Marketingfacts, watch out, the students are coming


We’ve got the content, we can create visibility, let’s go make this blog big!

If you are reading this blog post, great chances are that you are a student at the Erasmus University. If you are not, welcome to the CCDC website, where content is created by students and mostly written by students as well. The idea behind this website is to make long and extensive articles accessible and to highlight the USP’s of consumer driven companies and online networks, like Created on Friday and Skillshare. It is meant to be a learning tool, but if you scroll down the homepage, the generated content could also be compared to that of an online marketing platform, like the Dutch website Marketingfacts.

If you compare the CCDC website to Marketingfacts, two big differences appear. First, the content is created differently. In the case of Marketingfacts, the content generated by a team of professional bloggers (Marketingfacts, 2015), and in the case of the CCDC website, this content is generated by students. Second, the incentive of the content creators differ. Were the professional blogger may want to share his or her knowledge online, the student blogger will be obliged to create content, since they will be graded for the blog posts. That said, traditionally articles created by students will not have a purpose after the articles were graded. Now, their created content will live on as blog posts, what can cause for online visibility, next to serving the student’s graduation.

So why is this proposition, the student driven online marketing and C2C platform, currently so interesting? Why am I dedicating my blog post to a online platform which nowadays only can attract 1000 up to 2000 views a month? Because there are two things which make this platform unique compared to a more traditional online (blog) platform: secured content delivery and worldwide university connections. Since students currently are obliged to create articles, the amount and subject area of content can be determined by the professor, an advantage which is hard for a normal platform to copy. Besides, in-between universities and professor’s alliances are easily made. Professors from multiple disciplines and universities could join, and hereby add students to the creation group, which makes increasing the amount and diversity of the content easily done. These unique advantages make a quite interesting case for becoming a large online platform.

So, if the professor of this CCDC course decides to make this blog to go big, what should he do to control content quality and to create online visibility? Again, let your students do the work. Visibility can be created by individual sharing of the content on social media. Of course a platform account can start sharing the posts, but a large group of students together can cause for even a greater amount of views (LinkedIn, 2015). High quality can be maintained by letting the students rate the newest articles (Hu et al., 2009; Tsekouras, 2015). The ones with high rates stay on the home page for a certain time, making sure they are written, and the silly ones die in silence, so that they will not harm the platforms reputation. All-in-all, the ingredients are there, now we have to execute it right. Marketingfacts, watch out, the students are coming..

Click here to read the former post of this author: “Can we all start drinking beers all day long?”

  • Hu, N., J. Zhang and P. A. Pavlou (2009). “Overcoming the J-shaped distribution of product reviews.” Communications of the ACM 52(10), 144-147.
  • Tsekouras, D. (2015). VARIATIONS ON A RATING SCALE: THE EFFECT ON EX-TREME RESPONSE TENDENCY IN PRODUCT RATINGS.
  • Marketingfacts, (2015). Colofon | Marketingfacts. [online] Available at: http://www.marketingfacts.nl/colofon [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
  • Business.linkedin.com, (2015). Employee Activation | LinkedIn Elevate. [online] Available at: https://business.linkedin.com/elevate [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

Are you ready to beat the ‘Snake’ high score again?!


In the past, Nokia has been the dominating player within the mobile phone industry. If you never have seen the 3310 model or played ‘Snake’ on one of the previous Finnish devices, you were probably born after the launch of the 3310 model in September 2000 (Techradar, 2014). In the upcoming years, Nokia’s senior management didn’t believe that the smartphones would conquer the mobile industry. A clear lack of vision: 1.2 billion smartphones were sold last year (NRC Q, 2014). When Nokia finally started selling smartphones, other players were already dominating the market. Nokia’s sales were dropping and the mobile department was sold to Microsoft in 2014.

Last week, Re/code announced that Nokia is planning to return to the phone market in 2016 (Re/code, 2014). Initially, Nokia agreed with Microsoft not to manufacture any mobile phones until 2016. Although this agreement was signed, the Fins are allowed to sell Nokia products if manufactured by another company. Using this loophole, Nokia can start selling phones again (Emerce, 2014).

It will be difficult for Nokia to attract customers when entering the highly competitive smartphone marker. Often marketing spending is invested in sales promotions to influence customers’ buying behaviour and attract new customers (Kim et al., 2014). To determine what the best strategy is for attracting new customers, Kim et al. (2014) compared price discounts and sampling to a more innovative method called pay-what-you-want (PWYW). When using a PWYW strategy, customers are able to determine the selling price themselves.

Kim et al. (2014) found that PWYW is an entertaining way of promoting products to consumers. It can both lead to a higher word-of-mouth effect and more consumers that want to benefit from the promotion. Furthermore, the researchers found that the prices paid in a PWYW situation are significantly different than zero. So, PWYW is not just a fancy name for free sampling; people are more likely to pay for products even when they can get it for free (although the price paid is lower than the original price). PWYW can be an attractive way for Nokia to get in contact with potential customers and to create a positive hype (Kim et al., 2014).

