Lessons Learnt

  • - Always (24/7) engage in online community conversations to follow and to understand recent consumer trends.
  • - Target your e-WOM to the people with high levels of both connectivity and credibility. Those consumers eventually open the door to new and valuable consumers.
  • - Work on your message carefully as well. The power of the message is as important as the source or the person who spreads the message.
  • - The essence of online community communication is well explained by Sterne (2010: 130) “You can't control the conversation but you can guide the conversation.” Thus, accept the idea that you are not the only owner of your own brand. It is highly possible that you could eventually lose your total control over your branding to consumers on the Internet. Try to develop a control mechanism (such as setting up a unit in your organization to monitor such communities regularly) that helps you to create frequent checks and balances with consumers. That, in turn, effectively continues your brand ownership.

Commitment: Increasing connectivity between/within consumers and companies has made meeting and doing business with strangers easy.35 Also, if the information presented in the website content or communication content is confusing, false, or not up to date, it may increase consumer perceptions of uncertainty, and the need for commitment.36 Although no party could be expected to exploit another’s vulnerability in a trustworthy relationship, today’s tech-savvy consumers have started to abuse the Internet’s democratized structure, illegally downloading many digital products, hacking into company websites, and so on.37

From a marketing point of view, a high level of commitment and credibility is required to reduce future uncertainties and risks that consumers may perceive. Without consumer trust and company commitment, money, and effort spent on connectivity, content, and community would be wasted. For example, if a company delivers a birthday present two days late, the value created by e-mail marketing offers or an easy-to-use website, and the purchase support created through the online community would be zero. Some of the commitment issues are beyond the companies’ control (for example, delivering a birthday package late because of a strike in the transportation sector). But there are some commitment issues that can be directly controlled by companies (providing compensation for the late delivery of a birthday package). Thus, the online company needs to introduce necessary guarantees to reduce possible uncertainties and repair disappointments.

Although such guarantees can carefully be calculated and developed by the company, if the company cannot clearly explain this in its website content a trustworthy relationship cannot be established.38

For example, many consumers stop buying a product in the middle of the purchase process because they are worried about giving out too much information or do not feel safe about the transaction. Clearly, there can be no e-business without customer information and databases. But companies who conduct ethical and respectful collection and use of consumers’ personal information are able to deal with these kinds of hidden costs.

Although legislators make new laws to regulate markets, and some companies, such as McAfee, provide new technological solutions, consumer trust will continue to be a big issue in today’s continuously changing technological environment. Companies may need to develop their own innovative and dynamic solutions to achieve and maintain trustworthy market relationships.

Lessons Learnt

  • • Do not underestimate third-party SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning) programs from providers such as Truste, BBB, etc. The basic mentality of these programs helps you understand how to achieve effective and commitment-based relationships.
  • • If you do not use third-party SEAL programs, introduce unbiased and updated product/service information without any hidden or undisclosed costs on your website. Most importantly, provide the company’s ethical code without any loopholes or indeterminate terms on your website.
  • • Provide more personalization options to reduce the stress for consumers of repeatedly filling personal information forms, etc. That also, in turn, helps consumers to make conscious choices.
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