Consumer Responses to Business Gifts in a Business-to-Consumer Setting

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Business gifts to consumers are an increasingly popular marketing tool for businesses used to create long-term customer relationships. The intention behind business gifts is to provoke reciprocal behavior – a widely-used theory in gift-giving research – from consumers, such as positive word-of-mouth, purchase, and repurchase. The aim of this study was to examine whether different types of representation of the business have differential effects on the consumer’s evaluation of the gift and the likelihood to reciprocate the gift. Additionally, the study investigated the impact of the consumer’s perceived social distance towards the business in this context, by including this relation in the model as a mediating variable. An online experiment demonstrated that a lower perceived social distance between the consumer and the business has a strong, positive effect on the two outcome variables, gift evaluation and reciprocation likelihood. Moreover, the business representation as an individual, compared to the business representation as an entity, leads to a lower perceived social distance. Furthermore, in comparison to a business representation as an entity, a business representation as an individual leads to a more positive gift evaluation and a higher reciprocation likelihood, due to a lower perceived social distance. Finally, the research showed that the more positive a business gift is evaluated, the higher is the consumer’s likelihood to reciprocate. Both theoretical and practical implications for researchers as well as businesses and practitioners are discussed.
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