How Social Media Investments Can Increase Purchase Intentions among Consumers – A Four Step Approach Addressed Brand Managers in the Fashion Industry Part 2

October 13, 2014

Written by  Masters Student at Lund University 

PART II

DIFFERENT SOCIAL MEDIA FORUMS

 Facebook

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In 2011, almost 83 % of 500 successful companies tried to reach out to their target customers through some kind of social media (Naylor et al., 2012). This, probably because customers today increasingly search for information about unknown brands in different social media channels with an increased reliance (Naylor et al., 2012).  One of the most common channels used is Facebook and the Facebook fan page (Hutter et al., 2013).  Using a Facebook fan page is a good tool to use in the quest to increase brand awareness, intensify the traffic of e-WOM and most importantly to increase purchase intentions. Even though the fan page initially seems like a good plan, a company needs to be aware of the negative consequences it might generate (Hutter et al., 2013). An overload of invitations and activities from the fan page can annoy the followers and consequently lead to negative effects such decreased participation, negatively changed commitment to the fan page and less or undesirable e-WOM (Hutter et al., 2013). An intense release of new posts can create a feeling that the customer is caught instead of feeling liberated and inspired, and thereby damage the perception of the product and the brand (Powers et al. 2012).


Blogs and online magazines

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Blogs are another frequently used tool in the search for information on the internet about products one aims to purchase (Anant, 2011). Particularly in the fashion industry, blogs are playing a significant role when it comes to marketing (Colliander & Dahlen, 2011). This social media forum works as a marketing channel and have proven to be more efficient than online magazines when it comes to build good brand attitudes and purchase intentions (Collinder & Dahlen, 2011). To promote fashion brands and products through blogs is very effective. Since the blogger after a while often is portrayed as an idol to the consumer and a relation between them is created, the consumer will automatically like or buy many of the brands and products that the blogger promotes in the blog (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011. The blogs are therefore something that marketers in the fashion industry cannot ignore (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011). The more admired the blogger is, the more affected becomes the reader and it gets more attached to the brands that is exposed on the blog (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011). It is further important for fashion brands to notice that the relationship between the blogger and the brand must be transparent and genuine with no visible sponsorship involved. Hereby, the fashion brands should start target the bloggers in a genuine way, build trust and liking from scratch. Not until this moment is done consummately, the fashion brands can create a big loyal audience through the blogs (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011).

Using bloggers is also a great way to reach out to the right customers in a sincere way. During fashion shows many fashion brands places popular bloggers in good seats from where they can upload posts on their blogs and their other social media accounts.  By doing this, the purchase intentions of the desired consumers are created the right way, with no obvious manipulation or impact from merchandisers or editors (Kim & Ko, 2012).

 

Instagram, Youtube and Pins

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Pictures, videos and movie clips have been a common way in the fashion industry to promote fashion brands / products, activities and new collections (Caro et al., 2012). Often during a fashion show or events, fashion designers have a team working with taping and creating pictures and movies with backstage material to spread to “followers” in different social media forums (Coro et al., 2012). Other common activities using pictures related forums are by creating competitions where the customer is asked to take a picture of him/herself together with a certain brand specific product or tag (Caro et al., 2012). All of those marketing social media activities are created in the quest to interact and to attract new potential customers and it is to be considered as a powerful tool to spread messages and news in the fashion industry (Caro et al., 2012). Usually, the posts on Youtube, Pinterest or Instagram are often additionally shared on larger social media forums like Facebook, which generates a larger total spread which also can generate a better e-WOM (Caro et al., 2012). An additional good thing with the picture channels is that they tend to attract a like-minded audience. It is thereby easy for marketers to reach out to the desired audience and target groups (Caro et al., 2012). Using different kinds of picture-related social media activities is therefore to be considered to be a rather fast, cheap and easy way to market brands and increase purchase intentions within the fashion industry (Caro et al., 2012).

 

Recommendation #3: Reach out to the right customers in the right way

 

All of the chosen social media forums examined above have a proven effect on the purchase intention. Therefore, I would recommend fashion brands to investment in all of them, but having different strategies with each forum since they have different impact and effect. To start with Facebook, I would use it to create awareness, to spread messages and to create e-WOM.  I believe that it is important to be present at Facebook, but when it comes to fashion brands, I rely more on other channels who I would recommend fashion businesses to invest more time and effort on because of their spread and establishment. Blogs is probably the forum I would choose to create personal bonds to consumers and to create that desired familiar feeling. It is a good way to create deep trust and liking from scratch, and could therefore be a good starting point and first step, since the liking of a brand has been proven to have a crucial effect on the purchase intention and the future of the brands success. I also experience myself, that different picture-related social media forums get a larger share when it comes to promoting new products in the fashion industry. I have seen that forums like Instagram are taking over from blogs and online magazines, probably due to Instagram’s easiness and convenience for customers who constantly wants to be updated. Many bloggers also have an official Instagram account where they are uploading their daily outfits and purchases. I think a product placement in those pictures, in complement with the blogs, will be an appreciated approach for fashion brands to use in the near future.

