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Subject: AEJ 99 ShaverM ADV Use of grocery buyer cards in building customer loyalty
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 1 Oct 1999 06:17:34 EDT

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An exploratory study of the synergy among ad attention, promotional offers and
the use of grocery buyer cards in building customer loyalty


Mary Alice Shaver
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Hyun-Seung Jin
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carol Pardun
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mary Alice Shaver
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
CB 3365
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3365
Phone: 919/962-6421
FAX: 919/962-0620
Email: [log in to unmask]

Submitted to the Advertising Division of the Association for Education in
 and Mass Communication for presentation at the annual convention
New Orleans, August 1999

 An exploratory study of the synergy among ad attention, promotional offers and
the use of grocery buyer cards in building customer loyalty

This study measures the impact of having a grocery card on using advertising and
responding to promotions on shopping habits and customer loyalty. A statewide
of 589 adults found that, while heavy users of grocery cards do pay more
attention to advertising and plan shopping to take advantage of advertised
specials and promotions, this behavior does not result in loyalty to the store
as defined by regular shopping.

Building Customer Loyalty

An exploratory study of the synergy among ad attention, promotional offers and
the use of grocery buyer cards in building customer loyalty

        More than 28 percent of grocery store chains in the U.S. offer buyer or
frequent shopper cards, enabling both the development of customer shopping
databases and the ability to target customers with specific offers in key areas.
An additional 33 percent of stores intend to introduce these programs (Ross,
1998).  Closely allied are the advertising and coupon offers that promote
special discounts available only to preferred, card-holding customers. These
frequent shopper programs are becoming entrenched in the supermarket industry.
        All of this activity represents a move by grocery retailers to build customer
loyalty, to increase frequency of shopping in one particular store or chain of
stores and to target advertising and promotions with more precision. Price
discounts, specials, contests, buy one - get one free weekly promotions, and
gifts of food and vouchers for shopping a certain number of weeks in a given
time frame all may be part of the promotional mix. By its nature, good promotion
involves a number of differing rewards. At their best, promotion and advertising
provide a synergy for effective marketing. Through these means, retailers hope
both to gain market share over competitors and to regain the local power over
customer buying habits that national advertisers usurped in the late 19th
Century with the proliferation of national brands and related national
advertising (Rotzoll and Haefner, 1996).
        A frequent buyer program differentiates customers providing rewards based upon
behavior; the most loyal customers stand to gain the greatest rewards. Early
buyer programs simply gave buyers a card that entitled them to discount prices
on certain items or to coupons designed for their individual shopping behaviors.
More advanced buyer programs reward for frequency as well.
An underlying assumption is that the cards, associated advertising and related
promotions accomplish these goals. Customers are assumed to read ads, check
special promotions targeted at them and shop regularly at the store for which
they hold the card. This is particularly salient for a business dominated by the
dual factors of price and convenience, in which there are low margins, low
consumer involvement, and low risk, and one which involves habitual buying
behavior, often one or more times a week. In his classic study on advertising
and competition, Backman (1967) has pointed out that low cost, low risk, low
involvement products such as many of those found in supermarkets, need to be
advertised frequently. Further, these products are available from a variety of
vendors. Multiple marketers of low-involvement products generally find it
effective to use price and sales promotions as an incentive to product trial,
but the long-term effect on behavior is less clear. In fact, we know little
about the impact of these programs on actual buying behavior. The intent is
clearly to induce repeated shopping behavior and, ultimately, store loyalty. The
unanswered question is the extent to which these programs work (Schultz, 1998).
        This study measures the impact of having a grocery card on using ads and
responding to promotions and on shopping habits. A statewide survey of 589
adults provided the opportunity for an assessment of the question: Do grocery
loyalty cards succeed in doing what they are designed to do?  As importantly,
this study measures possible synergy between ad attention, participation in
promotions and store loyalty as defined by regular shopping.
        Two theories are appropriate for this work. The first, involvement theory, has
been used in a variety of studies, primarily related to product class, brand and
purchase decisions (Hovland, 1957; Krugman, 1967; Petty, Cacioppo and Schumann,
1983). Zaichkowsky (1986) states that there is an underlying theme focusing on
personal relevance in the literature on involvement. Relevance is defined in
terms of the receiver of a message being personally affected and hence
motivated. It follows that the cardholder may engage in some level of external
information search regardless of the fact that the individual products
advertised are low risk and low price.
A second relevant theory is uses and gratifications theory (Katz et al 1973)
incorporating expectancy-value theory (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). Uses and
gratifications theory would predict that customers choose the combinations of
attributes that offer the greatest reward for their effort. Although most uses
and gratifications work has been in the area of media choice, this theory, which
assumes an "active" audience, making conscious choices could well be used in a
grocery buyer situation. Expectancy-value theory assumes behavior or intention
(in our case, buying intention) to be a function of the belief that a behavior
will have an effect on gratifications sought. Grocery cardholders might be
expected to have a positive relationship for the store or stores for which they
hold the card, and they might be expected also to be searching more actively for
information. Thus, they would be expected to report higher or more frequent
attention to advertising. It is reasonable to think that they would continue to
shop regularly at the store that offered them these values.