Compared to price discounts, in a PWYW situation consumers tend to pay less for a certain product. But, since PWYW attracts more consumers, Kim et al. (2014) found that this effect was compensated. If Nokia wants to settle in a highly diversified market again, it’s very important to reach a high number of customers. Instead of competing the current smartphone providers using price discounts, Nokia should use a PWYW strategy to reach more people and while earning more money.

Smartphones are expansive products. Therefore, using a PWYW strategy to conquer the market can be risky. Although Kim et al. (2014) didn’t investigate the effect of it, they suggest using PWYW in a more restricted way in these cases. For instance, consumers can determine their discount based on a predefined list of discount percentages. By doing this, Nokia can influence the magnitude of the promotion but still take advantage of the PWYW benefits.

Using a PWYW strategy can provide Nokia with a lot of new, and recurring(!), customers. So, are you ready to beat the Snake high score again?

References

Kim J. , Natter M., & Spann M. (2014) Sampling, discounts or pay-what-you-want: Two field experiments. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 31 (3), 327 – 334.

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/nokia-s-3310-the-greatest-phone-of-all-time-1287636 [Accessed on April 21, 2015]

http://www.nrcq.nl/2015/04/19/smartphones-round-the-world [Accessed on April 23, 2015]

http://recode.net/2015/04/20/nokia-plots-2016-return-to-phone-market/[Accessed on April 23, 2015]

http://www.emerce.nl/nieuws/nokia-gaat-weer-smartphones-maken[Accessed on April 21, 2015]

Fire your sales team, Boost e-WOM participation!


Imagine, you’re on a birthday party without a mobile phone, tablet or laptop but you would like to have some information about a certain experience good because you’re considering a buy. I guess you might ask your friends or family relatives about their findings and opinions. Think again how you’re purchase decision looks like after they share a negative story about that related product….

In contrast with the traditional word of mouth ( face-to-face context ) , consumers use blogs, search engines, internet communities, social media, and consumer review systems to gather information and make informed purchase decisions. Due to the rise of internet and the development of phones, tablets or laptops, traditional word-of-mouth interactions are replaced/substituted by electronic word of mouth. So e-WOM, defined as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet” (T. Hennig-Thurau, 2003) is an important source used during the path to purchase or so called customer journey. Upon that, previous research conducted by Bickart and Shindler, show that customers actually pay more attention to the information provided by other customers rather than those of the salesperson or marketers because they have used the product and is considered as more trustworthy.

Understanding the importance of e-WOM, e-commerce sites attempt to encourage their customers to produce more e-WOM because consumer-produced information provides potential customers with a sense of trust. But how can firms (Online retailers), encourage their customers e-WOM participation, what are customers motivations and how does it affects e-Loyalty (customer loyalty in the internet market) ?

Blogpost 1

Research done by Yoo, C.H et al. in order to examine the impact of e-WOM participation on e-loyalty, has shown that both intrinsic and extrinsic motives have an impact on e-WOM participation. Specifically, it was found that internal motivation  most influences customer’s participation (fig 2). Customer’s participation is operationalized as the actual level of involvement and frequency in e-WOM writing and reviews. Customers participation behavior does have a significant impact on formation of Site identification. Site identification can be devided in (1) Personal site identification; the extent to which a customer thinks the image of an online shopping site matches his/ her own image, and (2) Social identification which refers to the identification that a customer feels with respect to interactions, via the e-WOM system, with other customers on the same online shopping site.( C.H, Yoo, 2013)

e-WOM participation behavior enhances social identity among customers. Additionally social identity plays a role in using the e-WOM system. It is for this reason important to maintain an e-WOM system for customers so they can develop a strong social identity on the site through enhanced interaction with other customers.

E-Loyalty

Finally, both personal and social site identifications have a significant influence on customer e-loyalty. Remarking,  that personal identification has a stronger impact on e-Loyalty.

Conclusive, based on the conducted research, when e-WOM is well managed, it was shown that it has positive effects on the  customer evaluation of the company and on intentions to repurchase.

Created by : Luut Willen

References :

Bickart, R.M. Schindler, Internet forums as influential sources of consumer information, Journal of Interactive Marketing 15 (2001) 31–40.

Hennig-Thurau, G. Walsh, Electronic word-of-mouth: motives for and consequences of reading customer articulations on the internet, International Journal of Electronic Commerce 8 (2003) 51–74.

Chul Woo Yoo, G. L. (2013). Exploring the effect of e-WOM participation on e-Loyalty in e-commerce. Decision Support Systems :DDS (2013)

What Makes a Helpful Online Review?


We have all been there; browsing for too long on Tripadvisor.com or Amazon.com trying to find that one review that could be the decisive factor in buying (or not buying) that specific product. But what exactly is it that we are looking for? What makes one review more helpful than another? The article of Mudambi and Schuff (2010) tries to find the answers to these questions by reviewing almost 1600 reviews on Amazon.com throughout several products and product categories.