 

GENERAL IMPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA INVESTMENTS

The usage of the social media is highly recommended to practice in order to be a successful marketer (Winer, 2009). Even though, it is irrational to believe that the movement from the old to the new era is easy. One crucial thing a marketer needs to remember is to use the right kind of measurements and metrics. As every other marketing activity, an investment needs to be able to track in order to see if the investment has been profitable or not (Winer, 2009). Managers need to investigate how their social media activities are being perceived by the customers since it is desirable that the investments generate a better brand opinion and/ or increase the purchase intentions with consumers. The directors must therefore be aware of their actions and not lose the control of the brand (Winer, 2009). Other valuable insights and recommendations to remember is that the social media activities must be a long term strategy, clear goals must be set up and the investments really have to be well thought through and processed before any actions are made (Phan, 2011).

 

 Recommendation #4: Track and measure the investments

In order to see if the investments have been that successful and rewarding as you have imagined, it is crucial to be able to track and measure the investments (Winer, 2009). My advice would be to create a customer survey, where the brand managers measure different key indicators in order to see the long term development. It is helpful to compare the customer evaluations from the survey they did in the beginning ( See recommendation #1) with how the brand is being perceived after the social media investments. Indicators such as the image of the brand, if the sales have been improved and if they have managed to deliver that desired added value to the customer are all measures significant to consider. Another good advice would be to track different e-WOMs and to read customer reviews in order to make sure that the perception of the brand is constantly positive or if some adjustments needs to be considered. 

 

CONCLUSION

After have gone through the impact of the different social media forums above, one could conclude that there is main consensus in the research field, that the use of social media has a positive impact on the consumer’s purchase intentions. Even though it seems easy and fast for fashion brands to create a blog, an account on Facebook or Instagram, they still need to rethink the actions as well as measure and track the investments in a cautious way. The usage of the different media channels have proven to simplify the decision in the purchase process for consumers, even if many other fundamental characteristics must be filled up before a brand can rely on a positive e-WOM and a spread of good reputations. By following the theoretical based recommendations stated above, I am convinced that fashion managers in the future will be successful in social media forums and that they will be pleased that they took the decision to invest in social media activities.

 

REFERENCES

Anant, S. “Blogs and their impact on purchase intention:  a structural equation modelling approach. “, 2011, Paradigm Institute of Management Technology, Vol. 15 Issue 1/2, pp. 102-110

http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/80443386/blogs-their-impact-purchase-intention-structural-equation-modelling-approach

 

Caro, T., Mann, A., Mark, J., Richeson, D., Strout, A.,How can Pinterest, Instagram, and such platforms raise brands' consumer profile?”, 2012, PR Week(US), Vol. 15 Issue 6, pp. 51-52

http://www.prweekus.com/pages/login.aspx?returl=/how-can-pinterest-instagram-and-such-platforms-raise-brands-consumer-profile/article/241834/&pagetypeid=28&articleid=241834&accesslevel=2&expireddays=0&accessAndPrice=0

 

Colliander, J. & Dahlen, M.,”Following the Fashionable Friend: The Power of Social Media.” , 2012,  Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 51 Issue 1, pp. 313-320

http://fralincm.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/followingthefashionablefriend.pdf

 

Hennig, T., Gwinner, K.P., Walsh, G., & D. Gremler, D., Electronic Word-of-Mouth Via Consumer Opinion Platforms: What Motivates Consumers to Articulate Themselves on the Internet?”, 2004, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Issue 18, pp. 3852

http://www.gremler.net/personal/research/2004_Electronic_WOM_JIM.pdf

 

Hutter,  K., Hautz, J., Dennhardt, S., Füller, J. ,“The impact of user interactions in social media on brand awareness and purchase intention: the case of MINI on Facebook.”, 2013, Journal of Product & Brand Management,  Vol. 22 Issue 5/6, pp. 342-351

http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/journals.htm?articleid=17100965&show=abstract

 

Kim, A. & Ko, E., ” Do social media marketing activities enhance customer equity? An empirical study of luxury fashion brand”, 2012, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 65 Issue 10, pp. 1480-1486

http://www.sciencedirect.com.ludwig.lub.lu.se/science/article/pii/S0148296311003584

