Virtual Communities in Marketing Processes: A Marketing Framework

Virtual Communities in Marketing Processes: A Marketing Framework

Alessia D'Andrea (IRPPS-CNR, Italy), Fernando Ferri (IRPPS-CNR, Italy) and Patrizia Grifoni (IRPPS-CNR, Italy)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5942-1.ch095
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Abstract

The chapter provides a marketing framework to analyse the uses of virtual communities on marketing processes. The framework involves: actors (companies and companies), goals, marketing strategies, and influence process. Each of these elements is described in detail. Moreover, in the chapter the framework is applied to EBay in order to understand how the functionalities provided by this virtual community allow companies and consumers to achieve their marketing goals.
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Introduction

The advent of digital economy has given rise to the design and implementation of new marketing processes. In this scenario a deep innovation has been produced by Virtual Communities (VCs). VCs have shown increasingly promising outlook compared to traditional marketing methods. The marketing potential of VCs is mainly given in terms of added value they provide, resulting from new combinations of information, products and services and innovative integrations of resources and relationships between consumers and companies. In particular VCs offer an effective environment for information exchange, which helps companies to understand consumer preferences. The importance of VCs is connected to the symmetry between companies and consumers in their communication process; indeed, consumers do not passively receive marketers’ messages but they actively express their needs, preferences, and choices.

The aim of this chapter is to propose a marketing framework that provides a structured methodology to understand the uses of VCs on marketing processes. The framework involves: actors (consumers and companies); goals; marketing strategies; and influence process. On considering consumers, VCs allow them to:

  • Gather information about products and services offered by companies and communicate with other consumers

  • Interact with other members of similar interests without constraints of time and space and reduced search costs

  • Provide feedback content about the product, to the firm and to other consumers

  • Add “collective content” through discussion forums

  • Have economic benefits like special price, customized offers and better service

  • Being part of a powerful bargaining group that can influence important marketing decisions

Moreover according to Blackwell et al. (2001) VC’s membership affect each of phases of consumers’ purchase decisions:

  • 1.

    Need recognition,

  • 2.

    Search for information,

  • 3.

    Pre-purchase evaluation of alternatives,

  • 4.

    Purchase,

  • 5.

    Consumption,

  • 6.

    Post-purchase evaluation, and

  • 7.

    Divestment.

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