Brick-and-mortar retailers face increasing competition from online retailers, who can collect online customer data and leverage it to increase customer loyalty. This opportunity is not available for brickand-mortar stores as their major advantage – the direct personal contact with the customer during a store visit – typically ends when customers leave the store. This research-in-progress investigates how digital information and communication technology, specifically instant messaging, can be leveraged by brick-and-mortar retailers to continue fostering their relationships with customers. We integrate theories and empirical findings from the information systems, marketing, and communication disciplines and apply them to a real-world setting by conducting an initial field experiment. Specifically, we send customers of a retail store instant messages containing relational benefits and observe the effects on customers’ repurchase behavior. Our preliminary findings indicate that instant messaging indeed strengthens customer-retailer relationships by providing customers with relational benefits, and rewarding retailers with return purchases. This implies that if brick-and-mortar stores communicate online with their customers, they might induce offline purchases and thereby reinforce their competitive advantage over online retailers. In a larger-scale field experiment, we want to test all hypotheses of our research model to derive reliable findings for researchers and retailers.



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