Customer engagement as a priority for marketing research

By Linda D. Hollebeek

16 May 2017 12:07

(updated: 16 May 2017 12:18)

Customer engagement as a priority for marketing research

While the notion of customer engagement (CE) has captured the interest of managers for many years, academic research within this topic area has emerged only relatively recently. Read new CSI blog by Linda Hollebeek.

For example, after Patterson, Yu and De Ruyter’s (2006) pioneering conference paper, the publication of the article titled ‘Customer Engagement: Conceptual Domain, Fundamental Propositions, and Implications for Research’ in the Journal of Service Research marked an important milestone that put CE on the agenda and has inspired further work in this area since. Currently with 774 citations on Google Scholar, this paper has inspired many researchers from across the globe to recognize the importance of, and study, this growing topic area. Correspondingly, the Marketing Science Institute also identified CE as a key research priority area from 2012 through to today.

Service innovation - illustration

Based on my own research journey in this topic area, which started in 2009, I have found CE to represent a highly versatile topic that has applicability across a vast range of marketing-related contexts, and research questions or hypotheses. For example, CE has relevance in terms of attracting or identifying new customers (e.g. by producing engaging content that has the capacity to entice new buyers), or retain existing ones (e.g. by ensuring customers’ continued interest in specific offerings or brands, such as by producing relevant innovations desired by customers). CE can also be viewed to contribute to customer retention, loyalty and lifetime value (e.g. by providing engaging offerings that lengthen CE’s lifespan or life cycle), or to reduce (or at least better understand) churn, an issue of significant interest to today’s managers across a range of sectors and industries. Overall, any manager today needs to focus, and capitalize, on CE and the opportunities it presents.

Further reading

Baldus, B. J., Voorhees, C., & Calantone, R. (2015), Online brand community engagement: Scale development and validation, Journal of Business Research, 68(5), 978-985.

Brodie, R.J., Hollebeek, L.D., Ilic, A. & Juric, B. (2011), Customer Engagement: Conceptual Domain, Fundamental Propositions & Implications for Research in Service Marketing, Journal of Service Research, 14 (3), 252-271.

Calder, B. J., Malthouse, E. C., & Schaedel, U. (2009), An experimental study of the relationship between online engagement and advertising effectiveness, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23(4), 321-331.

Hollebeek, L.D., Glynn, M. & Brodie, R.J. (2014), Consumer Brand Engagement in Social Media: Conceptualization, Scale Development and Validation, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 28 (2), 149-165.

Hollebeek, L.D., Srivastava, R.K. and Chen, T. (2016), S-D Logic-Informed Customer Engagement: Integrative Framework, Revised Fundamental Propositions, and Application to CRM, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Forthcoming, DOI: 10.1007/s11747-016-0494-5.

Marketing Science Institute (MSI), 2016-2018 Research Priorities, Available at:

Patterson, Paul, Ting Yu & Ko de Ruyter (2006), Understanding Customer Engagement in Services, Proceedings of ANZMAC 2006 Conference, Brisbane, 4-6 December.

Sprott, D., Czellar, S., & Spangenberg, E. (2009), The importance of a general measure of brand engagement on market behavior: Development and validation of a scale, Journal of Marketing Research, 46(1), 92-104.

Vivek, S. D., Beatty, S., Dalela, V., & Morgan, R. (2014), A generalized multidimensional scale for measuring customer engagement, Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 22(4), 401-420.

In terms of contexts, CE has been examined in technology-driven environments, including websites, online brand communities, mobile apps, e-tailing, etc., as well as offline settings including traditional (bricks & mortar) retailing, service settings (e.g. airlines, insurance, gyms). However, little remains known to-date regarding the interaction of CE between specific online and offline communications, innovations, and/or channels. Within CSI, a number of research projects are currently underway that address CE with particular online and/or offline vehicles, channels and related dynamics. In relation to CSI’s priority areas, CE exhibits a particular fit with the Service Design and Customer Experience, Business Model Innovation, and Managing and Organizing for Service Innovation and Transformation tracks.

Given its broad applicability, CE has remained subject to a relative lack of understanding regarding its conceptual nature, characteristics, and conceptual relationships. In my PhD I developed a measurement scale of CE, which is published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing (Hollebeek et al. 2014), and to explore CE in relation to specific other relational concepts, such as consumer involvement and self-brand connection. CE, typically, appears to have significant associations with a number of relational concepts, including loyalty, which help to further validate its importance as a predictive (or explanatory) variable for particular consumer behavior outcomes. In addition, other related measurement instruments also exist, including Vivek et al. (2014), Calder et al. (2009), Sprott et al. (2009) and Baldus et al. (2015), which either conceptualize CE in slightly differing ways, or address CE within particular contextual conditions (or a combination of these). Researchers thus now have a range of CE scales to choose from if they wish to conduct empirical (measurement-related) investigations of CE.

While basic insight regarding CE is being developed in the literature, there are also areas that merit further investigation, including the exploration of CE in more networked (i.e. as opposed to dyadic) environments. Specifically, with today’s increasingly connected (prospective) consumers, it is necessary to go beyond the mere customer-brand, or customer-firm relationship, and examine CE in more complex, networked contexts, which researchers in this field are starting to recognize. If any readers of this blog are interested in further information about CE, including research articles, I can be contacted on Key references stated in this article are also included below.

CSI News and Blogs