The customer-salesperson relationship and sales effectiveness in luxury fashion stores: The role of self monitoring

Jieun Kim, Jae Eun Kim, Kim K Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Among the diverse strategies that businesses use to maximize sales, the customer-salesperson relationship as an aspect of relationship marketing has been reported as one of the most critical (O’Malley and Tynan, 1998). Although relationship marketing has been emphasized across various business settings, this strategy works particularly well in luxury markets for a number of reasons. For example, brands offering high involvement products (i.e., luxury brand products) focus on relationship marketing rather than those offering low involvement products (Martin, 1998). Previous researchers have recognized the role of various customers attributes in sales interactions (Walker et al., 1977; Weitz, 1981). One customer attribute that may play a role in moderating the association between the strength of customer- salesperson relationship and sales effectiveness is a customer’s tendency to self-monitor (Snyder, 1974). This is due to the fact that an individuals’ self monitoring tendency has been recognized as an influential personal disposition that accounts for differences in customer behavior especially in social contexts (Weitz, 1981). Self-monitoring refers to the tendency to monitor (i.e., observe and control) self-presentations and expressive behaviors (Snyder, 1974). High self-monitors are individuals who are highly sensitive to social cues in an interaction situation; thus, they modify their behavior because they desire to look proper or preferable to others in that situation. Low self-monitors are individuals who regard their personal value system and private realities as important; thus, they tend to keep their self-presentation consistent across situations. We investigated to what extent does the strength of type of customer-salesperson relationship (i.e., social, functional) influence sales effectiveness and whether individuals’ self-monitoring moderated this relationship. This study contributes to theory concerning sales performance as it furthers understanding of how relationship type influences sales performance. It also provides practical information to luxury store sales managers by documenting the effectiveness of social versus functional relationship types. Furthermore, given that degree of self-monitoring has been reported to be easily recognized from observations of people (Snyder, 1974), the research identifies the role of a visible customer attribute in a selling situation thus providing concrete ideas for salespersons concerning how to best serve their customers. Twenty two stores located in eight of the largest department stores in Seoul, Korea were identified. Sales managers in the luxury brand stores were asked to be data collectors for the sample, each sales manager were asked to secure 10 respondents. They received a $5 gift card per completed questionnaire for compensation. Once a customer was informed of the nature of the research and agreed to participate, they were given a questionnaire that included information on consent in a booklet. Participants were given a $5 gift card for compensation. A total of 220 questionnaires were distributed and 187 were returned. Questionnaires with excessive incomplete responses were eliminated resulting in a final sample of 167. The questionnaire consisted of existing measures of sales effectiveness (Gilly et al. (1998), satisfaction with purchase decisions Fitzsomons (2000), sales associate-customer relationship type (Coulter and Ligas, 2000), and self-monitoring (Snyder, 1986). Participants were female (95.2%). A large percentage were from 50 to 59 years of age (38.9%) followed by the category of older than 60 years of age (24%). The majority had more formal education than a college degree (89.8%). Participants shared that they had known their salesperson for an average of 3.4 years. Preliminary data analyses revealed Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was .92 for perceived salesperson effect on purchase decision, .89 for satisfaction with purchase decision, and .72 for self-monitoring. Next we verified the assumptions of the regression model testing normality of residuals, independence of residuals (Durbin-Watson statistic), linearity, and constant variance of the residuals (homoscedasticity). All assumptions were satisfied. Some of the correlations of the measures indicated possible problems of multicollinearity. In order to minimize correlations between the independent variables and interaction terms, the independent variables were mean-centered prior to the computation of the interaction terms (Aiken and West, 1991). We checked variance inflation factor for each regression coefficient and results showed all factors were less than the threshold of 10. Multiple regression revealed that the strength of social relationship was positively related to perceived salesperson effect on purchase decision (β =.27, p<.001) and satisfaction with purchase decision (β=.28, p<.001). A functional relationship with a salesperson had no significant effect on purchase decision and satisfaction with purchase decision. Self-monitoring moderated the influence of a social relationship such that customers who were low self-monitors were more likely to indicate they were influenced by the salesperson for their purchase intentions if they perceived they had a strong social relationship with salesperson than a weak social relationship. However, when customers were high self-monitors, the perceived effect of a social relationship was reduced. Participants credited their salesperson with influencing their purchase decision as well as tended to be satisfied with their purchase decision when they thought they had a strong social relationship with a salesperson. These findings are consistent with those of Reynolds and Beatty (1999) and Wagner et al. (2003). The strength of functional relationships had no significant effect on either of our measures of salesperson effectiveness. The insignificant results could be due to the fact that customers with strong functional relationships with salespersons have no emotional connections or personal closeness with the salesperson. We extend prior work (Wagner et al., 2003; Walker et al., 1977) on investigating situational factors (i.e., customer attributes) influencing sales effectiveness. Our findings provide important implications for luxury retailers. Building a strong social relationship with customers is recognized as an important strategy in personnel selling. In order to maximize a relationship marketing strategy within limited resources, luxury retailers may want to inform their salespersons that it is more effective to try to build a strong social relationship with low self-monitors rather than high self-monitors since low self-monitors are predicted to have more tendency to be loyal to the salesperson due to their tendency to try to have shared attitudes and values with a personally close people (Snyder, Gangestad, and Simpson, 1983) as well as to be receptive to the salesperson’s influence on their purchase decision when they have a strong social relationship with the salesperson. In contrast, because high self-monitors tend to have lower levels of interpersonal commitment and less stable social bonds than low self-monitors (Gangestad and Snyder, 2000), it seems hard to obtain long-term loyalty from high self-monitors even though they may view themselves as having a strong social relationship with the salesperson.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-239
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Global Fashion Marketing
Volume1
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

Keywords

  • Customer-salesperson relationship
  • Luxury
  • Sales effectiveness
  • Sales performance
  • Self-monitoring

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