INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN CULTURAL CAPITAL: THE IMPACT OF THE VISUAL MERCHANDISE DISPLAY ON CONSUMER PURCHASES OF LUXURY BRANDS

Published on Jul 6, 2017
· DOI :10.15444/GFMC2017.01.06.02
Maria Logkizidou1
Estimated H-index: 1
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Robert Angell12
Estimated H-index: 12
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Paul Andrew Bottomley24
Estimated H-index: 24
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Abstract
This paper attempts to bring the rather dated concept of Cultural Capital (CC) from the sociology literature to luxury retailing; it argues that Visual Merchandise Display (VMD) can enhance the consumers’ intentions to purchase luxury brands but this influence is stronger for consumers with higher CC than for those with lower CC. In particular, we develop a psychometric scale to measure CC and empirically and quantitatively investigate in two experiments the impact of VMD on consumer purchase intentions and the moderating role of CC.Walking first into TK Maxx and then into Harvey Nichols, one could assume that brand perceptions are affected not by the merchandise but rather by the store environment and particularly the way in which the products are visually presented to the consumers. In 2013, Karen Miller announced a substantial remodelling of its stores, including a change in their look to communicate ‘affordable luxury’ (Felsted, 2013). Although the luxury marketers seem to understand the importance of the display in influencing consumer perceptions, academics yet admit to knowing very little about the role of visual merchandising and display on the mechanisms of luxury brand consumption (Joy, Wang, Chan, Sherry, & Cui, 2014).Emerging research in the luxury retailing literature focuses on and explores qualitatively the role of ‘museological’ product presentation techniques in building and sustaining a luxury brand image (Dion & Arnould, 2011; Joy et al., 2014). However, till now, it has not considered that people can differ in their ability (i.e., ‘connoisseurship’) to decode and appreciate such display techniques, which often require substantial investment in fixtures, expensive materials, or complicated designs or architecture.This paper argues that the success of many newly introduced marketing communication techniques, including the tendency of contemporary branding to ‘subtly’ communicate the understated cleverness of a brand, can be subject to the consumers’ level of CC. CC refers to human culture and constitutes an individual characteristic that encompasses consumer’s intangible cultural assets and resources, such as knowledge, personality traits, and values, which manifest via consumers’ lifestyle choices and affect the way they think and act (Bourdieu, 1984; Blackwell, Miniard, & Engel, 2001). We argue that in luxury retailing, where ‘brand museums’ (Hollenbeck, 2008), ‘museological’ product presentation techniques or simply ‘museum like displays’ (Joy et al., 2014) and collaboration with contemporary artists and creative directors (Dion and Arnould, 2011) have been pointed out as new formats of in-store communication, CC can play a crucial role in explaining whether and how much consumers’ purchases can be actually affected.The marketing literature, to date, however, misses a contemporary continuous measure to assess consumers’ CC. In their effort to avoid limitations embedded in prior conceptualisations of CC— which mostly concern its supposed static and inherited nature (McQuarrie, Miller, & Phillips, 2013) —, many studies of consumer behaviour tend to assess CC qualitatively and set criteria to dichotomise a sample into two groups who are somewhat arbitrarily classified as people with either high or low CC; or, they only approximate CC by assessing the participants’ knowledge in a specific field of consumption, which is often a crude proxy for CC and pre-supposes the consumers’ interest-involvement in the investigated field of consumption (McQuarrie et al., 2013). For example, the literature on luxury brands tends to replace CC with fashion knowledge (e.g., Berger & Ward, 2010). Nevertheless, the researchers recognise this replacement as a limitation of their studies and a poor operationalisation of the concept of CC (Berger & Ward, 2010).The present research has three objectives. First, rather than dichotomising people into high and low CC groups, it acknowledges CC as a continuous variable and develops a contemporary psychometric scale to measure the extent to which people within the same culture differ in it. Second, it aims to provide a conceptual framework for understanding a set of mechanisms that explain how consumers’ purchase intentions for a luxury brand can be affected by specific VMD cues which are used for displaying it. Last and more importantly, we want to validate the newly introduced scale in a final experiment that tests whether the process whereby VMD indirectly increases the purchase intentions for luxury brands, depends positively on the consumer’s CC.The first study, which incorporates a qualitative inquiry as well as a purification and a validation study and uses multiple samples, succeeds in developing and validating a psychometric CC scale. In the second study, by conducting an experiment, we develop a model which explains how a combination of specific high-image VMD cues that form a museum-like display affects the consumers’ luxury brand purchase intentions by increasing consumers’ perceptions of luxury and by decreasing their perceived personal risk. This study’s model is, then, re-estimated in the final study after introducing into it the measure of CC. In this experiment, the strength of the basic relationships was found to be contingent on CC, suggesting that consumers with higher CC tend to be more strongly influenced by the store environment cues. Although we recognise that for many consumer behaviour studies in the marketing literature, consumers’ knowledge in fashion represents sufficiently well the concept of CC (e.g., Berger & Ward, 2010; McQuarrie et al., 2013; Parmentier, Fischer, & Reuber, 2013), we show that this might not be the case in the context of store atmospherics. In particular, we test the influence of both CC and fashion knowledge by introducing them together into the same model. Interestingly, CC is found to behave differently and to some extent oppositely to fashion knowledge in influencing consumers’ store-induced perceptions and purchase intentions for the luxury brand on display.The identification of specific VMD cues that form what the luxury retailing literature rather vaguely describes as a ‘museological presentation’ and the measurement of their combined effect as a ‘museum-like display’ on the consumer’s perceptions and behavioural intentions can have important implications for both the offline and online retailers. Our findings can also inform the contemporary brand communication methods, such as the brand’s representation in social media (e.g., in pinterest). Moreover, the measurement of consumer’s level of CC can allow brand managers and retailers to identify receptive segments and make more efficient resource commitments to VMD. Investment in VMD elements can then be better matched to the anticipated target market to avoid either over- or under spending on it. Sales forecasts can also become more accurate if CC could be assessed and considered along with the employed in-store and digital product presentation methods.
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Purpose: In this networked world, the buyer's purchase decisions are influenced by the arrangement and presentation of items in the store. Nowadays, the furniture and furnishing types have become more viable in the retail industry. Many new businesses are entering into the organized format of retail in this category. Hence the retailers need to differentiate themselves from each other. As the products are similar, it is necessary to differentiate themselves by presenting them with visual merchan...
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