When browsing online, individuals are presented an increasing amount of customer reviews; these reviews have proven to increase buyers’ trust, aid customer decision making and increase product sales (Mudambi, Schuff & Zhang, 2014). In addition, customer reviews can attract potential visitors and can increase the amount spent on the website.  Hence, retail sites with more helpful reviews hold greater potential to offer value to consumers, sellers as well as the platform hosting the customer reviews.

In order to increase the helpfulness of customer reviews, several websites such as Amazon.com and Yelp.nl ask the question “was this review helpful to you?” and list more helpful reviews more prominently on the product information page.  Mudambi and Schuff (2010: 186) define a helpful review as a “peer-generated product evaluation that facilitates the consumer’s purchase decision process”.

The article distinguishes between two types of goods when looking for products online: search goods and experience goods. Search goods possess attributes that can be measured objectively, whereas the attributes of experience goods are not as easily objectively evaluated, but are rather dependent on taste. Examples of search goods are printers and cameras; examples of experience goods are CD’s and food products.

Past research showed conflicting findings as to whether extreme ratings (rating very negatively or very positively) are more helpful that moderate reviews; some argue that extreme ratings are more influential, whereas others argue that moderate reviews are more credible. Mudambi and Schuff (2010) argue that taste often plays a large role with experience goods as consumers are quite subjective when rating; hence, consumers would value moderate ratings of experience goods more, as they could represent a more objective assessment (H1).

Next, Mudambi and Schuff (2010 scrutinize the review depth of customer reviews. Since longer reviews often include more product details, and more details about the context it was used in, the authors hypothesize that review depth has a positive impact on the helpfulness of the review (H2). Nevertheless, the review-depth of a review might not be equally important for all products. Reviews for experience goods often include unrelated comments or comments so subjective that they are not interesting to the reader. For example, movie reviews often entail elaborate opinions on actors/actresses that are not important for the reader. On the other hand, reviews of search goods are often presented in a fact-based manner as attributes can be objectively measured. As a result, it is argued that review depth has a greater positive effect on the helpfulness of the review for search goods than for experience goods (H3).

By evaluating almost 1600 reviews (distributed over 6 products; 3 experience goods and 3 search goods) and excluding the ones that did not get any vote whether it was helpful or not, the researchers were able to confirm all three hypotheses. The article teaches us that there is no one-size-fits-all method as to what makes a reviewhelpful. Experience goods prove to be less helpful with extreme ratings, whereas search goods benefit from in-depth reviews.

Knipsel11

Mudambi, S. & Schuff, D. (2010). What Makes a Helpful Online Review? A Study of Customer Reviews on Amazon.com. MIS Quarterly, Vol 34 (1), pp 185-200.

Mudambi, S., Schuff, D. & Zhang, Z. (2014). Why Aren’t the Stars Aligned? An Analysis of Online Review Content and Star Ratings. IEEE Computer Science, 3139 -3147.

Be famous and (dramatically) increase your number of followers!


Only then you are credible…

I almost wanted to start with: “You cannot trust product tweets of celebrities…” But if that would be a surprise to you, I have some other shocking news to you: Santa doesn’t exist. However, if everyone knows the tweets are set up by the brands themselves, and the celebrities are paid for such tweets, why would brands still spent million dollars to celebrity social media product endorsement?

Opendorse did research to those product endorsement tweets: a tweet from Cristiano Ronaldo is valued $304.000(!) (See source beneath for more numbers). Note that this is the actual value of the tweet for the brand itself, so it does not say celebrities are really paid that amount.

As we know that those tweets are valuable and that it does not matter that we, actually, all know that those tweets are not “real”, what makes the “fake opinion/tweet credible to us, the consumer. That is what Jin and Phua investigated in 2014: “ Explicate the conditions under which celebrities can be leveraged as effective catalysts for brand-related E-WoM on Twitter.” They created semi-fictious celebrity twitter pages, where after they let students (east coast of US) fill in a questionnaire based on these profiles (which off course included a product endorsement tweet).

Jin and Phau found that high numbers of followers results in higher credibility of the celebrity (more physical attractive, trustworthy and competent). On top of that, positive brand tweets of a celebrity with a high number of followers results in higher product involvement/buying intention. This effect is strengthened in case of a prosocial celebrity. In contrast, a celebrity with a low number of followers does not effect product involvement.

(In order to differentiate between types of celebrity (prosocial/antisocial), participants read an article of the celebrity either engaged in charity work or involved in drug abuse and/or adultery scandal.)

On top of that, it is interesting that “we” are more willing to share a tweet if it is coming from a celebrity with a low number of users and if it is negative about a specific brand/product. Probably because we think that a tweet from someone with a high number of followers will be not new to our own followers.

Concluding, celebrities are more credible than ordinary users towards twitter users. If a brand wants to start with twitter celebrity marketing, they need to focus on the number of followers (not only because of the reach, but also because of the credibility) and the behavior of the celebrity. Maybe it would be even better to contact a not that well-know celebrity and let him upload a negative tweet about a competitor. It will be shared more often by other twitter-users, and then it will maybe get more attention.

