Tag Archives: digital marketing

The Travel Products’ Price Determinants

This is an excerpt from my latest tourism textbook, entitled; ‘Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product’. This publication will be available through Springer and Amazon.com.


Price Determinants
The type of pricing strategy which marketing managers consider is determined by a number of factors, including: organisatonal and marketing objectives; types of pricing objectives; cost levels; other marketing mix variables; market demand; competition, and legal and regulatory issues, among other matters.

Organisational and Marketing Objectives

Company policy and image, target profit margins and staff count could influence the type of pricing policy which the marketing managers will apply. Company policy and image will play an important role when determining a pricing strategy. The price set must be consistent with the general corporate objectives and the strategic direction of the company. For example, a full-service airline may want to be associated with the top-end of the market by providing a high-quality service to the business travel segment. To price below the average rate for such a service may imply an inferior and poor-quality service.

Any airline which would like to target the business market should provide an extensive schedule and a high-quality service. Therefore, it will require considerable resources and capabilities to do so.

Pricing Objectives

The most fundamental pricing objective is that of survival pricing. When experiencing severe competition, businesses may be forced to offer lower prices than their rivals. This way they will generate revenue, and improve their chances of survival. A tourism service or sub-product will not generate revenue if it is not used over a given period of time (it will perish) . While the service or sub-products may be available for sale at some later point in time, the revenue that was originally lost, can never be regained. For example, a hotel had thirty empty rooms on a specific date. These empty rooms cannot be sold at a later date because the service has been completed, and perished. Similarly, an airline could depart with empty seats which cannot be sold at a later date.

Moreover, the demand for tourism products is usually seasonal. For example, many north Americans flee south to Hawaii and to the Caribbean, during the winter months; whilst Australasians travel to Europe during the summer months of June, July and August. Of course, seasonality may be due to other factors, other than climate, including; vacation and holiday periods. For example, families may habitually travel at the same time of the year, usually over Christmas, Easter or summer periods. This is the usual close-down time period for schools, industry and commerce, in many countries. Since tourism is highly seasonal, suppliers may reduce their prices during off-peak times. Hence, a low price strategy assists in creating demand particularly among price-sensitive customers. Conversely, operators may charge higher prices when there are peaks in demand, due to major attractions and special events.

Profit maximisation is another pricing objective. However, it may prove difficult to measure, as businesses could not be in a position to determine when they have reached maximum profit. As a result, profit maximisation may be evaluated according to a certain ‘level of satisfaction’. A change in profit relative to previous periods may be considered as satisfactory or unsatisfactory for the businesses. The setting of prices to obtain a fixed rate of return on a company’s investment is a profit-related objective. Many businesses could be aiming to achieve a specific profit.

Another possible pricing objective is that of increasing market share. Many companies may design pricing policies which will enable them to improve their market share. However, at times, they may be satisfied with their current status in the market. In this case, their objective would be to retain their status quo. Companies with such an objective may not use pricing as a competitive tool. They will probably maintain a steady market share by nurturing their brand equity.

Cost Levels

The marketing managers should be careful to analyse all costs so that they will be included in the total cost. Therefore, the pricing of products should be based on the company’s direct and indirect costs (and may consider overhead expenses) if they are projecting a certain profitability margin.

Other Marketing Mix Variables

The marketing mix elements, including; promotions (the integrated marketing communication mix) and place (distribution channels), could determine the target customers’ perceptions of the firms’ products (or services), in a given competitive context.

The extent to which a product is promoted can have a huge effect on consumer demand. The products’ price will usually determine their target market. Low-priced products may attract price-sensitive markets. Such products will be promoted through different marketing communications channels other than high-priced, better quality, premium services. The more expensive the products; the higher the customers’ expectations. Considerable thought and action must go into product development so as to provide the customer with a valuable service which reflects the product’s price. One of the most significant promotional tools is word-of-mouth publicity. For instance, online reviews and ratings are increasingly playing a major role in tourism marketing.

When making a pricing decision, the businesses should consider their distribution costs. The companies’ intermediaries, including; tour operators, online travel agents, and the like, will expect financial compensation for selling travel products. Alternatively, they will expect discounts and special incentives to push the businesses’ products to consumers. For example, they may book large seat orders and place substantial mark-ups on seats which they have bought from the airline (these products may be demanded for inclusive tours). These factors must always be taken into consideration by the airline marketing managers, as they have to add mark-ups to the cost price of seats, when selling them to intermediaries.

Market Demand

There is a highly segmented market for tourism products. Each of the market segments vary in terms of elasticity, and service requirements. These variables will influence the way in which prices a set.

The business travel segment is generally more inelastic in demand. Fluctuations in prices will not affect demand to any great extent. However, the business travel segment expects a high-quality service. Generally, business travellers are prepared to pay a higher price for such services. The higher fares will not only cover the costs of the superior service, but will also convey an image of a premium, prestige product.

The passengers from the leisure travel segment are usually price-sensitive. Their expectations are somewhat lower than those of the business travellers. Demand is extremely elastic in this segment; and an increase in price may result in lower demand.

The socio-political factors may affect market demand. If a destination is politically or socially unstable, tourists may not want to go there. Most people like to feel safe and comfortable. For instance, many destinations have experienced dramatic reductions in the number of tourist arrivals, following the terrorist activities in certain countries.

Economic factors, including the individuals’ income and well-being, will affect their propensity to travel. However, this may not necessarily translate to an increased demand for all tourism products. For instance, if leisure travellers receive an increase in income, they may decide to travel to long-haul destinations rather than short-haul itineraries. Alternatively, these clients may increase the quality and standard rather than to increase their frequency of travel. Such customers may decide to upgrade their hotel accommodation, or to travel in higher classes. Income may affect demand according to the purpose of travel. For business travellers it may not make much difference, whilst for leisure travellers it can make quite a substantial difference. Their demand may also be influenced by the availability of substitute products. If there are no substitutes for the product, then consumers will be forced to buy regardless of price.

In addition, customers may develop perceptions about tourism products. Whether they are accurate or not, they could influence their purchase behaviours. Therefore the travellers’ perceptions, the online ratings and reviews should be carefully considered, as tourism products must always be purchased in advance.

Competition

The businesses should be aware of their competitors’ prices. They may decide to respond to their rivals’ pricing strategies, or to be proactive by taking the pricing initiative, themselves.

