Understanding Customer Behavior in Omnichannel Retailing: The Effects of Cross-Channel Integration

全渠道情境下顧客行為研究:跨渠道整合的作用及影響機制

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date22 Jan 2020

Abstract

In the last decade, omnichannel model has become an important approach for firms to satisfy customer needs and promote retail sales in different channels. This retailing model has been widely adopted by domestic and foreign retailers to conduct product selling and customer service, such as clothing and electronic appliances, medical and caring services. As the key firm capability to embrace omnichannel retailing, cross-channel integration (CCI) is not only the practitioners’ priority in future strategic investment, but also has received continuous attention from researchers. The business value of CCI can be reflected in terms of synergetic benefits across channels and value co-creation with customers. From the perspective of information systems and consumer behavior, CCI has been viewed as the firm’s capability to use information technologies in channel integration and therefore influence customer behavior through customer relationship building and customer experience management. Practically, although omnichannel retailing has become a necessity for firms to survive and grow in the contemporary marketplace, few have made a payoff from omnichannel investment. Theoretically, investigations on customer relationship and customer experience have been fully understood in bricks-and-mortar retailing and online retailing, but remain limited and fragmented in omnichannel retailing. Specifically, there lacks a systematic investigation of how CCI affects customer behaviors and the employment of CCI in particular situations. The literature review shows that: (1) The mechanism of how CCI affects customer retention has not been well established. (2) The effect of CCI on customer word-of-mouth has not been fully explored. (3) The influential mechanism of CCI on customer engagement has not been examined. To fill the above research gaps, the author performs three sub-studies to answer how CCI influences customer retention, customer word-of-mouth and customer engagement, respectively.

From the perspective of relationship maintenance, study 1 draws upon push-pull-mooring model of relationship marketing to propose a consolidated framework that CCI influences relationship maintenance (i.e., customer retention, interest in alternatives) through retailer uncertainty (push factor), retailer identity attractiveness (pull factor), retailer switching costs (mooring factor). According to literature on multichannel customer behavior, study 1 further explores the moderating role of customer showrooming in the effect of CCI. An empirical study of 259 Chinese samples show that: Push-pull-mooring factors mediate the effect of CCI on customer retention partially and on customer interest in alternatives fully. Showrooming enhances the negative influence of CCI on retailer uncertainty.

From the perspective of relationship development, study 2 draws upon commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing to propose a research model that describes how CCI influences customer word-of-mouth (offline, online) through relationship quality (trust, commitment). According to literature on trust, study 2 further suggests customer’s perception of retailer opportunism as a contingency factor that will moderate the influence of CCI on trust. An empirical study of 335 US samples shows that: Cross-channel informational integration has no influence on trust and could reduce commitment, cross-channel transactional integration has no influence on trust but can increase commitment, cross-channel relational integration can increase trust and commitment simultaneously. Trust in omnichannel retailer is negatively related to online word-of-mouth but can increase offline word-of-mouth, commitment can increase customer word-of-mouth in online and offline channels. Opportunism not only directly reduces trust but also enhances the positive influence of cross-channel transactional integration and cross-channel relational integration on trust.

From the perspective of value co-creation, study 3 draws upon service-dominant logic and stimulus-organism-response framework to propose that CCI modes influence customer engagement through customer experience. According to cognitive-affective model, study 3 further identifies fluency and flow as customer experience while fluency is expected to influence flow. An empirical study of 227 US samples shows that: CCI modes (informational integration, transactional integration, relational integration) are positively related to fluency while only cross-channel relational integration is significantly related to flow. Fluency has shown positive influence on flow. Fluency and flow increase customer purchase and customer knowledge while only flow increases customer influence. Fluency and flow mediate the influence of CCI modes on four dimensions of customer engagement behavior in different ways.

This thesis advances our understanding of CCI and customer behavior through three aspects: (1) By conceptualizing CCI as the integration modes of retail information, transactional process and customer relationship, this thesis enriches the concept and nomological network of CCI. The findings suggest that the influences of cross-channel relational integration on customer relationship quality and customer experience are greater than that of cross-channel informational integration. (2) By examining the influence of CCI on customer word-of-mouth and customer engagement, this thesis extends the extant research on customer behavior in omnichannel retailing. Results show that commitment and flow are the most influential factors for customer word-of-mouth and customer engagement, respectively. (3) By exploring the contingency roles of customer showrooming and retailer opportunism, this thesis extends the theoretical boundaries of CCI. The findings demonstrate that the negative influence of CCI on perceived retailer uncertainty could be enhanced by showrooming. The positive influence of cross-channel transactional integration and cross-channel relational integration on trust can be enhanced by retailer opportunism. Overall, the research findings provide firms with practical guidance on how to exert CCI to manage customer relationship and customer experience to derive value from customer behaviors of customer retention, customer word-of-mouth and customer engagement.