Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal

Consumer behavior is an important management field, the study and application of which can provide a lot of insight and value to the marketers. This research paper is based mostly on the existing theories and models of consumer behavior. The first part looks for external factors influencing consuming behavior at various stages and the second applies theories to a well known business organization, L’Oreal.

Consumer Behavior

Hawkins (2008) says that the consumer decision making process is often the result of a single problem however, at other times consumption decision is based on a number of factors. The example provided by Hawkins (2008) to explain the difference actually helps the reader in better analyzing the types of consumption requirement. Running low on gasoline while driving leads to a single factor consumption decision whereas the realization of an aging automobile, growing feeling of inadequacy or low self esteem lead to a multi factor consumption decision regarding a commodity or a service.

For the marketers of an organization, it is important to take into consideration both the types of consumption such that the overall sales of that organization are increased. Consumers are the end point of the supply chain processes. They actually are the magnetic force for all kinds of manufacturing, production and retailing processes that are taking place in a market or in an industry. The stronger the magnetic force in fact, the better will be the overall processes of production, manufacturing and retailing. It is therefore important for the organizations to capture as much of that attraction of the customers as possible. One simple reason for that is that customers are the ones that provide revenue to the business. An interesting quote by Jeff Bezoz, the CEO of Amazon.com says that it is actually the customers of the organization that give the business the money to operate and not the competitors of the organization and thus, all the strategies that the organization makes to improve the business performance (or market capitalization) should be oriented towards the customers (Stockport, 2009).

This idea then forms the core of the field of consumer behavior. Consumer behavior, initially stemming out of the study of micro economics has actually gotten extensive and intensive enough to be termed as a completely independent study of management sciences and one that can have serious policy implications for a business entity.

Consumer behavior holds that the purchasing decision of the consumer can actually be analyzed through various models and theories and using those findings, a business can orient its market plan to gain competitive advantage in the market. A number of external and internal factors become a part of understanding how and why consumers making purchasing decision, using decisions and disposing off decisions and how preferences and tastes as well as norms, cultures, peer pressures and traditions become a part of this decision making process (Lamb, Hair, McDaniel, 2011).

Since it has now been established that a number of internal and external factors play a role in influencing the consumers in their consuming decision, the breakdown of each factor is possible. As far as a business organization and more precisely the strategic managers or the marketers of the organization are concerned, external factors are the ones which they have the power over and thus they can influence the attraction felt by consumers for the product being marketed. However, before the marketing managers can actually pin point the external factors and manipulate them, each stage of the decision making process of the consumers needs to be analyzed.

Analysis of how external variables are used by marketers to influence consumer decision making at the various stages of the consumer decision making model. Illustrations through examples

Nominal Decision Making Process

Hawkins (2008, p. 561) identifies the nominal decision making process and defines it in the following words,

“Nominal decision making, sometimes referred to as habitual decision making, in effect involves no decision per se….A completely nominal decision does not even include consideration of the “do not purchase” alternative. For example you might notice that you are nearly out of Aim toothpaste and resolve to purchase some the next time you are at the store. You don’t even consider not replacing the toothpaste or purchasing another brand.”

According to Hawkins (2008) then a nominal decision making process can be broken down further into brand loyal decisions and repeat decisions.

For the marketers, development of brand loyalty is another arena that is receiving significant attention mostly because of its importance that has been highlighted through the theories of consumer behavior. The more the consumer feels loyal to the brands, the lesser he or she will actually consider buying another brand and thus the number of secure sales for the organization will increase and in the longer run, the provision of stability of revenue for the organization will also be enhanced.

The example for the nominal decision making process has already been highlighted by reviewing Hawkins (2008) however to provide another example is the purchase of soaps, bottled milk, tea brand, coffee brand or sanitary pads. Mostly, for all of these products, the consumer mechanically throw these products into the shopping cart without even considering that just right to the brand that they picked lies another, probably better brand. Development of this behaviour in the consumers requires effort and strategy from the marketing manager of the business organization.

Five Step Decision Making Model

Next is the five step decision making process as studied by Lamb, Hair and McDaniel (2011). In this model, the first step is the recognition of need of a product or service by the consumers. The second is the information search, third the evaluation of alternatives and fourth the purchase of the commodity or service. Finally, the fifth step is the post purchase behaviour. In regards to the model however, the following has been said (Lamb, Hair and McDaniel, 2011, p. 189),

“The five steps represent a general process that can be used as a guide for studying how consumers make decision. It is important to note though that consumers’ decisions do not always proceed in order through all of these steps. In fact, the consumer may end that process at any time or may not even make a purchase.”

However, this model does provide important steps that can be used by the marketers to create external influence on the consuming behaviours of the customers. Baker (2003) says that these five stages together are affected by a number of external and internal factors. These factors include the cultural, social, individual and psychological factors and are actually applicable to all the stages of the consumer decision making process. Therefore, if the customers are to use factors to influence the consumer decision making process, these factors are to be manipulated. For the purpose of this section of the research report, only external factors will be analyzed for each stage of consumption of the goods and services.

The first step is the recognition of needs. This is actually the first and the most important step that the marketers can use to attract the customers and thus gain competitive advantage and even first movers advantage in the market. This is possible by making the customers realize the need for the product that the firm is offering. Hawkins (2008, p. 565) says that,

“Marketers often attempt to cause consumers to recognize a potential problem for which the marketer has a solution…this sometimes involves making consumers aware of problems well before they arise.”

The important word here is “potential”. The usual way through which the problem solving approach goes is to at first recognize the problem and then solve it. Providing external stimulus on the need recognition stage of the decision making process, marketers are actually making the customers create a problem in their head that they did not realize existed before. Obviously this can be both real and imaginary but there is no necessity that the consumer knew of the solution to the problem before. For example, the invention of diapers stimulated the need recognition stage of the decision making process. Before that for centuries, mothers and maids were using cloth and plastic panties for their babies and everything seemed to go fine. With the advent of diapers however, it became almost a necessity. Something without which bearing a child seemed like a serious problem.

Similarly, the marketers can influence the information search stage of the consumer decision making process by providing to the consumers the necessary information through various media. Nowadays, television advertisement, billboards and internet are the favorite sources of providing the consumers with the information about the product and how that product is the one that the consumers require in solving the problem. For example when proctor and gamble came up with the diapers, pampers, they needed to provide the useful information to the consumers about the product. So that the customers who have already realized this problem and were looking for a solution find it in the shape of pampers. This then can require free samples and other promotion techniques as well. As of today however, the techniques that remain dominant have been mentioned.

The marketers can influence the third step that is of alternative evaluation by allowing the customer, through efficient marketing strategies to realize that the product the firm is offering is the best one for the consumer.  The external factor used here can be the help of celebrities to promote a product. Knowing that a specific product works better than anything else for something well known and looked up to can actually lead the consumers to be inclined more towards the purchase of that product.

On the fourth stage of the consumer decision making model, prices are the factors that need to be considered and used by the marketers. The consumers should know that the price they are paying for the product is actually worth it. Here, the factor and consciousness of social class can play an important role. The effect of social class on consumer behavior, apart from the direct relationship of income levels and value of consumption, there is also a direct relationship till the upper class between the realization of social class and the desire to mobilize in the social class hierarchy and the value of consumption (Loudon, 2007). It has been noted that the upper, upper middle and the middle class seriously dreams of being recognized as the elite (how o not really care about the prices but about the quality) make more expensive purchases of the products or services to reinforce their social class image in the society.

Select a company or not-for-profit organisation that you are familiar with and critically evaluate how a specific consumer behavioral theory or model can aid in understanding consumers’ actions. Demonstrate how this then guides the practical implementation of marketing strategy in your chosen organisation.

The Organization

The business entity selected for the purpose this section of the report is L’Oreal Paris. This is the largest beauty and cosmetics brand in the world. In 2009 L’Oreal completed its hundred years and recognizes its moves in the business world as that of being adventurous. L’Oreal (2011) notes that above and beyond that financial success that the organization has achieved, the journey of L’Oreal has been marked by a quest for innovation, a quest for excellence, a question for the purpose of actually existing in the market and finally a quest for diversity in regards to the range of cultures, preferences and tastes of women around the globe.

Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal
Consumer Behavior Decision Making L’Oreal

This organization has actually celebrated beauty around the globe. L’Oreal has a huge international presence and operates in five continents of the worlds excluding Antarctica and Australia from the list. By the global 100, this beauty brand was actually ranked amongst the world’s 100 most sustainable business organizations. Moreover, this organization in 2011 has been presented with the best financial performance by the Boursoscan (L’Oreal, 2011).

