Most theories of relationship marketing emphasize the role of trust and commitment in affecting performance outcomes; however, a recent meta-analysis indicates that other mediating mechanisms are at work. Data from two studies—a laboratory experiment and a dyadic longitudinal field survey—demonstrate that gratitude also mediates the influence of a seller’s relationship marketing investments on performance outcomes. Specifically, relationship marketing investments generate short-term feelings of gratitude that drive long-lasting performance benefits based on gratitude-related reciprocal behaviors. The authors identify a set of managerially relevant factors and test their power to alter customer perceptions of relationship marketing investments to increase customer gratitude, which can make relationship marketing programs more effective. Overall, the research empirically demonstrates that gratitude plays an important role in understanding how relationship marketing investments increase purchase intentions, sales growth, and share of wallet.
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