However, we must not forget that a celebrity, who will promote a lot of products using twitter, will be less credible in the end. Besides, I doubt if everyone knows how much followers his or her followers have.

Then I got one last question to you: if you had to set up one celebrity tweet for Microsoft surface tablet, who would tweet what text, and tell me why? Besides, tell me why this tweet didn’t worked out well:

121120025009-oprah-surface-tweet-story-top

In turn I got one tip for Santa to be credible for old and young again: Open a twitter account and dramatically increase your number of followers… You are already famous!

Note: If you didn’t see Oprah’s mistake, take a look with what device she uploaded the tweet.


Seung-A Annie Jin & Joe Phua (2014) Following Celebrities’ Tweets About Brands: The Impact of Twitter- Based Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Consumers’ Source Credibility Perception, Buying Intention, and Social Identification With Celebrities, Journal of Advertising, 43:2, 181-195.

http://opendorse.com/blog/top-75-highest-paid-athlete-endorsers-2014/

The Consumer Knows Best!!


Currently, organizations are using social media to interact more and more with consumers. One of such examples is the strong interaction that KLM Airlines has with its customers over social media. When the consumer ask for help or make statements, they are one of the fastest corporations to reply through social media. However, Lui and Gal (2011) investigate whether interactions affects the relationship between consumers and organizations. Therefore evaluating whether different types of consumer input can have varying effects on this relationship with an organization.

Through various different experiments, the authors try to analyze whether different types of input have which influence on the closeness of the relationship with the organization. Closeness is the amount of bonding that is felt in a relationship (Liu & Gal, 2011). Firstly, they experimented with the role of giving advice on the non-profit index and whether individuals are more willing to donate. When individuals gave advice to the organization, they had a higher tendency to donate to the organization due to the closeness they felt. Therefore asking for advice could actually influence the individuals willingness to donate.

Then they wanted to see whether these aspects would change if the consumers’ input changed to expectations regarding for-profit organizations. From the results became apparent that giving expectations had a negative effect on intent for an individual to purchase a product from that organization. This remained positive for the category of providing advice. Therefore, when the consumer provides expectations, the relationship between consumer and organization can actually be harmed.

Due to this interesting finding, they evaluated further under which conditions these aspects deviate. Through their third experiment, the authors found that advice giving resulted in the consumer placing themselves in the position of the organization and look for solutions. Therefore these factors resulted in more subjective feelings of closeness to the organization (Liu & Gal, 2011). Whereas stating expectations only resulted in a feeling of distance between the consumer and organization. When giving opinions, there was a mediating effect on the overall closeness, but leaning more to a feeling of distance.

Since giving advice can have such a strong influence on the empathetic relationship between consumer and organizations, their next step was to evaluate whether paying consumers for advice would further strengthen the closeness. They discovered that when consumers were paid for advice, the positive effect was actually eliminated. However this effect was not there with opinions. Thus organizations looking to create a strong closeness with their consumers should actually make sure there is a tendency for them to give advice to the organization.

Therefore companies such as KLM that trying to build strong relationships with their consumers can improve by asking for advice. Through consumers giving advice they can further strengthen their connections. Thus, they should stop asking for the opinions and expectations of consumers, but rather let them give advice on which aspects should be improved.

References

Liu, W., & Gal, D. (2011). Bringing Us Together or Driving Us Apart: The Effect of Soliciting Consumer Input on Consumers’ Propensity to Transact with an Organization. Journal of Consumer Research, 38(2), 242-259.

The long tail or the short tail: The category-specific impact of eWOM on sales distribution


For a long time business has relied on the well-known Pareto principle for explaining their patterns of sales distribution – the rule of thumb stating that roughly 80% of events would come from 20% of the causes. In business this principle was commonly used in stating that 80% of sales would follow from 20% of clients or 20% of products. Then came along the internet and it became apparent that the 80/20 rule lost its explanatory power for certain online businesses. Due to the lower search and reach costs resulting from an online business environment the, by now well-established, theory of the long-tail was proposed to explain for the newly observed sales distribution. This longer tail of niche product sales naturally meant that a smaller proportion of sales came from the ‘head’ of the distribution graph, as is shown in the figure below.

graph

Now we have quickly refreshed your memory on sales distributions, let’s have a look at what this study did. The authors of the study were interested to see how the shapes of the distributions were affected by the electronic word of mouth present in the product group. In this, a distinction between goods rated according to more objective criteria and goods rated according to more subjective criteria was made. The authors reasoned that consumers may apply similar evaluation standards to products with objective attributes such as USB sticks. In this sense people would show high tendency to follow the eWOM evaluation, driving consumers collectively to the most popular products. As a result, the distribution tail would be shortened while the head would be thickened.

Alternatively, for products with high levels of subjective attributes such as books or movies, positive eWOM does not necessarily mean that you as a consumer would personally like the product as well. Finding a product that may fit your personal preferences is difficult, for such highly subjective products the authors reasoned eWOM would help you find products you otherwise wouldn’t. As a result, the distribution tail would get longer while the head would get thinner. These different effects of eWOM were indeed found when studying Amazon.com sales of products with both objective as well as subjective selection criteria. In addition, it was found that for complex products with multiple attributes, eWOM had a similar effect on sales distribution as for products with subjective criteria. This can be explained as consumers’ preferences will start to diversify the more attributes have to be assessed.