Literature Review
Three areas of literature are pertinent to this study: attention to advertising
and use of  promotions and store loyalty.
Attention to Advertising
        Attention to advertising has been a fertile area of study for advertising
researchers. Krugman (1988) has argued that consumers can pay attention to an
advertisement, forget the ad, and then perhaps "recall" the ad when the
information is needed later on. Anderson et al (1986) argued that, as people
grow older, they pay less attention to particular media and the advertising
within them. Thorson, Fiestad, and Zhao (1987) found that if a respondent had
chosen to watch a television show, he would pay more attention to the subsequent
commercials than if he had not chosen the show. Swenson (1994) found that if a
prospect (someone interested in the product advertised) viewed an ad, she would
pay more attention to the ad than if the person were a non-prospect. These
studies point to the many obstacles advertisers face when trying to persuade
consumers to pay attention to their ads.
Advertising attention within newspapers is potentially complicated by the very
structure of the medium. With typically two-thirds of newspaper content as
advertising, the clutter factor makes getting attention for ads difficult.
Speck and Elliot (1997) stated that newspapers have characteristics that provide
a unique environment for consumers that allows them to ignore the advertising.
Since grocery stores depend on newspapers to alert consumers of weekly specials,
they need to look for new ways to entice consumers to read the advertising on a
regular basis.
Although a plethora of studies about attitudes toward advertising exist, the
ways in which grocery store customers use advertising has been largely ignored.
This is particularly noteworthy given the amount of newspaper space taken up by
grocery story advertising.  A Newspaper Association of America study (Fisher,
1994) found that shoppers prefer newspaper ads over direct mail approaches, but
they did not investigate what the shoppers' attitudes in general were to
newspaper advertisements or how much time or attention is paid to them.  Raj
(1982) found that loyal customers bought more products when they saw coupons for
their brands. This finding could be extrapolated to store promotional offers as
well.  Kelly, Huefner and Hunt (1991) surveyed 2319 retail shoppers to ascertain
their use of free-standing inserts in the newspaper. Their findings indicate
that more than half who received the newspaper had seen the ads and that 65
percent of those read most of the ads. Sixty percent reported that they had
looked at the ad because of a specific item they wanted.
Much of the research on attention indicates that readers are willing to pay
attention if information is offered that is of particular interest. Hence, it
would seem that those shoppers who were in a position to take advantage of
special prices and promotions by virtue of having a grocery card would pay
special attention to the advertising to find these savings. They may be more
likely to be price sensitive and therefore more involved in the process of
attending to advertising.
Most literature concerning promotions at the grocery store level is that of
promotions between the manufacturer and the retail store. Little has been
written on promotions to customers. What has been written on grocery  promotions
has largely dealt with price elasticity. These studies offer conflicting
findings. For example, in a study using 52 weeks of scanner data and the records
of a large supermarket, Walters and Bommer (1996) concluded that factors such as
brand market share and price had significant impact on elasticity, but that the
promotion factors of price specials did not. In a study of brand price
elasticity across markets (rather than across time), Bolton (1989) investigated
the market characteristics associated with differences in brand price elasticity
for frequently purchased nondurables. She found that market characteristics such
as brand market share, couponing, display activity and feature activity
explained a substantial amount of the variance.
Kumar and Leone (1988) used an econometric approach to study store substitution
behavior in the presence of price promotion and found that consumers will change
stores to take advantage of a special price.
The 1998 A.C. Nielsen Annual Frequent Shopper Program study found that consumers
consider the grocery cards more important than every day low pricing or customer
service. The study reported that having a grocery card was the third factor
affecting grocery choice, behind store location and store deals. Seventy-five
percent of the respondents said that saving money was the top reason for using a
grocery card.   Finally, a study of over 16,000 customers of a large supermarket
chain  (Sirchi, McLaughlin and Wittink, 1998) found that perceived value for
money was found to hinge on perceived relative price and sales promotions
perceptions. Having a grocery card would seem to promote both of these.
Store Loyalty
        The area of store loyalty has been the subject of much research. The central
thrust of marketing activities is often viewed in terms of building and
maintaining consumer loyalty. Although most marketing research on loyalty has
focused on brand loyalty, store loyalty is perhaps the singular most important
concept for retailers. In the present environment of increasing retail
competition and market maturity conditions in supermarket profit (Progressive
Grocer Annual Report, 1996), the task of managing store loyalty has emerged as a
focal managerial challenge (Dick and Basu, 1994).
According to a summary (Tigert and Arnold) of 14 different retail food store
studies, locational convenience and low prices were clearly the two most
important attributes for consumers in choosing the store where they shopped the
most. This finding was supported in a 1983 study (Arnold, Oum and Tigert) that
also found the convenience of location and low prices were the top-ranked
attributes across six markets, times and cultures. It would seem that having a
grocery card that would ensure special lower prices and access to store
promotions would make the holder more eager to shop at the store on a regular
However, another series of studies indicate that holding a grocery card may not
lead to store loyalty. Dowling and Uncles (1997) argued that card programs have
little to do with building long-term customer loyalty but everything to do with
building promotion loyalty or loyalty to discounts and deals. Trade magazines
have pointed out that a grocery card doesn't influence customer loyalty
(Garrett, 1998; Lewis, 1998; Smith, 1997). Critics of grocery cards have
observed that consumers carry more than one grocery card (Conley, 1998).  In a
given market where there were two grocery cards, heavy shoppers usually had both
of them (Lewis, 1998). Smith (1997) expressed this phenomenon as "consumers'
loyalty card game." However, when a store offers promotions that require weekly
shopping at a certain level to qualify for premiums or bonus gifts, more regular
shopping and related store loyalty might be expected.
Three hypotheses are derived:
H1 Heavy users of grocery cards will pay more attention to grocery advertising
than will light users who hold or non-holders.