Responding to the Competitors’ Pricing Initiatives

There is no rigid method of responding to a price initiative taken by competitors. Every situation is unique. However, businesses are capable of making confident decisions if they examine the situation from different viewpoints:

At times, competitors may decide to lower their prices: It is not wise for other businesses to follow suit, unless they establish why their competitors are pursuing such a pricing strategy. It may be the case that the competitors have made a bad decision. It must be determined whether the competitors’ pricing initiative was a long term or a short term one. For instance, an airline’s poor fleet planning may result in the company changing its prices on a long-term basis. In such situations, rivals will have to respond or risk losing their market share. Price reductions will eventually lead to lower yields for the airline. As a result, this will have a negative impact on the airline and its long-term sustainability prospects. If the pricing initiative appears to be a short-term action, it is advisable to ignore it, and to avoid de-stabilising the market.

The price reductions on certain products may be questioned by the airline’s customers. As discussed above, the airlines may usually charge higher prices for their business and first class as these services are considered as prestige products. The airlines can differentiate themselves from competitors when they provide superior services; that are perceived as an index of quality and corporate image.

On the other hand, the airlines’ should continuously monitor those competitors who are resorting to price-cutting policies. Certain leisure markets may be more price-sensitive than others, as they may exhibit higher price-elasticity levels. The lower prices could result in an increase in demand for the economy class of service.

Taking the Price Initiative

Generally, businesses may avoid lowering their fares, as this will affect their bottom lines. Price wars have destroyed the profitability of many businesses. However, there may be a tendency toward price competition: when firms have low variable costs; when there is little differentiation among the competitors’ products; when industry growth rate is low, and; when the economies of scale are important. The businesses need to consider their cost levels before taking the initiative to lower their prices. The lean businesses who may have less costs, will usually be in a much stronger position to lower their prices than other competitors with high costs. However, more established high-cost businesses may have stable financial backing, which will enable them to meet, if not undercut, the new companies’ prices. They could eventually push their competitors out of the market.

An increase in price may be required if the business is facing controllable or uncontrollable costs. For example, if the airlines’ uncontrollable costs, include; increased airport landing fees and air traffic control charges; they may either decide to absorb these costs or alternatively, they may increase their fares as a means of covering these added costs. Of course, rival airlines will also face the same pressure. In such cases, the airlines could inform their customers about their uncontrollable costs, which have forced them to increase their fares. Ongoing corporate communications and public relations will help them to maintain their customers’ goodwill. On the other hand, the airlines’ controllable costs, including the employees’ salaries and wages, are under their direct responsibility. Such costs may not justify taking pricing initiatives to improve the organisation’s financial performance. They may even aggravate the airline’s profitability, in the long-term.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Legal and regulatory issues may have an impact on a company’s pricing structure. Although, the airline industry has experienced deregulation and liberalisation in the past decades, there is still some government intervention, in certain areas. In international markets, air service agreements between governments necessitate that national airlines should meet and agree on the fares and rates to be charged to passengers. The agreed fare is brought back to both the airline’s governments who have the right to veto the fare. Should this happen, the airline concerned must seek to re-open negotiation.

Deregulation and liberalisation have affected the airlines’ pricing policies in many contexts. For example, liberalisation has changed the fares regime in the United States of America, in the European Union and in many other places. Today, several airlines have introduced lower fares which have contributed to increased travel. Moreover, the rise of the low-cost carriers has often resulted in lower air fares within pre-agreed zones. Evidently, pricing is increasingly being used as a competitive tool, in many contexts.

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Call for Chapters on Tourism Marketing

This book will be published by Routledge

(subject to the publisher’s peer review)

Abstract Submission Deadline: April 30, 2017

Full Chapters Due: October 31, 2017

Submit your Chapter here.

tIntroduction

This academic book will be presenting a critical analysis of the key theoretical underpinnings in the tourism literature. The contributors are expected to engage in conceptual discussions that cover the operational and strategic perspectives of the travel, tourism, hospitality and leisure industries. The rationale behind this student-centered textbook is to instill a strong pedagogical application of the socio-economic, environmental and technological impacts of tourism and its related sectors. This textbook’s content is intended to prepare undergraduate students and aspiring managers with a thorough exposure on the latest industry practices and research developments. It will allow both prospective as well as experienced tourism practitioners to make appropriate decisions in their workplace environments.

It is envisaged that the themes of this textbook could be covered in a university semester. At the start of each chapter, the readers will be presented with relevant learning outcomes that will help them focus and organize their thoughts. The important terms should be defined and clearly explained. This will provide the readers with a convenient source for learning and reviewing the tourism and hospitality vocabulary. Experiential exercises and descriptive case studies shall be illustrating real situations that are meant to help aspiring managers in their future employment prospects. All chapters should contain a succinct summary at the end. This way the readers could review and retain vital information. Finally, all chapters ought to provide relevant suggestions for further insights by featuring web resources that are rich in information.

This comprehensive book will allow its readers to acquire relevant knowledge and skills in tourism management topics, including; Airline Management; Airline Marketing; Destination Marketing; Eco-Tourism; eTourism / Digital Tourism; Events Management; Hospitality; Hospitality Management; Hospitality Marketing; Hospitality Operations; Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events; Responsible / Sustainable Tourism; Revenue Management; Sharing Economy; Sports Tourism; Tourism; Tourism Administration; Tourism Economics; Tourism Education; Tourism Geographies; Tourism Management; Tourism Marketing; Tourism Operations; Tourism Planning; Tourism Policy; Tourism Product; Tourism Strategy; Travel; Travel Management; Travel Marketing; among others.

Objective

This book shall be a generic, authoritative guide on the business of tourism. The underlying objective of this book is to explain, in plain words; the tourism processes, strategies and tactics within the travel, leisure and hospitality industries. This publication will highlight some of the opportunities and challenges facing the tourism industry, including; eTourism and digital media, the sharing economy, destination marketing, and tourism planning for the future. It is hoped that the style of this book and its extensive use of case studies, illustrations and links will maintain the reader’s interest through visual aids to learning.

This publication ought to be written in an engaging style that entices the curiosity of prospective readers. It will be clarifying the main concepts in a simple and straightforward manner. Descriptive cases should set the theory in context as they will be chosen to represent the diversity of the industry; the cases may range from small travel agents to large legacy airlines or from multi-national hotel chains to accommodation establishments – that are increasingly advertising on websites like Airbnb. This book shall possibly report on the global tourism marketing environments that are increasingly affected by economic, socio-cultural, political and environmental issues. It could explain how technological advances have brought significant changes in the tourism industry sectors and its marketing mix. Moreover, it is advisable that the authors feature interesting illustrations, including diagrams and color images. Notwithstanding, the contributors are encouraged to provide direct links to further readings on the web to aid both teaching and learning.