Resulting from this study we can conclude that eWOM can show two very different outcomes on sales distribution, depending on the product type you are looking at. Sellers should be aware of this and can optimize their online shelf sizes based on the product type they are offering. Stimulating eWOM as a firm selling simple products with objective selection attributes could for example decrease the need to keep a large product portfolio in stock. Saving costs by letting consumers chat to each other, now who would have thought!

Lee, J., Lee, J. N., & Shin, H. (2011). The long tail or the short tail: The category-specific impact of eWOM on sales distribution. Decision Support Systems, 51(3), 466-479.

To The Stars and Beyond – A Bright Future For Co-creation


Howdy!

As I recently wrote about Local Motors, an online co-creation initiative to launch the first 3D printed car, I would like to point you to yet another fascinating example of co-creation: Project Dragonfly.

The Dragonfly project aims to explore interstellar flight (a space mission that goes beyond our solar system!) through leveraging not only technologies such as complex computing and the miniaturisation of space flight components, but phenomena such as co-creation, design competitions and crowdfunding as well.

Now, although the technologies involved to get a satellite to travel to other stars is fascinating stuff (the mission enhances a laser-propelled spacecraft that ‘sails’ through space, more information here) I would like to point you to the way the project leverages co-creation, quite the way as local Motors does: through design-based competitions. The difference between Local Motors and Project Dragonfly however is that Local Motors pays royalties on each car sale to successful designers, whereas Project Dragonfly awards fixed sums of money to successful contestants in the form of a prize.

Design competitions are more and more used by new initiatives, but how do they work? First, the initiators define their goals and set up proper design requirements in order to identify so-called ‘performance drivers’ and ‘showstoppers’. Within the limits of these requirements, students, scientist, innovators and entrepreneurs are then invited to come up with innovations. Deliverables of teams participating in such a competition consists of a final design report, which covers all areas that are relevant to makt a mission a success and to return scientific data. With DragonFly for example, a team could report new findings on instruments, communication technology or new usage of power supply. Also, teams have to research economic and technological feasibility. Instead of granting one prize, competitions (as is the case with Dragonfly) offer cash prizes for multiple areas of technological development, allowing multiple teams of people to innovate and succeed in a particular area. Hence, design competitions speed up technological advancement in multiple areas at a given point in time. Finally, design entries are evaluated by industry experts and winners are chosen. The results then could form as a basis for future technology development of a mission. Participants are invited to continue working on their project or could be offered a contract to join the initiative. The design competition itself is financed through a crowdfunding campaign. Funds raised allow the organisation to market, raise awareness about and support the design competition.

It is great to see more and more initiatives leveraging co-creation to make steps in technological advancements. One wonders what potential co-creation beholds for the future. Will it one day enable us to travel beyond the stars?

For more information read the original article from the blog Centauri Dreams.

Crowdfunding: Where people trust random strangers with their money, and smile doing it.


It is hard to not have noticed the immense increase in popularity for crowdfunding. The concept of allowing you, as a customer, to directly influence the creation of a product you always wanted or a company you really like, is very appealing. It gives consumers power. And if anything, people are always interested in power. However, as with every exciting new development there is also a dark side to crowdfunding. Over the few years that crowdfunding has existed, there have been a couple of instances where successful crowdfunding campaigns turned out te be a fraud. A famous example is the Kobe Red campaign on Kickstarter, which promised their funders the world’s first beef jerkey from Kobe Red meat. In the end it turned out the company didn’t even exist. However, apparently enough people were convinced that the campaign was legit, as they managed to raise $120.000.

Now this provides an interesting perspective to crowdfunding. What makes a campaign appear legitimate enough for potential investors to proceed and donate money? This is what Frydrych and his colleagues (2014) have attempted to uncover in their research. They looked at some aspects of crowdfunding campaigns and in what manner it influenced the legitimacy of the campaign. Their main findings:

Funding Target and Final Funding

A moderate funding goal sends the signal that the entrepreneur is cautious and realistic. This is therefore a good sign of legitimacy for funders. Also, when a campaign has already accumulated some funding, this is a big sign of legitimacy towards other funders, who are much more likely to invest then. A report from Seedr, one of the larger equity crowdfunding platforms, mentions that once a campaign hits 30% of its funding goal, the chance to reach the entire goal jumps to 90%.

successful-crowdfunding
Reward Structure

An interesting aspect of reward-campaigns are the perks they offer their funders. The perk is often the main motivator for funders to donate. As such, the type of perks might also influence the campaign legitimacy. Frydrych et al. did not find conclusive results for this, however I feel there should be a more in depth look for this topic. For instance, some campaigns offer a perk to meet the team. This might signal legitimacy, as it proves that the team exists. Also, many campaigns offer a pre-order of their product as a perk. Legitimacy might be less important for these type of perks since people simply want the product. Campaigns that focus more on the company, such as musicians raising money for their album, might need more legitimacy for funders to donate.

