Unlocking Secrets of Images: Implications for Services Marketers

Alexander, M., Azer, J. and Blasco-Arcas, L. (2023) Unlocking Secrets of Images: Implications for Services Marketers. Frontiers in Service 2023, Maastricht, Netherlands, 15-18 June 2023.

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Customers and other actors proactively engage with firms’ offerings through behavioral manifestations of engagement (often called customer engagement behavior). Although modality of engagement can vary research has, hitherto, focused around textual modality (e.g. e-WOM, reviews). However, using images to engage now predominates on social media, and have huge influence on a range of actors (including customers) in online networks and, potentially, affecting firm value. For service researchers, exploring visual modalities of engagement (VME) offers great potential with rich displays of contextual information that present cues for both customers seeking information and services marketers who have long struggled to unlock secrets of highly subjective, personal, and intangible experiences. This study builds on existing literature on customer engagement, image act, communication, and visual content theories, to understand VME, their effect on social interaction and propagation, and whether the magnitude of these effects differs between services, products, or brands and other customers within online social networks. We use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to explore VME. We start with a Netnography to capture VME within Facebook and Instagram with four industries: retail services, airline services, Technology brands, and Sports brands). We identify and define four types of VME, two positive (evidential, experiential) and two negative (mocking and dissuasive) forms. We subsequently tested the impacts of these four forms through a set of 3 experiments to test their effects on firms (i.e., purchase intent and brand evaluation) and on other customers in the online network (i.e., willingness to imitate and reshare intentions). We make several valuable contributions to the fields of customer engagement, visual communication, and visual content. Firstly, we contribute to engagement literature by introducing the concept of VME and a typology of four discrete forms. Secondly, we provide empirical evidence of how VMEs precipitate interaction and propagation and, thus, different outcomes, contributing to both visual content and social media research with insights into communication dynamics and content modality. Finally, we offer insights for managers seeking to build brands in social media by leveraging VME in their engagement marketing activities, making use of their customers’ VME to reveal value potential to new customers, and demonstrating how to use VME to create/stimulate influential posts that increase customer engagement.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Customer engagement, visual modality of engagement, social media, visual content, image act theory, services marketing
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Azer, Dr Jaylan
Authors: Alexander, M., Azer, J., and Blasco-Arcas, L.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Research Group:Marketing
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