 

Kim KH, Park SY, Lee S, Knight DK, Xu B, Jeon BJ., “Examining the relationships among

attitude toward luxury brands, customer equity, and customer lifetime value in a

Korean context.”, 2010, Journal of  Global Academy Marketing Science, Volume 20, Issue 1 pp. 2734

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/12297119.2010.9707341#.UvDfQj15NEI

 

Naylor, R., Lamberton, C.  & West, P., Beyond the "Like" Button: The Impact of Mere Virtual Presence on Brand Evaluations and Purchase Intentions in Social Media Settings.”, 2012, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 76, Issue 6, pp. 105-120 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2078586

 

Park, Do-Hyung, Jumin Lee, and Ingoo Han (2007), "The Effect of Online Consumer Reviews on Consumer Purchasing Intention: The Moderating Role of Involvement." International Journal of Electronic Commerce Vol. 11, Issue 4, 125-48

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27751234?uid=3738984&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103343797801

 

Phan, M., Do Social Media Enhance Consumer’s Perception and Purchase Intentions of Luxury Fashion Brands? “ Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers. Jan-Mar2011, Vol. 36, Issue 1, pp81-84

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0148296311003584

 

Powers, T., Advincula, D., Austin, M., Graiko, S., Snyder, J. Digital and Social Media In the Purchase Decision Process: A Special Report from the Advertising Research Foundation.”, 2012, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 52, Issue 4, pp479-489

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/bibliographic_databases.htm?id=17078644

 

Themba, G. &  Mulala, M., Brand-Related eWOM and Its Effects on Purchase Decisions: An Empirical Study of University of Botswana Students.  International Journal of Business & Management, 2013, Vol. 8, Issue 8, pp. 31-40

http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ijbm/article/view/22935

 

Wang, X.,  Yu, C & Wei, Y.  “Social Media Peer Communication and Impacts on Purchase Intentions: A Consumer Socialization Framework”, 2012, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Issue 26, pp. 198-208

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094996812000072

 

Winer, R., “New communication Approaches in Marketing: Issues and Research Directions “, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 2009, Issue 23, pp.  108117

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094996809000383

 

Wind, Y. “A Plan to Invent the Marketing We Need Today”, 2008, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 49, Issue 4, pp. 21- 28

http://hbr.org/product/a-plan-to-invent-the-marketing-we-need-today/an/SMR283-PDF-ENG?Ntt=Yoram+(jerry)+Wind

 

Wolny J. & Mueller C., Analysis of fashion consumers’ motives to engage in electronic word-of-mouth communication through social media platforms. 2013, Journal of Marketing Management., Vol. 29 Issue 5/6, pp. 562-583

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0267257X.2013.778324#.UvDhDD15NEI

How Social Media Investments Can Increase Purchase Intentions among Consumers – A Four Step Approach Addressed Brand Managers in the Fashion Industry Part 1

October 9, 2014

Written by  Masters Student at Lund University

PART I

THE NEW ERA

The many and comprehensive developments within the technology sector are something that has had a tremendous effect on how individuals and firms live and work today (Wind, 2008). We have been able to see a new marketing era and it has become a rule rather than an exception for fashion brands to invest and focus in social media activities (Winer, 2009) where established accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and blogs are the new common used communication tools (Phan, 2011). Even if theorists seem to advocate social media investments as a recipe for success, I know of companies operating in the fashion industry who do not know how to succeed with their social media activities. Scandinavia’s largest fashion PR agency is a good example of this, where I as an intern, early noticed the bureau manager’s lack of knowledge concerning how to manage their social media investments in order to increase purchase intentions among consumers.

This paper is therefore devoted to answer this question. By presenting relevant theory which subsequently will result in my own analytical recommendations, fashion managers will be inspired about how they can progress with their social media investments.

 

BRANDS, INTEGRATION AND COMMINICATION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA

The Brand

It has been investigated among theorists that social media investments generate increased purchase intentions with consumers (Kim & Ko, 2012; Themba & Mulala, 2013; Wang et al. 2012). Even though, the customer’s intention to buy increases only if the brand achieves to deliver an added value to the customer, and even more so if the brand in question have transparent and strong values from the beginning- namely through value equity and brand equity (Kim & Ko, 2012).  Even if the fashion brand is highly present in the social media world and constantly updating and communicating in new creative ways, about 35 % of the respondents still perceive the brand as old- fashioned (Phan, 2011, example Burberry). This really demonstrates the strong correlation between a liking of a certain brand and the purchase intention. Therefore, there is no impact of social media investments on the purchase intentions if the customer does not like the brand from the beginning (Phan, 2011). Additionally, the perception a customer gets from different buzzes in the social media, is based on already existing thoughts and perceptions of the brand (Powers et al., 2012).