Team Composition

Finally, it appears that a team of entrepreneurs is considered more legitimate than just a single entrepreneur. This makes sense, as there is usually more expertise present in a team which increases the chances of success for the company. Investors are more likely to invest in companies with high success chance.

Overall the article gives some interesting perspectives, however it did not include all the possible aspects that could affect legitimacy. Mollick (2014) mentions quality signals such as spelling errors, preparedness of the entrepreneurs and social presence of the team, these could all affect legitimacy as well. It would be interesting to see if legitimacy could be used as an overall explanation of funding behavior.

Would you like to make your own fragrance?


Have you ever wanted to have a unique fragrance? Do you think this will be a perfect gift for someone? Well, now you have the possibility to make your own fragrance! The company called Scentcrafters is an online retailer which offers producing a customized perfume according to your own preferences. So, here it how it works.   You are able to mix up to five different scents. These can be already existing perfumes like for instance Guilty by Gucci or Tommy Girl, or you can pick an aroma like vanilla or lavender. If you are not sure which scents you would like to mix, then you can just describe the smell you would like to have, for instance “I want it to be fresh with some flower or fruit tones”. Following that, you can choose the recipe, which will be used to produce the scent, or you can create your own one.  Apart from customizing your own scent, customers of the successful online company have the possibility to give a special name to their newly created perfume. What is more, the bottle can feature a whole personalized message as well, in order to make it even more special and unique. If you would like to have your own logo or picture printed on the bottle – this is no problem, Scentcrafters can do that, while resizing and adjusting your image in order for it to fit perfectly on the bottle. Furthermore, the company offers a great diversity of bottle designs available from which you can choose the one which you like the most, or the one which fits best with the idea behind the scent you are creating. Also there exists the possibility to change the colour of the liquid inside the bottle. This means that your perfume can be clear, pink, light blue or light yellow. The last step of the customization process is filling in your postal address and payment details so that your uniquely created scent can be shipped to your home.

This type of customer empowerment to create new products is one of the most effective ways in which companies can achieve positive effects with respect to customer satisfaction and the image, which companies have created for themselves. The article called “Customer Empowerment in New Product Development” by Fuchs and Schreier (2011) says that customer empowerment can lead to positive effects in three main factors. Firstly, it leads to increase in the levels of customer orientation, perceived by customers. Secondly, customer empowerment in product development results in more favourable corporate attitudes. And finally, it leads to stronger behavioural intentions.

In the case of Scentcrafers, the customer empowerment in new product development is in the core of the business model, therefore, all of its positive effects and risks should be carefully considered. The great opportunity for personalization and creating unique products are a good way to attract the customers who value and want customization. However, sometimes the making of scents requires some expertise since customers do not necessarily know which combinations will be successful and which will not. Moreover, the use of already known brand names as a component of the new mixtures can lead to some problems with patents and rights to use the brand name.

All in all, the idea behind Scentcrafters is very innovative and offers a great opportunity for customization. So, how will your new perfume be called?

Fuchs, C. and Schreier, M. (2011), Customer Empowerment in New Product Development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28: 17–32. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2010.00778.x

https://www.scentcrafters.com/home.php

What should the ideal online community be?


Attraction-selection-attrition theory of online community size and resilience

The role that online discussion communities played in the development of relationships and the transfer of information within and across organization is fairly important and increasingly draw attention from both researchers and companies, especially during the current WEB 3.0 era, web-based computer mediated technology greatly facilitate online communication efficiency by providing infrastructures through which group-based communication can occur.Merchandiser and companies want to improve the underlying technologies of online communities with the purpose of enhancing the user satisfaction, but in practical, what decisions are they supposed to make to optimize the community?

The research conducted by Butler et al. (2014) can partly answer this question. They offer a model of key latent constructs influenced by technology choices and possible causal paths by which they have dynamic effects on communities.

The paper describes two key community characteristics that are most likely relevant, number of members i.e. community size and membership who are willing to stay involved with the community though possible variability and change in the topics discussed i.e. community resilience.

In order to capture the progress of community, an Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) theory was raised in this paper, from which two new concepts was introduced: participation costs (how much time and effort are required to engage with content provided in a community) and topic consistency cues (how strongly a community signals that topics that may appear in the future will be in accordance with what is has hosted in the past).

The methodology applied by this study is simulation theory-building strategy. Modeling the A-S-A procedures where community phenomena emerge from individual activities allows the paper to extend theories that provide only a partial explanation of discussion community dynamics. In the model, a platform and autonomous individuals together form an online community while platform is passive agent and individuals are active agents, thus their behaviors bring about community size and community resilience.

The model predicts four propositions:

  • Participation cost will be inversely associated with community size
  • Participation costs will be positively associated with community resilience.
  • The strength of topic consistency cues will be inversely associated with community size.
  • The relationship between topic consistency cues and community resilience is curvilinear. Community platforms with very low and very high topic consistency cues are associated with greater community resilience; platforms that signal moderate topic consistency cues are associated with lower community resilience.

