June 22, 2018

Written by Sajid Mahbub

The marketing landscape has drastically changed by recent emergence of Social Media. Long gone are the days when marketers used to push the messages as one way communication towards consumers, in fact the days of two way communication is also dying as the world witnesses the growing trend of community-based marketing or rather F Factor marketing where F stands for Friends, Fans and Followers. Once marketers had all the power to influence the consumers and their purchase decision, but now consumers have the greater power to influence their peers and community, which in fact is the larger consumer base.

The increased usage of Social Media by both consumers and brands seem to affect consumer behavior quite a bit. Also, social media influences the way consumers behave during the different stages of their purchase decision-making processes. Carson, the president of Online International Nielsen said, “The explosion in Consumer Generated Media over the last couple of years means consumers’ reliance on word-of-mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don’t, has increased significantly.” For example, you want to go out for a dinner and you are trying to find out the best possible restaurant, you shortlisted few and then went to their social media page to view their offers and review given by others. Even if the offer of the restaurant is good but if the reviews are poor then the probability is you will not visit that restaurant, rather you will opt for some other restaurant which has very good reviews. Now the question is, do we know the reviewers? In most of the cases, no we don’t. That means our decision making process is getting influenced by some unknown person.

A consumer during his decision making broadly goes through five stages Need Recognition, the Information Search, Evaluate Alternatives, Purchase, and Outcome. Social media seems to influence all these stages very intensively.

Consumers can recognize new needs or latent needs on Social Media when ‘surfing’ on some social networks such as Facebook where they can see friends displaying pictures of products they bought or using the ‘like’ button for particular brand. I personally never felt the need of watching the Avengers at movie theater till I saw everyone on my friend-list are going to watch the movie. I also never felt the need of going to Al-Razzaq for Sehri till I saw everyone is going there for Sehri. It goes without saying my latent needs where catered by my newsfeed.

Now just imagine you want to buy a smartphone and your budget is 40K. What is the first thing you will be doing? You will go to social media and look for smartphones ranging to 40K. You will browse different sites and will try to shortlist few of them and then look for recommendations or reviews. If needed, you will directly message the page of the brand to know details about their product. Then you will evaluate the alternatives and finally chose one. This is how literally social media is influencing information search and evaluation of alternatives in the consumer journey. It is empowering the consumers to a make an informed decision. After the purchase, if the product/service is good then probably out of joy, you will write a good review about the product, which will certainly influence others. On the other hand, if the product/service is not satisfactory then also you can write about your negative experience and that will also influence others. 

Now the question is if brands are capitalizing this shift to their fullest. Are they aware of this changing nature of consumers? Are they focusing on fixing the F Factor? If not, then maybe they are missing out the race towards becoming the most loved brands because they are not mapping their consumers’ decision making journey.

Mr. Sajid Mahbub is the Head of Business Operations at Bangladesh Brand Forum.

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