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Customer engagement, buyer‐seller relationships, and social media

C.M. Sashi (Department of Marketing, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 2 March 2012




The advent of the internet and in particular the interactive features of Web 2.0 in recent years have led to an explosion of interest in customer engagement. The opportunities presented by social media to help build close relationships with customers seem to have excited practitioners in a wide variety of industries worldwide. Academic scholarship on customer engagement, however, has lagged practice and its theoretical foundation is relatively underdeveloped and a better understanding of the concept is essential to develop strategies for customer engagement. This paper seeks to address some of these issues.


The paper attempts to enhance understanding of customer engagement by examining practitioner views of customer engagement, linking it to the marketing concept, market orientation, and relationship marketing, modeling the customer engagement cycle, and developing a customer engagement matrix.


The paper develops a model of the customer engagement cycle with connection, interaction, satisfaction, retention, loyalty, advocacy, and engagement as stages in the cycle. It arrays customers in a customer engagement matrix according to the degree of relational exchange and emotional bonds that characterize their relationship with sellers. Four types of relationships emerge: transactional customers, delighted customers, loyal customers, and fans.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is an initial attempt to develop a theoretical framework for customer engagement and further research is required to better understand several aspects of the framework. Future research can also investigate questions stemming from this research, for instance, how different Web 2.0 tools may be used to build customer engagement in consumer and business markets.

Practical implications

Customer engagement turns customers into fans. But for customers to become fans they have to progress through the stages of the customer engagement cycle. In addition to current fans, sellers need a mix of transactional, delighted, and loyal customers who can be turned into fans in the future. A mix of digital and nondigital technologies can be employed to facilitate customers' transition through the stages in the customer engagement cycle.


The paper develops a conceptual model of customer engagement that improves understanding of the concept and provides the foundation for strategies to better satisfy customers using Web 2.0 tools like social media.



Sashi, C.M. (2012), "Customer engagement, buyer‐seller relationships, and social media", Management Decision, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 253-272.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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