- Research Highlight
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Today’s retailers need to adopt a data-driven view — with the goal of understanding how website features and advances in AI will affect consumer behavior.
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Much as relationships in social networks have been analyzed to understand and influence how ideas flow among people, researchers wondered whether it might be possible to use the structure of product recommendation networks online to understand or influence how demand flows among products. The short answer is yes, and the implications for marketers are important.
Echo chambers — that is, exposure to information that closely mimics our own experiences and points of view — are burgeoning. In the online world, personalization algorithms lead to even more personalization over time. New research that looked at the way people navigate through videos of TED Talks highlights which types of people are most at risk for falling into extreme echo chambers. The research also suggests ways organizations can help content viewers navigate the noise.
Anindya Ghose, Heinz Riehl Chair Professor of Business at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is one of the pioneering explorers of the intersection of mobile and marketing. In his new book, Tap, he collects his findings and weaves them together into a set of nine forces that marketers can wield to drive sales via mobile technologies.
Thanks to emerging technologies like 3-D printing, manufacturers can offer consumers customized products and do so with unprecedented speed. Intrigued by a new product you saw in a YouTube video? Well, someday soon you may be able to personalize it, order it via the company’s website, and have it in your hands in a matter of days. But to enable this phenomenon at scale, an entirely new model of supply chain is required.
New research finds that stories about consumers’ positive experiences with a brand significantly increase users’ engagement with brand websites, and stories originating from consumers are especially powerful in shaping brand attitudes in social media. Indeed, companies that aren’t offering experiences that leverage consumer input in brand-related narratives are missing out on important opportunities to connect in a meaningful way with potential buyers.
On March 21 and 22, MIT SMR is opening its website to one and all, offering free and unlimited access to its rich offering of management insight and advice. MIT SMR’s mission is to improve the practice of business by identifying the most important new ideas in management, vetting them for rigor, shaping them into practical wisdom, and delivering them in ways that are convenient and enjoyable to consume. For two days, MIT SMR aims to demonstrate the worth of that mission as broadly as possible.
Social media provides the fuel for unpredictable, temporary mobilization, rather than steady, sustainable change. To reverse this trend and reap more enduring benefits from social media requires a fundamental change in focus. Research shows that incentive networks are an important middle layer between ideologies and activity in online digital platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. So, too, is a focus on establishing loyalty and stickiness rather than just “likes” and retweets.
Efforts by advertisers to attract attention are not new. What’s different with the web, author Tim Wu says, is the extent to which individuals are willing to open their lives to advertisers and trade away their time and private information for having the world at their fingertips. This creates unprecedented opportunities for manipulation.
Box subscription companies are growing dramatically, using a high level of personalization and artificial intelligence algorithms to keep customers satisfied and eager for more. Their astute use of social media and influence marketing has also contributed to their startling success.
When employees are not fans or supporters of the company’s products on social media, it sends an ambiguous message and could deprive the company of potential supporters. Employers can counter this by encouraging their “digital native” employees to become brand ambassadors for the company.
The biggest challenge with ROI isn’t a technical deficiency but confusion over how it is used. “To calculate ROI accurately, you need to be able to estimate the fraction of profits attributable to the investment,” write Neil T. Bendle and Charan K. Bagga. “In order to calculate ROI, there must be a return (a profit associated with the investment) and an investment. Unless you have both, you cannot calculate ROI.”
Should marketers subtract the cost of acquiring a customer before assessing that customer’s lifetime value (CLV)? Most of the time, no. “CLV is easier to understand, and in our view more useful, if marketers don’t subtract the acquisition cost from their calculation of CLV before reporting it,” write Neil T. Bendle and Charan K. Bagga. “Imagine that a company is selling an old machine. In this scenario, the company’s managers would expect to receive the machine’s current value, not the current value less what the company paid to buy the machine when new.”
Social media strategy shouldn’t be seen as the driver of value difference between a company’s fans and nonfans. Fans are often more favorable toward a brand to start with than nonfans are — indeed, this is probably what motivated them to affiliate in the first place. As well, social media spending should not be justified by an observed difference in customer value that may not have been caused by social media spending. Instead, to understand social media marketing’s impact, companies should run randomized experiments.
The net promoter score (NPS) has become one of the most widely used marketing metrics. Consumers answer a simple question (How likely is it that you would recommend X?) on a scale from 0 to 10. Customers who answer 9 or 10 are considered promoters; those who answer 6 or less are rated as detractors. The score is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. One of the strongest selling points of NPS is its simplicity. But the value of NPS may depend upon whether a manager sees it as a metric or as a system.
Market share is a hugely popular metric. But is it really useful? Companies with superior products tend to have high market share and high profitability because product superiority causes both. This means that the two metrics are correlated — but it does not necessarily mean that increasing market share will increase profits. Using market share as a metric of success simply because other companies do can be counterproductive.
Social media provides a game-changing opportunity to support new product development. But taking advantage of the opportunity requires more than just a Facebook presence with a loyal base of “friends.” To use social media for innovation, organizations need clear strategies and objectives. They also should look beyond social media used by the general public to lesser-recognized platforms, such as special user forums or expert blogs, for especially valuable user-generated feedback.
Well-defined metrics are critical to effective marketing. However, despite their widely acknowledged importance, five of the best-known marketing metrics — market share, net promoter score, the value of a “like,” customer lifetime value, and ROI — are regularly misunderstood and misused. This confusion undermines the marketing discipline’s reputation for delivering results. The authors present Do’s and Don’ts for using these metrics and flow charts with detailed advice for developing each metric.
Crowdfunding is changing how entrepreneurs bring new products to market. It has allowed thousands of innovating entrepreneurs to raise money, build brand awareness, and join a broader conversation with large numbers of potential backers — all while still in the product development process. But crowdfunding’s potential goes beyond financing and marketing. The people who back projects can also be important sources for product feedback and ideas.
Content websites can more readily convert site visitors into paying customers by prompting visitors to gradually increase their social engagement with the site — using a concept the authors call the “ladder of participation.” This means thinking strategically about using site engagement to improve conversion. It also means taking an active role in encouraging users to climb the ladder of participation and move quickly up its rungs.
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