Consumers and Communities

Abstract

The Internet has transferred the power from the brand to the customer, evolving the latter to a “prosumer” (pro-active consumer) that demands more access to the brand decision making process. This change calls for new politics inside the marketing department and introduces a new challenge for the strategic marketer: to invite and involve consumers in brand communities populated of like-minded members, in order to fulfill their fundamental psychological goal for belongingness. In this chapter we discuss the characteristics and the specifics of community building, as it emerges as a great means to the end of loyalty building. Additionally, we attempt to decode the consumer behaviour online, in order to develop useful tools for segmentation and targeting, adapted to the new elements of what consumer perceives as value.
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Questions

  • How does the internet facilitate the “revenge of the customer”?

  • Why are brand communities more useful for marketers than sales promotions?

  • Has the way we shop changed due to the internet?

  • What are the main factors of online consumer behaviour?

  • Why are personas, the secret ingredient of good marketing strategies?

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Introduction

Did you ever wonder why the internet is so important after all? A quick answer is: “because it has changed the way we behave, as individuals and as consumers”. In the online world, traditional concepts like groups, communities and socializing have found new meanings, re-defining antecedents and consequences of our marketing efforts. Therefore, in an attempt to decode those new behavioral patterns, we will discuss how lifestyle and buying behaviors have been re-shaped by the new digital world in this chapter. We aim to provide the reader with a ‘helicopter view’ on Consumer Behavior with a focus on probably the most prominent concepts affecting digital branding today: communities and co-creation.

First of all, in marketing everything roots in the hierarchy of values, what we really want and need, what is important to us, what motivates us to behave in a particular manner? In their recent Harvard Business Review article, Almquist, Senior and Bloch (2016) proposed an evolution of the Maslow pyramid, the “universal building blocks” of value that may explain the complicated psychological mechanism that leads to product selection.

Figure 1.

The elements of value

(Almquist et al., 2016), Source:hbr.org

According to the authors of this article, that have conducted extended research in order to understand what really drives consumers, the higher the level on the pyramid, the more powerful the values are- although quality is the one product/service value that cannot be traded off, despite its place on the lowest, functional level. Also, it occurs from the illustration, that belonging is amongst the very powerful values, in the “life-changing” segment. This means that, when presented with multiple options, we might prefer one brand from another, and ultimately become loyal to it, because on the top of its functional benefits, it promotes us to members of a community. From this perspective, and in an effort to find the practical implications of this conclusion, for the marketers that struggle to differentiate and to provide additional value to their offerings in order to engage their targeted customers, adding the strong benefit of belonging to a like-minded community, could be a fruitful addition. Having said that, we can now see how online communities function and what makes the valuable- or not.

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The Online Communities

Figure 2.

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