The overview of the organization notes that for a century the organization has been pushing back the boundaries of science to invest and meet the aspirations of millions of women and men (L’Oreal, 2011). L’Oreal seeks to provide the best cosmetics to the world in terms of quality, safety and efficacy. In 2010, the business had consolidated sales figure of 195 billion Euros. Currently, the organization is managing 23 global brands in 130 countries of the world and registered 612 patents in the year 2010 (L’Oreal, 2011).

Theory of Consumer Behavior

Behavioral School of Thought: Classical Conditioning

In regards to the core behavioral theories, Schiffman (2008) notes that there are a number of routes through which the conditioning of consumers to buy a particular product can be done. The first route is the classical conditioning in which the consumer links a certain response to a product. For example, in regards to L’Oreal, classical condition will be that using the Voluminous Mascara introduced by the organization, the eyelashes will actually look darker and prettier and the result will be similar to what Ashwariya Rai puts on her eyes. The conditioning stimulus here will be the darker, more volume eyelashes like the ones that Ashwariya Rai appears with. Through the advertisement then the unconditioned response of the consumer who needs to buy mascara turns into a conditioned one.

Behavioral School of Thought: Cognitive Associative Learning

Next, Schiffman (2008) studies the cognitive associative learning behavior. According to this view, the relationship or (congruity) between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus influences the expectations which in turn influences the behavior of the being. This theory believes that the actions that occur after certain stimuli have been provided are in fact learned and occur because of the increase in knowledge. For example in the example above, the purchase of mascara would occur because knowledge about the qualities of the product has been gained. Unlike the cognitive associative behavior however, the classical conditioning believes that the reaction that occurs is actually reflex.

Economic Theory of Consumer Behavior

Apart from these theories, one consumer behavior theory that actually stems out economics more than psychology is the theory of consumer behavior. Irwin (2005) says that the consumers according to the model provided in this theory consumes at a point where there occurs an intersection between the consumer indifference curve (the choice curve of the customer where combinations of consuming two alternative goods achieve the same level of utility or satisfaction to the customer) and the budget constraint of the individual (as understood mostly by the current income levels of the person or the saved up income from a previous period).

This model assumes that the consumers are rational individuals who are responsive to a price change of products and who also have complete information about the product and the alternatives. Also it is assumed that the individual under question is subject to a budget constraint and that he or she has to manage more than one thing in a given period of time speaking financially.

Attitudes in Consumer Behavior

Perner (2011) however studies the theory of consumer behavior which says that the problem solving approaches of the consumers are actually internal (made up of the memory and thinking process of the individuals) and external (made up of the word of mouth, the media, the store visits and the trials amongst others). In this theory then, the evaluating behavior of the individuals are made up either compensatory, non compensatory, hybrid or abandoned strategy. The first one is the decision based on overall value of alternatives. The non compensatory evaluation requires that the consuming decision meets at least one important criterion and the hybrid is a combination of compensatory and non compensatory evaluation types. Finally, the abandoned strategy is when the consumer finds the initial criteria unrealistic and proceeds to a less desirable solution to the problem. Next, Perner (2011) notes that the consuming behavior of an individual is seriously affected by the attitudes of that individual; and that in turn attitudes are affected by the intentions, the beliefs and the feelings about a particular brand.

 As far as L’Oreal is concerned, consumer behavior can be understood critically through these four theories and the findings can be further used to design a strategy to expand the consumer market and the competitive advantage of the market.

Recommended Marketing Strategies

Starting with the attitudes of the consumers, L’Oreal can be added by understanding what beliefs individuals have about the products and services that the brand itself and that the competitors of the brand provide. This can be measured and analyzed through the attitude measure developed by Perner (2011). Next, the feelings of the consumers can be understood through this attitude model. For example, a fan of Ashwariya Rai, or Penelope Cruz (the brand ambassadors of L’Oreal) will feel a push for consuming the product after aggressively understanding how they feel for the product. Also, being there for a century, this brand is also a name through the generations. Understanding those feelings of the consumers will help steer the marketing plan of the organization towards a greater organizational performance overall.

Next, the theory of consumer behavior includes the importance of prices of the product. This is actually one of the core consumer behavior theories and is the most detail about the behaviors of the individuals. In this regard the organization can use the theory to understand what effect a price change of the products and services has on the sales of the organization and the demand of the consumers. Make up, after a certain limit is usually a luxury for individuals and L’Oreal is an expensive brand.

To keep up its market share and to not lose to organizations which are charging a lower price for similar products through the substitution and the income effect it is important for the management of the organization to carefully consider the underpinnings of the theory of consumer behavior. For this purpose, if the price of the good is actually not that far away from the actual investment put into the product in terms of research and development and manufacturing, the organization can actually use the coin of high quality. The perception of consumer about the quality of the product is a vital asset when an organization is designing its price and marketing policies. The better the consumer perceive the quality of a product to be, the more he or she will be willing to spare for that product because they will know that the money is being well spent and that there will be no hazardous consequences of using a particular product.

Conclusion

Nelson (1970) studies that the consumers are continuously busy in the choice making between different products however, the consequences of these choices are dimly known by them. One of the reasons is that they lack full knowledge about the price and quality of the product. The marketers of a business organization then can utilize the consuming behavior and the attitudes of the consumers for the purpose of attracting the maximum share of revenue for the organization.

This research paper studied how the marketers can actually use external factors including the social class, peer pressure, celebrity following and fashion trends to influence the consuming behavior of the consumers.

The second part of the research report analyzed the various theories of consumer behavior. Those theories then were in critically used to apply for the case of L’Oreal Paris, one of the largest multinationals in the world. Dholakia et al (2010) says that in the case of multimedia and multi channel organization like L’Oreal, the analysis of consumer behavior is different than the usual analysis. Finally, for the applied consumer behavior theories, a number of marketing strategies were recommended for L’Oreal.

References

Baker, D. (2003) Consumer Decision Making. 4th Ed. USA: South Western.

Dholakia, H. et al. (2010) Consumer Behavior in a Multichannel, Multimedia Retailing Environment. Journal of Interactive Marketing, Volume 24 (2), Pages 86-95.  

Hawkins (2008) Consumer Behavior. 6th Ed. India: Tata McGraw Hill

Irwin (2005) Theory of Consumer Behavior. USA: McGraw Hill.

Lamb, C., Hair, J. and McDaniel C. (2011) Essential of Marketing. 7th Ed. USA: South Western.

L’Oreal. (2018). L’Oreal Website

Nelson, P. (1970) Information and Consumer Behavior. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 78 (2), pp. 311-329

Prener, L. (2011) The consumer Behavior: The psychology of marketing.

Schiffman, L and Kanuk, L. (2007) Consumer Behavior. 9th Ed. India: Pearson Education Inc

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Marketing Ethics

Ethical Consideration within the Retail Sector – Marketing Ethics

Many companies and businessmen often face obstacles as to what practices can ethically be done in order to make money or achieve objectives (Marketing Ethics). Fraud and deception taken up by some companies is not only wrong in the moral sense but restricts the prosperity of the economy as a whole. These practices although may not be illegal in a given geographical boundary yet it cannot be undertaken with a clear conscience.

From a customer’s view point the retailing is the first tie in the distribution chain. Hence it is essential for retailers to be ethical in business practices as they affect the lives of many people. Ethical decisions have a strong significance when it comes to ensuring order and justice in a society. However, difficulty persists as to what falls under the folds of order and justice. In the retail industry, the one department often criticized for unethical actions in business is the marketing department. This negativity can be attributed to the fact that marketing tends to represent the most noticeable department to the public at large. For instance, fabricated pricing, misleading advertisements and deceiving sales pitches from sales personnel often result in hurt or angry customers as well as the media.

Moral constraints persist in the dynamics of marketing functions. For instance, contemporary marketing experts often debate that deceitful marketing is bound to be unsuccessful as the market will shove those who disrupt the common morality. Ethics depicts a form of social control, which is especially critical to the individual customers, the salespeople and the organisation itself. Marketing ethics gives birth to a more socially responsible and culturally penetrating business community. The adherence to marketing ethics has the prospective of being favorable to the society as a whole in the short as well as the long run term; therefore it should be a substantial part of any business model.

There is a pressing concern towards ethical issues, such as poor working conditions, child labor, associations with third world countries, green issues, grey imports and environmental concerns which have led to a change in attitude of the western world to consider a more socially responsible approach. The societal marketing concept stresses the need for organizations to achieve a balance between satisfying customers, achieving profits and maintain the well-being of the society; when making marketing decisions. An organization can play a role in creating a positive impact on the society if it produces useful products in an environmental friendly manner.

