PURPOSE : The purpose of this paper is to examine specific gratifications obtained from using mobile instant messaging (MIM) applications by applying the uses and gratifications theory. This study explores the relationships between motivational factors, customer engagement and loyalty for existing WhatsApp subscribers in South Africa, as well as the moderating effect of application usage.
DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH : A descripto-explanatory research design was used in this quantitative study and 282 responses from an online survey were analysed. Structural equation modelling was used to test the study’s hypotheses.
FINDINGS : The study reveals that utilitarian and hedonic motivation impact customer engagement positively in using WhatsApp, which, in turn, impacts loyalty. Social motivation in using WhatsApp bore no relationship with customer engagement. Furthermore, medium application usage moderates the link between customer engagement and utilitarian and hedonic motivation.
RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS : The study offers a greater understanding of customer engagement and motivational factors in the MIM environment. Future studies could consider more complex relationships with customer engagement in using MIM apps focussed on a younger generation.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS : MIM service providers should enhance customer engagement by tracking user activity and identifying customers who need to use an app more by targeting their utilitarian and hedonic needs through sophisticated marketing strategies.
ORIGINALITY/VALUE : This research enriches the understanding of key motivational factors impacting customers’ continued engagement towards using MIM, as opposed to the adoption thereof.