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This paper recognises that customer loyalty is important for many competitive organisations, and that retail firms make investments to build and maintain loyal relationships with their existing and potential customers (e.g. loyalty programs). However, there has been little focus on the mechanisms by which these relationship investments operate to achieve customer loyalty. This paper examines one mechanism, namely customer gratitude, which works to make a firm’s relationship marketing investment a success or a failure. Using data from 1600 undergraduate students, this study empirically confirms the mediating role of customer gratitude between the customers’ perceptions a firm’s relationship marketing investments and customers’ perceptions of the value of the relationship with the firm. Further, a significant moderating effect of perceived benevolence on the relationship between customers’ perceptions a firm’s relationship marketing investments and customer gratitude was identified. For theorists, this customer gratitude model offers a better psychological explanation of how relationship marketing investments operate to improve the value that customers place on their relationships with retailers. Our research suggests that managers should invest resources to stimulate customer gratitude in order to build strong customer–seller relationships.


Peter Faber Business School

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Journal Article

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