Marketing Ethics
Marketing Ethics

Over the years, organizations have evolved and realized their social responsibilities. Organizational social commitment consists of four kinds of responsibilities: legal, economic, philanthropic and ethical. These four classifications have been in existence for decades; however, in recent years social and ethical dimensions have attained increasing importance. Firms come into being to provide goods and services with an aim to maximize profits. In their efforts to attain maximum profits they often forget their responsibilities towards the society. Consumers these days place pressing importance on the need to protect the environment and hence this has put pressure on companies to realize their responsibilities and act in the favor of the society as well satisfying the customers and looking after the well-being of the society in which they operate.

Ethical Considerations

Green issues

Every business has a two-way relationship with the society. While the business contributes to the society in the form of products and services, the society provides an environment for the businesses to flourish and grown in. Since, the survival of a business depends upon the society, businesses need to perform in a manner that does not harm the environment but is useful to it. For example, companies need to be conscious of the environment they operate in and thoughtful about issues such as ozone layer depletion and global warming. Until recently, cfc (chlorofloro-carbon) which leads to the damaging of the ozone layer was used in the manufacturing of refrigerator compressors in most countries. However, today many companies have adopted various alternatives to cfc and banned its use from production processes. Companies should also take notice of fair practices when it comes to employment such as providing equal employment opportunities to everyone and a safe and fit work environment along with fair compensation packages.

Sourcing of products

Companies operating with global supply chains came under immense pressure by the consumer groups, trade union and the government in the 1990’s to ensure healthy working conditions for those producing their goods in the less developed countries. Various media campaigns have been carried out which shed light on the poor working environment in factories in the less developing countries emphasizing the need for marketing ethics and trading.

This has resulted in the growing importance of marketing ethics in the corporate responsibility agenda of major corporations. Many companies today have established social and environmental criteria for the selection of their business ventures; which includes securing appropriate standards for the labor conditions and work environment in their supply chain. Also, corporate codes of practice are being implemented so as to their ventures according to a range of social and environmental criteria, including an organisation’s efforts to secure adequate labor conditions in their supply chain, and retailers are increasingly implementing corporate codes of practice so as to certify that the working conditions of the labor involved in the production of their goods meet or exceed international labor standards.

For example, Primark’s rating fell in the consumer polls drastically in 2008 after it was discovered that a few of Primark’ suppliers were using child labor. On the other hand, Marks & Spencer had a high rating in consumer polls due to their –‘plan A’ initiative, which comprised of performing life-cycle assessment on their clothing and  included carrying out life-cycle assessments on their clothing and developing a clothes recycling arrangement with Oxfam. Primark changing its suppliers and creating a website for the promotion of marketing ethics and its ethical trading records as a comeback for the child labor allegations highlights the significance of showing customers that you are sourcing responsibly.

Product Safety

Every day, a variety of new goods are produced and sold in different geographical boundaries and on virtual markets i.e. online. Increased trading and more refined designs can make it challenging to determine the products consumer purchases are safe for them or not. Product safety is an ethical obligation for every company in the retail business as they have a responsibility to provide consumers with products of value that they pay for and that are safe for use.

An example can be taken of the Yamaha group; it ensures that products and services are not harmful in any way to the consumer’s well-being. If an issue of the sort arises it is immediately dealt with and steps are taken to compensate and prevent the recurrence. In the contemporary retail industry online trading has reached its apex. However, new online products could often be unsafe and cause serious injuries or death if they fail to meet safety standards. Consumers cannot assess the products safety, toughness and inspect labels as the goods are not physically available when purchasing online. Second-hand products available online could also be unsafe as they may fail to meet the desired standards, have damaged or missing parts vital for safe operation, may not be sold with a manual for safe use and assembly instructions or may have been modified by the prior owner causing it to be unsafe.

Grey Imports

Products that are sold through non-authorized channels are known as “grey or parallel imports’. These grey imports may appear to be cheap on surface, yet they may be far from cheap when it comes to compliance issues being addressed. They raise financial as well as safety concerns for the purchasers. As these products are not imported with the consent of the manufacturer they do not fall under the manufacturer’s warranty.

Also since these non-authorized products may not pass through regular safety checks that authorized products do they could have potential harmful impact on oneself and one’s family. Moreover, no after sales support is provided as dealer and brokers are not allowed to provide service and spare parts to grey imports which mean maintenance cannot be done by specialized professionals. Grey or parallel imports often have little or no value when reselling as compared to authorized products.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept of corporate social responsibility is very often linked with the concept of business ethics. Therefore, the main aim of many retailers’ ethics is focused upon the role ethical responsibility plays in order to contribute to the sustainable economic development; healthy work environment for employees, safe society for individuals, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life. Marketing and marketers play an imperative part in the growth of corporate strategy and respond to the corporate social responsibility agenda.

Business organizations make use of scarce resources in order to produce goods and services to satisfy the customers. To carry out these activities companies need to be cost effective, innovative productive in operations. In order to become successful companies should portray sensitivity to the expectations of the customers when it comes to social issues and environmental well-being (Kotler, 2003). In order to be operating in a socially responsible manner organizations should be concerned for the people and the environment in which the business activity takes place. It is expected that firms that are socially responsible will outperform those less responsible financially in the long run. This can be as a result of customer loyalty and trust, better employee morale or public policies in favor of ethical conduct and overall marketing ethics.

According to an article by Lichtenstein and et al., theory and recent evidence indicated by researchers suggests that a corporation that is socially responsible can have a relatively positive effect on customer attitudes towards the particular corporation (Lichtenstein and et al, 2004). International companies take initiative by donating millions of dollars to non-profit organizations in the form of philanthropy, cause related marketing, employee voluntarism and various novel marketing programs. An example can be of Avon, cosmetic company which raised $200 million for education regarding breast cancer and early diagnosis services through breast cancer awareness crusade.

Consumer’s Perception

Consumers are in need of ways to attain information about the products and services they purchase without having the expertise to judge. The fact that consumers are not well-informed anymore and neither are they self-sufficient; both have a significant impact on the the importance of business ethics when dealing with consumers. Firstly, there was a time when customers could analyze and judge on their own whether the quality of a product or service was up to mark. However, now products and services are created by experts with specialized skills. This results in difficulty to judge the quality by a layman, hence companies need to be honest with the consumers and tell them if the product is of acceptable quality standards and performs the functions they need it for. Secondly, people were self-sufficient previously and could produce what they needed to in order to survive on their own. This situation has changed as people have become progressively dependent on goods that have been created by experts, machinery and high quality resources. As a result the customer has little choice but to accept the product as an honest one and trust the organization’s intentions. Hence, this makes it essential for the companies to look out for what falls under the best interest of their customers.

Other Socially Responsible Clothing Retailers

Marks and Spencer is a British retailer which specializes in clothing items and luxury food products. In 2007, this retailing giant announced a five-year plan which made serious vows and commitments to becoming “a carbon neutral, zero-waste-to-landfill, ethical-trading, sustainable-sourcing, health-promoting business.” ASOS is the second largest online retailer in the world, and its brand under the name of green room acts as a podium devoted to collections with an ethical or eco-conscious story to tell. Offering a range of organic recycled and fair trade clothing, accessories, footwear and beauty, ASOS green room makes it easy to shop more responsibly without the sharp price tag. As of 2012, H&M has raised over $4.5 million USD, through a 5 year partner program with UN charity organization UNICEF. Starting in February 2013, H&M will offer patrons a voucher in exchange for used garments. Donated garments will be processed by I:CO, a retailer that recycles used clothing with the goal of creating a zero-waste economy. The initiative is similar to a clothes-collection voucher program launched in April 2012 by Marks & Spencer in partnership with Oxfam.

Marketing Ethics Conclusion

Companies have a moral obligation towards their consumers or potential customers. They must not be deceitful and sell products that are safe for the users. However, it is not entirely clear as to what is morally preferable and where does the advertising cross the overly deceptive boundary and the extent of harm that manipulative advertising can do to people. Hence, it is better to be on the safe side and take extra precautions where the well-being of human life is concerned. The responsibilities of a business are further illustrated in the steps that should be taken by manufacturers in order to ensure that goods of acceptable safety standards are provided to customers. Firstly business should give priority to safety. If costs are being raised in order to meet safety requirements that does not mean they should dismiss it. Products that may lead to serious injuries are often are often the ones that need the highest safety standards. Secondly, businesses should take responsibility of any accidents caused by the product rather than blame it on product misuse. Consumers should be made aware about the proper usage of products that have a tendency to be harmful. Some consumers can still be harmed if they use products appropriately. Also, if products are continuously being misused there should be ways to make the misusing of it less harmful to the user. Thirdly, business must monitor and check the manufacturing process on its own. Often products produced are defected as a result of mismanagement in the manufacturing process. Companies must keep a check on its activities and have a quality control team to ensure that safe and non-defected products pass through to the consumers. Sometimes external quality assessment teams or companies can be hired for an unbiased testing process.

