In the technological driven world, social media provides a platform where businesses can extend their marketing activities to mass consumers. Social media offers a two way communication between brands and consumers where consumers can also freely provides their views and opinions about the business. The methods and tools for communicating with customers have altered the field of marketing. It is important that businesses must also learn the proper use of social media tools in line with the business plan. This is important for the purpose of gaining competitive advantage. The literature review examines the use of social media by the retailers in their marketing strategy.
Considering that, consumer behaviour is a broad area and represents many challenges for the researcher in collection and interpretation of data and to conclude and recommend solutions in one study, the researcher has thus narrowed down the focus for the study. The researcher attempts to analyse the role of social media marketing in decision making, perception of consumers and ideal social media marketing strategy (Adler and Kwon, 2002). The objective of research is categorised into what can be the effects and how social media can impact the consumer decision making process. It will also help in identifying the issues that are affecting the company's social media strategy and the way in which it can leverage the opportunities to embrace possibilities.
John Lewis which was established in 1864 is a departmental store chain. The brand operates with 43 stores in various regions around UK. It is well known with its policy of "Never Knowingly Undersold" which was first brought into action in 1925. The brand is also well recognised with its graphical identity of diagonal motif which was developed in 1990 by a renowned designer at that time.
The format of department stores is divided into following categories - John Lewis at home, airport store and flexible format stores. Out of total 42 stores, the brand operates 31 in "traditional department format" and 10 in "John Lewis at home format." First and the largest store of brand which was opened in 1864 is the Oxford Street store. John Lewis opened a store in new Terminal 2 of London Heathrow airport in mid 2014 under the airport format. The first flexible format store was opened in October 2012. The new format is a mix of full line departmental store and at home format. The stores offer wide range of products including home and electrical, fashion, and home technology.
John Lewis is present on social media with 700,000 fans on Facebook and 216K followers on Twitter. This number may be way behind comparison with large retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Tesco. The brand has achieved an increase of 44% in online sales in 2012 Christmas season. The social media team posts three to four updates on daily basis. But, there are no updates on weekends because the social team works 5 day a week. Obviously, the team is not aware of scheduling posts for off days through Hootsuite, buffer, LaterBro, CoTweet and many more. But then too, the team responds effectively and in a well behaved manner to customer queries and solve their issues on instant basis. The brand also launches social media campaigns in regular intervals to engage with their customers. There are separate Facebook pages for different stores which are updated by the respective team. An effective strategy which the team follows to avoid customer complaints is to ignore any negative sentiment and comment of the customer. There is a separate customer service account that deals with customer complaints and queries.
To analysis the impact of social media marketing upon consumer attraction towards the products in reference with JOHN LEWIS UK
The following questions are composed in order of addressing the statement of problem and to arrive at a solution.
The purpose behind the research is to analyse the impact of social media on consumer decision making. Social media is used for communication and information sharing purpose. Early users in business world had realised the significance of social sites and used it to engage and communicate with their customer in an interactive and better way. Marketers are using it as an innovative way to connect with mass media from all around the globe. Social media marketing is more about responding and engaging with customer in a live conference (Bo Han., 2011). The marketers are required to interact with customer in a mixed way i.e. formal and informal and ensure that they do not loose engagement.
Social media provides opportunity to share information on real time basis and with a speed that is faster than any other media source. The easy usage and availability of devices along with connectivity has contributed to its growth that other medium took decades to do this. The researcher has identified a gap in the marketing strategies of departmental stores to capitalise on social media. Although, the marketers have presence on social sites but it is limited to news updates and availability of new products (Chai and Kim, 2011).
The research study will make significant contribution in identifying the different opportunities that are provided by the social media in development and implementation of marketing strategies and by influencing consumer decision making in favour of marketers. The benefits also covers generating online awareness, engaging with mass media, keeping continuous interaction and development of new ways to attract more consumers towards the brand (Enders and et. al., 2008).
