Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 399–416 | Cite as

Actively Persuading Consumers to Enact Ethical Behaviors in Retailing: The Influence of Relational Benefits and Corporate Associates

  • Hsiu-Hua Chang
  • Long-Chuan LuEmail author
Original Paper


While consumer motivation to maintain a relationship with a retailer is a function of personal idiosyncratic characteristics, specific perceptions of retailers may play a role in influencing receptivity to relationship maintenance. This study integrates relationship marketing tactics and corporate associates into a model of consumer ethical purchasing behavior that improves the relationship between sellers and buyers. Results show social benefits, special treatment benefits, CSR, and service quality have direct and indirect impact on ethically questionable consumer behaviors in retailing. This study also modifies the consumer ethics scale of Muncy and Vitell (1992) for the East Asian market with good reliability and validity in order to measure ethically questionable consumption behaviors in retailing. Finally, some theoretical contribution and practical implications are discussed.


Consumer ethics Relational benefits Corporate social responsibility Corporate ability Service quality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Khatib, J. A., Stanton, A. D. A., & Rawwas, M. Y. (2005). Ethical segmentation of consumers in developing countries: A comparative analysis. International Marketing Review, 22(2), 225–246.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Wugayan, A. A., & Rao, C. P. (2004). An empirical investigation of consumer ethics in a collectivist Arab culture: Customer-retailer relationship (CRR) approach. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 16(3), 25–54.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, E. W., Fornell, C., & Rust, R. T. (1997). Customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability: Differences between goods and services. Marketing Science, 16(2), 129–145.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, J. C., & Gerbing, D. G. (1988). Structural equation modeling in practice: A review and recommended two step approach. Psychological Bulletin, 103(3), 411–423.Google Scholar
  6. Anderson, E., & Weitz, B. (1992). The use of pledges to build and sustain commitment in distribution channels. Journal of Marketing Research, 29(1), 18–34.Google Scholar
  7. Bagozzi, R. P. (1995). Reflections on relationship marketing in consumer markets. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 23(4), 272–277.Google Scholar
  8. Beatty, S. E., Mayer, M., Coleman, J. E., Reynolds, K. E., & Lee, J. (1996). Customer-sales associate retail relationships. Journal of Retailing, 72(3), 223–247.Google Scholar
  9. Bendapudi, N., & Berry, L. L. (1997). Customers’ motivations for maintaining relationships with service providers. Journal of Retailing, 73(1), 15–37.Google Scholar
  10. Berens, G., Van Riel, C. B., & Van Bruggen, G. H. (2005). Corporate associations and consumer product responses: The moderating role of corporate brand dominance. Journal of Marketing, 69(3), 35–48.Google Scholar
  11. Berry, L. L. (1995). Relationship marketing of services: Growing interest, emerging perspectives. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 23(4), 236–245.Google Scholar
  12. Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2003). Consumer-company identification: A framework for understanding consumers’ relationships with companies. Journal of Marketing, 67(2), 76–88.Google Scholar
  13. Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  14. Boulding, W., Kalra, A., Staelin, R., & Zeithaml, V. A. (1993). A dynamic process model of service quality: From expectations to behavioral intentions. Journal of Marketing Research, 30(1), 7–27.Google Scholar
  15. Brady, M. K., Cronin, J. J., & Brand, R. R. (2002). Performance-only measurement of service quality: A replication and extension. Journal of Business Research, 55(1), 17–31.Google Scholar
  16. Bray, J., Johns, N., & Kilburn, D. (2011). An exploratory study into the factors impeding ethical consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(4), 597–608.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, T. J., & Dacin, P. A. (1997). The company and the product: Corporate associations and consumer product responses. The Journal of Marketing, 61(1), 68–84.Google Scholar