Recommendation #1:  Examine your brand

It is important to remember that an investment in social media activities will not increase purchase intentions if a consumer do not like the brand from the beginning, and that new information received will be based on already existing thoughts of the brand (Kim & Ko, 2012; Phan, 2011). It is therefore crucial that the brand image is the same perceived in the consumers’ eyes and in the brand manager’s. If the manager believes that the brand stands for good products and values but the reality occurs to be the reverse, the social media investments will be vain. I therefore have faith in building a clear image where the brand strives to be in the future and compare it, with the help of customer surveys, how they are perceived today. By doing this, the managers know in what areas they have to improve and where the major gaps are between the customer’s and manager’s brand perceptions. Managers must know what they have to work with and what negative rumors they might have to counter in order to be successful in their social media activities. It is essential to build a good image from scratch.

Interaction and e-WOM

The interaction and communication between consumers in the social media is something that has been investigated deeply and broadly (Wang et al, 2012). The research have contributed to the insight that  the way consumers interact with each other in Social Media forums, affect the way the consumers think in their purchase decision (Wang et al. 2012). The social media forums works as a kind of market place where the communication between individuals helps people correspond and argue with each other which further often leads to changed attitudes of brands and products (Wang et al, 2012).

A developed and established concept in the area of online communication is “e-WOM”, electronic word of mouth (Henning et al. 2004). It is a good idea for fashion retailers to invest in social integrated activities since it could be an easy way to create positive e-WOM traffic (Henning et al., 2004). Since e-WOM has been found to be a trustworthy source for information-seeking consumers, it is important that businesses in the fashion industry realize the importance of it (Themba & Mulala, 2013). Noteworthy is also that when a fashion retailer wants to intensify the spread of positive e-WOM, they must reflect upon the commitment of the customer in relation to the brand as well as the consumer’s commitment to fashion overall. If a customer is highly committed to a certain fashion brand, then his or hers engagement in social media activities in relation to that brand will increase (Wolny & Mueller, 2013). Furthermore, customers who have a high need of social interaction in general, are those consumers who are more collaborative in the social media than others (Wolny & Mueller, 2013). The more a brand manages to create a positive and comprehensive e-WOM related to the brand or to the product, the more the purchase intention from that consumer will increase (Themba & Mulala, 2013).

Communication Through Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are a part of the interaction era we experience today and are often to be found in different social media forums, in one way or another. It is important to not underestimate the impact of the reviews, since a positive customer review in some social media can affect the purchase intention among other consumers (Park et al., 2007). The reviews have a function of being both informative and recommendatory and are therefore playing an important role in the customer purchase decision process. The more and the better the reviews are, the more they have an impact on others (Park et al., 2007). One exception is consumers who are highly involved with a brand and its products. Those customers only learn and take note from it when he or she perceives the quality of the review to be rewarding (Park et al., 2007).

One could find it hard to understand that individuals, who are reading reviews online, are so credulous. It has therefore been discussed and investigated if it is good or not to reveal the demographical characteristics of social media engaged customers (Naylor et al. 2012). Does the disclosure have an impact on the purchase intentions and brand opinions of future potential customers or not? The results reveal that even if the presence of those social media involved individuals is virtual and sometimes not very active, their demographical characteristics do have an impact on another customer’s purchase intention and brand evaluation (Naylor et al., 2012). This could be an interesting angel for managers to discover in the quest to reach out to their target markets as well as in business comparisons with competitors (Naylor et al., 2012).

 

Recommendation #2: Create the right image

Since e-WOM is to be considered to be a trustworthy source when it comes to the consumer’s purchase decision process (Themba & Mulala, 2013), it is important for fashion managers to try to control and make sure that positive buzzes and perceptions about the brand are created and spread from the start. To spread a good brand image and to get new customers, I suggest that fashion managers should turn to their already existing customers, who are highly active in Social Medias, but also who have a strong predilection for that particular brand. In this way, the spread will be broad and the message will be positive. I also think it will be a good idea if managers additionally choose to reveal the promoting customer’s demographics, since the whole investment and activity will be even more trustworthy (Naylor et al., 2012). I believe that consumers, who experience detection and identification, are more likely to trust the reviews and also spread the buzz further. By doing this, it will attract like-minded audience and it gets easier for the fashion brand to reach out new target customers and to increase purchase intentions

END PART I

Which social media forums will be chosen and why? How can managers know if the investment has been profitable? For answers to those questions, look in part two where I also present the central conclusion.