Fourthly, when a product is prepared to be marketed, companies should have a product safety staff in-line to assess the market strategy and advertising for potential safety problem. How a product is being used in an advertisement can have a significant impact in encouraging people to use the product that way. Hence, advertisers should refrain from portraying the usage of product in a harmful manner such as showing people driving cars while texting at the same time.

Fifthly, when a product lands in the marketplace, firms should make sure that written information about the products performance is readily available to the consumers. In order to ensure the product is used in the proper manner and not misused information should be explained in detail about its proper use and made public. Warning labels are found on many products as a result of this. Lastly, companies should investigate and respond to consumer complaints. Consumers being the users can provide a good source of product safety testing and complaints can help the company determine where it lacks and what safety standards the product may lack.

In conclusion, it can be determined that the contemporary retail industry has evolved over the past decade. Previously little importance was given to matters of environmental well-being; the main objective being to maximize profits no matter what the impact it had on one’s surroundings. However, the situation is more subtle now with the consumer becoming more conscious of the environment and sensitive towards its sustainability. Retail businesses have realized the need to be socially responsible in order to gain the consumers trust, loyalty and to satisfy the market. It may incur a cost yet the outcome is far reaching for the overall growth and sustainability of not only the business but the society as a whole.

References

Gundlach, G.T. and Murphy, P.E. (1993), “Ethical and legal foundations of relational marketing ethics exchanges”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 4, pp. 35-46.

Kotler, P. 2003. A Framework for Marketing Ethics Management. (11th Ed). Pearson Custom Publishing.

Lichtenstein, Donald R., Minette E. Drumwright, and Bridgette M. Braig. 2004. “The Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility on Customer Donations to Corporate-Supported Nonprofits.”Journal of Marketing 68 (October): 16-33.

Murphy, P.E., Laczniak, G.R., Bowie, N.E. and Klein, T.A. (2005), Marketing Ethics, Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Nantel, J. and Weeks, W.A. (1996), “Marketing Ethics is there more to it than the utilitarian approach?” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 9-19.

Urban, G.L. (2005a), “Customer advocacy: a new era in marketing?”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Vol. 24, Spring, pp. 155-9.

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Social Media and Consumer Decision Making

Social Media Influence In Consumer Decision Making

Abstract

The impact reference groups or social connections have in an online marketing environment, on the product purchase decisions of consumers is analyzed in this article. The influence of social media in the decision making process of consumers is investigated, and the influence of the strength of social ties on the final decision are discussed. The article discusses theories and concepts related to social relations, social media, and consumer purchase decision making process. To understand the impact social media has on consumer purchase decision, interview is conducted with micro and macro business owners using Facebook business pages, and having over 50 fans for their fan page. To analyze the data statistical analysis, and descriptive analysis methods are used. The research concludes that a strong tie in social relations serves to influence the purchase decision making process of consumers positively. To create a successful business by adopting an online marketing strategy, building strong social relations is important.

Research Overview

Social scientists have for a long duration highlighted the importance of group membership when it comes to determining individual or group behavior. The fact that individuals act according to a reference frame produced by groups to which they have widely been accepted has been perceived as a sound premise for some time. Marketers have widely accepted the construct of a reference group as critical in at least some forms of consumer decision-making. With the growth of the internet, and online marketing, social media is becoming an indispensable part in everyday lives of people. People are social beings, and at present, consumers are participating in activities like sharing experiences, knowledge, and opinions online. They also take part in online discussions to share their experiences with a product or a service.

The speed with which information transfers has increased with the electronic word of mouth growing more rapidly. Positive recommendations and discussions online have the potential to bring in increased business volume for firms in a short time. There is also the probability of a negative complaint online that can cause mistrust in a service or a product. A new form of social communication has been made possible by online media. Groups or individuals who might never meet in person are able to influence consumer behavior and their purchase decisions. The increasing use of social media is evident from the growth in online population using social network sites. Facebook the leading social media website has observed 23% growth in its user population during 2013, with 1.1 billion users making use of the site each month.

Social Media Decision Making
Social Media Decision Making

This study investigates the influence of reference groups online brand and product purchase decisions by looking at the interrelations between forms of product use conspicuousness and forms of influence from reference groups in social media. Consumers have a wide access to different types of social media, tools, and platforms. Social media significantly impacts the process of information sharing amongst individuals in the online shopping environment. Through this research, the role played by social media reference groups in forming strong or weak relationships with consumers that can influence the consumer decision making process are investigated.

Problem Statement

The study proposes to investigate the relationship between the social media influence of online users, the behavior intentions of consumers, and the role of social media influence in consumer decision making process. The strategy of information search online is adopted by consumers to reduce the risks involved in a purchase decision. Increasing technological advancements lead to ease of information access. Consumers can easily obtain information about services or products through social media before making a purchase. This research is focused on making both practical and academic contributions. Academically, it serves to bridge the gap between consumer decision making and the influence of social media reference groups in forming weak or strong relationship with consumers. Practically, social media marketers benefit from the research results. They can gain a deeper understanding of an online shopping consumer’s decision making process.

Research Questions

Research questions to be explored to investigate the social media phenomenon in online shopping are;

  1. What are the characteristics of social and online influence groups and references?
  2. Personal and demographic factors like gender, age, education, and profession have an influence on information shared through social media. Their experience and prior knowledge influences their level of social influence.
  3. What are the ways through which information and ideas travel through such a reference group or an online community?
  4. The credibility of the source depends on the reference group and the way in which information is conveyed. An understanding of how information or ideas travel through the reference community helps in identifying factors that have a high level of influence on consumer decision making.
  5. What are some forms of ties or connections do consumers have to other consumers in the communities?
  6. Consumers form ties in the online community, resulting in the establishment of a reference group or community. By investigating in what ways and how such communities are formed, social media marketers can leverage their online advertising campaigns.
  7. How is consumer decision making influenced by social media reference groups and communities.
  8. Social media reference groups, and communities alike, are proposed hypothesized to play a major role in the purchase decision of consumers.

Research Aims and Objectives

The research aims to investigate the ways in which social media influences consumer decision making during an online purchase. The various ways in which a social media group or community is used as a reference, the ways through which such groups or communities are accessed, and ways in which information is accessed from these groups by consumers are investigated. Main objectives of research are;

  • To identify the ways in which social media has established a source of power and leveled the playing field for consumers?
  • To investigate in what ways leaders of these reference groups or opinion leaders develop in online communities or any other reference group.
  • To analyze what some of the roles of social capital play when it comes to value of the social communities created on social media?
  • To offer recommendations to social media marketers on how reference groups and communities can be leveraged to their firm’s advantage.

Rationale for Research

The results obtained from this research could offer considerable evidence on the influence social media has on online marketing. The overall process of consumer decision making while making an online purchase decision, combined with the influence of social media helps managers reduce risks involved in social media marketing, at the same time offering recommendations on the ways in which they can increase their online credibility. Research on social media marketing is relatively new in marketing research. Negligible research exists on interrelating social media marketing and its influence in the consumer decision making process. This research focuses mainly on online shopping, social media, and reference group influence on consumer decision making. So, the theoretical contribution of this research helps fill in the gap in previous literature.

Research Methodology

Business pages created on Facebook are the central tool and the key research methodology is action research. Action research involves making systematic observations, and collection of data, that can be used to solve problems, and improve professional business practices. Micro and small businesses are focused. Data is gathered through interview and by using questionnaire. Facebook pages created by small entrepreneurs are used to create a fan base for their small enterprises. As the page continuous to grow and increase in size when it comes to the fan base of about 50 to 60 users data is to be conducted, mainly by carrying out semi- structured interviews.

The research design is action, qualitative research oriented with the conviction that reality is virtual created by factors of socio- economy. Primary data is gathered through semi- structured and open interviews. Data regarding the experiences of the entrepreneur while using and adopting social media like Facebook is focused upon. Secondary data is generated by the recording transcripts from the weekly training and interaction with the participants to understand their requirements and experiences. Tertiary collection of data is carried out through virtual ethnography by carrying out internet-based interviews through Google talk, chat, Skype and blogs.

