Context-dependent nature of perceived value.

Previous research has unanimously confirmed the context-dependent nature of perceived value (Bolton and Drew 1991; Francis and White 2004; Holbrook 1994; Mathwick et al. 2002; Parasuraman 1997; Woodall 2003; Zeithaml 1988). That is, the construction of perceived value differs between objects (product types), individuals, and circumstances (time, location, and environment). Not only do consumers differ in their evaluation of value between products and services (Zeithaml 1997), but also regarding the evaluations of the same product (Overby, Gardial and Woodruff 2004; Zeithaml 1988). Even for the same product, individual consumers value different qualities, or the same qualities to different degrees (Heskett et al. 1997; Holbrook 1999; Parasuraman 1997; Spreng et al. 1993; Zeithaml 1988). Even when the same individual evaluates value, he or she value may the product differently in time.

Woodall (2003) explained that consumers can construct value before purchasing (ex ante value), at the point of purchase and/or direct experience (transaction value), after the purchase (ex post value), and after use/experience (disposition value). Other authors also classified types of value based on the timing of evaluation. Grewal et al. (1998a) distinguished between;

  1. Acquisition value,
    • Acquisition value refers the consumer’s net gain (or tradeoff) from acquiring the product or service. It is associated with the benefits consumers think they are going to receive by acquiring the product/service relative to the monetary costs given up to acquire the product. The predicted value is based on the expected benefits and costs related to product purchase, use and disposition
  2. Transaction value,
    • Transaction value can be derived at the point of purchase when consumers experience the pleasure of getting a good financial deal (Thaler 1985). Consumers may experience additional pleasure if they feel they get a bargain (e.g. was €200, now €150).
  3. In-use value,
    • In-use value involves the utility derived from using the product/service by evaluating the actual benefits and costs related to its use.
  4. Redemption value.
    • Redemption value relates to the residual benefit at the time of disposing the product or terminating the service (Grewal et al. 1998a).

The nature and determinants of perceived value may change over the various consumer cycle stages (Parasuraman 1997); that is, the relative emphasis on each component may change over time. While acquisition and transaction value dominate the first stages, in-use and redemption value may become salient during later stages of product/service usage. Thus, the antecedents or components of perceived value will differently impact consumers’ evaluations of value at different points within the consumption process (De Ruyter et al. 1997; Woodall 2003; Zeithaml, 1988).

In line with this reasoning, Woodruff (1997) explained that consumers may consider different attributes and consequences and value them differently in time, such as when purchasing versus when using a product. Purchasing involves choosing, and that requires consumers to distinguish between product alternatives and evaluate which alternative is preferred. In contrast, during or after use, consumers are more concerned with the performance of the chosen product in specific use situations. Gardial et al. (1994) showed that consumers at the time of purchase rely more on the product attributes than they do during or after use. During and after use, the consequences become more salient. Consumers then learn about value in the form of preferred attributes, attribute performances, and consequences from using a product** ; they form evaluative opinions about the actual value of using a product, i.e. use value. Thus, during the choice task consumers predict value by relying heavily on the product attributes, whereas during use they evaluate value predominantly on the consequences of use.

In this respect, Parasuraman (1997) put forward that the attributes that motivate a consumer’s initial purchase of a product may differ from the criteria that define value during use right after purchase, which in turn may differ from the determinants of value during long-term use. Consumers update evaluations and the importance of criteria through sequential purchases (Bolton 1998). In a similar vein, the attributes that motivate a consumer’s initial use of a channel may be different from the criteria after using it. Thus, it can be expected that differences exist in the construction of value between experienced and less experienced consumers.

This research uses pre-purchase value perceptions because, as such, consumers that have not used a particular purchase channel are still capable of expressing their expectations of the use of that channel. Although they may have no experience with the exact consequences, they will probably have expectations about its use based on the channel attributes and opinions of others. These perceptions are likely to drive intentions and behavior.

**Note that this particularly applies to experience goods where consumers can define the quality of the product after use (cf. Darby and Karni 1973). For credence goods, consumers face difficulties in evaluating quality even after multiple consumptions.