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AI devices that help stimulate psychological and physiological human connection are serving a population whose loneliness is at an all-time high, but they also raise societal concerns.
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Hiring a celebrity to promote a brand is a standard marketing tactic. However, companies trying to reach social-media-savvy millennials are turning to an alternative option: connecting with “micro-influencers” whose Instagram or YouTube followers see them as more authentic advocates for specific products.
With the help of third-party developers, customization is shifting from the producer to the customer. While Industrial Age customization did enhance options for different customer preferences, those options were hardwired into a firm’s supply chain in ways that preserved efficient scale. Customers could choose only from those options that a firm had already programmed to deliver through established supply chains. Digital Age customization allows customers options outside the boundaries of a firm’s traditional supply chain.
An emergent defensive strategy is being used by both upstart players facing established competitors and by newcomers (such as Tesla, Airbnb, and Uber) facing government regulators. Called “lawsourcing,” the strategy advances legal and public relations goals through social media campaigns, online petitions, and boycotts to draw attention to disputes. These tactics are often framed in moral and ethical terms, and they are being initiated by even very small players.
Consumers are not running away from self-service options — just poorly implemented ones. Managers often underestimate customer’s need for employee interaction during a self-service experience, as well as customer desires for convenience and for transaction speed. “These three areas have a tremendous impact on the implementation of a self-service technology,” write the authors, “and might explain why some self-service applications have received a lukewarm reception.”
Social media offers businesses the chance to connect with customers in a unique way — by giving their brand a “persona” with attributes that attract the target audience. But companies need a sound social media strategy if they are to create positive associations and avoid negative ones.
How much choice do people really want? Asking people to make their own choices requires time and focus — there’s all those options to consider. Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein writes that default rules, which establish starting points for everything from rental car agreements to health insurance plans, can save people time and keep them from being overwhelmed by too much choice.
To many managers, the idea of involving customers in pricing decisions seems counterproductive. For most companies, pricing is a sensitive, private affair. But it may be time to reexamine those ideas. Letting customers have input on prices provides opportunities for customization and can promote greater customer engagement. Opening up customer participation also offers a way for companies to create a new sense of excitement.
It’s easy to say customer satisfaction is very important – but harder to put that into practice. The Spring 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on understanding your customers, from gauging global clients’ satisfaction through the use of big data to figuring out better strategies for improving customer complaint resolution.
Encouraging customers to provide feedback and recommendations directly to a company engages them in valuable ways. Researchers looked at customers of a global bank who engaged in either positive word of mouth, or provided suggestions, or both. They found that customers who ranked high in participation tended to purchase more products and services. In other words, participation was more closely associated with customer spending than word of mouth was.
Companies are gaining value from ethnography, the in-person study of how people actually use a product or service. Through its attention to the details of people’s lives, ethnography can be a powerful tool to help executives gain insights into their markets. Ethnographic stories can also be indispensable in helping executives rethink their assumptions about what customers care about and about overall strategic direction.
How can corporations get more value from their use of social media? They can start by paying attention to research into developmental psychology, argues Boston College’s Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane. Understanding why people use social media differently at different ages can provide considerable insight for corporations that want to interact with customers.
There are six significant drivers of customer satisfaction for companies to pay attention to: adaptability, commitment to customers, connection with other customers, product assortment, easy transactions and appealing environment. A Trader Joe’s grocery store, for instance, carries about 4,000 items, compared to 50,000 in a typical store. Less is better: Items are chosen to match the demographic and psychographic profiles of Trader Joe’s customers, and provide the assortment customers want.
Companies are increasingly engaging in CSR activities. But unless companies communicate their CSR achievements wisely to stakeholders, they fear being accused of greenwashing. A study of CSR communication practices in 251 European corporations yields seven guidelines for effective CSR communication. The authors conclude that many beliefs about the risks associated with CSR communication are exaggerated, and that companies that communicate honestly about their activities have little to fear.
The increasing ability for companies to get transaction-level, detail-level data — clickstream data versus summary data — presents huge opportunity, says Boston College’s Sam Ransbotham.
How will you make a profit when customers know everything about your costs? The answer could be about putting a dollar value to access and charging admission to your store.
Companies traditionally pursue growth by investing heavily in product development so they can produce new and better offerings; by developing consumer insights so they can satisfy customers’ needs; or by making acquisitions and expanding into new markets. This article identifies a fourth method: “business model experimentation,” or using thought experiments to quickly and inexpensively examine new business model possibilities.
Traditional marketing practices are increasingly viewed with skepticism. In many organizations, marketers struggle to document the return on investment for expenditures; as a result, marketing has less influence in the boardroom — and marketing is viewed as a questionable cost rather than a worthy investment. This article is based on a study that found that certain marketing techniques can influence a company’s stock market valuation — if the techniques increase customer lifetime value.
Want to increase sales of a bundle of goods or services that includes both pleasurable and utilitarian items? Research suggests that a discount will increase sales more effectively if it’s offered on the pleasurable item.
Companies need to understand and manage the rising threat of online public complaining. When customers believe that a company has treated them badly, they may take their grievance public — very public. What can companies do, whether in reacting to such negative publicity or in preventing its occurrence? The authors have developed an “organizing matrix” to help understand and respond to online complaints, noting that “as long as the company uses such fair processes, and as long as it makes customers aware of them, customers will tolerate the occasional service failure.”
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