The buying decisions of a customer are considerably influenced by the recommendations or suggestions provided by their friends or near ones, then the information that may have had by any other form of advertising. However, new media forms like e-marketing have increased the scope of shopping in the world of today (Arora 2007; Liao, Proctor and Salvendy, 2009).
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The objective of any marketing entity is to increase the revenue for the organization either through an increase in sales volume or an increase in margins (Arora 2007). Because of the vicious competitiveness in most markets as well as the increase in intelligence of the customer, it is not easy for a business entity to charge high prices or rates while increasing its margins at the same time. Hence, raising the volume of sales may fulfill the objective of increasing revenue. The organizations should aim at learning the impact of relationship marketing strategy on online consumers, the effect of website security on online consumers, the extent of a customer’s satisfaction impact on e-commitment, the e-trust impact of electronic word of mouth and e-commitment impact electronic word of mouth to the customers (Burkey, College, and Delaware, 2007).
Then it should be able to explain how commitment, communication, proper conflict handling, and trust create a good relationship in a business (Kalakota and Whinston, 1997). There is a dearth of information on customer satisfaction and trust in the British context of online retailing. Moreover, the role that commitment plays could be just as relevant as trust and satisfaction, but there is a gap in the existing literature about this. Therefore, the results of this study will be able to enlighten online retailers on how to maximize relationship quality, so they can retain their customers, and cultivate customer satisfaction and loyalty. Retailers must understand that it is not always about the price that matters to customers (Korper and Ellis, 2001).
The fashion industry is an old and established type of business that has become subject to many changes due to deregulation and technological developments like online shops. Many fashion companies have branches in different countries but can reach all parts of the world. This expansionism and diversity make them stocks among the hardest subjects to analyze.
The website of the company can be found on the following URL: http://www.indicustom.com/. At first glance, the website’s design seems rather overcrowded but it does a good job in providing informative content about subjects as the products, patents, and target customer. The target customer of the website appears to be from first glance to include both men and women. The division of the website is easy to follow with the main products of the company provided in the first and main tab section. These include clothes and gift cards. Additionally, the company sets itself apart through its customer support services. The link to asking a question is among the first things to notice near the top of the page. Regardless of the overcrowded first impression, one gets upon opening the website of the company, it is still important to note that their topics are divided into main and subtopics. Main topics include subjects as women and women while subtopics are comprised of how it works; refer to a friend about Indi, resources, and testimonials. It targets its variety of customers well through its provision of different clothes ranging from jeans to gift cards. What is also helpful is the useful information section, which includes miscellaneous but very practical information as to what to do when shopping online. The company’s policies concerning clients’ eligibility and terms of practice are also very easy to locate down the page, which is indeed very clarifying.
The tab to the information about the company itself is also strategically very well located on the website. From the first look, the website is very visually appealing. The combination of the colors red, white, black, and blue provides a familiar image that is pertinent to the context of the company’s overall presentation of itself as a fashion company.
In addition to the coherence in color and theme selection, the company does also a good job in its layout presentation. What is made even bolder is the idea of free shipping within the US. The specification of services by geographical location is also very practical. This is a priority for professional as well as private customers and strengthens the company’s overall ability to target its variety of customers effectively.
Under this perspective, communication is the ability to provide accurate and timely information. In recent times, there has been a new perception of communications as an interactive dialogue between customers and the company, and this takes place during the pre-selling, selling, consuming, and post-consuming stages (Ndubisi 2007). Communication in relationship marketing means preserving contact with valued customers, providing accurate and timely information on service/product changes, and communicating proactively if a delivery problem is anticipated or takes place. It is the task of the communicator to establish awareness, develop consumer preference, convince interested buyers, and encourage them to make the purchase decision that promotes value. Communications also inform the dissatisfied customer what the company will be doing to correct the causes of dissatisfaction. Whenever there is effective communication between a firm and its customers, a better relationship will result and customers will be more loyal (Ndubisi 2007).