Structure of Article

To ensure research meets its aims and objectives, clear research questions and research focus are developed first. Analysis of theories and concepts is done in the literature review part. Here theories and concepts relevant to social media as a marketing tool, and consumer decision making process are explored. Research methodology is developed based on literature review, and research aims. This gives a detailed outline of the research methodology to be employed for data collection. The research approach, philosophy, choices, ethical issues and methodologies are explained. Analyzed data gathered from semi – structured interview, and research findings are presented in based on which, conclusion discusses the research concisely, using which suitable recommendations are offered.

Conclusion

The way in which consumers make purchase decision has changed with the advent of social media. Rather than waiting for messages or advertisements giving information about a service or a product from companies, consumers are now seeking information on social media directly. Online community has the greatest amount of influence, especially on online shoppers. Research proposes to investigate the characteristics of online communities and reference groups involved in social media. The ways in which such groups influence the consumer decision making process is explored. For data collection, semi – structured interviews are conducted with online micro and small business entrepreneurs making use of social media tools like Facebook and blogs.

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Corporate Communication Strategies

Corporate Communication Strategies

Discuss the purpose of corporate communication strategies

Corporate communication is the overall effort of an organization to communicate effectively and profitably. For the achievement of set goals of an organization, it depends largely on character and organization’s relationship with its stakeholders such as community, employees, clients and suppliers. Thus, it is a strategic tool for an organisation to have competitive advantage over its competitors. It is used to motivate, inform employees, lead and persuade the clients. Corporate communication strategies should be aligned according to different organisation members who may not necessarily be having the same interests. Below are the purposes of corporate communication strategies. Public information: here communication is described as dissemination of information through the media such as bronchus and newsletters. Two ways symmetric: here is a dialog rather than a monolog, communication efforts are seen in terms of its research based and the use of communication in enhancing understanding with stakeholders. Press a gentry: it tries to gain coverage from mass media. Here information is given and no more information is collected from the stakeholders.

Assess how corporate communications link to corporate objectives

Significant relationship between corporate objectives and corporate communication is evident. The top management should ensure that the corporate objectives are clearly communicated to the lower management through the middle. Lack of effective communication may lead to poor or no strategy implementation. Percentage growth, market share in the market, future revenue targets as well as creating more values for stakeholders are examples of corporate objectives, which helps in running of the organization. This makes the organisation have a strong link between the corporate objectives and the corporate communication.

Analyze the relationship between corporate communication and corporate branding

There is a great relationship between the corporate communication and corporate branding. Corporate branding is the symbol used by corporate to identify itself to its audiences or clients. Corporate branding is important as it helps in creating awareness and act as a reminder of the existence of an organization. It is through effective communication in an organization that will enhance corporate branding. In addition to corporate branding, we need to consider the corporate image, which is the perceived sum of organization such as plans and objectives. It includes management style, services, products and communication activities.

Section 2

Demonstrate how you would plan an internal corporate communication audits

A communication audit is an indicator of a corporate current communication practices and their effectives. A communication audit can cover internal and external communication as separate or both depending on the desired outcome and the objectives of the corporate. An audit points out problems such as information blocks, information duplication and misunderstanding. When planning for a communication audits, formal and informal strategies should be used. For instance use of surveys which is a form of quantities research, use of interviews (qualitative research), analysis and reports and action planning. A communication audit is important in that it helps in highlighting current practices as well as possible lacking elements in an organization.

Explain how you would conduct an internal corporate communications audits

Here we have to consider various steps in corporate communication auditing. Determining key areas to audited. By considering both the internal and the external communications; consider everything from your standard branding pieces such as logos and business cards.

Choose research method. When conduction a corporate communication audits you have to select from a variety of research methods such as online survey, interviews and focus groups. This helps in collecting relevant information.

Collect and evaluate your past communications. Here you have to consider all the types of communications and information passed from the management to the middle and lower management. You need to ask questions like; who were our key audiences? Key messages? Did we reach our clients with the correct information? This helps you in knowing where to start with your corporate communication audits.

Look outward. This is where you focus on the customers and your community. Use questions to analyze your communication from your community and customers point of view. Try to find out what is their perception about your organization.

Look inward. Staffs and volunteers are the most important consideration in this stage. You need to collect their views about your organization’s communication. Ask, what are your reactions of communications during the past year? What could be improved? Did internal documents serve your needs? This helps you to have an overview of what is required of you, Put together a plan for future communications. You need to use your research as the starting point for making a corporate communication audit for your organization.

Corporate Communication Strategies Dissertations
Corporate Communication Strategies Dissertations

Critically evaluate the effectiveness of the current levels of practice in your organisation

In evaluating the level of effectiveness, you need to consider the commitment of the organisation. In terms of commitment, the organisation should be effective in that it ensures that all the objectives of organization are achieved through proper communication.

Another effective practice is the human resource. Through effective communication in the organization, various functions such as section, recruitment, in-services training are taken care off. Administration and finance control. In the running of the organization through effective communication of the set objectives, the management is in a position to control how the finances are used.

Explain how you would conduct an external corporate communication audits

An external communication audit is an indicator of current communication practices in an organization. It gives an organization’s information to the external stakeholders such as the local community, the government, the media, clients and suppliers. When planning for an external corporate communication audits you should consider various factors such as the target audiences. This will help in knowing the type of information you are going to pass from your organization to the target audience, thus enhancing the effectiveness of communication.

Demonstrate how you would conduct an external corporate communication audits

When conducting an external corporate communication audits, you have in use things like signage, posters, newspapers, voice messages and bronchus. The following steps are used in achieving it.

Understanding strategic communication practices. This helps in measuring your communication efforts. You need to ask questions that will help you determine strategic communication practices such as what is your communication vision. In addition, how does it relate to your organization’s mission? Are your communication goals well defined and measurable?

Identify the level of practice. There are various levels of practice such as institutional practices that are routine and improved over a time, Optimized practices are continuously evaluated and improved over a considerable period with sufficient resources.

Access the current performance. Here you need to know the levels of your organization performances through interviewing your audiences, use of focus groups. This helps in understanding where to start and what information to change about your organization.

Identify the areas for improvement. Getting feedback from your audiences, you now have an idea of where to change or improve in the organization. This enhances how communication has been done in the organisation. Here you need to ensure that media coverage is taken care off to pass the relevant information to the target audiences. After all this is done, you need to plan for future communication. This increases the effectiveness of your organization.

Critically evaluates the effectiveness of the current levels of practice in your organisation

As a result of effective communication in the organization there is a great change in practices such as community relation. This is as a result of corporate communication branding and imaging in the organization which helps the organization to change a lot. Through enhancement of communication with the local community; the organization has known the tastes and preferences of the community. Program management is another sector that is effective. Due to communication done with various departments in the organization, programs are run effectively thus enhancing the relationship

Financial management: It is through effective communication in the organization that budget administration is taken care of by knowing what the target audiences need you are in a position to budget well.

Demonstrate how you would plan the development of a corporate communication strategy

Having in mind what you need to achieve, you need to know what your communication plans are by asking yourself the following questions; do you want to improve your organization reputation? Do you want to generate more online or offline news coverage? You just need to lay down your organization objectives. The objectives need to be SMART: specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time.

In planning your strategy, you need to define how you will achieve you objectives. Your strategy should include a profile start such as; do you want to generate maximum or minimum coverage? By having this in mind you are in a position to have an effective corporate communication strategy in your organization.

Selecting the audiences to influence with a corporate strategy

When selecting audiences to influence your corporate communication strategy you need to consider both the internal and external audiences in your organization. First consider how employees who are the internal audiences influence your communication strategy. What information about your organization do you want to pass to your employees? Consider the external audiences such as the media, suppliers’, clients and how they influence your communication strategy. The information about your organization passed to the audiences should be clear information in order to protect the image of your organization. Both the internal and external audiences influence your communication strategy as you need to know how to deal with them.

Plan appropriate measures to monitor a planned corporate communication strategy

Participatory monitoring and evaluation covers any process that allows all stakeholders – particularly the target audience – to take part in the design of a Project, its ongoing assessment and the response to findings. It gives stakeholders the chance to help define a programme’s key messages, set success indicators, and provides them with tools to measure success. They include problem ranking, surveys and mapping. This helps in monitoring your communication strategy.

References

Hopper M – Organisational Communication Satisfaction (LAP Publishing, 2010) ISBN: 3838317084.

Blundell R and Ippolito K – Effective Organisational Communication: Perspectives, Principles, Practices (FT-Prentice Hall, 2008) ISBN: 0273713752.