  18. Brunk, K. H. (2010). Exploring origins of ethical company/brand perceptions—A consumer perspective of corporate ethics. Journal of Business Research, 63(3), 255–262.Google Scholar
  19. Brunk, K. H. (2012). Un/ethical company and brand perceptions: Conceptualising and operationalising consumer meanings. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(4), 551–565.Google Scholar
  20. Carroll, A. B. (1991). Corporate social performance measurement: A commentary on methods for evaluating an elusive construct. Research in Corporate Social Performance and Policy Post LE (ed), 12(42), 385–401.Google Scholar
  21. Carroll, A. B. (2016). Carroll’s pyramid of CSR: Taking another look. International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, 1(3), 1–8.Google Scholar
  22. Christy, R., Oliver, G., & Penn, J. (1996). Relationship marketing in consumer markets. Journal of Marketing Management, 12(1–3), 175–187.Google Scholar
  23. Churchill, G. A. (1979). A paradigm for developing better measures of marketing constructs. Journal of Marketing Research, 16, 64–73.Google Scholar
  24. Clarkson, M. E. (1995). A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 92–117.Google Scholar
  25. Cronin, J. J., Jr., & Taylor, S. A. (1992). Measuring service quality: A reexamination and extension. The Journal of Marketing, 56(3), 55–68.Google Scholar
  26. Cropanzano, R., & Mitchell, M. S. (2005). Social exchange theory: An interdisciplinary review. Journal of Management, 31(6), 874–900.Google Scholar
  27. Dabholkar, P. A., Thorpe, D. I., & Rentz, J. O. (1995). A measure of service quality for retail stores: Scale development and validation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 24(1), 3–16.Google Scholar
  28. de los Salmones, M. D. M. G., Crespo, A. H., & del Bosque, I. R. (2005). Influence of corporate social responsibility on loyalty and valuation of services. Journal of Business Ethics, 61(4), 369–385.Google Scholar
  29. De Wulf, K., Odekerken-Schröder, G., & Iacobucci, D. (2001). Investments in consumer relationships: A cross-country and cross-industry exploration. Journal of Marketing, 65, 33–50.Google Scholar
  30. Deng, X. (2012). Understanding consumer’s responses to enterprise’s ethical behaviors: An investigation in China. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(2), 159–181.Google Scholar
  31. Dick, A. S., & Basu, K. (1994). Customer loyalty: Toward an integrated conceptual framework. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 22(2), 99–113.Google Scholar
  32. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intentions and behavior: An introduction to theory and research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  33. Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39–50.Google Scholar
  34. Fukukawa, K. (2002). Developing a framework for ethically questionable behavior in consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 41(1), 99–119.Google Scholar
  35. Fukukawa, K., & Ennew, C. (2010). What we believe is not always what we do: An empirical investigation into ethically questionable behavior in consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 91(1), 49–60.Google Scholar
  36. Fullerton, R. A., & Punj, G. (1993). Choosing to misbehave: A structural model of aberrant consumer behavior. Advances in Consumer Research, 20(1), 570–574.Google Scholar
  37. Geyskens, I., Steenkamp, J. B. E., Scheer, L. K., & Kumar, N. (1996). The effects of trust and interdependence on relationship commitment: A trans-Atlantic study. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 13(4), 303–317.Google Scholar
  38. Gwinner, K. P., Gremler, D. D., & Bitner, M. J. (1998). Relational benefits in services industries: The customer’s perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 26(2), 101–114.Google Scholar
  39. Hallowell, R. (1996). The relationships of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and profitability: An empirical study. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 7(4), 27–42.Google Scholar
  40. He, H., & Li, Y. (2011). CSR and service brand: The mediating effect of brand identification and moderating effect of service quality. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(4), 673–688.Google Scholar
