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The consumer engagement-interactivity link : an e-retailing perspective

Hedges, Naomi Jayne


Naomi Jayne Hedges


Haseeb Shabbir


An increasingly turbulent and unpredictable consumer landscape is posing unprecedented challenges for the modern marketer. Faced with a highly fragmented and cynical consumer base, aggressive competitive strategies, a constantly evolving digital and cyber world, and economic volatility characterising the modern macro environment, marketers are under increasing pressure to align their strategic positioning with “consumer hearts and minds”. Compounding this rise in consumer complexity is the development and salience of dual and multiple consumer identities, largely as a result of the growth in online and social media communities. Against this backdrop the Marketing Science Institute (MSI), the global voice and agenda setting body for marketing research priorities, has proposed placing consumer engagement (CE) at the forefront of marketing strategy, identifying the need to understand how to engage through innovation and design.

Whilst academics and practitioners alike have acknowledged the importance of consumer engagement, describing it as the ‘holy grail’ for unlocking consumer behaviour, there is still a lack of consensus as to its conceptualisation and therefore its relationship with other marketing constructs. The salience of the online and digital consumer further compounds the difficulty in formulating a CE framework that is integrative and cross contextual. For instance, the construct of interactivity has considerable overlap with CE when applied to the online and digital domain.

This study therefore moves away from the predominantly adopted exploratory approach to CE investigation, to provide empirical research into consumer engagement’s conceptualisation online and clarify the nature of the relationship between CE and interactivity. A post-positivist critical realist ontology was used to guide the research process, with the initial qualitative stage conducting twenty-eight semi-structured interviews - nine with consumers, eight with academics and eleven with marketing and communications practitioners, possessing online and digital expertise. The subsequent main quantitative phase then surveyed 600 online UK consumers, yielding 496 usable responses. Interview data suggested the centricity of emotional, cognitive and behavioural dimensions in consumer engagement’s structure; highlighted the antecedent nature of interactivity in developing CE online; and identified potential moderators to the CE-interactivity relationship. The framework developed for quantitative validation was therefore based on these initial findings. The survey data was subject to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modelling, satisfaction of goodness of fit indices, reliability and validity testing, and rival model comparison.

The most pertinent finding of this research is establishing the CE-interactivity link; with the interactivity constructs of customisation, communication, control and speed of response all being found to be antecedents of CE, in order of influence. The findings also confirm consumer engagement’s multi-dimensionality; highlighting the online CE facets to be emotional CE (emotion and experience) and cognitive & behavioural CE (learning & insight and co-creation). Gender, satisfaction & trust and tolerance are also identified as moderating factors in the CE-interactivity relationship. Contributions are made through investigation of consumer engagement in the e-retailing context; providing further insight into CE’s relationship within a nomological network of already established relationship marketing constructs; large scale quantitative validation of the proposed CE-interactivity framework; and through a multi-stakeholder approach to data collection, helping to bridge the academic-practitioner divide (Gambetti et al., 2012). The investigation concludes with an in-depth discussion about the managerial implications, as well as providing an overview of the studies key limitations, contributions and recommendations for future research.


Hedges, N. J. (2015). The consumer engagement-interactivity link : an e-retailing perspective. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Dec 1, 2015


Thesis (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Hedges, Naomi Jayne. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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