The growing significance of internet and web based media in contributing business operations is widely acknowledged by authors and academicians (Greenhow and Robelia, 2009). Social media and networking sites soon grew up and emerged in the business world. Social media includes wide range of services that facilitates information sharing and communication among the masses. These are platforms, application, and media, messengers that enable users to share content, videos and images in no time and beyond the boundaries. The following major categories that are based on the purpose and use of social media -
The importance and high usability of social media is because of the low cost of communication and its immediate and interactive nature. These are considered as the core of strategic value for organisation regardless of the size, nature, objective, products, and location. The social site offers many opportunities to business world from the very beginning of their establishment till the peak they achieve (Mutula, 2009). It helps entrepreneurs to conduct market research and judge the viability of the business through analysing customer opinions and responses on social media. For established business, it enables to build their presence on various media sites and connect with their user whether it is suppliers, customer or investors (Day and Treweek, 2008).
According to research by Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden (2011), the social networking sites account for every 11 minutes on online time spent. Nearly 54% of users on internet between the ages of 16-24 have their personal page and profile on social sites. It was also revealed that, social sites have the maximum number of users than any other form of media over the internet. It is a known fact that if Facebook was a country, it would have been third largest after China and India. On an average, each user has 180 friends and is connected with 100 community sites spending 60 minute every day.
Researchers and marketers have always taken interest in understanding the consumer behaviour and decision making process and factors influencing it. Earlier studies were focused on purchase action. The modern marketing concepts gain significance after the 1960's which includes activities before and after purchase. The research suggests that, purchase is only an action of the decision and much of the decision making process were formed in the early stages. There are many factors that influence the consumer decision making process (Hassan, 2003).
The theories of consumer decision making has evolved over the time. The early theories were based on the approach of rational choice theories called economic theory. It states that, consumers act rationally for the purpose of maximising benefits in purchase decision making. It further explains that rational consumer has many choices and has pre defined choices. The consumer is able to determine which choice has the maximum benefit which forms the base of decision making. This also described that, there is a perfect competition in the market where consumers are allowed to make informed choices. However Kim, Ferrin and Rao (2008) argue with limitation associate with the theory. According to the author, consumers are influenced by the advertisements, past experiences of family and friends for the products or service, situations and mood. Another Author also supports this concept and said that in economic aspect, the consumer must be aware of all the possible alternative of the product or service in the market and is rank them on the basis of merits and demerits and then make the final buying decision. Palmer and Koenig-Lewis (2009) contradicts that, this is an unrealistic expectation because consumer in any case do not have access to all information. Moreover, many consumers do not have time and other resources to involve in such complex process. Some are also limited by skills, knowledge and motivation to go into in-depth research of small purchases (Adler, P. S. and Kwon, S.-W., 2002).
But against all of the criticism, the theory has made remarkable contribution in assessing consumer decision making process. Consumers does not limit their decision making process for maximum benefit but they also perform cost-benefit analyse. This concept gives rise to new theory of behaviour that undertakes information processing for purchase decision making process.
The online consumer search for information through various online sources, evaluate it critically and choose the best one. It can be said that, purchase decision making process is more of constructive nature and is build on the foundation of information. Online consumer behaviour is considered to be of complex nature as it relies on huge information pool and evaluating it on many criteria (Bo Han and J. W., 2011).
Among various studies by researcher, the consumer behaviour models are categorised into two streams - the first group consists of key elements of consumer behaviour. It involves stages of consumer decision making process. The second group consists of the way consumer behaviour is formed and tries to perform as predictors. The consumer focuses on order of elements and their effects of behaviour. There are two models in this theory - theory of reasoned action and theory of planned behaviour (Chai and Kim, 2011).
According to research conducted by retail store, there are five constructs of social media marketing which are - interaction, entertainment, customization, word of mouth and trendiness. These constructs impact positively on equity value and relationship. The study by Mutula (2009) states that positioning a post on top social media sites enhances the brand image and its popularity. It also influences the likes and comments and responses.
According to research by Smith (2001), brands are increasingly using social media to attract new customers. Many marketers prefer to retain the existing customers instead of incurring high cost in acquiring new customers. But social media has solved the problem with easy, alternative and cost effective ways to acquire new customers and maintain them. John Lewis is using popular social media sites to post about the new launches and offers and increase its customer base. The retailer has developed a new strategy to attract customer through social media. It has started contest and offers on daily basis to engage with the customers.