Beyerlein M M and Harris C L — Guiding the Journey to Collaborative Work Systems: A Strategic Design Workbook (Jossey Bass Wiley, 2003) ISBN: 0787967882.

Clutterbuck D and Hirst S — Talking Business; Making Communications Work (Butterworth Heinemann 2003) ISBN: 0750654996.

Dawson R — Living Networks: Leading Your Company, Customers and Partners in the Hyper-connected Economy (FT-Prentice Hall, 2003) ISBN: 0130353337.

Daya K T — International Communications: Continuity and Change (Hodder, 2000) ISBN: 0340741317.

McKenzie J and van Winkelen C — Understanding the Knowledgeable Organisation (Thomson Learning, 2004) ISBN: 1861528957.

Preston P — Reshaping Communications (Sage Publications, 2001) ISBN: 0803985630.

Quirke B — Making the Connections: Using Internal Communication to Turn Strategy into Action (Gower, 2002) ISBN: 0566085178.

Quirke B —Communicating Corporate Change (McGraw-Hill, 1996) ISBN: 0077093119.

Stewart J (editor) — Bridges Not Walls; A Book about Interpersonal Communication (McGraw Hill, 2001) ISBN: 007240082X.

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Brand Loyalty Customer Behavior

How does Brand Loyalty Influence Customer Behavior?

The rise in living standards, ease of accessibility to finance coupled with a wide variety to choose from has made consumer durable market to grow with a rapid rate. Many players are getting into the market. With the advances in communication and technology, new lifestyles and the quest to appear young and beautiful, the demand for quality beauty products has increased significantly. Consumer quality sector is characterized by the emergence of exchange offers, discounts and intensive competition. People nowadays want to imitate in regards to dressing, language, and politics among other lifestyle aspects. The increasing population is bombarded with information about maintaining a youthful look, making women seek for cosmetics that suit them.  With this knowledge in mind, beauty manufacturing product companies make every effort to brand them to capture the booming market. Companies are competing on the basis of firm grasp of the local and international market, their well acknowledged brands and hold over wide distribution network. The penetration level of consumer products remains high.

This research is scoped down to understand the relationship between consumer behavior and brand loyalty, factors affecting consumer decision making, the role of brand loyalty in consumer durable goods and the position of the individual consumer in the segment. The path forward will be to study the secondary data for industry overview, collect primary data for more insight and  derive conclusions based on primary and secondary data. The research findings will be addressed based on the theories of consumer buying behavior and brand loyalty.

Organizations must engage in making strategic decisions that are capable of improving the firms’ image so that they can have an advantage over competitors. To be specific, these image enhancing strategies ensure that the organization increase the loyalty of the current customers. In addition, the image enhancing strategies should help in the attraction of new customers to the organization. Strategic decisions that can bring enhanced image to the organization have included the selection of target markets, and modification of products to suit the demands of the customers. Other strategic decisions on prices, location of products and services, promotional efforts, and operating policies help in improving the organizations’ image.

The implementation of these strategies ensures that there is a solid background for effective image in the organization. An organization’s image ensures that if there is something about it that is not known, the knowledge the customers have on the organization fills the void. The main concern of this research is to determine whether the perception about the brand image affects customer behavior.

Research Objectives

The interest of the research is to determine if brand loyalty influences consumer behavior. This study would be of value to those organizations concerned about the society and those concerned with the attaining off the highest possible profit. Further, the study aims to find if consumers have positive attitudes for those organizations that improve their brand loyalty and social responsibility.

Specific research objectives include:

  1. To find the relationship between consumer behavior and brand loyalty.
  2. To find out whether consumer behavior leads to change in the brand image quality, for instance, product quality or service quality.
  3. The influence of customer satisfaction on the brand’s image
  4. Does consumer behavior affect brand image?
  5. Does consumer behavior lead to change in the brand image quality?
  6. Does customer satisfaction affect brand image?

Literature Review

The main focus of this study is to measure the attitudes of customers in relation to brand loyalty and to ascertain its influence of this attitude on brand loyalty. Study of attitudes enables organization managers to answer questions as to why a consumer purchased one product over another. The understanding of the consumer attitude towards particular products ensures that they come up with strategies and decisions on major products and market decisions.

The image associated with a particular product or service ensures that it has a competitive advantage over other products and services. A company’s brand is valuable strategic asset in achieving goals and objectives. Brand loyalty can be referred to as the consumer decision; whether conscious or unconscious concerning the use of a product or service. It may also refer to the intention to buy or use a particular product for a long duration of time. Brand loyalty is achieved due to the right features, and the quality of the brand. Quality of the product must be at the right price for the consumer to perceive the brand as being loyal to their needs. Organizations can change consumer behavior concerning a particular product or service through advertising. Advertising ensures that consumers acquire new habits, and instill those habits by telling the consumers how the product is of value to their money. Consumers should also be encouraged to continue using the products and services in the future (Hoyer and Maclnnis, 2008, p. 27).

According to Pride and Ferrel (2008, p.123), the main reason why organizations do not have strong brand loyalty is because they are not familiar with various ways of disseminating a strong and clear message that distinguishes their product with that of the competitor. In addition, the message should distinguish the product in a positive and memorable manner. The major challenge of organizations is to avoid the disadvantages of portraying a particular product or service as having negative image. An organization’s image should not be viewed in terms of the product and service attributes; the organization’s philosophies concerning environmental management, philanthropy, and ethical considerations are critical in influencing consumer behavior.

Societal Conscious Marketing

Most organizations have adopted marketing strategies that focus on societal needs. Each of these strategies is philosophical or operational concepts used by organizational leaders to enhance the objectives of their businesses. The following are some of the concepts widely used in organizations (Phillips, 2010, p. 45).

  1. Product concept: products should be produced in large volumes since all of it can be sold to the consumers
  2. Selling concept; products can only be consumed if they are heavily promoted
  3. Product concept; consumers will buy high quality products that are within their price range
  4. Marketing concept: specific customer demands can only be met if organization produces products that are equal or better than those of the competitor. In addition, the products should be priced lower than the competitor.
  5. Societal marketing concept: This term involves marketing in a manner that does not harm the society, people, and the environment. Societal marketing concept is motivated by the need to satisfy direct customers and other constituents in the market.

Brand loyalty can be exercised in several ways. The main activities that organizations can do to improve brand loyalty include environmental friendly activities, philanthropy, ethical activities with local, national, and international communities, customers, and employees. Environmentally friendly activities can include recycling, waste reduction, and other strategies aimed at minimizing the organization’s impact on the environment. Philanthropic activities include engaging donations of money, food, facilities, and time. These activities are classified under the title known as cause related marketing (Kahren, 2009, p.36).

Brand Loyalty
Brand Loyalty

According to Dutton (1997), organizations have been turning philanthropy activities inward towards their employees. This is done through paying them in order to volunteer for their favorite charities. She asserts that words like “ethics’, honesty, truth and trust are good sentiments. She, however, notes that they mean nothing if they are not adopted by organizations. Ethical activities include using different hiring practices and employee relations such as high moral values, fair pay, equal treatment, and equal opportunity for all workers. Organizations that do not treat workers fairly have the risk of lowering their brand image. Brand image should start with internal operations; there is no point of trying to show the external clients that business ethics are good while simultaneously engaging in unethical activities towards the employees. Employees play an important role in advertising the organization to outside clients more than any other marketing strategy.

The question of how brand loyalty affects product evaluation was examined by Brown and Dacin (1997). Their study looked into the differences between the impact of organization brand loyalty which include the organization’s ability to produce and deliver quality products and services and the corporate social responsibility’s impacts on consumers. In their first research, students analyzed their hypothetical scenarios. The outcome was that brand loyalty had a significant effect on the way consumers evaluated the product attributes and the overall image of the organization. Further, the authors found out that social responsibility had no direct impact on the organization’s image. Their second study found out that social responsibility became significant predictor of product loyalty in the consumers and its evaluation.

According to Kim (1996) product demand is determined by non-product factors such as cleanliness, public relations, atmosphere, advertising and the convenience of the brands’ locations. In any organization, quality of products can be determined according to the consumer attitude towards the product with other products available to the consumer in the market.

“Perceived quality is different from objective or actual quality, a higher level abstraction rather than a specific attribute of a product, a global assessment that in some case resembles attitude, and a judgment usually made within a consumer’s evoked set” (Zeithaml, 1988, p.4).

Zeitmal further assert that few consumers are able to analyze and measure the objective properties of a product. This is because the objective assessment depends on the verifiable standards, the objective measurement can be questioned because it depends on who set the standards.