H2 Heavy users of grocery cards are more likely to plan their shopping to take
advantage of promotions than will light users or non-holders.

H3  Heavy users of grocery cards are more likely to shop regularly at the
store(s) for which they hold the cards than will light users or non-holders.


        A statewide survey of 589 adults provided the opportunity to ask questions
concerning card membership, attention to advertising, participation in store
promotions and frequency of shopping at various stores. This effort is the
initial part of a larger study on buyer loyalty cards. To test our assumptions,
we were able to embed our questions in a larger, multipurpose statewide study
that dealt with a variety of issues including voter behavior, attitude toward
utilities and other issues. Although we were only allowed four questions on this
survey, there was also a cohort of demographic questions and media use questions
that were useable in our study. A pre-test was conducted in early October to
refine the survey questions. The complete statewide poll was conducted between
October 19 and 30, 1998. A sample of 589 adults was interviewed by telephone
with the numbers chosen by random sampling of all possible numbers. The sampling
error is plus or minus 4.5 percent for the total sample.  The unit of analysis
was the individual respondent. Dependent variables were attention to
advertising, planning grocery shopping to take advantage of promotions and
shopping regularly at the same store. Independent variables were having a
grocery card and the overall survey demographic variables.
        For this initial work, the assumption was made that there would be a
relationship between reading ads, participation in store promotions, use of the
store buying card and ultimately, regular shopping at the store where the card
was held.
  Initial measures of association were examined using Pearson correlation.
Crosstabs were used to determine demographic categories associated with
advertising attention and taking advantage of promotions.
 Following this, a hierarchical regression procedure was employed to determine
if the addition of grocery card usage improved the prediction of three dependent
variables beyond that afforded by differences in some demographics.
Multivariate outliers among the independent variables were sought using
Mahalanobis distance.  Mahalanobis distance is distributed as a chi square ((2)
variable, with degree of freedom equal to the number of independent variables
(Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996).  To determine which cases are multivariate
outliers, one looks up critical (2 at the desired alpha level.  In this case,
critical (2 at ( = .001 for 6 degrees of freedom (number of independent
variables ) is 22.46.  One case had a value of Mahalanobis distance in far
excess of the cut-off point.  After deleting the one case, a total of 588 cases
was analyzed.
Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics about the variables.  All means,
ranges, and standard deviations are reasonable.  The skewness and kurtosis
values indicate that variables are not perfectly normal.  Because of the
robustness of regression, however, such deviation is deemed within the tolerable
range.  The correlation matrix did not indicate any multicollinearity problems.
An additional analysis of the bivariate plots indicated a linear relationship
between each of the independent variables with the dependent variable.
Five variables (age, income, education, marital status and race) served as
control variables and entered into the first block. As our major analysis, we
entered  the grocery card usage variable to the regression equation at the
second block with "control" variables given higher priority for entry.
        Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had at least one grocery card. Of
these, nearly half said they used it always or most of the time. Three-fourths
of the respondents said they shopped at the same store all the time or most of
the time. Respondents were split just about evenly in paying attention to
grocery ads. Twenty-one percent said they paid attention to ads "a lot" while
another 21 percent said they paid no attention to the ads. Nearly a third said
they planned shopping for the grocery promotions either always or most of the
time while just over a third said they rarely or never did.
The Pearson's correlation showed a moderately strong positive correlation
between paying attention to the ads and planning to take advantage of the
promotions. While there were significant positive correlations between using the
grocery card and paying attention to the ads and between using the card and
planning shopping to take advantage of the promotions, the correlation was
relatively weak. There was no correlation between shopping at the same store and
using the card and weak negative correlations between shopping at the same store
and planning shopping to use promotions.  (See Table 2)
