Comments on Store Patronage and Adoption Processes

Murphy A. Sewall, University of Connecticut
ABSTRACT - These papers deal with factors that attract and retain customers. The perspectives vary from a marketer's personal characteristics (Martin and Roberts), consumers' perceptions and distances from merchants (Kelly and Smith), planning of shopping trips (Crask and Olshavsky), and reactions to post-purchase experience and communications (Black).
[ to cite ]:
Murphy A. Sewall (1983) ,"Comments on Store Patronage and Adoption Processes", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, eds. Richard P. Bagozzi and Alice M. Tybout, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 362-363.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, 1983      Pages 362-363


Murphy A. Sewall, University of Connecticut


These papers deal with factors that attract and retain customers. The perspectives vary from a marketer's personal characteristics (Martin and Roberts), consumers' perceptions and distances from merchants (Kelly and Smith), planning of shopping trips (Crask and Olshavsky), and reactions to post-purchase experience and communications (Black).


Our culture contains numerous examples of prejudice against women in commerce, but the study by Martin and Roberts offers little support for the conclusion that sex-stereotyping is alive and well. This outcome may be a consequence or the problem considered and the subjects (students) analyzed.

A woman proposing to start a business may experience some difficulty attracting capital and orders from organizational purchasers. Whether such a business would experience difficulty obtaining consumer patronage is an issue that may merit some attention.

A fundamental question is, are consumers usually aware of the demographic traits of an owner or manager? A celebrity might find some "name" value in attracting attention to a business; noncelebrities seem to have little reason to place their own identity before the public. The experimental results provide a little evidence that students find success in an unrelated endeavor more relevant than the owner's sex to entrepreneurial success. Isn't it probable that consumers will be More likely to evaluate a restaurant, or similar retail establishment involving brief temporal commitment and low risk of serious dissatisfaction, on the basis of direct consumption experience rather than the owner's traits?

The use or relatively homogeneous subjects for experimental testing is likely to reduce within treatment variances and increase the likelihood of rejecting null hypotheses. However, if the homogeneity extends to lack or sensitivity to experimental manipulation, ene reduction of error variance may be offset by a reduction in treatment variances as well. For a variety of reasons, college students may be the population group least likely to be biased toward career women. Manipulation checks indicate that the student subjects received the treatment cues, but the dependent variable analysis does not provide much evidence that the sex of owner information was deemed particularly relevant by the students.


These two papers address a similar topic: what are the major factors influencing store patronage? Kelly and Smith consider the same conceptual issue as Stanley and Sewall (1976) - the relative importance of location and "image" factors as explanators of patronage behavior. The conceptualization and analysis of Kelly and Smith offers substantially from Stanley and Sewall, but essentially the same conclusions prevail. Convenience, represented by distance or time, appears to be the more important factor, but components of a store's image are relevant.

Models that attempt to explain patronage on the basis of proximity to consumers' homes are conceptually inappropriate if consumers do not travel from home to an outlet on a single purpose shopping trip. The fact that multipurpose shopping trips are common may explain why choice axiom models have frequently been found to be more closely associated with shopping center than individual store patronage (Kotler 1971). Crask and Olshavsky present a pioneering investigation into the process of selecting outlets for multipurpose shopping.

Both of these papers highlight substantive research issues that merit further investigation. there have been many attempts to define retail image by deriving components of the construct, but no consensus emerges from the literature and little effort has been directed to exploring the connection between retail image and patronage (Berkowitz, Deutscher, and Hansen 1978). The conclusion that convenience is more important than image may be a consequence of these definition a-nd measurement problems. If multi-item, multi-stop shopping is really modal, a model that is more appropriate than variants of Huff's gravity model will be necessary to link image with store patronage.

Crask and Olshavsky appear to have by-passed one step in their research that merits investigation. Some products or shopping occasions may be more likely to be single, or multiple, stop than others. Single-scop shopping may be modal for food purchases simply because of the need to place some items in a refrigerator or freezer. Less frequent purchase occasions may be more likely to be multi-stop because shopping can be deterred until it is convenient to acquire a number o f items in the course of a single trip.

Clearly more knowledge is necessary about how consumers organize shopping lists as well as shopping trips. Image factors may play a different role in multi-scop shopping due to interaction with the images of other retailers in the vicinity. Such interactions are likely to further complicate efforts to develop a better conceptualization and better measures of retail image.


Black's paper on the post adoption process seems most useful for offering a conceptual basis for empirical results, some of which have been in the literature for some time. In particular, the notions of negative feedback from discontinuance and the inverse relationships between the races of adoption and discontinuance are consistent with empirical results from Jones's (1970a,b) dual effects model.

A comprehensive model of the trial, adoption, and repurchase process that explicitly considers both positive and negative communications feedback was presented at the 1982 Marketing Educators' Conference (Mahajan and Muller 1982). Mahajan and Muller appear to have extended modeling of this process as far as current conceptualization of the process permits, but one limitation is that communications are treated as categorical (positive, neutral, or negative).

Continued examination with a goal of developing new theoretical insights appears necessary if an improved understanding of adoption, continuance, and discontinuance is to be achieved. Black's paper is a contribution in this direction.

The observation that scholarly investigation of the adoption process, and particularly post-adoption behavior, has declined in recent years may be an illusion attributable to the usage of terms. The literature on repeat purchasing (reviewed by Mahajan and Muller 1982) seems relevant.

Operational definitions of constructs appears to represent a significant conceptual problem in considering adoption and post-adoption behavior. Adoption is commonly regarded as if it is a dichotomy, but doesn't an examination of discontinuance require a distinction of trial(s) and adoption? Examination of panel data over many purchase repetitions of frequently purchased products usually reveals a considerable amount of brand switching. Is it possible to clearly distinguish trial, adoption, and discontinuance for such Products?

The empirically observed inverse relationship between adoption and discontinuance suggests that an, as yet, exogenous factor may be responsible for both. Perhaps what is needed, is a continuous measure of relative commitment to the innovation. The purchase operators of the linear learning model have some appeal for this purpose (Jones 1970a,b).

Black's conceptualization of the diffusion process considers both personal and environmental variables but not intrinsic characteristics of the innovation. Won't adoption and discontinuance rates vary according to whether an innovation offers substantial advantages over alternatives or is simply a modification of established products or ideas? This issue amounts to the problem of operationally defining what is "new." Are striped, speckled, and other multihued toothpastes really innovations? This question might be resolved by using the discontinuance race as a measure of innovativeness in much the same way as observing the percentage of income spent as a function of income can be used as a measure to distinguish luxuries from necessities.


Berkowitz, L N., Deutscher, T. and Hansen, R. A. (1978) "Retail image Research: A Case of Significant Unrealized potential," Educators' Conference Proceedings, Chicago: American Marketing Association, 62-6.

Jones, J. M. (1970a), "A Dual-Effects Model of Brand Choice," Journal of Marketing Research, 7 458-65.

Jones, J. M. (1970b) A Comparison of Three Models of Brand Choice," Journal of Marketing Research, 7, 466-73.

Kotler, P. (1971), Marketing Decision Making: A Model Building Approach, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 319.

Mahajan, V. and Muller, E. (1982), "Innovative Behavior and Repeat Purchase Diffusion Models," Educators' Conference Proceedings, Chicago: American Marketing Association, 456-60.

Stanley, T. J . and Sewall, M. A. (1976), Image Inputs to a Probabilistic Model: Predicting Retail Potential," Journal of Marketing, 40 (July), 48-53.