Target Audience

This book introduces the students and aspiring practitioners to the subject of tourism studies in a structured manner. It is primarily intended to undergraduate and / or post-graduate students in tourism (including tourism management, hospitality management, airline management and travel agency operations). It is also relevant to airline employees, hoteliers, inbound / outbound tour operators, travel agents and all those individuals who are willing to work within the tourism industry.

Academics in higher education institutions including universities and vocational colleges, small tourism business owners, tourism and hospitality consultants, non-profit tourism organizations, policy makers and legislators.

Submission Procedure

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit a 300-word abstract on or before the 30th April, 2017. The authors will be notified by the 31st May, 2017 about the status of their abstract. Their full (8,000 word) chapters could be submitted by the 31st October, 2017. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind peer-review editorial process. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers of other chapters.

Note: There are no submission or acceptance fees to submit manuscripts for this book.

Publisher

Taylor & Francis Group (an Informa Business) publishes Social Science and Humanities books under the Routledge, Psychology Press and Focal Press imprints.

Important Dates

April 30, 2017: Proposals Submission Deadline

May 31, 2017: Notification of Acceptance

October 31, 2017: Full Chapter Submission

December 31, 2017: Review Results Returned

January 31, 2018: Final Acceptance Notification

February 28, 2018: Final Chapter Submission

For Further Inquiries

Mark Anthony Camilleri, M.B.A., Ph.D. (Edinburgh), I.A.T.A.

Email: Mark.A.Camilleri@um.edu.mt

 

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Filed under Business, Hospitality, Marketing, tourism, Travel

Corporate Communication, Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility

comm

Companies are increasingly dedicating their time and resources to promote their public relations initiatives. Corporate Communication Managers and executives have a wide array of media channels at their disposal. These may  be used to communicate their corporate social responsibility CSR credentials. As a matter of fact, businesses are continuously being scrutinised by media, customers, monitoring groups, consumer forums and blogs (Du et al., 2010).

Very often, businesses disclose their CSR activities through official documents, such as annual corporate responsibility or sustainability reports, media releases, dedicated sections of their corporate websites; as well as in social media pages or groups. CSR communication is produced, translated, and integrated according to the companies’ contexts and their specific reality constructions (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Companies could use broadcast advertising, including TV and radio commercials. Businesses could also utilise print media (e.g. newspapers, magazines) to disseminate their message to their target audience. Newspaper articles reflect corporate ideas of social responsibilities and assumptions about public expectations, and react herewith to what they perceive as the public’s expectations (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010). Alternatively, they may use outdoor advertisements such as billboards and signage on brick-and-mortar premises. These traditional media are based on a hierarchical one‐to‐many communication; with a clear distinction between producer and consumer of information. Notwithstanding, there are other communication channels that are not entirely controlled by the company. For this reason, businesses are encouraged to become more proficient in the use of digital media in addition to traditional media to increase their impact of their corporate communication.

Evidently, the internet has reshaped communication at different levels. It has enabled the emergence of a new participatory public sphere that is based on a many‐to‐many communication where everybody can dialogically and publicly interact and collaborate in the creation of content and the definition of the agenda (Colleoni, 2013; Jenkins, 2006). In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an essential tool for organisational communication (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007a; Stuart & Jones, 2004).

Moreover, in today’s digital era, the engagement between the public and the organisation is one of the main characteristics of the internet (Colleoni, 2013). Many corporate websites already possess a high degree of interactivity; including their ability to disseminate information and to generate relationships between the different publics and the organisation (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). In the first approach, the level of interactivity is low, and the use of the Internet is unidirectional; as its essential objective is to diffuse information and to try to improve the corporate image of the business. However, in the second approach, the degree of interactivity is high, and the Internet is used to facilitate bidirectional communication and to nurture relationships by allowing dialogue and interaction between the organisation and its stakeholders.

Interactive communication is becoming one of the most important information channels for corporations as it is changing social dynamics (Fieseler & Fleck, 2013; O`Reilly, 2005; 2006). Web-based co‐operation and data exchanges have empowered the communication between businesses and their stakeholders (Buhalis & Law, 2008; O´Riley, 2006, Fieseler et al., 2010). It enables them to engage with online users and to take advantage of positive publicity arising from word-of-mouth marketing and digital platforms. Corporations can maintain legitimacy better as they engage with stakeholders via social media; and take on the gate keeping function of traditional media (Fieseler et al. 2010). At the same time, there are protest actors; who have become more powerful online as they disrupt the corporations’ legitimacy by using social media (Castelló, Morsing & Schultz, 2013; Bennett 2003).

Societies are currently undergoing a fundamental transformation toward globally networked societies (Castelló, Morsing, & Schultz, 2013). Unsurprisingly, the public relations and corporate communications of business have benefited of social networking software (Etter, Morsing, and Castello, 2011; Pressley (2006). Of course, these technological advances also have consequences for CSR communication; as companies can reach out to stakeholders in a more interactive way. In a similar vein, the use of social networks have offered the businesses new forms of interactivity and enable them to address the CSR information toward a variety of stakeholders (Isenmann, 2006). A powerful stakeholder group, the consumers serve as an informal yet highly credible CSR communication channel. In particular, the power of consumer word-of-mouth has been greatly magnified given the popularity and vast reach of interactive communication.

Companies such as Stonyfield Farm and Ben & Jerry’s have been benefiting from consumer ambassadors who raved, in the virtual world, about their social responsibility endeavours. For example, one consumer wrote enthusiastically about Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream and its support for an educational foundation, ‘besides the great flavour that the Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream offers you, a portion of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation . . . [that] provides financial support to students attending historically black colleges and universities’ (Associated Content 2008). Companies can be proactive in using social media to engage consumers to be their CSR advocates.

Timberland, a company that is known for its environmental stewardship, launched the Earthkeeper campaign in 2008 to recruit one million people to become part of an online network designed to inspire real environmental behaviour change. As part of the Earthkeeper programme, Timberland launched an innovative global network of online social networking tools, including a strong Facebook presence, a YouTube Earthkeeper Brand Channel and a richly populated Earthkeeper blog, as well as an Earthkeeper product collection which serves as the pinnacle expression of the company’s environmental commitment (CSRWire 2008). Through this campaign, Timberland not only effectively communicating its sustainability initiative, but also engaging consumers to spread the word about this initiative and, importantly, the company’s involvement in this initiative.