Age and income were related to advertising attention and using promotions.
However, it was respondents in the mid-range of ages (over 24 and below 65) and
mid-income ($20,000 to $39,900) who were more likely to do both of these (p=>.05
for each)
For the hierarchical regression, with five demographic variables in the
equation, results were:  R2 = .075, F(5,444) = 7.187, p <.001, for the ad
attention variable; R2 = .054, F(5,449) = 5.138, p <.001, for the grocery
loyalty variable; R2 = .085, F(5,438) = 8.114, p <.001, for the grocery
promotion variable.  Education had a negative relationship with ad attention and
grocery loyalty.  Income also had a negative relationshiop to ad attention and
grocery promotion.  Age had a positive effect on grocery promotion and a
negative effect on a grocery loyalty.  Married  respondents and African
Americans were positively related to grocery promotion.  The five control
variables explain 7.5% of variance in ad attention, 5.4% in grocery shopping
regularity, and 8.5% in grocery promotion.
Grocery card usage had significant positive effects on both ad attention and
grocery promotion but not for grocery loyalty.  Table 3 indicates grocery card
usage variable produce incremental R2 for ad attention by 4.5% and for grocery
promotion by 5.0% (Incremental R2 = .045, F(1,443) = 22.50, p <.001 for ad
attention; Incremental R2 = .05, F(1,437) = 25.33, p <.001).  Grocery loyalty,
however, was not explained by grocery card usage (Incremental R2 = .001,
F(1,448) = .580, p > .4).
Hypothesis One, that heavy users of grocery cards will pay more attention to
grocery advertising than light users or non-holders is supported. Hypothesis
Two, that heavy users of grocery cards will plan shopping to take advantage of
store promotions more than will light users or non-holders, is also supported.
However, Hypothesis Three, that heavy users of grocery cards will shop more
regularly at the store(s) for which they hold the cards than will light users or
non-holders was not supported.
Grocery shopping is a habitual behavior and one that most people engage in at
least once a week. Having a grocery card is relatively common among shoppers.
Uses of the card vary, however, The results of this study show that those who
have the card and use it frequently are more active in external search
behaviors. Those consumers are more likely to pay attention to advertising and
plan to take advantage of the promotions.  Using  the card, however, even when
using it for specific advertised promotions, does not relate to store loyalty.
Those who have and use the card to take advantage of promotions are likely to be
those consumers who are interested in shopping bargains and "deals" and they
abandon the store when there are better prices and "deals" to be had elsewhere.
This argues that the grocery stores not only have to get the cards into the
hands of the consumers in the market area, but that they keep having to compete
against other stores in the area with highly desirable promotions and prices to
keep their card holders happy and active. More than one store offers a card in
many areas; it seems likely, then, that price sensitive consumers use multiple
cards to gain the greatest advantage every week, no matter which store offers
it. These are active shoppers who engage in a strong external search process on
a regular basis. For them, grocery shopping is not a low-involvement activity.
It is a challenge either because they need to maximize dollars spent or because
they just plain enjoy getting good deals.
Stores issue the cards to entice customers and to build store loyalty. But
customers appear to remain grateful and loyal only at the time when they are
getting the better prices and promotions from the store. And even then, mid-age
and mid-income customers are most likely to take advantage of the card and its
offers. Being married and being in the age group where one would be raising a
family are related to use as well. It follows that stores need to do three
things: 1) Continue to offer competitive promotions on a weekly basis, 2) Target
special promotions to products that would appeal to those in the demographic
range that responds, and 3) Consider offering promotions that give a premium for
continuous or regular shopping at a certain level. An example of this latter
would be a promotion that rewarded for x number of weeks for shopping at a
certain dollar level. At the end of the time period, those customers who had
complied would be given a special bonus - credit toward future purchases, free
food, coupons, tickets to a popular local attraction or a similar prize. The
loyal customer would have "earned" the prize in the same way frequent flyers
earn free trips on airlines.
A limitation of this study is the few questions that we were allowed to put into
the statewide survey. With only four grocery-related questions, the only the
most basic questions could be asked. However, this is the initial work for a
larger study involving both a survey and interviews with consumers.

