3.1. Impacts of Customer Perceived Value on Brand Community Identification
By adopting the perspectives of self-determination theory, Kelley and Alden [44
] investigated online brand community (OBC) engagement behavior and proposed an OBC motivation development continuum model. According to their model, the stages consumers engaging in an OBC can be classified into three continuum stages, including introjection stage, identification stage, and assimilation/internalization stages. In the introjection stage, consumers’ motivation plays an important role in their participation in an OBC. Dholakia et al. [45
] argued that both individual- and group-level motives have impact on consumer participation in virtual communities, wherein value perceptions stand for individual-level motives and social influences stand for group-level motives. Consumers are also motivated to interact with a brand on Facebook by certain factors, such as search for information, entertainment, reward, trust, and so on [46
]. Schau et al. [15
] indicated that brand communities enable consumers to engage in co-productive activities with organizations to provide values to them. Such collaborative value creation can be fostered and nurtured by adopting a broad array of practices. In the context of OBCs, community members and visitors can create and co-create value for themselves, other members, and/or organizations through individual and collaborative efforts [47
]. Customer perceived value, defined as “a consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product/service based on perceptions of what is received and what is given” [48
], reflects a customer’s perceived net benefits arising from specific interactions with a particular object [49
]. Previous research maintained that perceived value is inherent in the interaction between a consumer and a product or service. Perceived value is also subjectively perceived by customers [16
] that can be derived from performance/quality, emotional, money, and social factors [51
Perceived value is a context-specific perception [16
] and has been utilized to study consumer behavior in different environments. Two types of value, namely, utilitarian and hedonic values, have been widely investigated by several scholars in the online shopping context [52
]. Hsu and Lin [54
] applied both perceived values to study in-app purchase intention and confirmed the impact of perceived value on mobile application users’ attitude and satisfaction. In the context of information technology or information system, utilitarian value is related to enhance individuals’ task performance to fulfill specific goals, while hedonic value is associated with increasing individuals’ pleasurable experience of performing a particular behavior [54
]. Dholakia et al. [45
] claimed that consumers participate in virtual communities to obtain and share information to accomplish specific tasks, such as solving problems and validating decisions (i.e., utilitarian value), and to receive fun and relaxation through interacting with others (i.e., hedonic value). Jahn and Kunz [55
] investigated the significance of information sharing on brand fan page engagement. Their findings show that content-oriented functional and hedonic values positively affect fan-page usage intensity. Research into online brand communities also demonstrates that utilitarian and hedonic values resulting from brand fan page engagement positively lead to members’ behavioral intentions to purchase a brand’s products/services [56
]. Perez-Vega et al. [56
] revealed that utilitarian value is associated with solving problems either by the brand or other community members, whereas hedonic value is related to the mental and emotional interactions among users, brands, and other community members. In the present study, utilitarian value refers to the utility derived from the content of an OBC to fulfill specific needs, such as solving problems and validating decisions. By contrast, hedonic value describes the utility derived from feelings or affective states (e.g., pleasure, fun, and entertainment) gained through OBC engagement. We posit that utilitarian and hedonic values can affect consumers’ brand fan page engagement behavior.
In addition to the two perceived values, Sung et al. [57
] indicated that one of the reasons for consumers to participate in a brand community is to acquire exclusive offers and deals and follow promotional events. Modern loyalty programs are utilized as a crucial marketing practice to manage customer bases in various industries, such as retailers, airlines, car manufacturers, and hotels [58
]. In the hospitality industry, businesses often employ monetary sales promotions to provide their customers with incentives or immediate transactional benefits to increase customer purchase intentions [8
]. Research on hospitality issues regards monetary sales promotion as an aspect of special treatment or individualized service offered by a business to satisfy its customers’ economic needs [8
]. In the present study, monetary value refers to the utility derived from the economic advantages (e.g., discounts, special price breaks, coupons, or free gifts) that are provided by an OBC. Han and Kim [59
] identified a positive relationship between gift certificate offering and restaurant customers’ attitude. Ladhari et al. [60
] found that collecting discount coupons and availing exclusive discounts for Facebook page members are two of the main motives for consumers to visit a food retailer’s Facebook page.