Fieseler et al. (2010) suggested that communication through social media is dynamic in relation to traditional media. The global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feed, wikis, electronic forum, social networks have facilitated companies to attract prospects and consumer groups. Social media have the technological potential to speed up communication processes (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010) and to increase direct interaction, dialogue and participation across organisations and various audiences (Colleoni 2013; Schultz et al. 2011). Such interactive communications are referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread like epidemic diseases through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are perceived as highly trustworthy sources (Colleoni et al., 2011; Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Accordingly, social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their environment.  Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content16 (Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This contribution suggests that corporate communications managers and executives are in a position to amplify the effectiveness of their company’s CSR communication efforts. They are expected to create relevant content and to engage with stakeholders through different marketing communications channels.

 

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Filed under Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR, digital media, Marketing, Stakeholder Engagement

Unleashing Corporate Social Responsibility through Digital Media

csr

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing. In a nutshell, content marketing necessitates an integrated marketing communications approach involving different media (1). Content strategists and marketers who care about their online reputation are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links. They have to make sure that their websites offer great content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences (2).

Successful marketers are capable of enhancing customer loyalty, particularly if their businesses are delivering ongoing value propositions to promising prospects (on their website). Such businesses are continuously coming up with informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Online content often include refreshing information which tell stakeholders how to connect the dots. It may appear that many companies are becoming quite knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity or misinformation.

Several online businesses often tell insightful stories to their customers or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations. Corporate web sites could even contain their latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.
Most social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics (3). These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content (4). Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2015, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera. Hashtags could possibly result in financial support to charity, philanthropic or stewardship principles. They may even help to raise awareness of the overall CSR communications. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

  • The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.
  • Moreover, Linkedin is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.
  • In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual content. Evidently, these innovative social networks provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.
  • Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet (5). YoutubeVimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate  SR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

CSR practices may provide a good opportunity for businesses to raise their profile in the communities around them.  Genuine businesses communicate their motives and rationales behind their CSR programmes. In this case, there are numerous media outlets where businesses can obtain decent coverage of their CSR initiatives, especially on the web (e.g. CSRwire and Triple Pundit among others). Although, there are instances  where consumers themselves, out of their own volition are becoming ambassadors of trustworthy businesses; at the same time certain stakeholders are becoming increasingly acquainted and skeptical on certain posturing behaviours and greenwashing (6).

Generally, digital communications will help to improve the corporate image of firms. Positive publicity can lead to reputational benefits and long lasting relationships with stakeholders (7). Online content and inbound marketing can be successfully employed for CSR communication1. Corporate sites should be as easy as possible, with user-centred design that enables interactive information sharing on CSR activities. Inter-operability and collaboration across different social media can help businesses to connect with stakeholders (1). 

Marketers can create a forum where prospects or web visitors can engage with the business in real time. These days, marketing is all about keeping and maintaining a two-way relationship with consumers. Digital marketing is an effective tool for consumer engagement.

A growing number of businesses are learning how to collaborate with consumers about product development, service enhancement and promotion. These companies are increasingly involving customers in all aspects of marketing. They listen to and join online conversations as they value their stakeholders’ opinions and perceptions.

Today, pervasive social media networks are being used by millions of customers every day. In a sense, it may appear that digital marketing tools have reinforced the role of public relations. These promotional strategies complement well with CSR communication and sustainability reporting.

This contribution encourages businesses to use digital media to raise awareness of their societal engagement and environmentally sustainable practices. Further research may possibly identify how successful businesses are using digital channels to forge genuine relationships with their stakeholders.

References

  1. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
  2. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
  3. Kietzmann, Jan H., Kristopher Hermkens, Ian P. McCarthy, and Bruno S. Silvestre. “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media.” Business horizons 54, no. 3 (2011): 241-251.
  4. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.
  5. Guadagno, Rosanna E., Daniel M. Rempala, Shannon Murphy, and Bradley M. Okdie. “What makes a video go viral? An analysis of emotional contagion and Internet memes.” Computers in Human Behavior 29, no. 6 (2013): 2312-2319.
  6. Laufer, William S. “Social accountability and corporate greenwashing.” Journal of Business Ethics 43, no. 3 (2003): 253-261.
  7. Camilleri, M.A. “The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility” (paper presented at the American Marketing Association in collaboration with the University of Wyoming, Oklahoma State University and Villanova University: Marketing & Public Policy as a Force for Social Change Conference. Washington D.C., 5th June 2014): 8-14, Accessed June 26, 2015. https://www.ama.org/events-training/Conferences/Documents/2015-AMA-Marketing-Public-Policy-Proceedings.pdf

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Crunching Big Data and Analytics from Web2.0

social media

The use of data and its analyses are becoming ubiquitous practices. As a result, there has been a dramatic surge in the use of business intelligence and analytics. These developments have inevitably led to endless opportunities for marketers to leverage themselves and gain a competitive advantage by untangling big data. Relevant data could help businesses to better serve customers as they would better know what they need, want and desire. This knowledge will lead to customer satisfaction and long lasting relationships.

Businesses are increasingly collecting and analysing data from many sources for many purposes. Much of the value of data is derived from secondary uses that were not intended in the first place. Very often datasets can possess intrinsic, hidden, not-yet-unearthed value. According to a research from IBM and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford; nearly nine in 10 companies were using transactional data, and three-quarters were collecting log data in 2012. This study suggested that business practitioners also gathered data from events, emails and social data (eMarketer, 2012).

This data is being collected and stored in massive amounts by search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as by e-commerce conglomerates such as eBay and Amazon. For instance, Security First boosted its productivity and customer satisfaction by using content analytics to bridge social media and the claims process. Similarly, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria has improved its online reputation with analytics that quickly responded to online feedback (IBM, 2015).

