SHOPPING EXPERIENCES AND LUXURY BRANDS: CONSUMER RESPONSE TO HOLISTIC BRAND CUES ACROSS MULTIPLE RETAIL SETTINGS

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발행기관 : 글로벌지식마케팅경영학회(GFMC) 수록지정보 : GFMC Session1
저자명 : Manuela Valta, Donata Vianelli

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Over the past decades, researchers devoted considerable attention to the impact of store environments on shopping behavior (e.g. Baker et al., 2002; Kotler, 1973; Turley & Milliman, 2000). More recent, practitioners and academics alike have argued that a greater challenge for brands is the creation and enhancement of compelling shopping experiences along, and beyond, the entire path-to-purchase (Interbrand, 2014; Shankar et al., 2011). In a luxury brand context, where the shopping experience is a significant motivator for purchases (Yoon, 2013), the interaction of multiple retail environments greatly affect consumer behavior towards the brands. Accordingly, brand experiences is created at both ends of the marketing supply chain, by brand manufacturers and retailers.
Yet, although research has developed fruitful areas for new perspectives on the relationships between manufacturers and retailers (Ganesan et al., 2009), the vast majority of existing research predominantly focuses on consumer response to brand experiences with respect to manufacturer cues (Dolbec & Chebat, 2013; Tynan et al., 2010), store cues (Baker et al., 2002), or retail settings (Möller & Herm, 2013). The evolving business world needs to implement more comprehensive and holistic approaches (Choi et al., 2014), where integrated strategies must emerge. The objective of this study is to present an explanation of luxury brand experiences across manufacturer and retailer’s settings. By overviewing the literature on the interaction between brand management, store atmospherics, and consumer behavior, and applying qualitative methods, the authors provide relevant insights for academics and practitioners toward a more comprehensive understanding of the luxury brand experience.

Customer experience and luxury brands
In the field of contemporary marketing, customer experience has been defined as a construct which “encompasses the total experience and may involve multiple retail channels” (Verhoef et al., 2009, p. 32). It includes the search, purchase, consumption, and after-sale phases of the experience. In a holistic brand perspective, this definition enlightens the key role of luxury brands in delivering the same brand promise and brand message across each connection between the consumer and the brand. Among the characteristics of luxury brands, consumers are willing to pursue luxury products as these products provide psychological benefits rather than functional benefits (Kapferer, 1997). Further, luxury brands are associated with status, wealth, exclusion, and pride (McFerran et al., 2014). As result, strong experiences with luxury brands derive when consumers develop deep emotional bonds with brands (Grisaffe & Nguyen, 2011).

From a marketing perspective, consumers that develop deep emotional relationships with a brand have a lot of positive and strong associations (Yoo et al., 2000), such as the perception of the brand uniqueness and inimitability, and loyalty to the brand. However, when it comes to analyze the brand experience, research confers a conceptually different meaning from other brand constructs. According to Brakus et al. (2009), brand experience has distinct dimensions from evaluative, affective, and associative brand constructs, such as brand attachment, brand attitudes, customer delight, and brand personality. The concept of brand experience encompasses multiple dimensions, which refer to the sensorial, affective, intellectual, and behavioral sphere (Zarantonello & Schmitt, 2009). More specifically, the intrinsic concept of luxury brands as hedonic products with high symbolic value, holistically incorporate manufactures and retailers in fulfilling these various dimensions of brand experience. By assuring consistency across the manufacturer and retailer’s settings of the luxury brand, customer experiences evoke the exclusivity of the brand and transfer the authenticity of the brand message.

From a consumer’s perspective, consumers reach brand authenticity when they perceive both the internal consistency, which focuses on maintaining the luxury brand standard and style, honoring its heritage, preserving its essence, and avoiding its exploitation, and the external consistency, which pertains to appearances and claims of the brand (Choi et al., 2014). Similarly, consumers tend to perceive the exclusivity of the luxury brand when they encounter consistent experiences across multiple brand touch points. Accordingly, in the experiential view, the principle of consistency and contiguity proposes that sensations, imagery, feelings, pleasures, and other symbolic or hedonic components are paired together to create mutually evocative consumer response (Holbrook & Hirschmann, 1982).