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The paper also provides an inspiring discussion about how the relationship between interest focus and participation costs affect community sustainability (see the graph above). Reducing participation costs can change the behavior of individuals who are tangentially interested and have uncertain expectations. On the other hand, this can also significantly change the content and volume of discussion activity and thus the nature of a community. Such finding can also shed new light on social media phenomena, and the paper cite MySpace and Facebook as two examples to verify their findings, concluding that understanding how platforms mediate the relationship between potential benefits, the realized benefits and expected benefits is of great value.

Reference:

BUTLER, B. S., BATEMAN, P. J., GRAY, P. H. & DIAMANT, E. I. 2014. An Attraction-Selection-Attrition Theory of Online Community Size and Resilience. Mis Quarterly, 38, 699-728.

Butler, B. S. 2001. “Membership Size, Communication Activity, and Sustainability: The Internal Dynamics of Networked Social Structures,” Information Systems Research (12:4), pp. 346-362.

Bateman, P. J., Gray, P. H., and Butler, B. S. 2011. “The Impact of Community Commitment on Participation in Online Com- munities,” Information Systems Research (22:4), pp. 841-854.

Kuk, G. 2006. “Strategic Interaction and Knowledge Sharing in the Kde Developer Mailing List,” Management Science (57:7), pp. 1031-1042.

If This, Then That. Wait, what ?


You just got back from your trip to Australia, and there is this cool picture of you in Australia you really want to share with all your friends. You know you will have to share this photo of you riding a kangaroo on-every-single-social-network you are on. How many is that again ? Oh, definitely more than three.
Do you know what this means ? Yes. You are going to repeat the exact same step every-single-time.
Now I am asking you : aren’t you tired of constantly repeating the exact same task ?
It would be great if in one, and one action only, all these repetitive and boring tasks could be done all-at-once.
Well, IFTTT – If This, Then That – would be the solution to your problem. IFTTT – pronounced like lift without the l – is an app that manages links between your different accounts and actions.
Many linked actions, or recipes, are displayed on the app.
Recipes
The only thing you need to do, is to select one of these recipes, and let IFTTT do the rest of the job for you.
Clever isn’t it ? But what happens when you cannot find your perfect recipe ? Well, this is when the trick comes.
As a matter of fact, IFTTT is an Application Programming Interfaces – API – which allows different applications to interact together. This, allows every user to turn into a programmer and develop their own app, which facilitates the app-creating process for everyone. Also, experts in programming can use this service as well : indeed, they do not have to share their codes with the community, and therefore risk their codes to be stolen. Users can therefore develop their own recipes after selecting two accounts, or channels, and linking them to two predefined actions, or triggers.
In reality, channels are not online accounts only. Indeed, some of them can control certain internet connected devices such as Philips Hue light bulbs, Dash – which tracks your driving data – or WeMo – which allows you to switch on/off your light from anywhere – for example.
Thus, you select the channels you want to program and the predefined triggers.
Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 18.12.45
 
These triggers are predefined actions that you ask the channel to execute. The actions can be :
  • Active : actions are executed by yourself, if you post a new photo on Facebook for example
  • Passive : actions are automatically executed by the channel itself i.e weather forecast.
Creating a recipe is not about building an action you wish existed only. Indeed, it is also about personalizing, and being more accurate on your trigger and the action you take. For example, you might not want to receive all the photos you post on Facebook in your Dropbox, or maybe you do not want to receive the weather forecast every day by text, but once a week by email.
This, is the recipe I created for myself. Thus, I do not have to check all my forecast websites every day, but just wait for my iPhone to tell me when it is time to go surfing !
To sum up, IFTTT is an extraordinary application which allows Applications to interact with each other. Many recipes are available and, if none matches your needs, you can create it yourself, just like a developer ! This, will avoid you to do repetitive boring tasks, and therefore, make you gain time !

Star Wars: The consumer strikes back


How Does the Variance of Product Ratings Matter?

What do consumers look when they make a purchase decision? Consider that you want to buy a new laptop. First, you usually determine your needs and then you try to find a product that matches these needs. Trying to find a perfect match, you can address to multiple different sources and product descriptions offered both by companies and experts. This process, is greatly facilitated by the evolution of information technology. However, information technology also facilitates the spread of another type of product information which stems from a different source, but it is as influencing (or even more) than the information provided by conventional sources. This type of information are the user generated content.

User generated content is a very broad term that does not refer only to products. It can also exist for entertainment purposes such as videos or even for journalistic purposes. User product reviews are usually different methods that customers use to express their personal opinions and experiences about a certain product. They can take the form of a text or the form of a quantifiable scale usually from 1 to 5. Many retailers have adopted these review methods to help their customer in their decisions, while star ratings are one of the most prevalent review methods. Star ratings are characterized by 3 Vs, namely Volume, Valence and Variance. Volume refers to the number of reviews, valence to the degree of positive or negative sentiment (Mudambi, Schuff, Zhang, 2014) and variance to the distribution of the ratings within the scale. Sun, 2012 identifies a research gap regarding the variance characteristic and focuses her research on answering how consumers perceive different types of variance, how it affects subsequent demand and whether variance is interrelated with average rating (valence). The methods and the findings are discussed in the next paragraph, while the last paragraph focuses on practical implications.

