Consumer-app Relationships: A study on the strength of young consumers’ relationship with their smartphone applications

Gine Rosenberg Stauning & Charlotte Gade Agerskov

Student thesis: Master thesis


We’re living in a technological society where consumers increasingly enjoy great comfort of the advancement within technology. Especially, smartphones have become a vital part of consumers’ lives, always being within arm’s reach. Consumers have become dependent on their smartphones as they provide a wide range of advanced functionalities and services. Studies show that 90% of the time spent on these devices is dedicated to apps, a hyper-competitive market that continues to grow at unprecedented pace (Chin, 2015; Eddy, 2016). Guided by a general curiosity of what drives and determines young consumers’ relationships with these apps, this thesis aims to identify the key facets behind young people’s relationship with their smartphone applications. Prior studies show that consumers can attribute brands with anthropomorphic characteristics and develop relationships with these (Fournier, 1998; Blackston, 1993). In general, the marketing discipline has undergone a paradigm shift by having gone from a transaction based orientation to a relationship orientation. However, with smartphone applications being a relatively phenomenon not much yet exist on consumers’ relationships with these. Thus, this thesis develops a measurement scale for evaluating the quality and strength of consumer-app relationships. Fournier’s (1998) work on brand relationships was used in identifying the dominant dimensions of brand relationship quality. Methodologically, we applied the technique of triangulation as our empirical data was collected through a quantitative survey with 260 respondents and 16 qualitative, semi-structured in-depth interviews with young Copenhageners in the age 15-30 years old. Through this method we gained significant insight and identified six main facets of consumer-app relationships; interdependence, commitment, partner quality, selfconnection, intimacy versus intrusiveness and FoMO (fear of missing out). Combined they constitute our proposal for an app relationship quality scale (ARQ) These facets can be individually present, however, if they are all present there’s a greater chance of building a strong consumer-app relationship. Especially, young consumers’ FoMO and their need to be part of a network/community and express who they are (both their actual and ideal self) prevails in explaining the strong relationship they have formed with certain apps. Contrary to Fournier (1998) who believes consumer-brand relationships to resemble interpersonal relationships, we found this not to be the case with consumer-app relationships, mainly due to the participating informants’ lack of deep affective feelings towards apps and the fact that they do not perceive apps to be living entities. Consumer-app relationships are thus not directly analogous to interpersonal relationships.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages209