvement is related to satisfaction, marketers must go out of their way to study the factors which influence product involvement to be able to enhance them. A higher degree of product involvement results to more intensified search for the product attributes, uniqueness in every product creating wide array of variations, higher possibility of brand loyalty development, and extensive decision-making when it comes to purchasing or choosing which products to use.
Moreover, the literature suggests that involvement to a product is synonymous to the concept presented by ego involvement. The concept of ego involvement transpires when a product affects self-esteem and performance. With this, involvement to a product does co-exist when a product is closely associated with the individual's values. This is something that again has to be reinforced to enhance product involvement. In addition, there are degrees of persistence in product involvement. A consumer can experience short-term interest to a product which is referred to as situational involvement, or a consumer may experience a long-term endearment to a product which is then referred to as enduring involvement establishing habitual procurement. Since product involvement has been shown to be correlated with satisfaction, it is but logical for marketers to aim to develop enduring product involvement among their consumers (Warrington & Shim 2000).
Of course, given the relationship between product involvement and satisfaction, and the latter with loyalty, marketers ought to aim for enduring product involvement. Warrington & Shim (2000) has theoretically convened that both involvement, situational and enduring, are distinct. This means that a consumer experiencing situational involvement is only at the state where the consumer feels the need of this particular product only in a given situation or inevitable situation, unlike a consumer experiencing enduring involvement or endearment to a product state feels the need of this particular product based on his central or innate values amidst all purchases. Moreover, product involvement steadily depends on the consumer's intimate desire, goals, and needs (Warrington & Shim (2000).
Given the results of the study, there is a clear need to develop positive and strong brand commitment, and this entails a great level of involvement or participation is a must. According to the studies of Warrington et al. (2002), brand commitment and product involvement present different ideas and are not relative to one another, precisely. They conducted studies from four different consumer groups with different level of product involvement. They attributed that the relationship between brand commitment and product involvement greatly depends on the consumers' knowledge of the product, on how they perceive the product as essential for everyday living, and how they encounter the product or a particular brand, for example they may notice the product through various means of advertising and media like television commercials or newspaper ads. This finding by Warrington contradicts the previous studies that were conducted early on.
Moreover, product involvement may also be developed through a thorough understanding of customer attitudes. The attitudes of variety-seeking customers must be understood (Jensen & Hansen 2006); develop marketing schemes (Weidauer, 2009); and increase the customer's perceived value (Marney 2001). With the concept of having variety of product choices leading to less or no purchase at all, some consumers would end up the most purchased product due to its marketing strategies done by the merchandiser. However, consumers with high level of comparison would not be likely to be involved in variety-seeking. These types of consumers would tend to be more satisfied and stick to their normal brand. That is why stores or merchandisers should take good care of their brand's loyalists.
Ho2: Customer satisfaction is a significant predictor of brand loyalty.
The results of the path analysis show that there is a strong, positive relationship between customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is perceived through the consumer's desire and trust to purchase a particular product regardless of the cost. The results of the study show that customer satsifaction is a precursor of brand loyalty. When customers are satisfied with a brand, this means that it has met his expectations when it comes to quality, and that this brand suits the consumer's every needs. The consumer believes that this brand or product is the best merchandise to compliment his desires. Therefore, these beliefs in the consumer's end establish the habit of continuous purchase of the said brand or product, or a habitual procurement of the merchandise. Beforehand, the consumer will purchase this product to conduct a test of whether the product suits his needs. Such a product trial allows the consumer to determine if the product suits him, and only then shall habitual procurement come in. That every time the consumer needs this particular merchandise, he will pick this specific brand. It is because the consumer has already developed trust with the brand and has already been familiarised himself with its advantages, convincing him that it is worth every penny (Giddens 2002).
Moreover, these results suggest that once consumers have been satisfied with a particular brand, they tend to be dedicated to this brand, thus becoming brand loyalists. They establish a sense of devotion to purchase the brand instead of trying new things out regardless of the cost. It is also commendable for the brand since brand loyalists will also tend endorse it to others. Thus it promotes positive word of mouth (Giddens 2002).
There is also evidence suggesting that product involvement is linked to brand commitment. Various forms of involvement are present which directly and positively influences the purchase decision of a consumer. Eventually, once a habit or routine is established, brand commitment is developed. Regular involvement signifies an incessant concern with the purchase. Uninvolved consumers are able to choose brands with better value than involved customers (Bei & Widdows 1999).
As seen from the previous hypothesis of the current study, product involvement is a predictor of customer satisfaction. It is suggested by previous studies that product involvement has an impact on the decision making process, advertising interest, brand commitment and product usage frequency. Highly involved customers, in the aspect of decision making, are likely to use more conditions in quest for data and facts on various products, allow fewer choices, and process significant information in a greater scope (Quester 1996). Moreover, a study upholds that products with low involvement are generally more acceptable to consumers and vice versa (Miguel 2002). Those that are acceptable to consumers include those products with low prices, with little difference among its competing brands, whose risk is low, little novelty is involved, and which are purchased more frequently.
