J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:215–237 DOI 10.1007/s11747-008-0118-9
ORIGINAL EMPIRICAL RESEARCH
Toward a theory of repeat purchase drivers for consumer services Michael Paul & Thorsten Hennig-Thurau & Dwayne D. Gremler & Kevin P. Gwinner & Caroline Wiertz
Received: 27 June 2007 / Accepted: 1 September 2008 / Published online: 12 November 2008 # Academy of Marketing Science 2008
Abstract The marketing discipline’s knowledge about the drivers of service customers’ repeat purchase behavior is highly fragmented. This research attempts to overcome that fragmented state of knowledge by making major advances toward a theory of repeat purchase drivers for consumer services. Drawing on means–end theory, the authors develop a hierarchical classification scheme that organizes repeat purchase drivers into an integrative and comprehensive framework. They then identify drivers on the basis of 188 face-to-face laddering interviews in two countries (USA and Germany) and assess the drivers’ importance M. Paul (*) : T. Hennig-Thurau Department of Marketing and Media Research, Faculty of Media, Bauhaus-University of Weimar, 99423 Weimar, Germany e-mail: email@example.com T. Hennig-Thurau e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org D. D. Gremler Department of Marketing, College of Business Administration, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA e-mail: email@example.com K. P. Gwinner Department of Marketing, College of Business Administration, Kansas State University, 201 Calvin Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org T. Hennig-Thurau : C. Wiertz Faculty of Management, Cass Business School, City University, 106 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TZ, UK C. Wiertz e-mail: email@example.com
and interrelations through a national probability sample survey of 618 service customers. In addition to presenting an exhaustive and coherent set of hierarchical repeatpurchase drivers, the authors provide theoretical explanations for how and why drivers relate to one another and to repeat purchase behavior. This research also tests the boundary conditions of the proposed framework by accounting for different service types. In addition to its theoretical contribution, the framework provides companies with specific information about how to manage long-term customer relationships successfully. Keywords Repeat purchase behavior . Means–end theory . Services . Relationship marketing Introduction For most service organizations, economic success depends on an ability to maintain long-term relationships with customers who purchase their offerings repeatedly (Reinartz et al. 2005; Rust et al. 2004). Understanding the reasons customers repeatedly purchase from a service firm therefore represents an issue of essential importance. Service research has identified a multitude of potential repeat purchase drivers; a literature review of nine leading marketing journals between 1983 and 2005 reveals 65 studies that report no fewer than 90 different repeat purchase drivers for consumer services.1 1 The nine marketing journals (in alphabetical order) are: International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Service Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Marketing Letters, and Marketing Science. The year 1983 provides a natural start date, because the term “relationship marketing” usually is attributed to Berry’s (1983) article. Our search included articles published by October 2005.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:215–237
However, despite the proliferation of research on repeat purchase drivers for consumer services, extant knowledge on this topic is highly fragmented, a concern for many marketing researchers. Gupta and Zeithaml (2006, p. 733) observe conceptual overlap in the definition and measurement of key variables influencing repeat purchase and warn “the pattern of...
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