The world of information technology is constantly being challenged to move into other segments of business functions. No longer can an IT manager simply control the company’s internal data and information flow. One generalization that was identified is that information technology is becoming increasing intertwined with both marketing and advertising. Many consumers, especially the younger generations, consider information they acquire online by various means to serve as the foundation for purchasing decisions. Not only do such consumers scan the web to compare pricing information, but they also engage in product research through various means.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach these consumers with a marketing message. Many consumers effectively shun any traditional type of marketing messages. Such consumers can actually have contempt for such an approach as it seems to question their intelligence and as a result these messages can potentially have a counterproductive effect on brand image. This paper will focus on how IT can support marketing in reaching consumers in innovative and non-traditional methods. Social networking e-commerce is one of the trends that will be analyzed as well as the availability of accessing these store fronts from mobile devices. Additionally, one trend that was also identified is how consumers often form online “tribes” which is offered as one model of online social structure that must be considered in attempts to create an effective online presence and consequently this trend will also be discussed.
Social Networking Shopping
Social networking is undoubtedly one of the biggest developments in recent generations. The unprecedented popularity of sites such as Facebook has spurred a new wave of research to try to determine some of the impacts such developments have on society and sociality (Ryan and Xenos 2009). The integration of such sites into daily lives has completely altered the ways people communicate on a daily basis. Not only has it transformed social relationships, but it has also had many impacts on how organizations can reach potential consumers. The popularity of business trying to market their products through such mediums is evolving just as fast as the trend that emerged with individuals started using sites such as Facebook.
Since this trend is developing so fast there has been little opportunity for researchers to study the facets of such activities with any comprehensiveness to determine instances of best practices or any generalizations that can be applied universally. However, there are many cases of retailers harnessing this space to drive business and create a competitive advantage among there more conservative and slower moving competition. Businesses such as 1-800-Flowers currently have over a quarter million Facebook followers (1-800-Flowers 2011). These “followers” can be reached with marketing communications at a rate that is unprecedented in history. Not only can the followers be accessed nearly instantaneously, if the Facebook member chooses to “like” the message it can also reached their online community of people in an exponential or “viral” manner.
This trend has also been greatly expedited by another trend in which mobile computing via smartphones or mobile devises allow access to social networking sites from virtually anywhere. Thus the convenience of connecting with friends, family, and other members of an individual’s online community has further been a driving force in the popularity of sites such as Facebook. In fact, in 2010 it was estimated that Facebook and Twitter access grew by a triple digit growth rate since the following year and now reaches over thirty percent of all smart phone users (Lipsman 2010). Given the tremendous amount of growth in this sphere it is increadibly important for IT managers to embrace the trend as early in the products development as possible.
Although the concept of tribal marketing has been around for quite some time, it has gain new relevance due to the social networking trend. Virtual communities, which are also commonly referred to as E-tribes, represent of a group of people who interact and socialize with each other through e-mail, instant messages, blogs, chat rooms, or through other digital mean (Broman 2009). They share common interests, ideas, and outlooks which may include opinions on various products or services. These messages can influence discrete choices that are not constrained to the online world. For example, individuals who share information on MySpace about music preferences can be shared with members of the tribe and spread faster than could by other means.
Virtual tribes can play an important role in marketing as they influence consumer buying decisions, often produce impulse buying habits, and can spread virally. Some groups are molded specifically for means of sharing information or opinion about different products or services. It is likely that consumers search online for information about any major purchase that they are considering. Thus they are likely to read other customers feedback about the various experiences with the product they are considering. The information that they access online will in many cases directly translate to either a purchase or the information could lead them in another direction such as purchasing a competing product or deciding not to purchase anything at that time.
Figure 1 – Example of a Tribal Marketing Message (Ta 2009)
Factors that were identified in regards to a successful tribal campaign include a balance between timeliness, internal IT capabilities, and accurate external assessments. Target markets are a continuously evolving and the composition of virtual tribes changes rapidly. Thus a marketing and information systems cannot delay between information collection and marketing program development. Furthermore the increased interconnectedness between the business functions of marketing and information technology represents another trend that will likely persist indefinitely.
1-800-Flowers. Facebook. November 26, 2011. http://www.facebook.com/1800flowers (accessed November 26, 2011).
Broman, D. Soderlindh, S. “How the Internet Facilitates the Activity within a Consumer Culture.” Uppsala University. August 2, 2009. http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:226785/FULLTEXT01 (accessed November 26, 2011).
Lipsman, A. “Facebook and Twitter Access via Mobile Browser Grows by Triple-Digits in the Past Year.” Com Score. March 3, 2010. http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/3/Facebook_and_Twitter_Access_via_Mobile_Browser_Grows_by_Triple-Digits (accessed November 26, 2011).
Ryan, T., and S. Xenos. “Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage.” Computers in Human Behavior, 2009: 1658-1664.
Ta, A. “Personal Shopping the Facebook Way.” Facebook. November 25, 2009. http://www.facebook.com/blog.php?post=186370837130 (accessed November 26, 2011).
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