In addition, users can easily access multiple sources of digital data that is readily available through websites, social networks, blogs, as well as from mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Big data is being gathered from social media content and video data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus among others. These modern digital marketing tools are helping business to engage in social conversations with consumers. Social networks have surely amplified the marketers’ messages as they support promotional efforts. Here are some of the unique pieces of data each social network is collecting:

  • “Facebook’s interest/social graph: The world’s largest online community collects more data via its API than any other social network. Facebook’s “like” button is pressed 2.7 billion times every day across the web, revealing what people care about.
  • Google+’s relevance graph: The number of “+1s” and other Google+ data are now a top factor in determining how a Web page ranks in Google search results.
  • LinkedIn’s talent graph: At least 22% of LinkedIn users have between 500-999 first-degree connections on the social network, and 19% have between 301-499.The rich professional data is helping LinkedIn build a “talent graph.”
  • Twitter’s news graph: At its peak late last year the social network was processing 143,199 tweets per second globally. This firehose of tweets provide a real-time window into the news and information that people care about. Fifty-two percent of Twitter users in the U.S. consume news on the site (more than the percent who do so on Facebook), according to Pew.
  • Pinterest’s commerce graph: More than 17% of all pinboards are categorized under “Home,” while roughly 12% fall under style or fashion, these are windows into people’s tastes and fashion trends.
  • YouTube’s entertainment graph: What music, shows, and celebrities do we like? YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 than any single cable network, according to Nielsen. YouTube knows what they like to watch.
  • Yelp’s and Foursquare’s location graphs: These apps know where we’ve been and where we’ll go. Foursquare has over 45 million users and 5 billion location check-ins” (Business Insider, 2014).

Big data is fundamentally shifting how marketers collect, analyse and utilise data to reach out to customers. Business intelligence and analytics are helping companies to get new insights into how consumers behave. It is envisaged that the IT architecture will shortly develop into an information eco-system: a network of internal and external services where information is shared among users. Big data can support business in their decision making. It could be used to communicate meaningful results and to generate insights for an effective organisational performance. New marketing decision-making ought to harness big data for increased targeting and re-targeting of individuals and online communities. On-demand, direct marketing through digital platforms has already become more personalised than ever. The challenge for marketers is to recognise the value of big data as a tool that drives consumer in-sights.

Every customer contact with a brand is a moment of truth, in real-time. Businesses who are not responding with seamless externally-facing solutions will inevitably lose their customers to rivals. This contribution posits that a strategic approach to data management could drive consumer preferences. An evolving analytics ecosystem that is also integrated with web2.0 instruments could lead to better customer service and consumer engagement.

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Untangling Big Data for Digital Marketing

customers
The web and its online communities are expanding the use of big data. Ecommerce conglomerates including Amazon and eBay have already transformed the market through their innovative, highly scalable digital platforms and product recommender systems. Moreover, internet giants like Google and Facebook are leading the development of web analytics, cloud computing and social media networks. The emergence of user-generated content in fora, newsgroups, social media and crowd-sourcing platforms are offering endless opportunities for researchers and practitioners to “listen” to marketplace stakeholders; including customers, employees, suppliers, investors and the media.

Unlike the traditional transactional records that were conspicuous in past legacy systems, e-commerce systems continuously gather insightful data from the web. Much of the value of data is derived from secondary uses that were not intended in the first place. Every dataset can possess some intrinsic, hidden, not-yet-unearthed value. Having said that, many potential applications could skim along the edges of what might be ethical, moral or even legal.

In addition, online review sites and personal blogs often contain opinion-rich information that may be explored through textual and sentiment analysis. Arguably, consumer sentiment analysis may not be designed for automation but could be better adapted for the real-time monitoring of the marketing environment. Successful businesses strive to understand their customers’ personas so that they target them the right content with the relevant tone, imagery and value propositions.

Therefore, advertisers continuously gather consumer data and use it well to personalise every aspect of their users’ experience. They strive to take advantage of their consumers’ cognitive behaviour as they try to uncover and trigger consumer frailty at their individual level. It may appear that companies gather data on their customers in order to manipulate the market. They need to establish processes which determine when specific decisions are required. Firms use big data to delve into enormous volumes of information that they collect, generate or buy. Marketers need to realise that it’s important to analyse, decide and act expeditiously on data and analytics. It’s simply not enough to be able to monitor a continuing stream of information. Businesses should be quick in their decision making and take action.

Companies may use what they know about human psychology and consumer behaviour to set prices. Behavioural targeting is nothing new in digital marketing. When firms hold detailed information about their consumers, they may customise every aspect of their interaction with them. On the other hand, there could be instances when certain marketing practices could lead to unnecessary nuisances. Nowadays, customers are frequently bombarded with marketing endeavours including email promotions that are often picked up as spam. Therefore, one-size-fits-all messages could also have negative implications on prospective customers.

Eventually, firms could use this database to deliver promotional content to remind customers on their offerings. Consumer lists whether they are automated or in the cloud should always be used to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Customer-centric marketing is all about satisfying buyers. Customers may in turn become advocates for the business. Hence, technology has become instrumental for marketers in their ongoing interactions with people.

Evidently, without data, businesses could not keep a track record of their marketing effectiveness and performance stats. Engagement metrics; including, email-open rates, click through rates, pay per click and the like enable marketers to continually fine tune their individual customer targeting. Today, many individuals are becoming quite active on review sites, such as Yelp.com or Tripadvisor; and on social media channels; including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Google Plus.These modern digital marketing tools are helping business to engage in social conversations with consumers. Social media networks are often rich in customer opinion and contain relevant behavioural information. Moreover, the social media analytics could capture fast-breaking trends on customer sentiments toward products, brands and companies.

Businesses may be interested in knowing whether there are changes in online sentiment and how these correlate with sales changes over time. Digital media is supporting many businesses to map out how customers receive promotions, messages, newsletters and even advertisements. Relevant data is also helping these businesses to keep a focus on their customer needs and wants.

This contribution suggests that there is scope for businesses to consider realigning (and personalising) their incentives toward individual consumers by using data-driven marketing. Many businesses have become proficient on the use of maintaining databases of prospects and customer lists. They gather this valuable information to communicate and build relationships. This data collection may possibly drive new revenue streams and build long-term loyalty.

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The future of marketing is mobile…

mobile

An IBM (2012) technology trends survey indicated that mobile devices could increase the productivities and efficiencies of organisations. This study showed that mobile software was the second most “in demand” area for research and development. In addition, Gartner BI Hype Cycle (2012) also anticipated that mobile analytics was one of the latest technologies that may potentially disrupt the business intelligence market. At the same time, the market for mobile advertising is escalating at a very fast pace. Interestingly, eMarketer (2012) had predicted that mobile advertising shall experience a surge from an estimated $2.6 billion in 2012 to more than $10.8 billion in 2016. Evidently, there are niche areas for professional growth, particularly in this specialised field; as more and more individuals are increasingly creating new applications for mobile operating systems.

Recent advances in mobile communication and geo-positioning technologies have presented marketers with a new way how to target consumers based on their location. Location-targeted mobile advertising involves the provision of ad messages to cellular subscribers based on their geographic locations. This digital technology allows marketers to deliver ads and coupons that are customised to individual consumers’ tastes, geographic location and time of day. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, location-targeted mobile advertising seems to offer tremendous marketing benefits.