Since product involvement has been shown in the current study as a predictor of customer satsifaction, it should be encouraged in all marketing efforts. Product involvement is encouraged and brought about by various external reasons (product and situation) and internal reasons (core values, etc.). When a product or service is perceived as a vital element in reaching for one's goals, ideals and needs, then the customer will involve himself. The nature of involvement is based on a chain of command with specific subjects, topics and concerns that usher in an individual's involvement with a product or service (Kim 2005).
No matter what level a consumer's value consciousness is, the effect of product involvement and switching cost emerge to be steady based on the immaterial interaction effects with concern for value. Highly value-conscious consumers, as well as the low value-conscious consumers are both influenced by the characteristics of a product. The statement holds true despite the belief that highly value-conscious consumers are the typical buyers of private brand products (Kwon et al 2008). The strong effect of value consciousness is affirmed by product characteristics which involve both product involvement and switching cost. Sellers should critically investigate perceptions of customers when it comes to product involvement and switching costs so that they would be able to choose the right product for their private brand (Kwon et al 2008).
Ho3: The model culled from Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) is sufficient to capture the interrelationships among product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
Given the results on the interrelationships between product involvement, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty, it is important to consider the implications of Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) and Musa (2005) 's model. Clearly, it has implications on how merchandisers can keep their consumers. First the merchandiser should create or develop the relationship between the product and their consumers. The merchandisers should specify why their brand is better than those of their rivals; present the brand's advantage; the value the product has that the rivals do not have; and favourable options, like for example in different flavours when it comes to tea. This allows the consumers to experience different adventures with the product.
One must remember that variety-seeking is more likely to happen if there is low degree of product involvement. Most variety-seeking consumers lead to brand-switching consumers so merchandisers should watch out for it. As studies have shown, most brand-switching consumers were influenced by friends or relatives, or even the competitors themselves. If there is low level of purchasing involvement and minimal difference of the products, switch-branding is inevitable. Most market dealers rely on promotions and visual strategies to gain consumers (Jensen & Hansen 2006).
Since the global economy is experiencing a down time, most merchandisers present their products in a manner that would entice consumers to purchase the product regardless of the current economic conditions. One way to do this is to present what the consumer will get for free as a package when they purchase the product. Another way is to bring down the product's cost (Weidauer 2009)
Moreover, customer satisfaction must be ensured by enhancing the customer's perceived value. Customer perceived value is better viewed as market results rather than customer satisfaction. Loyalty is driven by presenting the value of the product; value is the benefit the consumer gets less the cost of the product. Aside from the cost of the product, there are some elements that affect high-brand equity. These elements are quality, features, physical attributes or stylishness (Marney 2001).
5.0. Conclusion and Recommendations.
Given the statistical findings and the substantive interpretations derived from the empirical study, the following conclusions and recommendations are put forth:
From the findings of the current research, it is clearly implied that the intensity or degree of product involvement is a key factor in ensuring customer satisfaction. Moreover, the latter is strongly and directly contributory to brand loyalty.
There should be particular focus on improving all factors that drive brand loyalty. One contribution of brand loyalty to the bottomline is productivity and profitability. Brand loyalty is the key to a merchandiser's productivity and profitability because it implies the worth of the product label in the market, whether by means of the product's unique features or if the product is more cost-efficient compared to other products available. A product with high impact of brand loyalty gathers the value and sustains market shares, the merchandiser of the said product can dictate or manoeuvre the cost, and they can allure investors, rebuff competitors, and can add new lines of materials.
Retaining Brand Loyalty
Given the validation of the framework in the study, it is clear that brand loyalty must be ensured. Brand loyalty can be simply defined as the customer's devotion and consistency in buying and patronising a given brand of product or service. A repeat purchase of the same brand is a great display of customer loyalty. As Marney (2001) has cited, customer loyalty can be grouped into four types: 1.) attitudinal loyalty - absolute devotion to a given brand; 2.) performance loyalty - loyalty created due to outstanding performance of a brand which remains unmatched by its competitors; 3.) convenience loyalty - loyalty established simply due to the ease of purchasing a specific brand compared to others in the market; 4.) lack-of-choice loyalty - customers patronise a certain brand because they have no other choice.
Moreover, there is a need to focus on the relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty. The current study reaffirmed this relationship. A number of marketing people would always link customer satisfaction with loyalty. But this is not always the case. For instance, a company may have a large number of customers who are highly satisfied, yet these customers are not loyal to their brand. Customers do not give their loyalty to a brand because of the pricing aspect. Some would remain loyal to a brand even if there is a significant decrease in the price of a competitor brand. Factors that contribute in making customers purchase the same brand repeatedly must always be studied by marketers (Marney 2001).
