Duality, dimensionality and measurement

Consumer engagement metrics are crawling the web. Consultancy firms package complex formulas and digital platforms provide users with in-site analytics. All these solutions promise to compute consumer engagement metrics related to your digital communication efforts. The sheer volume of these offers attests the importance of consumer engagement in dictating marketing efforts and ROI … but are they measuring the right thing?

Infographic: The real online consumer engagement measured "Brands need to build relationships" Insead Knowledge, 2015 Existing website metrics and analytics remove the complexity of human behaviour: they are not the full picture! A 4-year global research project using Facebook data created ... 22 questions any company can ask consumers, fans or prospects to measure their engagement on 3 levels: Affective - caputres the emotions experienced by the person. Behavioural - measures the actions taken by a person, beyond purchase. Cognitive - are the active mental states experienced by a person. ... So what? This measure of real consumer engagement is a unique tool to: 1. assess current levels of engagement of consumers, fans and prospects with products, brands, services or other users 2. identify areas for engagement improvement 3. enhance online presence and community strategy 4. improve consumer-brand and consumer-community relationships Email laurence.dessart@kedgebs.com or tweet @laurencedessart for more insight
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Facebook, for instance, determines consumer engagement rate on a post using the percentage of people who saw a post that reacted to, shared, clicked or commented on it. This is not wrong, but 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.

Believing that this complexity cannot be simplified using clicks and views metrics, we created a scale that taps into all aspects of engagement and clarifies their meaning. We collected qualitative and quantitative data from Facebook users, social media manager and academic experts, which spanned 8 types of product categories, two languages and lasted 4 years.

The study presents a scale that measures (1) affective (2) behavioural and (3) cognitive engagement.

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

Each aspect is measured with a number of questions which exhibited high reliability and validity and the measure was validated on cross-cultural samples.

Another important outcome of the study is the applicability of this scale to different types of engagement objects. The study shows that the scale works to measure consumer engagement with a brand on the one hand, but also with a community of other brand enthusiasts (i.e. the Facebook page). In the context of Facebook, consumers can therefore be engaged with a brand and a community, and exhibit different levels of affective, cognitive and behavioural engagement for different objects.

Additionally, this scale is a powerful tool because it does not require respondents to be actual consumers of the brand. Engagement goes beyond purchase and the scale can be used to assess the engagement of fans, prospects or paying consumers.


The measurement of consumer engagement has vast implication for brand and community management. The measurement of multidimensional engagement levels allows mapping consumer’s engagement profile based on several dimensions and focusing on various brand-related engagement objects. Their interplay and dynamic nature is of concern and should be carefully monitored. The study demonstrates that consumer engagement is a multifaceted concept that applies to a many objects and actors, and which can be effectively captured.

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Read the original research article: Dessart, L., Veloutsou, C., & Morgan-Thomas, A. (2016). Capturing consumer engagement: duality, dimensionality and measurement. Journal of Marketing Management, 32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2015.1130738

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Laurence Dessart

Laurence Dessart

Laurence Dessart is Assistant Professor at KEDGE Business School in France. She completed her PhD at the University of Glasgow, focusing on consumer engagement in online brand communities. Her wider research interests are digital marketing, branding and consumer behaviour. Laurence has published in the Journal of Product and Brand Management and Journal of Marketing Management and presented her work at several conferences in Europe and the United States. She also blogs on marketing, education and research on http://laurencedessart.com.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this posting are the views of the Author(s), and are not necessarily the views of the JMM Editors, Westburn Publishers Ltd. or Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.