Exploring the relationship between customer loyalty, consumer brand engagement and online brand communities in the luxury fashion industry

Willis, Michelle ORCID logo ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6183-3661 (2022) Exploring the relationship between customer loyalty, consumer brand engagement and online brand communities in the luxury fashion industry. Doctoral thesis, University of Cumbria.

[thumbnail of Willis_ExploringTheRelationship.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License CC BY-NC

Download (2MB) | Preview


Customers who have an emotional connection with a brand may illustrate their social identity or lifestyle in reference to the brand through an online brand community (OBC) in which they participate. Consumers differ from customers; although consumers may consume the content presented in OBCs they have not purchased the brand’s products, whereas customers have purchased the brand’s products. Previous research emphasised the importance of how customers identify with luxury fashion brands, exploring their loyalty through their active role in OBCs. This study considers millennial consumers and how they are influenced to become loyal customers within OBCs in the luxury fashion industry. Customers within OBCs involved in referencing a brand through word of mouth to other consumers, to demonstrate their potential loyalty to the brand, indirectly contribute to firms’ sales. Customers’ online activity is then observed by consumers who have not yet developed behavioural or attitudinal loyalty towards the brand.

Drawing on social influence theory, the proposed study aims to develop a conceptual model and theoretical construct that could facilitate the development of effective customer loyalty strategies for luxury fashion brands’ OBCs. Social influence is the key theory of the conceptual framework guiding the study, regarding active customers’ indirect contribution to generating loyalty. Taking into consideration the different perceptions of millennial consumers, this study aims to adopt a social constructivist perspective following an inductive approach. The aim of this study is not to generate new theory as grounded theory allows, but to understand the process of the phenomenon being studied in a specific setting; for this study, OBCs is the phenomenon under study and the luxury fashion industry is the case setting. This justifies the adoption of an embedded case study research strategy because the strategy restricts studies to specific cases but allows usage of semi-structured interviews to enable a researcher to collect in-depth responses from participants.

Findings indicate that customers and consumers perceive OBCs’ effect on loyalty and participation differently; therefore, customers and consumers were categorised into an OBC loyalty typology: traditionalists, inspirers, self-containers and expellers. This study proposes a holistic conceptualisation of OBC characteristics influencing customers’ loyalty to, and perceptions of, OBCs comprising four themes: relationship with the luxury brand, influence of content valence, socially aligned identity and collective community intentions. These are integrated into a framework, combined with a loyalty typology, providing guidance on how customer loyalty is influenced through OBCs, and the levels of online participation customers may conduct and their influence on other customers. The thesis concludes with recommendations for future research on the current research’s conceptual framework and loyalty typology and further inquiry into customer loyalty in OBCs.

Item Type: Thesis/Dissertation (Doctoral)
Departments: Institute of Business, Industry and Leadership > Business
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy Business and Social Media. Word count: 76,751.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 12:29
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 14:15
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/6924


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

Edit Item