  41. Henderson, V. E. (1982). The ethical side of enterprise. Sloan Management Review, 23(3), 37–47.Google Scholar
  42. Henleny, A. B., Shook, C. L., & Peterson, M. (2006). The presence of equivalent models in strategic management research using structural equation modeling: Assessing and addressing the problem. Organizational Research Methods, 9, 516–535.Google Scholar
  43. Hennig-Thurau, T., Gwinner, K. P., & Gremler, D. D. (2002). Understanding relationship marketing outcomes: An integration of relational benefits and relationship quality. Journal of Service Research, 4(3), 230–247.Google Scholar
  44. Hennig-Thurau, T., & Klee, A. (1997). The impact of customer satisfaction and relationship quality on customer retention: A critical reassessment and model development. Psychology & Marketing, 14(8), 737–764.Google Scholar
  45. Hunt, S. D., & Vitell, S. J. (1986). A general theory of marketing ethics. Journal of Macromarketing, 6(1), 5–16.Google Scholar
  46. Hunt, S. D., & Vitell, S. J. (1993). The general theory of marketing ethics: A retrospective and revision. In N. C. Smith & J. A. Quelch (Eds.), Ethics in marketing (pp. 775–784). Homewood, IL: Irwin Inc.Google Scholar
  47. Lacey, R., & Kennett-Hensel, P. A. (2010). Longitudinal effects of corporate social responsibility on customer relationships. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(4), 581–597.Google Scholar
  48. Lichtenstein, D. R., Drumwright, M. E., & Braig, B. M. (2004). The effect of corporate social responsibility on customer donations to corporate-supported nonprofits. The Journal of Marketing, 68(4), 16–32.Google Scholar
  49. Liu, Z., Zeng, F., & Su, C. (2009). Does relationship quality matter in consumer ethical decision making? Evidence from China. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(3), 483–496.Google Scholar
  50. Lu, L.-C., Huang, Y.-W., & Chang, H.-H. (2014). Confucian dynamism, the role of money and consumer ethical beliefs: An exploratory study in Taiwan. Ethics and Behavior, 24(1), 34–52.Google Scholar
  51. Lu, L.-C., & Lu, C.-J. (2010). Moral philosophy, materialism, and consumer ethics: An exploratory study in Indonesia. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 193–210.Google Scholar
  52. Luo, X., & Bhattacharya, C. B. (2006). Corporate social responsibility, customer satisfaction, and market value. The Journal of Marketing, 70(4), 1–18.Google Scholar
  53. Maignan, I., Ferrell, O. C., & Ferrell, L. (2005). A stakeholder model for implementing social responsibility in marketing. European Journal of Marketing, 39(9/10), 956–977.Google Scholar
  54. Matten, D., & Moon, J. (2008). “Implicit” and “explicit” CSR: A conceptual framework for a comparative understanding of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 33, 404–424.Google Scholar
  55. Matute-Vallejo, J., Bravo, R., & Pina, J. M. (2011). The influence of corporate social responsibility and price fairness on customer behaviour: Evidence from the financial sector. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 18(6), 317–331.Google Scholar
  56. Mitchell, V. W., Balabanis, G., Schlegelmich, B. B., & Cornwell, T. B. (2009). Measuring unethical consumer behaviors across four countries. Journal of Business Ethic, 88(2), 395–412.Google Scholar
  57. Mitchell, V. W., & Ka Lun Chan, J. (2002). Investigating UK consumers’ unethical attitudes and behaviours. Journal of Marketing Management, 18(1–2), 5–26.Google Scholar
  58. Mohr, L. A., Webb, D. J., & Harris, K. E. (2001). Do Consumers expect companies to be socially responsible? The impact of corporate social responsibility on buying behavior. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 35(1), 45–72.Google Scholar
  59. Moorman, C., Zaltman, G., & Deshpande, R. (1992). Relationships between providers and users of market research: The dynamics of trust. Journal of Marketing Research, 29(3), 314–328.Google Scholar
  60. Morgan, R. M., & Hunt, S. D. (1994). The commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing. The Journal of Marketing, 58(3), 20–38.Google Scholar
  61. Morsing, M. (2006). Corporate moral branding: Limits to aligning employees. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 11(2), 97–108.Google Scholar