Theoretical framework

The A Priori Approach

According to Lunn (2011), the theory introduces theories and concepts from other disciplines including behavioral sciences. The value of behavioral sciences has been used in consumer knowing what the consumer wants. Well known examples are included in the manifestations of motivational research and such attitude theories as those of Festinger and Fishbein. The A Priori approach involves giving the consumer an all embracing label such as “economic man”, “problem solver”, “learner”, and “existentialist”. The strength of the a priori lies in the organization and the systematic basis of knowledge provided about certain aspects of the consumer.

Brand Loyalty Theory

According to Katz (1960), Brand loyalty theory has three distinct dimensions. The first dimension is referred to as emotive tendency towards products and services. The emotive tendency refers to the consumer likes and dislikes which is manifested on how they purchase a particular brand in the market. The second dimension is known as evaluative tendency towards products and services. Katz refers to this tendency as positively biased evaluation of a product or service. Organizations use positive characteristics to define brand utili6ty to the customers. The evaluative tendency of the product or service can also be determined from past experience in using the brand.

Behavioral tendency towards the brand is the next dimension. Katz (1960) refers to the behavior tendency as the biased responses consumers have towards a particular product or service regarding its procurement, purchase and consumption characteristics. Consumer characteristics such as shopping, paying for the product, as well as its consumption determine the behavior tendency. Behavior tendency is developed after using the product for a long period of time. In addition, behavior tendency can be developed from good or bad tendencies toward other brands.

Black Box Theory of Behaviorism

Sandhusen (2000) assert that the black box model is an interaction of several perspectives concerning a specific brand. The perspectives include the stimuli, consumer characteristics, choice patterns and consumer responses. The focus of the organization is not in the internal processes within the customer: the organization focuses on the relation between stimuli and response of the customer. Stimuli are related to the marketing characteristics developed by an organization in order to lure the customer in purchasing of the brand. The environmental stimuli are determined by social factors such as politics, economy and the culture in which the brand is to be used. The black box symbolizes the buyer characteristics and their choice patterns, which determine their response towards a particular brand.

Hypothesis

This research focuses on the various factors that influence consumers’ brand loyalty towards a given brand. From the various factors that influence brand loyalty, below are the hypothesis derived.

H1: There is a positive correlation between brand loyalty product and brand name

H2: There is a positive correlation between brand loyalty and product quality.

H3: There is a positive significant relationship between brand loyalty and product design

H4: There is a positive significant relationship between brand loyalty and product price.

H5: There is a positive correlation between brand loyalty and promotion.

H6: There is a significant correlation between service quality and brand loyalty.

H7: There is a positive significant relationship between store environment and brand loyalty.

Research Methodology

The main objective of this research was to establish how brand loyalty influences cosmetics buying behavior of UK female consumers. This section also highlights the various processes undertaken in obtaining and analyzing the information gathered for this research. This includes a description of the research design and methods used in collecting the data that were analyzed to arrive at a conclusion in the study.

Research philosophy

Based on the nature and the topic to be studied, this research will be conducted on positivist philosophy. It will be based on this philosophy because the research will involve testing of hypothesis developed from deductive theory, involving measurement of observable social realities.

Approach

This research will be conducted on deductive approach based on hypothesis testing from the data collected. Data will then be analyzed to either confirm or disapprove the hypothesis.

Data Collection Methods

Data collection will consist of surveys, filling in questionnaires and conducting interviews with cosmetic consumers and dealers in London, UK. Qualitative evaluation shall be employed in this research besides using subjective techniques such as interviews and observations to gather relevant and substantive data. Quantitative approach is preferred for this research due to the varying experiences of the consumers of these products. Upon collecting data using interviews and questionnaires, the data will then be carefully analyzed. This shall be carried out using both the One-way ANOVA and the Pearson’s guideline to establish how brand loyalty influences consumer behavior with respect to cosmetic consumption in UK.

Questionnaire Design

In this research, a questionnaire was developed, and pilot tested through personal interviews with seven senior-most managers at Superdrug, which is the second largest health and beauty retail shop in UK. The questionnaire used for collecting data was divided into two segments: the first section concerns the demographics of consumers and the second were about brand loyalty factors. This research involved sampling randomly 400 female cosmetic consumer of between 18 to 42 years of age. In order to obtain a reliable data, the survey was distributed in London City at five major cosmetic shops. The malls included L’Occitane, Jo Malone, Floris London, Boots and Screenface, in addition to Superdrug retail shop.  A total of 400 usable questionnaires were then returned and collected 60% response rate.

Table 1 reveals that age composition of those aged between 18-25 years were 25% of the respondents. Yet again, the table reveals that close to half of the respondents ages varied between 27-35 years. About 26% of the respondents were between the ages of 36-42. The sample survey was almost balanced at 51% for the married and 49% for the unmarried. With regard to education level, the surveyed respondent revealed that 72% of the respondent had at least a degree and 18% having completed high school. This implies that only 10% of the respondents had postgraduate degrees.

Data Analysis

This research used the One-way ANOVA to establish whether there is any significant correlation between independent variables (product quality, brand name, design, price, service quality, promotion, and store environment) and age and income the consumers interviewed. The main reason for adopting the One-way ANOVA as the most appropriate tool is that it was found to be the best for testing the hypothesis when at least two groups are measured on an interval scale. The purpose of the One-way ANOVA is to show the degree of variability of the sample values taken by considering to what extent the observation within each group differs and how much the group means differ.  Apart from the One –Way ANOVA, the researchers also found it appropriate to use the Pearson Correlation for purposes of analyzing the relationship between the two variables, which are both ratio and interval-scaled. This is based on the fact that the correlation coefficients determined using the Pearson’s guideline is used to establish the degree and direction of the correlation, which is suitable for hypothesis testing. In this regard, the research used Pearson correlation principle to test the independent variables (product quality, brand name, price, promotion, design, store environment and service quality) that influenced consumer brand loyalty and to establish if there is any correlation between the variables.

Results

Table 2 below shows the Cronbach’s Alpha (coefficient alpha) of each of the variables tested.  The findings reveal that all the variables have a high degree of reliability. Table 3, on the other hand, shows the seven autonomous variable factors of brand loyalty that were experimented during the research through questionnaires given out to the respondents. The results were also ranked using the Likert scale in the questionnaire: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree and strongly agree. The result is then gotten from the uppermost average score of brand loyalty factors based on the answers provident by the respondents. In overall, the result reveals that product quality is the most vital factor. In UK environment, most respondents choose product quality as the core aspect that influences their brand loyalty.

The One-way ANOVA scrutiny of the factors of income level and brand loyalty was conducted. This was meant to establish if there could be any significant relationship between the two variables. Here, there are four variables that are most significant according to the study, which include brand name (0.000) promotion (0.004), product quality (0.009) and service quality (0.038). In overall, the result shows that, in UK, majority of the consumers prefer brand name, promotion, and product and service quality as factors of brand loyalty. According to table five below, only two variables that are significant. These are price (0.014) and the brand name (0.050). An analysis of this data reveals that, among the age groups surveyed, female consumers aged between 36-42 prefer brand names more compare to other age groups.

Test of Hypothesis

As revealed in Table 4 below, brand name was found to have considerable positive relationship with brand loyalty. The results of this research revealed that consumers preferred brand image only when they foresee positive functions or benefits from the product in question. It is then that they will recommend the brand, react positively to the price premium and accept brand extension to other categories of products within the same brand.

The quality of the products was shown to have a positive correlation with brand loyalty. This kind of correlation is demonstrated based on Cohen’s (1988) principle, in which a correlation of (r=0.0302) is considered moderate. Therefore, based on these statistics, the finding showed that product quality has a lot of significance with regard to consumer decision-making process. The findings of this research revealed that brand loyalty and price had a positive relationship. In this case, price was found to be more important for any average consumer in the market. Nevertheless, those consumers with high brand loyalty were not very much sensitive to prices. The research showed that as long as these consumers were satisfied with a given brand, they would continue buying the product with the same brand irrespective of the price increase.  On the other hand, the findings did not show any correlation between product design and brand loyalty. Out of all the seven variables tested, many consumers did not consider product design as an important factor for UK consumers to become loyal to a given cosmetic brand.

According to the findings, promotion and brand loyalty were found to have a positive relationship. Product promotion was considered as one of the most valuable factor in determining a consumer’s brand loyalty. This includes the use of sales promotions, commercial adverts, personal and public selling. In fact, the research revealed that many female consumers spent considerable time reading product labels before purchasing the product. The research also revealed that brand loyalty and service quality had a positive relationship. Findings showed that service quality encouraged many consumers to prioritize a store. The result indicated that salesperson consumer relationship results in long-term orientation of customers towards a given store. Similarly, trust developed in the salesperson seems to relate to the overall discernment of the store’s service quality, which leads to customer’s total satisfaction with the store.