Posts on corporate websites’ contents, such as websites, have strategic importance to PR and marketing professionals. There is however always the risk in the contemporary world for public relations to place too much emphasis on social media instead of interactive corporate website content (Macintosh, 2007). Hence, it is significant to analyze the marketing strategies of the website to understand the organizational communication strategy on its own. This is in its turn significant since, as Lindy Dragstra notes, Enhancing stakeholder engagement will only work if you have interesting and high-quality content for your target audience and they know how to find you.
Indi’s communication objectives seem to be centered on engaging the investors, whether business or individual, in an interactive dialogue. This communication strategy is competitive as it focuses on relationship commitment and trust, which are essential to retaining clients in the contemporary competitive environment. The strategic focus on security in the web-based application of the website is done to influence trust, which is found in marketing research to be a stronger predictor of the retention of customers in the e-commerce context. Indi’s communication strategies are hence competitive in an indirect but powerful manner.
The most significant aspect of online retailing from the perspective of the customer is the increase in access and choice particularly in the information on products and services (Mukherjee & Nath 2007). Along with the advent of e-commerce, the electronic hypermedia environment presents new challenges for relationship retailing – where it is in the interest of retailers to establish and maintain long-term bonds with customers. This new marketing medium and channel is now a fundamental part of the multi-channel strategy for a good number of retailers. However, the lack of physical proximity between seller and buyer and merchandise and buyer and the general environment of perceived insecurity on the Internet pose distinct challenges to online retailers to seek ways in which to initiate and develop e-business relationships (Mukherjee & Nath 2007). Concerns on the part of the customer range from the possibilities of fraud through the hacking of credit card numbers to the leak in private information, which could lead to excessive spam to identity theft. Despite these challenges, the retailer must develop a trustworthy relationship with customers so that sales are increased over the Internet to foster customer loyalty. The lack of physical presence of the product and the lack of physical interaction between the buyer and the seller renders online selling a unique milieu, in which trust is of primary importance.
The Internet can break down physical barriers to commerce, and almost immediately, can provide even the smallest businesses access to untapped markets all over the world and not just certain market segments (Schaupp, Belanger & Weiguo 2009). At the same time, consumers are also able to conduct business and purchase from retailers that have been previously unavailable to them, eliminating the need for intermediaries. The basis for e-commerce is a belief that electronic markets have the potential to be more efficient in developing new information-based goods and services, seeking global customers and trading partners to conduct business (Schaupp, et al., 2009). Hence, e-commerce is no longer an alternative but it is already an imperative for businesses wanting to stay competitive in a global market where market dynamics are changing. Nevertheless, content usability is indispensable to the success of e-commerce and there is a need to discern what website features draw customers (Liao, Proctor & Salvendy 2009).
Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM)
After the development of network technology, the Internet is permeating almost every aspect of life (Man Yee, Chuan, Choon Ling, & Huaping 2009; Phelps, Lewis, Mobilio, Perry, & Raman, 2004; Li 2011; Jones, Aiken, & Boush 2009). A recent phenomenon is the popularity of consumer discussion forums online. These forums have millions of registered members and have high hit rates (Man Yee, et al., 2009; Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, & Chowdury 2009). The attraction of these forums is due to a new WOM communication, comprising large amounts of consumer information on recommendations and opinions about products and vendors from experienced customers Researchers refer to this online consumer sharing activity as electronic WOM or eWOM (Man Yee, et al., 2009; Hennig-Thurau & Walsh 2003).
eWOM connects diverse individual customers, extends, and opens up the WOM network from one’s immediate contacts to the whole Internet world (Sun Jae & Jang-Sun 2009; Amblee & Tung 2008). As more people use product information from the eWOM network in their purchase decisions, the process through which they assess the credibility of online consumer recommendations becomes quite interesting. The reason for this is that eWOM encompasses an unlimited number of unknown participants and the compilation of large amounts of unfiltered information makes the validity of the information uncertain (Man Yee, et al., 2009; Lee & Youn 2009). There is a tendency for people to evaluate the credibility of eWOM largely than traditional when looking for on-line product recommendations and will only act online advice, which they believe, is credible (Hung & Li 2007).
