Relationship Management Theory and Its Application to Chinese and Chinese American Young Women's Usage of Mobile Fitness Technology

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Worldwide, obesity is a salient public health problem, particularly for young women. Mobile fitness technology, such as smartwatches, trackable wrist bands, and fitness apps, provides interventions that are affordable and tailored to engage women in physical activities. However, systematic reviews suggest that women's adherence to mobile fitness technology is problematic. Relationship management theory (RMT) is used in this dissertation to explore the solutions to this challenge. RMT gives guidelines on how to engage the publics and establish long-term stable relationships through strategic communication. Mobile fitness technology centers around interacting with users about exercise data and fitness information. Given its communication- centered nature, short-term abandonment of mobile fitness technology is actually a problem of how to engage users via strategic communication to establish long-term quality relationships. The research questions ask how women make meaning of their usage and assess the relevance of RMT in explaining women's connections to technology. Fifty female users in total participated in the one-on-one semi-structured qualitative interviews. The data suggest two types of relationships: human-technology parasocial relationships and user community relationships. Based on the findings, this study generates practical implications for technological interventions to achieve success in changing women's obese and low participation in exercise. It demonstrates that sophisticated sociocultural factors play a crucial role in facilitating long-term relationships between females and mobile fitness technology. Interestingly, the relational outcomes also include not only users’ exercise behaviors, but also show spillover effects on their perceptions of the technology companies. Traditionally, a company's relationship management is facilitated by public relations practitioners with tangible products or community events. Mobile fitness apps generally have no real human organizational representatives to interact with users, and users do not have “bricks and mortar” spaces to get to know each other to build community bonds. This study extends the RMT theory in the form of a virtual organization-public relationship (OPR) and elaborates on the outcomes and moderators of the virtual OPR.