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Assessing the Hierarchical Dimension of Shopping Motivation

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abstract For more than 30 years, shopping motivation has remained a current topic, discussed in leading academic journals (see, e.g., Tauber 1972, Cox et al. 2005). Moreover, since different retail strategies correspond to varying shopping motives (Gröppel-Klein 1998), research in this area has been ascribed considerable potential to generate meaningful managerial implications (Keng and Ehrenberg 1984).

Given the long-enduring scholarly efforts to explain consumers’ shopping motivation, it comes as a surprise that empirical studies commonly simplify different motives in that they are not classified as belonging to specific degrees of abstraction or hierarchical levels of specificity (see DeVellis 2003). Yet, conceptual work has introduced the hierarchical dimension of consumer shopping motivation to the academic discourse (see, e.g., Rudolph et al. 2004). In particular, scholars such as Mooradian and Olver (1996) point out that consumers’ shopping motives “can be organized hierarchically with broad higher-order motives encompassing multiple specific motives” (p. 587-588). This hierarchical perspective seems logical in that “a single shopping behavior enables individuals to acquire a set of hierarchically arranged benefits which can include cognitive, emotional, experiential, sensory, affiliative, and material benefits” (Darden and Dorsch 1990, p. 301). However, whereas research in the areas of general psychology (see, e.g., Rifkin 1985) and organizational behavior (see, e.g., Cropanzano et al. 1993) has long recognized and investigated the hierarchical nature of human motivation, this phenomenon has been widely ignored in the literature on shopping behavior. To the authors’ best knowledge, there is no published empirical research that investigates consumers’ shopping motivation from a hierarchical perspective. This shortcoming surprises in particular as among today’s scholars it seems “generally accepted that consumer behavior is goal-oriented, and that goals at different levels of abstraction are hierarchically related” (Warlop et al. 2000, p. 203).

The present research takes first empirical steps towards the development of a hierarchical theory of shopping motivation. In this view, we “think of goal-directed behavior in terms of a hierarchical model of action and [...] make specific suggestions as to what the levels in the hierarchy might be” (Pieters et al. 2001, p. 416). As recommended by Mitchell (2001) as well as McGoldrick (2002) the theory of means-end chains is adopted to investigate consumer shopping motivation under different degrees of abstraction. The means-end approach seems appropriate since its strength lies in revealing the causal relationships among different theoretical stages of motivation (Bagozzi and Edwards 1996), thereby facilitating an “in-depths redefinition of the concepts and hypotheses relevant to a problem” (Laurent and Pras 1999, p. 253).

A four-level framework by Olson and Reynolds (2001) was adopted, differentiating among attributes, functional consequences, psychosocial consequences, and personal values. From this motivational perspective on means-end chains, the elements of the framework can be regarded as “motivational layers” (Cohen and Warlop 2001, p. 404) whereby the relationships among them express the underlying reasons why certain attributes or consequences are desired by the consumers (Reynolds and Gutman 2001). Data was collected by means of 40 in-depth interviews with retail customers inside store facilities, referring to the context of apparel shopping. During the interview procedure, relevant store attributes were elicited using Breivik and Supphellen’s (2003) technique of ideal description, followed by a series of subsequent questions based on the laddering guidelines by Reynolds and Gutman (2001). Consumer responses were content-analyzed, summarized in an implication matrix, and depicted in three hierarchical value maps.

As a key finding, four motivational patterns represent shoppers’ predominant cognitive driving forces in apparel shopping, namely, shopping pleasure, frictionless shopping, quality seeking, and value seeking. In particular, however, the current research underscores that a unique advantage of the means-end chain methodology consists of relating consumer motivation directly to its corresponding attribute preference. That is, the relationship between specifically desired characteristics of retail stores and underlying motivations are revealed, thereby reducing the shortcoming of current motivational theories to “account for specific actions and to point to particular strategies for influencing behavior” (Bagozzi et al. 2003, p. 915-916). Accordingly, the findings of this work may provide first insights to align retail marketing strategies with shoppers’ underlying motivations in addition to stimulating the development of a comprehensive hierarchical theory of shopping motivation.
   
type conference paper (English)
   
keywords Retail Management, Shopping Motivation
   
project Consumer Shopping Motivation as a Basis for Retail Differentiation: A Cross-Contextual and Hierarchical Investigation
name of conference AMA Winter Educators' Conference 2005 (San Antonio, Texas)
date of conference 11-2-2005
review double-blind review
   
citation Rudolph, T., Wagner, T., & Schweizer, M. (2005). Assessing the Hierarchical Dimension of Shopping Motivation. In .