  62. Muncy, J. A., & Vitell, S. J. (1992). Consumer ethics: An investigation of the ethical beliefs of the final consumer. Journal of Business Research, 24(4), 297–311.Google Scholar
  63. Nunnally, J. (1978). Psychoetric theory (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  64. Odekerken-Schröder, G., De Wulf, K., & Schumacher, P. (2003). Strengthening outcomes of retailer–consumer relationships: The dual impact of relationship marketing tactics and consumer personality. Journal of Business Research, 56(3), 177–190.Google Scholar
  65. Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. (1988). SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality. Journal of Retailing, 64(1), 12–40.Google Scholar
  66. Pérez, A., del Mar García de los Salmones, M., & del Bosque Rodríguez, I. (2013). The effect of corporate associations on consumer behavior. European Journal of Marketing, 47(1/2), 218–238.Google Scholar
  67. Pirsch, J., Gupta, S., & Grau, S. L. (2007). A framework for understanding corporate social responsibility programs as a continuum: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Ethics, 70(2), 125–140.Google Scholar
  68. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.Google Scholar
  69. Podsakoff, P. M., & Organ, D. W. (1986). Self-repots in organizational research: Problems and prospects. Journal of Management, 12(4), 531–544.Google Scholar
  70. Rao, C. P., & Al-Wugayan, A. A. (2005). Gender and cultural differences in consumer ethics in a consumer–retailer interaction context. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 18(1–2), 45–71.Google Scholar
  71. Sen, S., & Bhattacharya, C. B. (2001). Does doing good always lead to doing better? Consumer reactions to corporate social responsibility. Journal of Marketing Research, 38, 225–243.Google Scholar
  72. Shea, L. J. (2010). Using consumer perceived ethicality as a guideline for corporate social responsibility strategy: A commentary essay. Journal of Business Research, 63(3), 263–264.Google Scholar
  73. Steenhaut, S., & Van Kenhove, P. (2005). Relationship commitment and ethical consumer behavior in a retail setting: The case of receiving too much change at the checkout. Journal of Business Ethics, 56(4), 335–353.Google Scholar
  74. Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670.Google Scholar
  75. Valenzuela, L. M., Mulki, J. P., & Jaramillo, J. F. (2010). Impact of customer orientation, inducements and ethics on loyalty to the firm: Customers’ perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 93(2), 277–291.Google Scholar
  76. Van Kenhove, P., De Wulf, K., & Steenhaut, S. (2003). The relationship between consumers’ unethical behavior and customer loyalty in a retail environment. Journal of Business Ethics, 44(4), 261–278.Google Scholar
  77. Vázquez-Carrasco, R., & Foxall, G. R. (2006). Influence of personality traits on satisfaction, perception of relational benefits, and loyalty in a personal service context. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 13(3), 205–219.Google Scholar
  78. Vitell, S. J. (2003). Consumer ethics research: Review synthesis and suggestions for the future. Journal of Business Ethics, 43(1–2), 33–47.Google Scholar
  79. Vitell, S. J., & Muncy, J. (1992). Consumer ethics: An empirical investigation of factors influencing ethical judgments of the final consumer. Journal of Business Ethics, 11(8), 585–597.Google Scholar
  80. Vitell, S. J., & Muncy, J. (2005). The Muncy–Vitell consumer ethics scale: A modification and application. Journal of Business Ethics, 62(3), 267–275.Google Scholar
  81. Vitell, S. J., Singh, J. J., & Paolillo, J. (2007). Consumers’ ethical beliefs: The roles of money, religiosity and attitude toward business. Journal of Business Ethics, 73(4), 369–379.Google Scholar
  82. Wolfinbarger, M., & Gilly, M. C. (2003). eTailQ: Dimensionalizing, measuring and predicting etail quality. Journal of Retailing, 79, 183–198.Google Scholar
  83. Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L., & Parasuraman, A. (1996). The behavioral consequences of service quality. Journal of Marketing, 60(2), 31–46.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, School of BusinessFeng Chia UniversityTaichungTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of Business Administration, School of ManagementNational Chung Cheng UniversityChia-YiTaiwan

Personalised recommendations