Customer Context. Definition and literature research

Seminar Paper, 2016
11 Pages, Grade: 1,3

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The meaning of Customer Context

Customer Context in academic texts



The meaning of Customer Context

Nowadays customer knowledge is imperative for companies (cf. Dobney 2015) and the key to give their customers a good service (cf. The Marketing Donut 2015), because to a customer it is delightful, when a company anticipates the needs and recommends a product or a service that is completely on-target (cf. CustomerMatrix 2015). Understanding your customer and customer-centricity do not mean that you put your customers before your business. It signifies that you have a deep knowledge of your customer and the context (cf. De Clerck 2014).

There are three ways to get a better understanding of your customers. On the one hand, you put yourself in your customer’s position and assess your business from their point of view. On the other hand, for us the most important way in this setting, collect data and analyze it. Last but not least the simplest way is to ask your customers what they think (cf. The Marketing Donut 2015).

The database or Customer-Relationship-Management (CRM) system of a company holds (already existing) important and valuable data and information about the customers. Additional to the given information in a company’s database, a company has the ability to access more customer information than ever before and in real-time with advances in technology (networks, WiFi, mobile devices and much more). From there you as a business have the ability to collect information about e.g. previous purchases, browsing behavior on previous visited websites or products in online shopping carts (cf. Morris 2015). Moreover, to customer information and insights, customer’s purchase and shopping behavior depends on environmental conditions such as certain events, social media, holidays or media in general.

All those together build the Customer Context. Boston Retail Partners define Customer Context as “the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant” (cf. Morris 2015). Because of this, we are able to say, “Context is the connector to the customer” (cf. Wolf 2012).

In our setting and for further understanding we define Customer Context as all conceivable data and information a company is able to collect about a customer to use and analyze it for a deeper understanding and to provide a service (product) in the best possible way.

After all, it is possible to investigate collected data and look at the Customer Context, to analyze it and try to find patterns in customers’ behavior.

Customer Context in academic texts

To get a better understanding of the Customer Context we did a literature search in the databases of Google Scholar, Business Source Complete (EBSCO), ScienceDirect, Springer Link and OECD iLibrary. The number of results suggests the impression that the term ‘Customer Context’ has not prevailed yet – or it has rarely been treated as an important element of scientific articles: While altogether 1.412 results were shown for the five databases, a search restricted to the most important fields results in only 34 hits (cf. Table 1).

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Table 1: Number of search results for ‘Customer Context’ since 2000

For every search result with up to 20 hits, we reviewed the results to see if they really discuss the Customer Context in the way as we described before (or similar). Without doubling it’s only 12 of 29 results that do this. We listed these results, complemented by the pertinent articles we found during a forward and reverse search, in Table 4 in the annex. Furthermore, we listed some appropriate white papers in Table 2.

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Table 2: White papers about Customer Context (sorted by year of publication)

A lot of different definitions are enunciated. Some of them are compatible, such as these by Koelliker, Heinonen, IDC and SAS:

Context is any piece of information known about the end user — location, customer type, products owned, open cases, etc.” (Koelliker 2013, p. 53)

The Customer Context – what customers do and experience in their own lives and businesses beyond service offerings […]” (Heinonen 2014, p. 455)

“[…] the customer's context, with the general notion of context being an amalgamation of customer history (e.g., usage patterns, buying behaviors, contact preferences) combined with certain attributes.” (IDC 2013, p. 2)

The definition of context is the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation or object.” (SAS 2012, p. 1)

Most authors avoid a definition and clarify their understanding just by examples (int. al. Cisco 2015, Tang et al. 2013). But the literature contains as well some definitions that are formulated very different or are not consistent with these above. At first Nemoto et al. (2015, p. 43) describe that “[…] the concept of context can be regarded as environments and situations where person-to-person, -product, or -computer interactions are conducted.” You could argue this is only a more generalized definition, but Steel et al. (2013, p. 1330) use the exact wording ‘Customer Context’ to differ “[…] whether the organization is engaged in business-to-consumer, business-to-business or not-for-profit environments”. Therefore we can say already at this point, that there is no universal definition of ‘Customer Context’. Its formulation would be an important and necessary step to establish it as an own research field.

Furthermore, the review of dozens of articles showed us that there are different terms used in the literature to describe (almost) the same circumstance. The comparison with these related phrases shows that ‘Customer Context’ is the least used wording on the selected platforms (cf. Table 3) – indeed, you have to consider that the most others are adjectives, so they are better combinable in the title of a text. This inconsistency makes a research in this field even more difficult, but knowing these alternative notions after all can be helpful for a specific literature search.

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Table 3: Number of search results for different search phrases


Firstly, there is no clear definition and it is difficult to find an integrated definition of the term ‘Customer Context’. This problem really slows down the process of an appropriate research for further understanding of the topic. In addition to that, each author has a different opinion of what Customer Context means. A few of them have a right understanding of Customer Context, from our point of view, but use a different term for it (e.g. customer experience) or use no phrase for this topic at all. Therefore, this problem complicated the further research for us. Based on our investigations we developed for our setting an own definition.


Cisco (Editor) (2015): Winning the New Digital Consumer with Hyper-Relevance. White Paper.

CustomerMatrix (Editor) (2015): Understanding Customer Context is Key to Delighting Customers. URL: Call: 30.12.2015.

De Clerk, J.-P. (2014): Contextual relevance beyond (digital) marketing tactics. URL: Call : 30.12.2015.

Dobney (Editor) (2015): What is customer knowledge. URL: Call: 30.12.2015.

Heinonen, K. (2014): Multiple perspectives on customer relationships. International Journal of Bank Marketing, 32(6), 450-456.

IDC (Editor) (2013). Data Augmented with Context Provides Richer Customer Experiences. White Paper.

Koelliker, K. (2013): The Knowledgebase of the Future. KM World, 07-08/2013, 53.

Morris, K. (2015): What is “Customer Context” and why you need to know. URL: Call: 30.12.2015.

Nemoto, Y., Uei, K., Sato, K., & Shimomura, Y. (2015): A Context-Based Requirements Analysis Method for PSS Design. Procedia CIRP, 30, 42-47.

SAS (Editor) (2012): The Power of Personalizing the Customer Experience. White Paper.

Steel, M., Dubelaar, C., & Ewing, M. T. (2013): Developing customised CRM projects: The role of industry norms, organisational context and customer expectations on CRM implementation. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(8), 1328-1344.

Tang, H., Liao, S. S., & Sun, S. X. (2013): A prediction framework based on contextual data to support mobile personalized marketing. Decision Support Systems, 56, 234-246.

The Marketing Donut (Editor) (2015): Understanding your customers. URL: Call: 30.12.2015.

Wolf, D. (2012): Nothing is More Important to Marketing than Customer Context. URL: (15.04.2012). Call: 30.12.2015.

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Table 4: Scientific publications about Customer Context found during the literature search


[1] If the article is not (full) available, the allocation is based on the abstract (if available) or the title.

[2] Without patents and quotation.

11 of 11 pages


Customer Context. Definition and literature research
University of Leipzig  (Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik)
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customer context, contextual information, literature research, context based, context aware, context driven
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Nicolas Lehrmann (Author), 2016, Customer Context. Definition and literature research, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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