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On June 20th, Pau Virgili, academic assistant in the Marketing Management Department, gave an interesting talk in the Refresher Programme series entitled ''Consumer relations strategy in the Digital Age.''
New consumers are changing, both during the purchasing process and in their relationship with companies. Businesses need to consider more than just the revolution of online communication, they need to grasp the profound transformation being experienced by consumers. This makes it essential to know how to redefine the marketing strategy and organisation in order to survive and be successful.
Pau Virgili began his lecture by explaining the history of the cargo cult. After World War II, cargo cults arose on many islands after natives came to the conclusion that the supplies (intended for allied and Japanese troops) which dropped onto their islands and coasts were actually gifts from the gods. So the natives built model landing towers, airports and radio stations – all made of bamboo, the only material they had – in an attempt to attract the gods who would hopefully bless them with more cargo. ''How many times have we seen companies make planes out of bamboo?'' Pau asked the audience. The aim of this anecdote was to make the audience think about some of the myths arising from the technological revolution and its benefits. According to this expert, people do not need to be in a digital environment if it is not necessary for them; being surrounded by young people does not mean sure-fire success; and not everything is change: traditional rules remain valid but at a deeper level that we must understand.
The important thing is to understand what there is here and now, how consumer behaviour has changed, and what the new marketing strategies are.
In the digital age, some cornerstones of marketing such as persuasion by means of framing, brand positioning, or the impact of asymmetric price control cease to exist because the main tool that consumers have is information from other consumers. ''The dialogue is now led by consumers, not brands. Consumers want brands, but marketing departments cannot tell them what to think. Consumers are active partners who want to take part, who have the information and who can control the dialogue,'' said the expert.
In other words, a shift is taking place from irrational consumption to more rational consumption in which information from family and friends and reviews from other consumers are more relevant than information from experts.
But what will happen to brands? ''If we split brand value into emotional and functional, we can see that it doesn’t make much sense to create a functional value because to find out if a product works, consumers search the internet, whilst brands continue to have a considerable emotional value but in a different way from before,'' said Virgili.
The key strategies to achieve this are to be genuine, to work in real time, to know how to manage the consumer journey and to capture consumer energy.
Pau Virgili emphasised the importance of understanding the customer experience because linear purchasing processes have ceased to exist. All products and services entail a customer journey which can take place either online or offline. But the digital ecosystem has brought about two significant changes: users now move through far more scenarios, and interactions with brands can now be measured. ''Today’s consumers do as they like and we must learn how to add value to the whole buying process by knowing about their behaviour and pinpointing the cornerstones of their loyalty,'' he added. He also pointed out that the consumer journey is a transversal task that requires an effort from the entire company, taking into account the advantage for consumers of technological development and whether the company can afford and is able to respond in real time.
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