Online customer brand engagement: the role of the website in engaging over 45 year-old female high street fashion consumers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) has outlined customer engagement (CE) as a key research priority for the last decade. Located within the domain of relationship marketing (Fournier, 1998), CE has been suggested to generate enhanced sales growth, superior competitive advantage and profitability (Hollebeek, 2013; Kumar et al., 2010) particularly in the online business environment (Brodie et al., 2011; Solomon, 2016). Despite this, scholarly enquiry is still in its infancy and is broadly acknowledged to have lagged behind that of industry-led enquiry (Bolton, 2011; Hollebeek, 2011; Sashi, 2012). The academic research that has been conducted into CE is widely recognised to hold a number of limitations. Firstly, there is a lack of agreement regarding a definition of the construct. Secondly, the research that has been conducted is largely conceptual in nature, which has led to calls for further empirical research (Vivek et al., 2014). Finally, the majority of studies that consider online customer engagement (OCE) do so in the context of online brand communities or social media – to date none consider the construct in the context of transactional retailing websites. This is despite industry practitioners, including major retailers such as Marks and Spencer, focusing increasingly on methods to increase OCE with their brands’ own websites (Roderick, 2015; Stocker, 2016). The aim of this research is to establish the nature of OCE with high street fashion retailers’ websites among over 45 year-old female consumers: a demographic group widely suggested to be under researched and poorly understood in terms of general marketing practice (Lee, 1997; Thomas & Wolfe, 1995) despite being projected to be the fastest growing demographic group over the next five years (Mintel, 2016). This will be achieved by developing a conceptual model of OCE through conducting primary research with the target consumer group in the context of high street fashion retailers’ websites. The proposed research will centre upon the methodology of the planned study. A multi-method qualitative explanatory design will be adopted using two forms of data collection: in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus groups. A conceptual model of OCE will be developed from the results of the in-depth semi-structured interviews (stage 1). Focus groups will then be used in stage 2 to check the validity of this model and importantly, to translate the components of this model into rich descriptions. With the majority of current research into OCE being quantitative in nature, it is the position of this study that a multi-method qualitative research design presents an opportunity to achieve a greater depth and richness of data than a traditional mixed methods approach. Through the presentation of the study’s methodology at the ICDBM it is hoped that a discussion surrounding creative approaches to conducting primary research in this area would be generated. Key areas for focus include researching constructs that are not clearly defined, the use of qualitative methods to validate conceptual models and best practice when researching the target demographic. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017


  • online customer engagement
  • marketing
  • branding
  • older women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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