In an OBC environment, customer perceived values are postulated to have impacts on members’ identification with the community. Prior studies on organizational identification notified that various kinds of motives can lead consumers to adopt a social identity [42
]. Contributions of an organization to the accomplishment of an individual’s goal are found to have effects on organizational identification [32
]. Dholakia et al. [45
] indicated that identifying with a virtual community that an individual has volitionally selected stems from an understanding that membership entails significant benefits. Identification with social groups is also derived, first and foremost, from their functionality. The evaluative component of social identification considers a positive or negative value connotation attached to the group membership. Thus, the three types of customer values: utilitarian, hedonic, and monetary values are proposed to be associated with brand community identification. Consumers can assess the utilitarian, hedonic, and monetary values they experience from engaging in an SNS-based brand community. Moreover, consumers likely identify with a community that can provide them with the values congruent to their expectancies. Literature indicates that consumers’ motives and organizations’ capacity to accomplish individuals’ goals have influences on individuals’ identification with an entity or an event [62
]. Therefore, we posit:
Hypothesis 1a (H1a).
Utilitarian value has a positive effect on consumers’ identification with an OBC.
Hypothesis 1b (H1b).
Hedonic value has a positive effect on consumers’ identification with an OBC.
Hypothesis 1c (H1c).
Monetary value has a positive effect on consumers’ identification with an OBC.
3.2. Impacts of Customer Perceived Value on Brand Community Stickiness
Roy et al. [64
] defined stickiness as “the time a customer spends at an e-retail website whether during a single visit or over multiple visits”. Stickiness is found to make significant contributions to e-retailers’ bottom lines [65
]. With the rising popularity of social media and SNSs, the research locus of stickiness has gradually transferred to the settings of virtual communities. Lee and Hyun [66
] studied the antecedents of stickiness in an online tourist community context and indicated that trusting beliefs and solution acceptance are positively related to stickiness. In the study of Chiang and Hsiao [67
], they contended that continuance motivation and sharing behavior are associated with YouTube viewers’ stickiness. Hsu and Liao [68
] inspected stickiness in the settings of a microblog and found an inverted U-shaped curve relationship between perceived information accessibility and stickiness. Hollebeek [49
] indicated that consumer engagement with a brand generates more hedonic values than utilitarian values. Kang et al. [20
] posited that hedonic value is positively associated with consumer participation in a Facebook fan page. On the contrary, Shang et al. [69
] argued that utilitarian value is positively related to consumer resonance on SNSs. Hsu and Lin [43
] proposed that utilitarian and hedonic values positively affect consumers’ attitude and satisfaction with a mobile application and thereby lead their stickiness to it. Furthermore, Zhang et al. [70
] revealed that functional and hedonic values positively affect stickiness. The results of previous studies confirm that customer perceived value has positive effects on consumers’ continued intention [7
], customer loyalty [71
], and intention to stick [73
]. Hence, we propose:
Hypothesis 2a (H2a).
Utilitarian value has a positive effect on consumers’ stickiness to an OBC.
Hypothesis 2b (H2b).
Hedonic value has a positive effect on consumers’ stickiness to an OBC.
Hypothesis 2c (H2c).
Monetary value has a positive effect on consumers’ stickiness to an OBC.