The integration between the marketing and consumer’s perspectives suggests that luxury brands create and maintain powerful customer experiences when there is consistency across the manufacturer and retailer’s environments. However, in the landscape of luxury brand management, the conceptualization of customer experience requires the understanding of how consumers respond to luxury brand messages. This investigation is particularly important when examining brand experiences emerged in the manufacturer versus retailer physical environment. Existing literature on brand experiences, retail atmospherics, and luxury brands cannot fill the gap we address. Prior studies aiming to investigate the brand experience have analyzed the phenomenon of this construct from a theoretical perspective (Verhoef et al., 2009), case study analysis (Payne et al., 2009), or focused only on the direct relationship between manufacturer and consumer (e.g. Dolbec et al., 2013; Kim, 2009). For example, Dolbec et al. (2013) have studied in-store brand experiences on consumer response to flaghship vs. brand stores, and highlighted how their study suffers from not considering the continuity between current, previous and future experiences.
Regarding the impact of store atmospherics and retailer’s settings on customer experiences (e.g. Baker et al. 2002; Bloch, 1995), research has found that specific combinations of atmospherics elements influences consumers’ perceptions about merchandise, service quality, and the overall store image. More recently, Möller & Herm (2013) showed how retail settings may shape consumers interpretation and evaluation of the brand, and in-store bodily experiences transfer a metaphoric message to customers’ perceptions of the brand. However, the authors empirically tested a mono-brand fashion retail store, and stressed the importance of examining the interaction between brand and store personalities in transferring meaning “from the product to the retailer and the other way around” (Möller & Herm, 2013, p. 8). The retail landscape has dramatically changed the dynamics of consumer-brand interactions in the physical encounter. The main challenge of these interactions concerns the effective integration of multichannel brand experiences into an exciting, emotionally engaging, and coherent brand experience. However, in-depth studies on consumer perceptions to these multi-environment experiences have not yet emerged. In this paper, we aim to fill that gap. By addressing the attention to the customer’s sphere, we specifically investigate how consumers perceive luxury brands in relation to brand experiences across various retail settings.

Method and studies
Owing to the lack of relevant research, this study applies a direct qualitative and exploratory approach to develop deep insights of consumers response to luxury brand experiences in different retail settings (Creswell, 2012). Two sequential studies investigate consumer cues of brand experiences across various environments. Study 1 provides the identification of luxury brand elements that are pivotal in the creation of exciting shopping experiences. In study 1, respondents named a luxury brand which they had frequently experienced in the last year, and to which they felt being in a deep relationship across multiple retail touch points of the brand. Respondents were asked about what elements of the brand they were more engaged to. The authors imposed no constraints on the elicitation. Following the categorization of luxury brands (Jackson, 2004) which comprehends fashion, perfumes and cosmetics, wines and spirits, and watches and luxury, respondents chose whatever brand they wanted. One of the authors provided the instructions to respondents. This study includes in the first sample a variety of 35 consumers from various age (20 to 65 years old consumers), as well as various education levels. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and evaluated with content analysis, following quality criteria of Kassarjian (1977).

The luxury brand elements emerged from Study 1 were used in Study 2 as thematic basis for investigating how these elements provide exciting experiences across multiple retail setting of the luxury brand. The same interviewer of Study 1 undertook in-depth interviews with eight of the above respondents, two from each consumer profile identified in line with the hedonic profiles of Arnold & Reynolds (2003). Each interview discussion lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, was audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The text was analyzed by the authors following the generalized sequence of steps of data reduction and transformation, data display and conclusion drawing/verification (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The code development followed thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998), and coding was multivariate within subjects. With multiple ideas per respondent, we extracted a large list of properties. We sorted thematic elements into logically related clusters and assigned representative headers. The authors now describe results regarding respondents’ perceptions of luxury brand experiences in multiple retail environments.

Results and discussion
Consumers identified a wide range of experience factors that they seek in luxury brands, and highlighted how the brand and retail environment fulfill these expectations. They considered the brand evocation to exclusivity and authenticity as the primary reason for purchasing luxury brands. One of the respondents stated: “I buy brand X because it is a nice and deeply authentic brand to have. When I use the brand X I feel I am wearing something very exclusive. And I feel exclusive”. Regarding experiencing luxury brands in the stores, respondents stressed the importance of “finding the same brand appealing in the monobrand store as well across retailers’ stores”, and added that when they did not perceive this coherence of message they often switched to other brands in the purchasing stage. Another determinant element of holistic experiences concerns the products presentation of the brand in various settings, which has to be very similar and related across the brand touch points. Respondents explained to feel confused when they visit one store and encounter “colorful display with a charming presentation of the brand Y in the store of retailer 1”, while finding in store of retailer 2 “black and white displays and an awful presentation for the brand Y”. Concerning the specific impact of the retailer’s environment on luxury experiences, we identified that the overall store setting of the retailer influences the luxury brand even when consumers do not experience the brand in the specific. For example, one respondent highlighted that “If I have to buy brand Z, I never go to retailer 3. I know that brand Z does not feel luxury at all in retailer 3 because of its very old fashioned store”.

This study shows how consumers respond to luxury brand strategies across manufacturer and retailer’s brand setting. By providing deep insights on their relationship with luxury brands, consumers contributed to understand key elements for living consistent luxury brand experiences. They stresses the pivotal role of a coherent brand exclusivity. This is an evident implication to motivate consumers in purchasing the luxury brands. Retailers can also make important considerations from our study. They must create more appealing and overall exciting store images. By enhancing luxury experiences in the store, retailers can leverage opportunities of stronger connection with consumers. Simultaneously, brand manufacturers can build upon retailers enhanced in-store experience to magnify the holistic luxury brand experience. Finally, this study is one of the first explorations concerning the cross-effect of brand experiences and store atmospherics. In an empirical context, the authors investigate the conceptualization of consumer experiences in a multichannel view, and provide relevant contributions to analyze the brand and the environment as interdependent elements. Further research may test empirically our findings on the interaction between luxury brands and multi-retail experiences.

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