The findings also showed that the environment of the store is also positively related to brand loyalty. The store environment is seen as major factors that influence consumer brand loyalty. This research revealed that many consumers were much sensitive to attributes of the store such as a variety of selection, merchandise displays, packing space, and ease of accessibility to vehicles and the overall goodwill of the store in buying products.

Table 1. Demographic Sample Description

Frequency Percentage (%)
Age18-2527-3536-42 100196104 254926
Marital statusMarriedUnmarried 204196 5149
Education:High SchoolUndergraduatePostgraduate 7228840 187210

Table 2. Reliability Analysis of Brand Loyalty factors

Variables Alpha
Product QualityBrand namePricePromotion

Design

Service Quality

Store Environment

Brand Loyalty

0.65720.70280.66180.6974

0.7482

0.8200

0.7139

0.6646

Table 3. Brand Loyalty factor Ranking

Factor of Brand Loyalty

Ranking Mean/Average
Product Quality 1 3.68
Q1. The brand is durable than others 3.69
Q2. The materials used by the brand are natural 4.11
Q3. The brand has sufficient color 3.65
Q4. The brand has good functional quality 3.77
Mean Average 3.80
Design   2
Q1. The brand provides wide variety of designs 3.72
Q2. Designs of the brand are suitable for me 3.79
Q3. Designs of the brand have distinctive features 3.73
Q4. Designs of the brand are trendy and fashionable 3.85
Mean Average 3.77
Brand Name                                       3
Q1. The brand is trustworthy 3.70
Q2. Brand image and name attract me to buy 3.82
Q3. Brand Name is selected irrespective of price 3.41
Q4. Brand reveals my individual personality 3.96
Mean Average 3.72
Promotion               4
Q1 Ads of the brand is attractive 3.64
Q2. Ads of the brand attract me towards purchasing the product 3.44
Q3. Product displays are entrancing 3.62
Mean Average 3.56
Store Environment                                5
Q1. The brand has good store location 3.64
Q2. There are adequate outlets for the brand 3.76
Q3. The interior show is gorgeous 3.50
Q4. Music and color inside the store are beautiful 3.36
Mean Average 3.57
Price        6
Q1. Increases of price not hinder me to purchase 2.99
Q2. The brand provides goods value for money 3.52
Average Mean 3.56
Service Quality         7
Q1The salesmen in the store are knowledgeable 3.21
Q2. The salesmen in the store are willing to help 3.39
Q3. Vendor of the store is and courteous and friendly 3.18
Q4Vendors in the store have neat appearance 3.33

Mean Average 3.28

Table 4. Significance of Brand Loyalty factors with brand loyalty

Variables

Pearson Correlation Sig. (2-tailed)a
Product Quality

Brand name

Price

Promotion

Design

Service Quality

Store Environment

Brand Loyalty0.304

0.561

0.466

0.411

0.140

0.333

0.369

0.002

0.002

0.005

0.006

0.162

0.001

0.010

 

Conclusions and Findings

Various studies have focused on understanding the concept of brand loyalty and the factors influencing it. Product attributes, after sale service, marketing capabilities, perceived quality or aesthetics, depth of product line as the key differencing factors influencing the behavior of purchasers. Brand commitment is also a necessary condition for true brand loyalty to occur.  Packaging, new product trial, price, store location corporate social responsibility and advertisements influence consumer behavior. While several factors influencing brand loyalty have been studied in the extant literature, this research has revealed that brand loyalty influences consumer behavior. Consumers may also compel entrepreneurs to change the brand image in terms of product or service quality. Similarly, the brand image has been proven to satisfy the consumer expectations.

The dimensions of brand loyalty theory clearly depict how consumer’s tastes and preferences influence their buying power. This is followed by an assessment of the product to decide if they will buy it or not. The assessment also referred to as evaluative tendency compels organizations to brand their products to attract customers, an aspect of competition. Product branding can be enhanced by advertising, changing the brand name and promoting it to improve recognition.  The behavioral tendency proposed by Katz is creations of a bandwagon effect among consumers to enable them continue buying the product. The initial products are branded in a way of attracting customers though subsequent ones show depreciation, a strategy used by marketers.  Branding through advertisement show some favor of the product while despising others, thus discouraging customers from using those other products whether related or not. The black box model looks into the customers willingness created by the company’s emphasis of the product. The characteristics of the buyer determine their choice of product.

From this research, the brand name and image has a significant impact on customer choice with all factors kept constant. As part of consumer behavior, every brand has some features which consumers always associate the brand with. They consume a given brand on the basis of its features. Again, the consumers take into account the quality, and price while making buying decisions. The point of purchase is another factor that comes to a buyer’s mind. Being a highly demanded product by women, they want to buy cosmetics from a good reputed and trustworthy purchase point. Exhibition malls serves as favorite consumer purchase point.

Other factors like age, occupation and education of consumers will influence buying decisions following the way each group has been exposed about the product. Young people will have more taste of cosmetics because they want to look good while old ones are slightly less concerned with beauty. Exposure and knowledge of a product affects its demand. The raw materials making the brand also play a vital role of its choice. If a sample cosmetic is known to contain harmful chemicals, it loses its market. An organization will get to know what factors influence the purchase decision of a consumer before branding the product. Accordingly, it will direct its marketing effort so that it can get potential customers to purchase the products.

Subject Issues Learnt

Brand loyalty is the consumer’s conscious or unconscious choice that is expressed intentionally or a behavioral pattern to repurchase a brand again. This happens following the perception of the consumer that the brand provides the right image, characteristics or quality based on reasonable price. Hence, consumer behavior is habitual. Beginning from product design to creation of a mature brand, good marketing strategies, which depend on a clear understanding of the memory, motivation, learning and decision processes, influence the consumer’s choice. Launching of new products, market segmentation, timing market entry and brand management are all related to the theoretical framework employed in the research.  Branding is by far and large the most important factor influencing the product’s success or failure in the market place. It can also greatly impact the company’s perception by the buying public. Brand is not only a company’s product but also a representation of the individual company and that is where the core of brand loyalty falls.

Brand loyalty is simply more than the consumer’s commitment to repurchase a product. It incorporates the high attitude towards the product demonstrated by repeated buying.  This loyalty is a business investment because of the high prices being paid by the customers.  Depending upon the nature of the product versus basic necessities or luxuries, consumers a single or brand loyalty. This brand loyalty is affected by their brand choice as well as by their store loyalty behavior. The bondage of brand loyalty is strong especially through repeated advertising and promotional schemes. The main factors that influence brand loyalty are the quality of product, habit of use and regular availability of the product. Searching for a product means mental and physical information about products, prices and shops. Consumer information is thus a marketing tool that can be used to understand the interactions between a specific target segment and marketplace so as to meet the consumers’ needs and wants.

Brand image or the good reputation of a particular service ensures that it maintains a competitive advantage over other products and services. An organization’s brand is valuable strategic asset in achieving goals and objectives. Brand loyalty can be referred to as the consumer decision; whether conscious or unconscious concerning the use of a product or service. It may also refer to the intention to buy or use a particular product for a long duration of time. Brand loyalty is achieved due to the right features, and the quality of the brand. Quality of the product must be at the right price for the consumer to perceive the brand as being loyal to their needs. Organizations can change consumer behavior concerning a particular product or service through advertising.

The reasons why people become brand loyal are because the favored brand satisfies the consumer needs and wants than the competitors do. Again, there is a reduction of perceived risk, sticking with a favorite brand improves certainty. Brand loyalty helps maintain self image in reinforcing the customer’s self concept and confidence. It is also the path to least resistance. Marketers use strategies like in-store and o-location impulse triggers, notably point-of purchase displays.  Consumer innovativeness is the predisposition to buy new and different products rather than remain with the previous choices and consumption patterns.

Consumer behavior is influenced by social, cultural, Psychological and personal factors. Culture influences buying behavior depending on the country, geographical region, religion, nationality and racial groups. The societal classes such as wealth distribution, education and occupation impact the behavior of consumers towards a product. Social factors like family, reference groups, roles and statuses influence buyer behavior. Personal factors include lifestyle, economic situations, age, occupation, personality and self concept. Perception, motivation, learning, beliefs and attitudes are psychological factors affecting consumer behavior. Marketers should, therefore, look into these factors in branding particular products.

References

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