Ali and AuYong (2013) in a study investigated factors on increasing online shopping. It was revealed that online shopping acceptance is influenced by the easy usage, trustworthy brand and secures payment options. In addition to this, there are other factors such as access to internet, awareness about the brand, social media presence, delivery options, and attractiveness of web design.
Another study by Day and Treweek (2008) revealed that, when a marketer engages with its customers through social media, it experiences enhanced image and trust. Consumer finds it easier to connect with brand through social media for any query or complaint instead of choosing email as an option. Studies also suggest that, consumer always perform dual check for a website before finalising online purchase (Peters, 2014). They click on related links, check terms and conditions, check security settings and verified address for the purpose of authenticity. Many consumer find online shopping more comfortable as it allows easy comparison which can be availed form home without visiting each shop separately. Moreover, the online bands are increasingly using social media for contest and offer to engage client on daily basis. Before the launch of any new product, the brand creates a hype and offer huge discounts for early bookings (Griggs, 2014).
A study conducted on social media in purchase decision making process reveal changes in the buying process of consumer goods brought by social media. The respondents agree that social media plays an important role in decision making while resolving queries about the products and providing suggestions. Moreover social media is expanding consumer trust with decision influencers growing beyond the traditional trusted sources such as family, friends and colleagues.
This section gives details about the tools and techniques of research methodology which will be applied in the research in order to attain the aim and objectives of the study in efficient manner.
In the proposed study which is based on analyzing the impact of social media marketing towards the customer attraction. On the basis of the aim and objectives, secondary data will be evaluated from the different sources such as journals, articles, nooks, newspapers, online websites etc. Secondary research will help to examine the views of many authors, scholars and researchers regarding the effectiveness of social media marketing strategies and it relation with the customers of companies (Sekaran, 2006).
Primary research will also be conducted in this study. There are different methods of accessing the primary information for the research. In the proposed study, the researcher will be access the primary data from the customers of John Lewis. Primary research methods are of different types such as questionnaire, interview, observation, semi-structured interview etc. (Hassan, 2003). For this study, researcher will conduct questionnaire survey and data will be accessed from the customers of John Lewis from whom information related to the impact of social media strategies towards their attraction will be assessed.
In contest to follow the specific framework for this research, Descriptive research design will be implemented in the study. The rationale behind implementing descriptive research design rather than exploratory or causal research design is to evaluate the precise amount of information that how social media marketing making its impact on customers to buy the products of the organization (Day and Treweek, 2008).
From the two different philosophies of research positivism and interpretivism, researcher will apply the interpretivism philosophy in the study. On the basis of this research philosophy, the perception of customers towards the social media marketing strategies that how they were influenced. This philosophy will also help to interpret that; social media strategies are effective for the organization in this current scenario (Ali and AuYong, 2013).
There are two different approaches, one is inductive and other is deductive approach. In context to the aim and objectives of the research, inductive research approach will be applied in the study. With the help of inductive approach, researcher will develop the generalized form of information or in broader form that how social media strategies of business are playing important role in consumer attraction. Deductive approach will not be applied as it will be applied at the time when there is need to generate only the specific form of information (Smith, 2001).
There are two different methods from which researcher can collect the data. In this research primary data will be collected from the customers of the John Lewis. There are different methods of collecting the data such as observation, interview, questionnaire etc. For this, study questionnaire method will be used and this will include both open and close ended questions. In addition to this, secondary method will be collected from journals, books, online websites etc. It will help to add appropriate amount of information in the study (Mutula, 2009).
Probabilistic and non-probabilistic are two different methods on the basis of which sample can be selected for the study and also from whom data is collected. In this present study, researcher will use the method of random sampling which is the part of probabilistic sampling. Through random sampling the customers of John Lewis will be the samples and they will be selected on random basis. Sample size of the study will be 100 customers. Data will be accessed from customers of John Lewis (Palmer and Koenig-Lewis, 2009).
There may some limitation which will be faced by the researcher in the study. First limitation of the study is that, there should be constrain of time and money as this study involves both primary and secondary research. Another limitation of the study is the sample size of the study in primary method of data collection. It is not possible to collect the data from more than 100 customers as it requires huge time and money. In addition to this, the respondents of the research will not be easily ready to fill the questionnaire as it will difficult to consult them why their information is very essential for us.