Griffin (2003) also observes that marketers have spent a lot of the company's resources in search for a solution to the probing questions and issues coupled with issues about customer loyalty. Aside from investing countless funds, a lot of plans have also been laid out to obtain loyalty from customers. However, these plans will not work out unless the right tools are employed to carry out strategies which are established on true principles of loyalty (Griffin 2003).
Some firms are fortunate enough to have a high level of customer loyalty along with a high level of workforce loyalty. It would be very hard to establish loyalty in customers if an organisation has disloyal staff because customers learn to easily commit to familiar brands and contacts. A customer would want to purchase products from a company who cares for them, knows them and understands them. It is a fundamental rule in loyalty that a company must take care of its employees first, so it can take care of its customers (Griffin 2003). In today's world, customers are wiser, smarter, more informed and narrow-minded when it comes to products offered in the market. They expect their transactions to be fast, hassle-free and satisfactory. Customers believe that companies would earn or get their business if they are able to provide a memorable moment, which entails personalised service and a rewarding and fulfilling experience (Griffin 2003).
Establishing a long-term relationship with customers is what has made companies successful in their quest for customer loyalty. Customers sustain these relations by choosing products efficiently, through a thorough and careful review of the array of prices, places, atmosphere and staff that a company has to offer. The bottom line of preserving and maintaining loyalty among buyers is to understand their attitudes in buying (George 2002).
The first step needed in gaining and maintaining customer loyalty is to identify and establish one's market. Marketers should not solely rely on demographics and statistics but should go an extra mile by studying what the customer really needs, including their desires. This is to build a pleasant and lasting relationship with them, as well as strengthen their shared values. Communication plays a very important role in this relationship because it is the link and uniting force between the company and the customer. A marketer must always keep in mind that not all customers are equal or the same. They are individuals with distinctive and unique needs (Marney 2001).
Research on customer loyalty goes beyond understanding a person's outlook on a specific product; it should extend to an understanding of the fundamentals of the relationship between the customer and the firm. The customer is not just a mere buyer of the product. All aspects of the product, including sales, delivery processes, quality control group, advertising and other schemes that work together to outline a people's view and judgment about the organisation (Large 2003).
According to Marney (2001), it takes five to seven times as much money and time to make a customer stay than to replace them. Companies are faced with an enormous task of creating and preserving customer loyalty, because firms are always in constant battle against each other of getting a huge percentage of the market share.
Product involvement pertains to a brand's personal worth and impact on a customer based on several factors, which includes inherent needs, ideals, morals and principles. It greatly affects an individual's product choice, purchasing habits, buying attitudes, brand preference and awareness.
A high involvement in a product would mean that a consumer would do a more rigid study on the information that is available to him pertaining to a specific product before finally making a purchase decision. On the other hand, low involvement in a product would make it harder for a customer to distinguish among alternatives that are available. In circumstances like this, the typical delineation sets in when customers demand more of a product, or the option that suggests a lower price. Price then becomes a vital product characteristic and is more likely to control purchasing decisions.
A brand is a mark which distinguishes products which may take the form of a terminology, name, sign, logo, symbol or a combination of these. Creating a brand identity for a product is very crucial because it serves various functions which include easy identification of the product. It also allows the consumer to recognise, turn down or support the brand. It converses information to the customer, examples of which are affluence, fashion or originality of the users. Since brand loyalty has a significant correlation with product involvement, concrete means on how to increase product involvement should be a focus for most companies.
Moreover, a brand embraces both the tangible and intangible realms. The tangible aspect is the product itself which the customers purchase from the local stores or shopping malls. The intangible aspect, on the other hand, may cover services rendered by a company and what is created in the minds of the customer about a particular brand. In order for a brand to be successful, it must possess a name which makes it unique among the others. It must create value and a sense of satisfaction for its customers. When a customer persistently buys a particular brand over its competing products despite competitor tactics employed such as price reductions or promotions, the company has achieved creating brand loyalty in the consumer.
Brand loyalty is directly related to brand affect and brand trust, and is a major contributor to the success of a company. The formulation of programmes to create and maintain loyalty among customers has been a main focus among a lot of companies in the market today, because it is an excellent way of increasing profits. Building brand loyalty is an expensive marketing task which may take the form of conducting various pertinent researches, installing customer relations management systems, and doing an in-depth study of market trends and behaviour. When consumers buy a particular product or brand to which they have a high brand affect, commitment is developed to the particular brand. When a customer is already committed to a brand, the tendency is for him to spread positive feedback by word of mouth about the satisfaction that they get out of patronising a certain product. They may tell their friends, co-workers and relatives of how a product has worked for them. Positive statements which easily spread are one of the very constructive effects of brand loyalty.
Given the significant relationships found in the current study among customer brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and product involvement, further study is recommended to be able to ascertain the validity of these findings. More complex research designs and a greater sample size may be used to lend more validity and generaliseability of the current results.
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