Consumer Engagement With the C2C Online Auction Experience: Conceptualisation and Measurement
This research investigates the role that engagement plays as a comprehensive theoretical explanation for consumers? on-going use of consumer-to-consumer (C2C) online auctions. Online auctions have become a societal phenomenon in which millions of consumers worldwide participate to browse, compete, win, lose, buy, and sell goods. The online auction experience goes beyond interacting with the website to include consumer activities and events before and after going online. Research has yet to fully explain what makes consumers want to return and repeat the auction experience.
Consumer behaviour has changed over the last two decades due, inter alia, to Web 2.0 interactive technology. Marketers have sought to understand today?s Web 2.0 consumer. Engagement has emerged as an important new concept in this regard, and has been identified as a Tier 1 research priority by the Marketing Science Institute (2014). Many marketing studies conceptualise engagement from a firm-centric view and examine customer engagement with the brand or the firm; however, as yet there is no conceptualisation of engagement that takes a completely consumer-centric view. Today?s consumers engage with any object: a brand, a firm, an experience, a community, or other consumers. This research looks at engagement with the C2C online auction experience. What drives consumer engagement with the auction experience, and what effect does engagement have on consumers? on-going use of online auctions?
This research conceptualises consumer engagement with the online auction experience (CE-OAE) based on an Experiential View of the Consumer (Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982), provides in-depth insights into this engagement, develops a measure of the construct, and identifies the antecedents and consequences of CE-OAE. Consumer engagement with the online auction experience is defined as the enthusiasm, reflection of self-image, passion and interest a consumer has that drives their future participation in online auctions. Consumer engagement arises as a result of the value consumers derive from their memorable auction experiences.
Five studies of online auction consumers in New Zealand were undertaken to measure and test CE-OAE. Study One was a qualitative, in-depth study that provided insights into consumers? engagement and produced items for the draft CE-OAE scale. In Studies Two to Five, the draft CE-OAE scale was subjected to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Study hypotheses were tested with longitudinal data using structural equation modelling, Hayes (2013) process analysis, and multiple regression analyses. The findings show that consumers who have memorable auction experiences derive several types of value from these experiences, and that value drives consumer engagement. Engagement is shown to predict four behavioural outcomes: consumers who are highly engaged buy more, browse more, sell more, return to the auction site more often, and participate in the auction community more than those who are less engaged. Importantly, the findings also show that engagement remains stable for almost 50% of consumers over a period of six months. Changes to the levels of value that consumers derive from their online auction experiences impact levels of engagement over time.
The thesis contributes to theoretical understanding of consumer behaviour and engagement in a C2C context, by developing a new conceptualisation of engagement taking the point of view of the consumer. A conceptual framework for CE-OAE is established, with consumer experiences and value derived from these experiences as the antecedents to CE-OAE, and on-going use as the consequence. Risk is shown not to have an impact on the formation of engagement. In addition, a typology and valid measure of value in online auctions are presented, and the critical role that value plays in the formation and duration of consumer engagement is recognised. Engagement is conceptualised as a motivational construct, and established as an important determinant of consumer behaviour in a C2C context; engagement endures for an extended period of time for many consumers. This research provides important insights for marketers and Web 2.0 companies. The CE-OAE measure can be used by businesses to predict customers? future buying and selling activities, suggest new strategies for engaging customers, and measure the success of a business?s engagement strategies. The CE-OAE scale has potential for use in research into other Web 2.0 C2C contexts, including engagement with social media, sharing, and collaborative consumption.