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The Consumer Buying Decision: How Social Media Has Changed Consumer Behavior
The Consumer Purchase Decision in the Digital Age: How Social Media Changed the Market
The purchase of a product is an evolutionary process. In earlier times the process was as follows:
- A consumer starts with many brands to choose from
- The original number is scaled down
- A final selection has been made
- A purchase decision is made
In the new world of social media, the purchasing decision has evolved into this:
- Consider the product
- Rate the product
- Selection is made-close
- After Purchase
The source of much of the material in my article comes from two places.”Branding in the digital age” which appeared in the 12/10 issue of The Harvard Business Review, was written by David C. Edelman. A second source was “The consumer decision journey” written by David Court, David Elizinga, and Susan Mulder, which appeared McKinsey Quarterly, June 2009.
In a modern market consumers connect with brands in fundamentally new ways. Much of the information consumers receive is through social media platforms, which marketers many times cannot control. There is an explosion of products and product information from sources of information that organizations cannot influence, but which have a large impact on whether a product will be purchased. The paradigm has shifted from a “push” world in which products are produced and pushed onto consumers, to a contemporary “pull” marketplace in which consumers pull products off the shelves. In old media, a consumer was given a choice of products in a category and a choice was made. In new media, consumers interact a lot on digital platforms that provide a wide range of products and alternatives. The consumer now stays engaged with the product, through social media, after the purchase is made. In today’s market an important influence in the purchase of a product is the advocacy of someone else.
The purchase decision is a journey: the journey consists of 6 parts. (1) There is consideration of brands. (2) There is an evaluation of the marks through the input of peers, reviewers and others. (3) Product is purchased. (4) The product is enjoyed. (5) A link is created between product and consumer. (6) The consumer becomes a lawyer. The goal of marketing has always been to influence consumers at the moment when a purchase moment will be made. Marketing is about touch points, places where the consumer is open to influence. Social media platforms have created newer touch points for consumer and marketer must adapt to that reality. Customer loyalty has changed. Customers are not loyal to brands; they are loyal to their friends. Modern organizations must learn how to “friend” their customer if a brand is to be effective. Knowing how to “friend” a customer is something a marketer must learn to do in order for a customer to buy their product.
Brand awareness is the first important step in both old and new media. In old media, a consumer starts with knowledge of a group of brands, and then narrows down that list. In new media, he becomes aware of some brands, and then new information is given to him through the Internet, and the number of original alternative brands increases. The awareness stage is a clear paradigm shift in marketing. Instead of a few products that can be pushed to the consumer, there are many products that a consumer can choose from. The market is now a pull environment.
Traditional marketing is important, but the new touch points (social media) mean branding needs to be done differently. Brand adoption is now through “influencers” friends, family relatives and peers. In the awareness phase, with many offers in each category, a company must build trust with individuals. Marketers and consumers must become friends. Products must have a meaningful purpose for a consumer to buy them. Personal relationship is the means by which this is done. Another big change between old and new media is that the post-purchase experience shapes the consumer’s opinion and that affects subsequent purchases.
In today’s marketplace, with the advent of social media platforms, brand loyalty for a product is not strong. Social media gives a marketer a constant opportunity to convert a consumer.
Social media allows a marketer to create loyalty in a way that awareness and loyalty could not be achieved before. Recently, Ford created awareness for the Fiesta, a year and a half before it even came on the market. Having dedicated agents tweet, create posts and blogs, many people wanted a relationship with the car before it even came out. This allowed Ford to create a “friendship” with its customer and have a “conversation”. Consumers are more influenced by their friends than by big brands. A comparison between the Celebration and the Fusion can be an example of this. At the end of Ford’s social media campaign, 38% of Ford’s target audience was aware of the Celebration. This is the same amount of awareness that market had for the Fusion that was on the market for more than two years and Ford spent millions on conventional advertising.
That’s why Ford’s Fiesta campaign was a case study for modern-day marketers to follow. When the Fiesta came on the market, 12,000 were sold, the closing stage. It will be interesting what happens next. Will there be loyalty. Ford and Fiesta buyers have had many experiences together. During the campaign there were 5 million engagements of social network attractions, 11,000 videos were posted, and 15,000 were taken, 13,000 photos were taken. Ford made many “friends” during the Fiesta campaign. It will be interesting to see if this translates into strong loyalty for the car or continued buzz on social media and if that affects the purchase of the car.
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