A Study of the Impact of Social Networking Communities on the Consumption of Beauty Luxury Products

A Study of the Impact of Social Networking Communities on the Consumption of Beauty Luxury Products

Lynsey E. Macdonald (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK), Irene García Medina (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) and Zahaira F. González Romo (Universitat de Vic, Spain & Universitat Central de Catalunya, Spain)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9958-8.ch009
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Abstract

The advances in internet technology over the past decade have irrevocably altered the ways in which people communicate – this, in turn, has had an undeniable impact on consumer behaviour. The following chapter set out to explore the phenomenon of blogging and social media communities, and the impact these communities have had on reference group culture, social identity and the buying behaviour of a target group of consumers – women, aged 18-30, who participate in the online beauty community. This research has examined the impact participation in this community has had on the amount of money these consumers spend on beauty and skincare products, and the extent to which it has influenced their attitude towards luxury products. The study confirmed findings from existing literature, in that a connection between purchasing habits and the desire to be considered a member of the community was established. The data collected revealed that participation in the beauty community has an impact not only on the amount of money consumers spend on beauty and skincare items, but that this frequent online communication makes them increasingly more willing to purchase a wider variety of products, both at a high end/luxury and High Street/drugstore level. The study also revealed that regular participation in the community increases consumer knowledge of products, and can eventually lead to their expertise surpassing that of sales staff. The study concludes by outlining recommendations for marketers working with beauty brands, highlighting key considerations to make when approaching the marketing of products via the online community, based on the findings on this study.
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Introduction

Research Background

The internet age is one in which global communities can form via web portals, and people from different continents can form groups around particular topics. It has created an interactive platform for people to discuss their thoughts, interests and opinions, and develop an identity based on those who they align themselves with - blogs are one such space (Zhou, 2011). Blogging communities can and have formed around topics from fashion and beauty to food, gardening and gaming, and present people with an opportunity to share their own thoughts while engaging with others with similar interests. The “blogosphere” (Stanyer, 2006, p.406) has grown exponentially over the past decade, and this has had an impact on consumer behaviour. While reference group culture has been studied by academics for decades (Solomon et al., 2013), blogging has created a whole new level of the concept - the wealth of information available online has led to consumers routinely engaging with blogs as part of the decision making process they go through before purchasing a product or service (Johnson & Kaye, 2009). It has been said that consumers are, to an extent, becoming immune to traditional forms of advertising – their daily lives are so saturated with information from brands that they are able to tune out the excess noise (Gerbarg, 2009, p.44). By turning to blogs, consumers can deliberately target brands, services and products that they have an interest in, and in doing so, discuss those products with other consumers who share that interest. This initial search for information can open up an entire community to consumers; something which, over the past few years, has begun to be researched by academics. The potential of blogs to influence buying behaviour has huge implications for marketers and brands.

The internet has also, however, provided consumers with new ways of creating their identity. Social media sites including Facebook and Twitter, in addition to blogs, are utilised by millions of people across the world – the most up to date studies suggest that the percentage of internet users engaging in these sites is currently 74% (Pew Research, 2014). A connection between reference Group culture and creation of the self has been explored many times over by researchers, but the increased popularity of blogging has created a gap in the research, with vast potential to explore the topic from a new angle.

Research Gap

While the impact of blogging has recently begun to be researched in academia in the consumer behaviour field, this particular study will take a targeted look at the impact the blogging trend is having on the consumption of beauty luxury products.

The beauty and cosmetics industry is thriving, and was one of few industries to continue to grow throughout the recent economic crisis with reports estimating that by 2017, revenues in the industry will reach $265billion (Lucintel Report, 2012). The beauty blogging community is also thriving online, with weekly chats scheduled on twitter to bring bloggers across the world together to discuss their love for beauty products. This study will investigate the impact involvement in this community has on the consumption of such products in terms of overall spend, attitudes towards luxury products and levels of consumer expertise. The gap here is to examine the connection between the social identity aspect of blogging (tied to participation in the community) (Arenas-Gaitan et al., 2013), and the buying behaviour of this select group of consumers.

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