Journeying Together: Aligning Retailer and Service Provider Roles with Collective Consumer Practices

Tandy Chalmers Thomas, Amber M. Epp, Linda L. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Consumer journeys offers a powerful metaphor that has inspired diverse strategic frameworks to aid retailers in managing and designing customer experiences. Absent from existing frameworks, however, is a clear understanding of the journeys consumers perform as a collective that is bound by a shared identity and communal goals. Yet, whether taking vacations, going out to dinner, facing a health crisis, or setting up a household, much of consumers’ lives are spent journeying together. With families as our focal collective, we adopt a social practice theory lens and integrate prior consumer research related to collective practice dynamics (identity goal interplay, connectedness, and corporeality) to articulate what retailers should consider when designing collective journeys. Using this theoretical foundation, we build a conceptual framework that identifies three roles retailers play in collective journeys: central, mediated, and dispersed. We differentiate each role by the core value retailers provide to consumer practices as well as the collective dynamic challenges implicated. Our framework highlights the need for retailers to structure their offerings to match the dynamics of families’ collective journeys. To explore this matching process more fully, we introduce the idea of ‘fields of alignment’ as the social spaces where retailers and consumers actively negotiate, improvise, and experiment to align around common frames for action. We use the concept of fields of alignment to generate implications for retailers, propose guidelines for managerial action, and present avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-24
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alignment frames
  • Collective practices
  • Consumer journeys
  • Customer experience
  • Retailing
  • Service providers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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