In addition, many businesses are commonly utilising applications, including browser cookies that track consumers through their mobile devices as they move out and about. Once these users leave these sites, the products or services that they had viewed online will be shown to them again in advertisements, across different websites. Hence, businesses are using browsing session data combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items that consumers like. Therefore, savvy brands are becoming increasingly proficient in personalising their offerings as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on their consumers’ behaviours. As more consumers carry smartphones with them, they are (or may be) receiving compelling offers that instantaneously pop up on their mobile devices.

For instance, consumers are continuously using social networks and indicating their geo location as they use mobile apps. This same data can be used to identify where people tend to gather — information that could be useful in predicting real estate prices et cetera. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to improve their consumer engagement and marketing efforts. Businesses are using mobile devices and networks to capture important consumer data. Smart phones and tablets that are wifi-enabled interact with networks and convey information to network providers and ISPs. This year, more brands shall be using mobile devices and networks as a sort of sensor data – to acquire relevant information on their consumers’ digital behaviours and physical movements. These businesses have become increasingly interactive through the proliferation of near-field communication (NFC). Basically, embedded chips in the customers’ mobile phones are exchanging data with retailers’ items possessing the NFC tags. It is envisaged that mobile wallet transactions using NFC technologies are expected to reach $110 billion, by the year 2017. The latest Android and Microsoft smartphones have already include these NFC capabilities. Moreover, a recent patent application by Apple has revealed its plans to include NFC capabilities in their next products. This will inevitably lead to an increase in the use of mobile wallets (GSMA, 2015). Undoubtedly, the growth of such data-driven, digital technologies is adding value to customer-centric marketing. Therefore, analytics can enable businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content and offers to specific customers.

Apparently, there are promising revenue streams in the mobile app market. Both Apple and Android are offering paid or free ad-supported apps in many categories. There are also companies that have developed apps for business intelligence. For example, enterprise / industry-specific apps, e-commerce apps and social apps. Evidently, the lightweight programming models of the current web services (e.g., HTML, XML, CSS, Ajax, Flash, J2E) as well as the maturing mobile development platforms such as Android and iOS have also contributed to the rapid proliferation of mobile applications (Chen et al., 2012). Moreover, researchers are increasingly exploring mobile sensing apps that are location-aware and activity-sensitive.

Possible future research avenues include mobile social innovation for m-learning; (Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula, 2010; Motiwalla, 2007), mobile social networking and crowd-sourcing (Lane et al., 2010), mobile visualisation (Corchado and Herrero, 2011), personalisation and behavioural modelling for mobile apps in gamification (Ha et al., 2007), mobile advertising and social media marketing (Bart et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2013). Google’s (2015) current projects include gesture and touch interaction; activity-based and context-aware computing; recommendation of social and activity streams; analytics of social media engagements, and end-user programming (Dai, Rzeszotarski, Paritosh and Chi, 2015;  Fowler, Partridge, Chelba, Bi, Ouyang and Zhai, 2015; Zhong, Weber, Burkhardt, Weaver and Bigham, 2015; Brzozowski, Adams and Chi, 2015).

 

References:

Bart, Y., Stephen, A. T., & Sarvary, M. (2014). Which products are best suited to mobile advertising? A field study of mobile display advertising effects on consumer attitudes and intentions. Journal of Marketing Research, 51(3), 270-285.

Brzozowski, M. J., Adams, P., & Chi, E. H. (2015, April). Google+ Communities as Plazas and Topic Boards. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3779-3788). ACM. Retrieved May 22nd, 2015, from http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/43453.pdf

Chen, H., Chiang, R. H., & Storey, V. C. (2012). Business Intelligence and Analytics: From Big Data to Big Impact. MIS quarterly, 36(4), 1165-1188.

Corchado, E., & Herrero, Á. (2011). Neural visualization of network traffic data for intrusion detection. Applied Soft Computing, 11(2), 2042-2056.

Dai, P., Rzeszotarski, J. M., Paritosh, P., & Chi, E. H. (2015). And Now for Something Completely Different: Improving Crowdsourcing Workflows with Micro-Diversions. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 628-638). ACM. Retrieved May 17th, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2675260

eMarketer (2012). eMarketer in the News: June 1, 2012 Retrieved January 28th, 2015, from http://www.emarketer.com/newsroom/index.php/emarketer-news-june-1-2012/

Fowler, A., Partridge, K., Chelba, C., Bi, X., Ouyang, T., & Zhai, S. (2015, April). Effects of Language Modeling and its Personalization on Touchscreen Typing Performance. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 649-658). ACM. Retrieved May15th, 2015, from http://cslu.ohsu.edu/~fowlera/Fowler_CHI2015.pdf

Gartner (2012). Big Data Drives Rapid Changes in Infrastructure and $232 Billion in IT Spending Through 2016. Retrieved January 20th, 2015, from https://www.gartner.com/doc/2195915/big-data-drives-rapid-changes

Google (2015). Human-Computer Interaction and Visualization Research at Google. Retrieved May 20th, 2015, from http://research.google.com/pubs/Human-ComputerInteractionandVisualization.html

Ha, I., Yoon, Y., & Choi, M. (2007). Determinants of adoption of mobile games under mobile broadband wireless access environment. Information & Management, 44(3), 276-286.

IBM (2012) Tech Trends Report. Fast track to the future. Retrieved May15th, 2015, from http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?subtype=XB&infotype=PM&appname=CHQE_XI_XI_USEN&htmlfid=XIE12346USEN&attachment=XIE12346USEN.PDF#loaded

Lane, N. D., Miluzzo, E., Lu, H., Peebles, D., Choudhury, T., & Campbell, A. T. (2010). A survey of mobile phone sensing. Communications Magazine, IEEE, 48(9), 140-150.

Motiwalla, L. F. (2007). Mobile learning: A framework and evaluation. Computers & Education, 49(3), 581-596.

Sharples, M., Taylor, J., & Vavoula, G. (2010). A theory of learning for the mobile age. In Medienbildung in neuen Kulturräumen (pp. 87-99). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Yang, B., Kim, Y., & Yoo, C. (2013). The integrated mobile advertising model: The effects of technology-and emotion-based evaluations. Journal of Business Research, 66(9), 1345-1352.