This is a largely unexplored area in advertising and promotions. Virtually
nothing has been done in the scholarly literature and little in the trade press,
with the exception of loyalty, which largely has been studies concerning brands
and not stores.
 There were obvious space limitations on the survey instrument we used for this
initial study. Future work in this area involves a much larger study, funded by
a grant, that is  now in its initial stages. This study, a combination of survey
and interviews, will explore areas such as responses to individual promotions,
store perceptions, factors inducing loyalty, number of different stores in the
preferred "set," willingness to try private brands, and specific uses of store
advertising. Loyalty and advertising effectiveness assessments will be made as

Building Customer Loyalty





Std. Dev.
(Std. Error)
(Std. Error)

Grocery Card Usage 1
Ad Attention 2
Grocery Loyalty 3
Grocery Promotion 4
Age 5
Income 6
Education 7
* The variables in TABLE 1 are continuous variables.  Categorical demographic
variables are:
     Gender: Male (36.9%); Female (63.1%).  Marital status: Married (63%);
Single (17%); Others (20%)
      Race: White (79.1%); Black (14.8%); Others (6.1%).
1.      We measured the variable asking, "Do you use a grocery card (1) always, (2)
most of time, (3) sometimes, (4) rarely, (5) don't have card?"  Scales were
reversed for the data analysis.  Thus 1 means "don't have card" and 5 refers to
2.      Ad attention was measured by asking, "How much attention would you say you
pay to grocery store advertising to guide your regular shopping: (1) a lot of
attention, (2) some attention, (3) a little attention, (4) no attention."
Scales were reversed for the data analysis.  Thus 1 refers to "no attention" in
3.      Grocery loyalty was measured by asking, "Would you say you shop at the same
grocery store or chain, (1) always, (2) most of the time, (3) sometimes, (4)
rarely, or (5) do you never do the grocery shopping?  The scales also were
reversed.  Thus, 5 means "always."
4.      Grocery promotion was measured by asking, "How often would you say you plan
grocery store purchase to take advantage of special promotions? (1) always_.(5)
5.      This survey was conducted for the adults.  Thus all of respondents are over
6.      Income was categorized: (1) less than $10000, (2) 10001-20000, (3)
20001-30000._(6) 50001-60000, and (7) more than 60000.  We used this as
continuous variable.
7.      Education was measured by completion of school years: (1) 1st grade_.(12)
12th grade-high school_.(16) college grade_.(18) master's degree_.(20) Ph.D, and
(21) more.

Read Grocery Advertising
Shop Same Store Regularly
Plan Shopping Around Promotions

Use Grocery Card
Read Grocery Advertising
Shop Same Store Regularly
Plan Shopping Around Promotions
Use Grocery Card

        * P<.05; ** P<.01; *** P<.001

Attention                            Grocery Loyalty                    Grocery
                                                                           (N =
445)                                    (N = 450)
(N = 439)
Regression Coefficients

Regression Coefficients

Regression Coefficients

I. Control Block
Marital Status
II. Grocery Card Usage
III. Total R2 of Control Block(%)
IV. Incremental R2 due to II(%)
V. Total R2(%)

1.      Marital status was dummy coded: Married was 1 and others was 0.
2.      Race was dummy coded: Black was 1 and others was 0.
3.      Regression analysis was based on listwise deletion.  Thus we lost more than
100 cases from total of 588 for the analysis.  There was no significant
difference between listwise deletion and mean substitution method.
4.      * p<.05: ** p<.01; *** p <.001

Building Customer Loyalty


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15 (2),  4-14.

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