Experiences of consumption are not always obviously shown, but take many shapes and forms. Many marketers are aware of the fact that satisfaction in customers is not simply attained through direct consumption. Thus, they have undertaken many steps to ensure that the products they offer satisfy more internal needs in customers. There is a movement occurring in varying industries with many firms struggling to make the products they offer customers different from those of competitors. This, coupled with more informed customers with numerous choices forms an unforgiving market environment. Customers nowadays have the option of accessing their desired products anytime and anywhere leading to even more avenues where problems can occur. Other pressures from investors and numerous stakeholders also worsen the bad situation that marketers find themselves in today.
Digital marketing includes all forms of marketing done on the internet. It is interchangeably referred to as online marketing or internet marketing (Jansen & Mullen 2008). It utilizes many media that allow a consumer to view product offerings on a digital platform. There are two types of digital marketing, namely: push and pull digital marketing. Pull digital marketing entails the customer seeking information in the internet about a product that he/she wants. This information can be contained in blogs, websites or streaming media. Here, search engines are important so that they can quickly identify the location of desired product information. Push digital marketing on the other hand entails the marketers’ initiatives to avail information on a product on the web without the customer asking for the content. Marketers place their materials on news blogs or websites where they can be seen by potential customers. Emails and text messages about product or service offering also form a large part of push digital marketing (Brett et al. 2003).
Regardless of the type of digital marketing preferred for a certain product, the information displayed must be differentiated from that of other product and service offerings to gain the kind of interest that digital marketers seek. This paper aims at identifying the different methods through which digital marketers can ensure that their content starts a relationship with the desired customer base in turn getting interest that in the end leads to purchase for consumption. This paper also argues that satisfaction from consumption of a product begins from the first instant a customer receives information on a product offering, for example from an advertisement. It is therefore important for digital marketers to arm themselves with knowledge on the factors that lead to customer’s interests and in turn lead to consumption.
Experience encompasses not only the product being offered but how it is offered. The major aim of all marketing endeavors should be to create a good experience that stimulates customers to engage a certain product, service or event offering. Post-modernistic perspectives of marketing focus on creation and sustaining a dialogue between the products and the customers on many media. They comprise of social experiences that are summarized as “interplays of myths which produce regimes of truth and that much of what we understand or believe about the individual, self, freedom, structure and so on is arbitrary and short-lived, fleeting rather than essential and fixed” (Kotler et al. 2009).
Experiences and transformations communicated by a given brand are the core factors determining the interactions between customers and product offerings. Technology has the power to mediate these interactions to levels that were not possible a few years back. Goods and services, however well designed, are no longer enough in forming a formidable customer base. According to Pine and Gilmore, companies must make memorable events for their customers in order to create a holistic brand experience and enhance the richness of the brands offered (1999). There is a paradigm shift that has moved the economy from being purely transactional to an experience economy. The experiences that customers have make marketers seek to improve the attractiveness of their product and services. These authors additionally stated that the memory of a product is the base of experience whereas the goods and services offered are simply props. Digital marketing is thus the center stage in an experience economy. This platform should ideally deliver two outcomes to a brand: participation and connection. Participation could either be passive or active whereas connection could be in terms of immersion or absorption. Pine and Gilmore classify experience into four types (2007). They are escapism, entertainment, educational and esthetics. The major component of these experiences is the impressions created through digital marketing.
Digital marketing is premised on the fact that services and experiences are intangible (Pieters 2008). Thus, the experiences that customers have when purchasing a product and after its usage include all the endeavors leading up to the eventual consumption. All events must be memorable so that repeat consumption is triggered. Digital marketing must include all these experiences. Interaction with the product on online platforms must be interesting through an innovative manner so that the customer establishes a relationship with the product at this stage. The better term for differentiated and commoditized experiences on digital media is authenticity. This is a marketing tool that focuses on the creation of unique experiences that communicate product and service qualities in an innovative and engaging manner (Holbrook 1999). A line must be drawn between the genuine attributes being communicated and the fake ones. Customers today are very informed and choosy. They are less preoccupied with product quality and price than they are with the authenticity of the interactions communicated to them prior to consumption. Proclamation of authenticity must be followed by apparent authenticity in eventual consumption.
Emotional appeal is at the core of digital marketing. Thus, the focus of marketers must be on the sense that marketing initiatives make and also on the aesthetics of the digital interfaces. Digital offerings must be differentiated and well integrated in order to create a memorable experience. Well crafted interfaces ultimately lead to better brand interactions (Schmitt 2009). This, together with an understanding of the value of experience in consumer behavior, forms the bedrock of digital marketing strategies. Digital interfaces can lead to productive dialogues that are a precursor to brand loyalty. In this digital age, product and service offerings usually have special chat rooms and fan pages where loyal customers discuss their brand experiences. Favorable outlooks inevitably lead to growth in this base and triggers actual repeat purchase ultimately expanding the customer base and market share of a company. Pull digital marketing especially benefits from well organized and articulated brand images. When consumers are searching and shopping for their brands on online platforms, the best packaged brands will ultimately carry the day. This means that the marketing initiative must create an unforgettable experience for the customer to ensure that he/she is satisfied and will inform others on the same platform. Palmer argues the presence of emotional bases that lead to customers forming attitudes and experiences (2010).
The basic drive in digital marketing should be the realization that competition for the much commoditized and proliferated markets should be at emotional and experiential levels (Mascarenhas et al. 2006). The ultimate objective of all endeavors in digital marketing is to have a service relationship with the customer base. This means that firms must work towards the creation of brand aesthetics that arouse emotions in customers. Creation of value has fundamentally shifted from being centered on products to being based on experiences. According to Prahalad and Ramaswamy many firms have shifted their efforts from constantly improving their products in anticipation of what customers want to the creation of experiences that will naturally lead to better products (2004). The concept here is simple in that the marketers now create value by creating good experiences that define customer expectations and contextualize them. This notion is a complete shift from attempts to mass customize or commoditize customer experiences to the generation of genuine interests aimed at understanding the specific customers and their reasons for interaction in purchase of a certain product.
Holbrook and Hirschman in their research on consumption experiences considered the experiential view and concluded it as being characterized by feelings, fantasies and fun. They considered consumption as being “a primarily subjective state of consciousness with a variety of symbolic meanings, hedonic responses, and esthetic criteria” (1982). These authors focused on emotions as the major components in the experiences of using goods and services. Jordan (2000) developed a pleasure-based approach and identified four pleasures that stimulate product interactions. These four pleasures should form the core focus of digital marketing to ensure that it achieves optimum results in creating favorable experiences. They are socio, ideo, psycho and physio. The researcher advocated designing of products with the sole aim of evoking these pleasures. This concept is a major departure from traditional marketing initiatives that dealt with understanding customer needs and wants in order to effect strategies that addressed them. Digital marketing focuses on the desires of customers rather than their needs and wants (Belk et al. 2003).
Digital marketing informs customers about product offerings. The discussion above interrogates the need for tact in the formulation of marketing endeavors to arouse the desired kinds of emotions in customers to trigger purchases. These emotions are triggered by aesthetics, mode of presentation and the choice media. One of the most advanced opinions by Christensen and others (2007) is that instead of striving to understand how a good product should look like, focus should be on the customer intentions which entail the job that the customer requires the product to perform. Understanding the situation can help in designing marketing initiatives that stimulate desirable emotions culminating in a good experience and ultimately sparking purchase.
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