This study aims to propose and empirically test a cognitive-behavioral model of the perceived benefits of social networking sites (SNSs), trust in SNSs, brand trust, brand loyalty and customer equity in the context of fast fashion brand communities in Thailand. Using a structural equation modeling (SEM) technique, a proposed model was successfully established. Importantly, this research delineates the mediating role of the relationship between the perceived benefits of SNSs and brand trust, as well as emphasizes the importance of trust in generating customer equity. In addition to its theoretical contribution, this study also provides practical implications for brand managers to develop customer equity through their brand pages on SNSs. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.
The online surveys were administered to Thai consumers. An email invitation with an embedded link was sent by the researchers asking receivers to participate or forward the survey to others who were interested in participating in the study. As the purpose of this study is to investigate interrelationships among SNSs benefit, trust and customer equity in fast fashion retail domains, only responses from those who were current SNS users and had visited fast fashion SNS brand communities in the past three months were considered for analysis. A total of 227 participants completed the survey; however, eight of those responses were incomplete. Thus, 207 usable responses were analyzed by using SEM.
Thai SNS users who believe they receive practical and social benefits from engaging in SNSs were likely to trust the sites instead of directly forming trust toward the brand. However, perceived entertainment benefits did not influence trust in SNS. This study found that brand trustworthiness is not directly predicted by practical benefit from SNSs. Instead, brand trustworthiness is formed through consumers’ trust toward SNSs. Brand trust induces a high degree of brand loyalty for fast fashion brands, and those individuals with higher brand loyalty were likely to purchase the brand’s products more frequently as well as in a higher volume.
Although the research included general fashion SNSs brand communities users, the samples are not fully representative. Particularly, the majority of respondents of this study could be college students; as such, this may have influenced the results. Thus, to enhance generalizability of the findings, the model should be examined using non-student samples. In addition, a greater number of samples will better reflect the actual demographic profile of SNS users. Second, although the study results generally support the proposed model, the results are necessarily limited to the study’s context, which is Thailand. Likewise, the study needs to be replicated with consumers in other countries, particularly in countries with the fastest increase of SNS users such as India, Indonesia, Mexico, China and Brazil.
The results provide practical implications to apparel brands for establishing customer equity through their brand pages on SNSs. As discussed, consumer trust toward the SNSs is favorably strengthened by SNSs benefits (i.e., practical and social). Consumer trust in SNSs can impact how they perceive the brands and their purchase behaviors. This study encourages companies to strengthen consumers’ trust in SNSs by enhancing perceived practical and social benefits. In addition, companies need to closely monitor information/conversations about the product/brand being presented on their SNS brand community because the quality of information and conversation available in the SNS can affect consumer trust in that SNS.
This study contributes to the existing literature in the area of social media, trust, brand loyalty and customer equity in the context of the apparel industry. Importantly, this study uncovered the mediating role of trust in SNSs in a practical benefit-brand trust relationship, indicating that brand trustworthiness is not directly predicted by practical benefit from SNSs, but is formed through consumers’ trust toward SNSs. Brand trust induces a high degree of brand loyalty for fast fashion brands, which in turn, led to customer equity relative to number of purchases and purchase volume.
Kananukul, C., Jung, S. and Watchravesringkan, K. (2015), "Building customer equity through trust in social networking sites: A perspective from Thai consumers", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 148-166. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIM-03-2014-0019Download as .RIS
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