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eWOM has different characteristics, first, the communication network in eWOM is much larger. There are more audiences and contributors involved, and the reach of such communication typically extends beyond the small-scale direct personal connections to the Internet world. Second, eWOM eliminates the restrictions on location and time (Man Yee, et al., 2009). The ongoing discussions are typically maintained for some time to permit other users to participate or read messages at their own pace. Users are permitted to read and compare archived reviews of the service or product they are interested in. This easy accessibility makes eWOM attractive to Internet users and because of these; they have become a popular source for advice over the Internet (Do-Hyung, Jumin, & Ingoo 2007). However, although it is openly accessible and holds a variety of advice and assessments from a wide range of contributors, people have been becoming increasingly preoccupied that unknown users with uncertain motives would post online comments. Therefore, credibility is always a major concern for eWOM receivers (Man Yee, et al., 2009). Users are not able to evaluate eWOM information in the way they normally could through traditional WOM. Nevertheless, the aggregation power of online discussions provides additional cues such as normative opinions – which provide information readers more ways to evaluate the credibility of online suggestions vis-à-vis conventional WOM (Man Yee, et al., 2009).
The aforementioned website uses information technology in different ways to increase customer loyalty, profits, and customer satisfaction. To do this, database, or relationship marketing, relies on internal marketing assets to maintain and enhance relationships with customers. The relationship marketing concept emerged within the fields of service marketing and Industrial marketing (Ndubisi 2007; Andam, 2003). Briefly, relationship marketing is a strategy to attract, maintain, and enhance customer relationships, and is a strategy in which the management of interactions, relationships, and networks is a basic issue. The key virtues underlying relationship marketing such as trust, commitment, conflict handling, and communication or sharing of secrets. These have been linked to customer loyalty. Ndubisi promotes that companies have to make sacrifices and worthwhile investments in building relationships with loyal or at least, partially loyal, customers. It has been generally accepted that the integral element of the relationship marketing approach is the promise concept. The responsibilities of marketing do not only pertain to providing customers promises and thus implying that customers are passive members in the marketplace (Sun-Jae and Jang-Sun, 2009). Marketing is also about keeping promises, which is a means of maintaining and enhancing evolving relationships.
The brand name, reliability, and efficacy of the company need no introduction. It is the effectiveness of the marketing strategies that have enabled it to gain success online. However, there is still room for improvement, and marketing strategies can be further improved as well by focusing on subtle editions for the site. The strategy would be one that puts the focus back on the products. A good point to start could be to redesign the product pages. The act would be a refreshing change from the current one and focus on improving customer maneuverability on the website. Moreover, the focus will be on the product and lesser on the process. Another way the new strategy could be pursued is by adding 3d views for the product by enabling customers to rotate the product on their customer screens rather than just view it in 2D. Further, yet another marketing suggestion to focus on the product would be to reduce the undue focus on the shipping. Currently, handsome discounts are offered if the shipping is of a large number of units (Perdue, 2008). Such deals are naturally a good option. However, sometimes these deals are tried to be sold to the customer even before they have finalized their purchase decision. For example; a simple search for books results in a clutter of shipping dealers together with the books. This only adds to nuisance and is something that could be done without. If this situation is taken care of, the strategy will be customer based and would focus on the product and the actual business of online buying or selling.
The current society is generally and increasingly consumer-focused. It is also characterized by a lot of mass-customization (Ziering 2005). According to Mendelson & Parlakturk (2008), firms may be categorized into two groups; traditional and Mass Customization firms. Traditional ones usually respond to the call for variety by customers through proliferating a variety of product ranges, hence enabling buyers to locate the products which are as close to their ideal choice as possible. In Mass Customization firms, the manufacturers use make-to-order processes, which bring to customers the exact products that they ask for. Bayus & Putsis (1999) explains that consumers are therefore more powerful about choosing products that satisfy their preferences. Marketers respond by offering an ever-rising number of products to cater to the diverse demands. The resultant product proliferation makes supply chains more complex and by extension makes lean efficiency in supply chains less efficient. With more product variants, it becomes costlier and harder to plan, manufacture, sell, ship, track, and deliver the products.
