Shop local : building a 'local' tribe through consumption experiences in servicescapes

Hall, Michelle Louise (2008) Shop local : building a 'local' tribe through consumption experiences in servicescapes. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The notion of community remains an important concern, for individuals, in urban planning practice, and more recently in consumer research. This thesis research explores community at the junction of these areas, through a grounded study of the consumption practices of a place based consumer tribe that exists within an inner city suburb undergoing urban renewal. The process of urban renewal is positioned as a means to revitalise under-utilised inner city areas, and broaden opportunities for city residents and visitors to experience an inner city lifestyle. It can also be seen as a standardising project that commodifies diversity and devalues existing communities and is associated with gentrification. Both perspectives can obscure the possibility that consumption practices can be used to build community like connections. This thesis applies a framework of literature from marketing and consumer research to an urban renewal context, to explore this area of ambiguity. The result of this exploration is a grounded theory of assuming a 'local' identity through consumption experiences in servicescapes.

This thesis argues that consumers seek out individual servicescapes for the value experiences that they offer, which can be identity defining. In particular the interaction generated through these experiences can work to build tribal connections to, and within, that servicescape. These consumption experiences can also be used to make assumptions regarding the identity of others; both of the businesses themselves, and the individuals encountered within them. The tribal connections these experiences may generate can have individual benefits in that they can build into existing social networks, but through repetition and shared experiences, may also link an individual to a broader place based community.

This thesis also proposes that servicescapes can work to encourage this process, by encouraging identity defining consumption experiences. Like individuals, businesses can come to be assumed to be tribe members and this 'localness' can become a symbolic operant resource that is valued by the tribe. As key sites in which members of the 'local' tribe reinforce their commitment to the tribe, locally owned businesses may benefit by being more likely to be chosen over their 'non-local' competitors. However, as an element of their tribal membership these businesses have a moral responsibility to reinforce the collective ethic of the tribe and assist in integrating new tribe members. In this way they can become ambassadors for the identity of the community, communicating the shared values of the tribe to members and non-members alike.

Such a place based tribe is primarily based on public interaction, thus the servicescapes and public spaces that link them can come to work as a theatre in which the tribe is manifested and its rituals performed. As the experience of a sense of shared value is repeated across a range of geographically united servicescapes, this shared experience can be displaced from any one servicescape and generalised into a localness experience that is grounded within the geographic community. It is here that the physical and ideological aspects of the community combine, and the experienced value of a shared identity that originated in a servicescape based consumption experience can come to symbolise the values of the greater community itself. These research findings have implications for inner city urban renewal developments, suggesting that the increased availability of consumption activities that are associated with urban renewal may also be considered as an increased opportunity to build place based consumer tribes. This thesis proposes ways of encouraging this process.

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ID Code: 16640
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Keywords: Brisbane, community, consumer experiences, consumer research, consumer tribes, consumer value, consumption, gentrification, identity, servicescapes, urban renewal, West End
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Department: Faculty of Business
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Michelle Louise Hall
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:07
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 13:52

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