Zhong, Y., Weber, A., Burkhardt, C., Weaver, P., & Bigham, J. P. (2015). Enhancing Android accessibility for users with hand tremor by reducing fine pointing and steady tapping. In Proceedings of the 12th Web for All Conference (p. 29). ACM. Retrieved Ma7 20th, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2747277

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Using Big Data for Customer-Centric Marketing

Big data

The latest advances in information and communications technologies have brought significant improvements for the processing and storage of digital information. Nowadays, users can easily access multiple sources of data that is readily available through websites, social media networks as well as from mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. These developments have inevitably led to endless opportunities for marketers to leverage themselves by using big data analytics.

Big data has expanded in recent years. As a matter of fact, digital data has dwarfed analogue content and continues to grow at an exponential rate. This data is being collected and stored in massive amounts by search engines and eCommerce conglomerates. In addition, more information is being gathered through social media networks. In fact, all individuals leave a digital trail of data as they move about in the virtual and physical worlds. This phenomenon is called, “data exhaust”. Initially, this term was used to describe how Amazon.com used predictive analytics in order to suggest items for customers. Hence, predictive analytics anticipates human behaviours that have not happened yet. Evidently, it is based on large amounts of current and past indicative data that has been collected from multiple sources. Yet, at the moment, such analytics cannot determine when and why individuals may change their preferences for certain brands. Another new addition to big data is called preventative analytics. This latter one is aimed at reducing the likelihood of contingent situations, risk and uncertainty. It may be particularly relevant in the fields of healthcare, public services and law enforcement.

Data is the new currency for connecting people, ideas and products. Today, digital information is being gathered in innovative, new ways that have dramatically changed and improved consumers’ experience. For instance, online businesses are commonly utilising browser cookies to track websites that are visited by internet users. Once individual users leave these sites, some of the products or services they had viewed; will be shown to them again and again in native advertisements, across different websites. Therefore, businesses are using browsing session data, combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items for consumers. Many brands are becoming quite proficient in personalising their offerings – as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on consumers’ behaviours.

This year, more brands shall be using mobile devices and networks to acquire sensory data. As more customers are increasingly carrying smartphones with them, they are (or may be) getting used to receiving compelling offers that instantaneously pop up on their mobile devices. This type of geo-based marketing message is delivered at the right time and the right place. Of course, firms will need more than transaction history and loyalty schemes to be effective at this. They will inevitably require socio-demographic and geo-data that other businesses are not capturing. Moreover, anonymous cookieless data-capture methods are connecting consumer data with matching geo-location-based data. It may appear that these methods are empowering marketers to hyper-target consumers with real-time mobile ad campaigns before, during and after in-store activity. Geo-location capabilities are not only enabling advertisers to capitalise on leads, in real time; but they can also offer valuable insights on shopping habits and consumer behaviours. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to acquire relevant information on their consumers’ digital behaviours and physical movements.

Notwithstanding, businesses have become even more interactive through the proliferation of near-field communication (NFC). Basically, NFCs are embedded chips situated inside smart devices. These chips exchange data with retailers’ items possessing NFC tags. It is envisaged that mobile wallet transactions using this NFC technology are expected to reach $110 billion by 2017 (CNBC, 2013). The latest Android and Microsoft smartphones already include these NFC capabilities. Indeed, these technological developments can enable businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content as well as bespoken offers to individuals. Consumers use apps that may involuntarily indicate their geo-location to third parties. As a result, data collection has greatly benefited from geo-data services like satellites, near-field communication and global positioning systems. These systems track users’ movements that measure traffic and other real-time phenomena. Arguably, the emergence of such data-driven, digital technologies are adding value to customer-centric marketing endeavours. Unsurprisingly, sensor analytics, geo-location and social data-capture were some of the big trends that were recently announced during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.

Big data is fundamentally shifting how marketers collect, analyse and utilise data to reach out to customers. It is helping companies to get new insights into how consumers behave. The challenge for marketers is not to become dependent on big data and analytics to drive business strategies, but rather to recognise its value as a tool for customer satisfaction. Therefore, big data should inform, not consume marketing efforts. Perhaps, new marketing decision-making ought to harness big data for increased targeting and re-targeting of individuals and online communities. Lately, on-demand, real-time marketing has become more personalised. Every customer contact with a brand is a moment of truth, in real-time. Businesses who are not responding with seamless externally-facing solutions will risk losing their loyal customers to rivals.

This contribution suggests that a strategic approach to data management can generate leads and conversions. It also maintains that an evolving digital ecosystem will lead to superior levels of customer service, engagement and repeat business.

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Anticipating a surge in social media usage during 2015

