Building a consensus on how to define and measure consumer engagement


publication date 5 / 12 / 2016

It is essential to take into account the multidimensional facets of engagement.
The Consumer Engagement

Consumer engagement is currently on the lips of all marketing managers, and there is an increasing number of tools for measuring it. This attention to metrics highlights the high relevance of the concept, and academics have started embracing the trend. Existing metrics, however, tend to focus solely on data captured by web analytics. Yet, engagement is an inherently psychological and social phenomenon, which cannot be reduced to figures. 

Facebook, for instance, measures the engagement rate based on the number of likes, comments, and shares per post. This is not entirely false, but it is an oversimplification of the real nature of engagement. Research shows that consumer engagement is a complex and holistic concept, combining affective, behavioural and cognitive dimensions.

This study is based on the assertion that engagement cannot be reduced to a number of clicks and views. A sample survey was conducted, including online consumers, managers and academic experts as target respondents, over a period of four years. A scale was elaborated to measure all aspects of engagement, clarifying their meaning. 

It appears that consumer engagement can be defined and measured, through three facets: 

  1. Affective engagement is the summative and enduring level of emotions experienced by a consumer; it is represented by measures of enthusiasm and enjoyment.
  2. Behavioural engagement is the manifestations towards an engagement object, beyond purchase, which result from motivational drivers; it is represented by levels of sharing, learning and endorsing behaviour.
  3. Cognitive engagement is the set of enduring and active mental states that a consumer experiences; it is made up of absorption and attention aspects.

The scale provided allows to tap into each facet through a number of questions related to brand involvement and community of users, thus reflecting the importance of online networks. Since engagement goes beyond purchase, the scale can be used to asses

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