3.3. Impacts of Brand Community Identification on Stickiness
According to Kelley and Alden’s [44
] OBC motivation development continuum model, internalization stage is the final stage, which occurs when an individual identifies with an object and fully assimilates it with the self (e.g., integral part of one’s identity) (p. 793). Social identity theory [33
] maintains that social identification occurs when the members of a group perceive themselves as psychologically intertwined with the group’s fate and view its fortunes, goals, successes, and failures as their own [39
]. Findings of previous research confirm the effects of social identification on perceived similarity [33
], positive word of mouth [33
], and customer loyalty [32
Social identity theory is also employed by numerous researchers to investigate consumer engagement behavior in the settings of virtual communities [19
], or consumers’ intention to purchase mobile application [54
]. Dholakia et al. [45
] inspected consumers’ virtual community participation intention and revealed that social identity is positively associated with participation behavior. Consumers’ identification with a brand is also found to have a positive influence on their brand community engagement [19
]. Hammedi et al. [76
] further confirmed the positive relationship between personal identification and core brand community and participation in it. The results of Hsu and Lin’s research [54
] proposed that social identification leads to stickiness to mobile application use. Furthermore, previous studies firmly believed that identification is positively related to trust [77
] or commitment [78
]. Trust and commitment are positively associated with stickiness [66
]. Thus, we propose that identification can lead to stickiness.
Hypothesis 3 (H3).
Brand community identification has a positive effect on consumers’ stickiness toan OBC.
3.4. Impacts of Brand Community Identification on Customer Loyalty
Van Dick et al. [41
] argued that the fourth component of social identity, namely, behavioral identification may exist apart from the cognitive, evaluative, and emotional components of social identity. An individual is proposed to be ready to stand for a certain group and behave in a way which is supportive of the group once he or she perceives himself or herself as a member of the social group. The same individual can positively evaluate the group’s characteristics and feel strong affective ties with the group. Considerable research confirms the existence of supportive behavior derived from social identification.
Studies on customer–company identification indicate that identification with a company results in customer extra-role behaviors, such as positive word of mouth, product improvement suggestions, cooperation, and recruitment of other customers [22
]. Moreover, organizational identification is positively related to customer purchase intention or re-patronizing intention [42
]. Prior research on nonprofit organizations also identified a positive relationship between alumni’s organizational identification and their support for the organization [82
]. In the context of sports, team identification leads to fans’ supportive behavior [83
]. Furthermore, brand identification is suggested to positively associate with supportive behavior, including word of mouth, repurchase, and recommendation intention [33
Literature suggests that customers tend to support a social group once they identify with it. Accordingly, in the SNS-based brand community context, consumers likely display supportive behavior (i.e., positive word of mouth and re-patronizing intention) toward a brand community once they generate an identification with it. Hence, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 4a (H4a).
Brand community identification has a positive effect on consumers’ word of mouth.
Hypothesis 4b (H4b).
Brand community identification has a positive effect on consumers’ repurchase intention.
3.5. Impacts of Brand Community Stickiness on Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty attracts researchers’ attention because studies indicate that customer loyalty can help retailers either gain additional financial profits [86
] or achieve sustainable competitive advantages [87
]. Past research suggested that a loyal customer tends to repurchase or re-patronize a preferred product/service/retailer [88
] and makes further recommendations to others [89
Holland and Baker [91
] defined website stickiness as “the sum of all the website qualities that induce visitors to remain at the site rather than move on to other sites.” Hence, website stickiness refers to the ability of a website to induce a customer to prolong his/her duration time, navigate deeply into a site, and revisit the website frequently. They proposed that encouraging online community likely enhances customers’ site stickiness and positive attitude that lead to brand loyalty. Kim, Baek, Kim, and Yoo [92
] examined the issue of mobile application and explored a positive relationship between mobile application stickiness and word of mouth. Zhang et al. [70
] also confirmed the positive effects of stickiness on word of mouth in the settings of SNSs. Moreover, Hsu and Lin [54
] indicated that stickiness is positively associated with consumers’ intention to purchase mobile applications. On the basis of the above discussions, we propose:
Hypothesis 5a (H5a).
Stickiness to an OBC has a positive effect on consumers’ word of mouth.
Hypothesis 5b (H5b).
Stickiness to an OBC has a positive effect on consumers’ repurchase intention.
Based on the discussions above, the research model of this study is displayed in Figure 1
, which describes the relationships between the three customer perceived values, community identification and stickiness, word of mouth and repurchase intention.