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Modeling the consumer journey for membership services

Morris George (Department of Marketing, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA)
Kirk L. Wakefield (Department of Marketing, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 16 October 2017

Issue publication date: 13 March 2018




The purpose of this study is to model the consumer journey of admission-based membership services from initial purchase to full-season memberships. Particularly, the study pays attention to customer-owned contacts (purchase behavior) and service-owned contacts (salesperson voice- and text-based communications), to examine longitudinal internal data to determine factors which hinder and propel customers toward full memberships.


On the basis of big data supplied by a National Hockey League team, the study uses three simultaneous equations in modeling to account for potential endogeneity related to the likelihood that sales and service personnel are more likely to contact frequent customers. The longitudinal data allow us to map the customer journey over the course of multiple years, compared to typical cross-section studies.


The findings show that as customers increasingly own committed points of contact, they are prepared to move to the next level – but rarely skip major steps in the relationship journey. The quantity, type and timing of customer contacts by the service firm may hinder or propel the customer down the path to purchase full memberships.

Research limitations/implications

The prevalence of big data among service firms should allow researchers to better understand how consumers respond to contact strategies over time, as well as fluctuations in firm performance. The research adds to the customer journey research stream, while meeting the call of researchers to bridge the gap between service marketing research priorities and current practice.

Practical implications

Sales practices and marketing automation tactics may come at the cost of burning leads and alienating future members. Frequent text-based contacts absent voice-based interactions hinder consumer journey and work against relationship building. Service marketers can learn how to better allocate resources, properly manage and motivate contact strategies and target campaigns to send the right message via the right media at the right time.


This is the first study to map customer journey for admission-based, membership services. The longitudinal approach across multiple years provides a deep understanding of how customers take steps toward loyal membership status, while also pinpointing potential drawbacks of current contact strategies.



George, M. and Wakefield, K.L. (2018), "Modeling the consumer journey for membership services", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 113-125.



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