Having such a huge product portfolio and a big online presence entails that the company should also possess a sound optimization strategy that increases its presence on international search engines and also focuses on improving the performance of the company’s search engine that is used for finding the products offered. The former can be accomplished by way of carrying out thorough research of the keywords potential customers would use when searching for an online retailer and the resultant keywords would then be added to the search engines to improve the search flexibility. The latter can be ensured by adding to the information that is already available about the products to ensure that the search on the online site is thorough and as accurate as possible. Further, the search could also be used to return reviews and other information about the product first rather than that about the shipping deals.
Product proliferation may have strategic consequences such as acting as a barrier to entry. This in turn allows the firm to set higher prices. It usually goes hand in hand with the maturity of firms within given industries. In many instances, no new firms get into the market. This is the result of conduct by the incumbent firms. Theoretically, the customers and products exist within locations situated in multidimensional product spaces. Proliferation makes product spaces much denser. The products and customers are scattered uniformly in the market space of the products. To get rid of competition, the best strategy for the outsider who wants to come in is to enter at the center-point between the incumbent products. However, if the incumbent’s products are diverse, then the products are densely packed. The market share available for a new entrant therefore becomes too limited.
According to Mendelson & Parlakturk (2008), product proliferation is more commonly used as a strategy where industries are oligopolies. With firms being few, an action taken by one firm ends up having a visible effect on the others within the industry. For instance, if one of them decides to lower its prices, there is the likelihood of a rise in sales being observed, while for the competitors there will be a decrease. To avoid the loss of customers, the competitors will usually tend to match the price decrease. In the same way, when one firm chooses to raise its price, there is a drop in sales and a corresponding rise in sales by other firms. When the competitors see the rise in sales, they become happy with it and end up trying to match the price increase. This is the idea behind the kinked-demand curve as market behavior.
With the rise of online social networking and the increasing number of people using networking sites such as face book, Twitter, the social media integration of the business must be put into proper and efficacious practice. This is because an increasing number of people are spending more and more time on such social media. It would only add to the brand equity if the business was to incorporate proper social network integration. Yes, certain features help integration with Kindle for example. However, the searches of products do not let the customers know who, in their social network, already own such products. This may be because adding such an option would be detrimental to their online business (Ratnasingam 2005). Whatever the case, the need for real customer integration is ever-present.
In a world where the external environment and markets are constantly changing their shape and characteristics at an increasingly fast pace, there seems at first sight little reasonable evidence for pursuing the development and formulation of organizational strategic plans, let alone marketing ones. Yet, as illustrated through the aforementioned website, companies seek to increase their competitive advantage nevertheless indifferent, yet in many ways similar, ways even in the context of this challenging environment. One way this has been done recently in the fashion world is through the transfer of e-commerce and products to the web.
This is because the harsh and demanding realities of the contemporary business environment are the direct result of the amount of pressure placed upon organizations by the high rate of competitiveness in the current globalized world. In this world, consumers play a detrimental role in directing the market’s structure through the more efficient and immediate modes of social media communication that enable the quick and direct exchange of opinions and thoughts about services and goods. Businesses can simply not afford to exclude themselves from participation and need thus to incorporate a continuously adaptable strategic management perspective, regardless of the complexities that are undeniably inherent in the procedure due to the following characteristics of the external environment and the markets as uncontrollable, powerful, seemingly unpredictable and continuously and increasingly fast-evolving forces.
Indi website seeks to enforce its role within this environment through the enhancement of customer service, provision of distinguished services, strengthening of its security, and encouragement of customers to build a trust-based and continuous relationship with the company. Elements as small as the company’s website’s load times are all, as described above, part of this strategy. The site was not only very easy to find on the net but also easy to navigate, with a good layout. The site identifies its products and target customer through the first and main tab. It stands out as the only website with an authentication sign on the homepage. It is this, which defines the site as safe and protected.
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