The author recognizes that none of the three aforementioned Vs can deliver meaningful information about how customers interpret ratings when the product and consumer attributes are ignored. Consequently, an econometric model is developed that incorporates the notions of perceived quality and mismatch. The latter describes the level in which the attributes of a product allow customers to be satisfied, therefore, products with high mismatch are more likely to be niche products. The theoretical model suggests that the higher the product quality, the higher the average rating will also be, since every consumer will enjoy a high quality product more, irrespective of their preference match. Hence high average rating is perceived as result of high quality by consumers. Furthermore, the author suggests that when the average rating is low, consumers may not perceive the product as low in quality, if the variance, hence mismatch, is relatively high. The interesting explanation that the author provides is that high variance is perceived as the main factor of the low average rating, something that does not signal low quality, since the existence of bad reviews dramatically deteriorates the average score. The second finding of the model, which is the main proposition of the paper, is confirmed empirically. The effect was also reflected on sales which increased when both the conditions (high variance, low average) were met.

The research of Sun, 2012 is fruitful for different parties. Retailers that sell products with low ratings but with high variance, can exploit the opportunity of the well-matched consumers by increasing the price. For example, the Motorola in the image below has an average rating of 3 stars, however it also has a high rating deviation. Therefore, Amazon in this case could increase the price in order to exploit the group of people who still prefer an “old school” cell phone by expressing their opinion through high ratings. Finally, managers can use variance to make predictions about future demand, product life-cycle and make better portfolio decisions.

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References:

Mudambi, S. M., Schuff, D., & Zhang, Z. (2014). Why Aren’t the Stars Aligned? An Analysis of Online Review Content and Star Ratings. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference, 3139-3147

Sun, M. (2012). How does the variance of product ratings matter? Management Science, 58(4), 696-707.

http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-K1-Unlocked-Slot-International-Warranty/dp/B000JL4Y3Y/ref=pd_rhf_gw_s_cp_2_12Z5?ie=UTF8&refRID=0CFVB2S6H2494MEHE02R (Retrieved 24/4/2015)

BrewDog Beer’s £25m crowdfunding appeal- Brand Community building at its finest


Earlier this week, Scottish craft beer brewery BrewDog announced that it would be returning with a new equity crowdfunding campaign to raise a stunning £25 million- shunning traditional financing methods and banks in the process. Dubbed “Equity for Punks”, BrewDog said it would be offering shares at £47.50 each with a minimum investment of £95, entitling investors to an lifetime discount on BrewDog beers and bars as well as the opportunity to attend the annual AGM (Annual General Meeting). Earlier in 2013, the company successfully raised £4 million from a similar crowdfunding bid from customers. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said that “Equity for Punks puts the people who really care about our beer in control and keeps the passion and integrity in people’s beer glasses.”

BrewDog’s latest bid is a brilliant move from a customer relations perspective. Although the primary aim is to raise the necessary cash to fund new projects and growth, the campaign is essentially bringing like-minded people together to create a dedicated brand community and allowing them to invest and be a part of the company’s future. The group of existing and potential investors embody what a brand community is: ‘a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand’ (Muniz and Guinn, 2001). The already 14,500 strong community of shareholders share the company’s vision and associate themselves with the brand’s anti-establishment identity and culture.

The new equity crowdfunding campaign will allow the company to realise their ambitious future plans such as building a new brewery as well as a craft beer-themed hotel. However, the value from the dedicated group of investors who have an equity stake in the company will be just as great as the funds looking to be raised who can provide important suggestions and feedback for the brand’s future strategy. The ‘brand community’ of investors will also act as passionate brand advocates and it is in their interest to promote BrewDog and its values as their return on investment is dependent on the success of the brand.

From a consumer’s perspective, a close look at the numbers show that they must be realistic about their goals of their investment, as BrewDog has no near future plans to go public, and that it is hard to determine the true value of the brand. However, for many dedicated fans the lifetime discount and their legendary punk AGM that features some high-profile rock bands may be enough to entice them. As one BrewDog lover noted to the Financial Times, it is “more of a beer club than an investment… The AGM lasts about 30 minutes, followed by a six-hour beer festival.”

BrewDog’s latest equity crowdfunding bid by appealing to their most dedicated customers to bring together a passionate community of BrewDog beer lovers is a brilliant strategy to build a closer relationship with its customers and among them as well- a move that, if successful, is likely to be imitated by other brands.

Sources:

Thompson, B. (2015) ‘BrewDog launches record £25m crowdfunding appeal’, April 22, Financial Times

Muniz, A. and Guinn, T. (2001) ‘Brand Community’, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol 27, No. 4, pp. 412-432