ABSTRACT

Purpose - As the role of salespersons in retail stores has expanded from selling products to sharing brand experiences with customers, the importance of research on the effects of salesperson-brand relationships has grown. The purpose of this research is to investigate the influences of salespersons’ brand identification on conceptual fluency and customers’ service and brand evaluations. It was supposed that salespersons’ brand identification is affected by brand knowledge, which is a core dimension of internal branding. Research design, data, and methodology - The author developed a structural model in which salespersons’ brand knowledge influences brand identification, hence customers’ perception of salesperson-brand image congruence. And it is hypothesized that salesperson-brand image congruence influences conceptual fluency which affects customers’ satisfaction and brand evaluation. Data were collected from five department stores in Seoul. Results - First, salespersons’ brand knowledge was found to have a significant effect on brand identification. The more a salesperson knows about the affiliated brand, the higher her level of brand identification. Second, salespersons’ brand identification influenced salesperson-brand image congruence. Third, salesperson-brand image congruence had a significant effect on brand conceptual fluency. Customers who perceive salesperson-brand image congruent are more likely to process information easily. Finally, conceptual fluency was found to be a significant determinant of store loyalty and brand value evaluation. Conclusions - The results of this study verify importance of salesperson’s brand identification on customers’ service and brand evaluations. To enhance salespersons’ brand identification, retailers should emphasize the importance of internal branding and communication, especially by sharing brand vision, values, and identity with employees at customer contact points. Also, as brand conceptual fluency is a significant determinant of customer responses, retailers need to deliver consistent messages through various components of store environments, including salespersons’ attitudes, appearances, and manners, as well as physical store design. With a deeper understanding of the effects of salesperson-brand relationship and brand conceptual fluency, retailers will be able to create more effective brand strategies to enhance their performances. Future studies should consider data from various retail types, such as discount stores, to generalize the findings.

KEYWORD

Salesperson Brand Identification, Conceptual Fluency, Service Satisfaction, Brand Evaluation.

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