smm2
Firms are increasingly facing internal and external pressures to enhance their digital presence in social media platforms. This year, many businesses ought to focus on relationship-based interactions and employ inbound marketing techniques for the following reasons:
1. Consumers are Digitally-Empowered
The rapid proliferation of social media has significantly modified the nature of human activities, habitats, and interactions. Real-world social relationships have also migrated to the virtual world, resulting in online communities that bring people together from many contexts. This movement into the digital dimension allows individuals to share knowledge, entertain one another, and promote dialogues among different cultures. The question is no longer if people are signing in; the question is what they are signing in to and why they use certain applications to do so. From a consumer’s perspective, the use of information communication technologies may offer a number of benefits, including efficiency, convenience, richer and participative information, a broader selection of products, competitive pricing, cost reduction, and product diversity. Social media tend to enhance those benefits as consumers are able to communicate more proactively. For example, through social networking and online reviews, consumers can seek out others’ opinions about specific products. In doing so, they are valuing peer judgments in addition to the firms’ promotions; this trend may indicate a shift in the locus on the persuasive power of word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Social Media and Consumer Engagement
If many customers are on social media, then firms should also engage with customers on social media. Firms should seek to develop digital relationships by using promotional strategies that emphasise the co-creation of content and meaning. To this end, consumer reviews can be particularly helpful. Of course, firms have always communicated with their customers, whether online or through personal selling. However, today’s customers are able to respond to firms through digital communication tools. This recent development may create pressures on firms to adopt a more digital presence.
Therefore, the evolution of Web 2.0 represents a social revolution whereby firms are increasingly engaging with their customers online. It may appear that this is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is related to significant global advances in information communication technologies as well as to lower costs for internet access and usage. These developments have set the stage for major shifts in digital marketing strategies and tactics, particularly with respect to the integrated marketing communications dimensions.
3) Building Brand Equity through Content Marketing
The web is an extremely powerful tool for marketers who are interested in creating stronger brands. Many businesses are already using social media as a channel of communication with their customers. Lately, savvy marketers are focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing as they strive to enhance their visibility online. The right content on corporate websites, blogs and social media can build the brands’ image and reputation. Carefully designed landing pages often use persuasive content which can ultimately bring good prospects through the buying funnel. Therefore, marketers are encouraged to try different formats of content as they engage with their potential customers.
Digital marketers should feature content which should be a good fit for their target customers as well as for their corporate objectives. Their marketing content may be displayed on: web pages; online articles and guest posts; blog posts social media posts, eBooks, presentations; customer review content, product FAQs; videos and micro-videos; pictures, infographics, and animated GIFs among other media. Businesses are increasingly creating a broad range of online content for many reasons. Quality content has the ability to educate, inform, generate leads and entice customers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the notion of content marketing is gaining ground, particularly in the C-Suite.
4) Viral Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Campaigns
It is widely believed that the word-of-mouth “buzz” about products may lead to conversions, product adoptions and sales. Therefore, firms are increasingly relying on social networks and “viral” marketing strategies. The term viral marketing describes the phenomenon by which consumers mutually share and spread marketing-relevant information online. Of course, it is in the businesses’ interest to leverage themselves through word-of-mouth (WOM) publicity on social networks. Such digital marketing stimuli may result in social contagion by means of e-mails, posts, likes, tweets et cetera. Therefore the dispersion of all marketing messages will then rely on the consumers themselves.
It goes without saying, publicity is more cost efficient than traditional mass-media advertising. Very often, successful marketing campaigns may trigger a strong emotional response in recipients. The effects of viral messages may possibly contain primary emotions (including surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust among others) on the recipients’ emotional responses to the creative ads and may even result in subsequent forwarding behaviours.
In conclusion, this article suggests that social media and digital marketing have already transformed the way how businesses engage with customers. Perhaps there’s an opportunity out there for businesses to differentiate themselves through interactive marketing. For instance, social media may provide simpler, faster and effective platforms that can reach different consumer segments. Notwithstanding, viral marketing tactics seem to offer a means of marketing communications at relatively low-cost, with a significantly reduced-response time and an increased potential for market impact.


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Digital Marketing trends to look out for during 2015

social

(This contribution also appeared on Business2Community.com)

As 2014 is winding down, it’s time for businesses to start planning their marketing strategy in a business scenario that is continuously changing at the speed of technology. Firms should adapt themselves to the online marketing environment. Many marketers are already chasing their daily meanderings in terms of “likes”, “shares”, “tweets”, click-through rates and ever more immediate metrics. All these interesting developments on internet allow businesses to differentiate themselves to get ahead of their rivals. Smart marketers regularly collect social data to offer more personalised, relevant and wanted content toward customers. Interestingly, 78% of marketers believe that data-driven marketing via digital channels is the path to new growth (American Marketing Association, 2014). In a sense, web 2.0 has helped businesses to share relevant information about their branded products, service features and propositions that may have generated leads and conversions. Nowadays, some of the best businesses are focusing their attention on inbound marketing techniques as they diligently segment their audiences and target them with online advertising through different social platforms:

  1. Social Media Marketing: It is in the businesses’ interest to get to know about the demographic profile of customers. In addition they should be aware of the latest contemporary trends and conversations that are happening on social networks. Businesses ought to present themselves in a way that feels native and endemic to customers. One of the main ways that companies are establishing authority and trust among their consumers is by consistently creating high quality content that may provide useful and interesting insights to audiences. Through integrated marketing communications involving social media channels, companies are steadily building a strong rapport with customers, which will inevitably help them to develop brand equity.
  2. Ad Re-Targeting: Today, businesses use content marketing tactics by producing valuable, engaging content that is designed for specific customers. Content on social media is becoming more conversational in nature. Consumers value those brands that show their human face. They consider them as trustworthy and authentic. Therefore, businesses communicate with their targeted audiences to build fruitful relationships with loyal followers. Several marketers are increasingly becoming quite proficient in re-targeting customers. Retargeting works by utilising browser cookies that track websites that are visited by internet users. Once the users leave these sites, the products or services they viewed will be shown to them again in advertisements, across different websites. Therefore, ad retargeting works to increase the overall conversion rate by reminding consumers of the product or service they had viewed. This keeps the brand and the product at the top of the consumers’ minds. Many studies have indicated that simple exposure to brand names and logos may ultimately lead to purchase decisions. Even if there’s no instantaneous purchase, an increased brand awareness can really pay off in the long run.
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: The goal of Google, Bing and other search engines is to provide their users with the most relevant and highest quality content. It goes without saying that, these days social signals may play a key role in organic search rankings. As more people share content through social media channels, it is very likely that the most popular content will be featured in search engine results. It’s no coincidence that the top-ranking search results tend to have lots of social shares, while those ranked lower have fewer. Moreover, social shares may often serve as a stamp of approval or can be considered as a trust signal for visitors. That’s why so many businesses are installing social share plugins and encouraging consumers to share their content, as much as possible.
  4. Mobile Marketing: We are living in an era that is characterised by mobile readiness, responsive designs as well as the revival of ‘going local,’ Businesses are encouraged to produce content that “scales down” on mobiles. Such content may include marketing emails, eNewsletters, websites, social posts and the like. According to (Forbes, 2013), “87% of connected devices sales by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones”. Whether businesses opt to create an alternative mobile version of a website or decide to utilise responsive web design, it’s important for them to provide a positive experience for those internet users that are browsing via mobile devices.
  5. Video Marketing: When it comes to potential reach, video is peerless. YouTube is currently receiving more than one billion unique visitors every month – that’s more than any other channel, apart from Facebook. For the record, “one out of three Britons view at least one online video a week – that’s a weekly audience of more than 20 million people in the UK alone” (Guardian, 2014). Of course, it’s vital for businesses to offer content that is easy to digest; if not, consumers will simply move on. Apps such as Twitter’s Vine (with its six-second maximum clip length) have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses to upload social videos having authentic content.

In a nutshell, this contribution suggests that next year many businesses will increasingly resort to digital marketing tactics to reach their individual consumers. eMarketer (2014) anticipates that in the next 12 months,  the marketing budget that is allocated to social media will rise to 13.2% (from 9.4%). It is imperative that marketers learn how to  engage with online visitors through effective, relevant content. Notwithstanding, it may appear that electronic marketing has changed consumers’ mindsets and behavioural attitudes toward businesses. Perhaps, there’s an opportunity for businesses to leverage themselves through faster adaptations, shorter lead times and always-on, real-time marketing.

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