Leveraging Social Media for Marketing

Introduction

Marketing is a function that all organizations perform to meet their obligations to their stakeholders (the owners, the customers and the society). For achievement of the goals of marketing, the reliance on marketing via social media by organisations has increased as a result of social media`s wide reach. There are different forms taken by social media and these include; micro blogging, rating, videos, weblogs, social blogs, social bookmarking and videos.

Sportswear brands try to offer quality products and services as a way of providing value to their customers while earning profits. However, with the entry of numerous sportswear brands in the market and economic downturn resulting in decreased sales, they have been forced to turn to marketing through social media so as to survive these and other unforeseen challenges.

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This has helped companies increase brand awareness and drastically improve loyalty and customer satisfaction since customers are able to gain better insights that give them more power to initiate, drive and change the whole buying process. Over time, consumer satisfaction and behaviors have grown into important assets for those organizations that wish to attain high positions within their markets and also for improvement of profitability.

Consumers therefore cease passively participating in marketing and end up becoming influencers and marketers who are active (Kumar et al. 2016).

Alalwan et al. (2017), add that that has gone a long way in directly shifting some powers over brands to the consumers. The research questions that this study seeks to answer include:

1. How does information search influence buying decisions?

2. How do social media influence customer buying behaviours?

3. How effective is marketing of sportswear through social media?

4. Are people influenced to buy by social media campaigns?

Relevance of the Study

This study will be important and relevant to different scholars, stakeholders, organisations, academicians and consumers. There however exists a clear empirical gap. Despite there being quite a number of literature, journals and research papers on the study subject, there is very little research in relation to the influences that marketing using different social media sites has on the decisions to purchase of consumers within the specific context of sportswear. The gap in research becomes a problem especially to sportswear companies using social media exclusively for product promotion because it is not east to gauge the extent to which the purchase decisions of consumers were influenced by the campaigns on social media.

Aims of the study

The study will aim at highlighting the effects and impacts of marketing through social media on sportswear consumers’ perceptions and their purchasing decisions. This will be influenced by the increased social media use. What that suggests is that the brand awareness of consumers is affected by marketing by social media together with their intentions to purchase when it comes to sportswear.

Because of the ever increasing internet presence among consumers and businesses (marketers), social media has over the years developed into a market intelligence hub with the development of the understanding of marketers of the purchasing behaviours of consumers and further gain insights on the reasons as to why consumers have certain feelings towards certain products and brands (Rockendorf, 2011). As such, this researches` objectives will include analysing the effects of marketing through social media on the buying behaviours of consumers, those advantages that they gain over their competitors from sportswear marketing in social media.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Marketing via social media has altered the consumers’ patterns of consumption in addition to information creation through providing the individuals with opportunities for making contributions and further sharing creations, opinions and thought on the internet. According to estimations by Ostrow (2010), the active users of social media are more than 500 million and it is expected that that number has over the past one decade tripled with the most recent global statistics indicating that up to 67% of the population of the world actively uses social media. People get to share; warnings, reviews, information, experiences, tips and any other issues that interest their connections by using social media. These interactions impact the msking of decisions by consumers. Social media has as such, over the years grown into a market intelligence hub with the improved comprehension of the purchasing behaviours of customers by organisations and the reasons as to the different behaviours of consumers towards different products and brands (Rockendorf, 2011).

The existing buying process that is quite complicated by the existence of the web is made even more complex by the different conversations that consumers have with one another. Consumers have the capabilities of sharing information on brands and products with their peers (Stileman, 2009; Mangold and Foulds, 2009). Cost effective ways of increasing awareness on brands, brand loyalty and recognition are provided by these conversations (Gunelius, 2011). As such, it is right to conclude that firms are helped to build loyalty to brand by social media through community building, conversations and networking (McKee, 2010). DEI worldwide carried out a study in 2008 which revealed that different social media sites have been visited by up to 70% of consumers for information gathering information and out of this, 49% of the decisions to purchase have been informed by the information that was derived from social media sites. The report went on to add that, due to the significant number of individuals that share information through social media, organizations not already using social media as a strategy and tool for marketing, need to actively adopt it so as to gain greater opportunities to reach customers.

According to the socialisation theory of consumers, consumer interactions have an effect on their affective, cognitive and behavioural attitudes (Ward, 1974). Taining (2012) adds that they may have a mediating effect on the decision that a consumer makes.

Marketing through social media is utilised by organisations as a method of dealing with and changing consumers buying behaviours. Because of the numerous benefits that come with them, the popularity of social media has increased together with its acceptability. Social media is used by marketers for their marketing campaigns, is an easy communication means with the different consumers. Social media is inexpensive and provides prospective consumers and consumers with opportunities for direct communication to brand representatives and could be utilised by consumers as means for searching and subsequently purchasing items. It is important that marketers understand how the buying behaviours of consumers are influenced by social media. By understanding behaviour of consumers, marketers are able to develop strategies and techniques for marketing that are robust and strong. Kim and Ko (2010) put it forward that the reputations of brands are dramatically affected by social media. Thus, creating a good product or brand image online will enable marketers to influence consumer buying decision because social media affects the consumers’ attitudes towards a brand together with their intentions to purchase (Yang, 2012).

Developments in technology and social media have over the years benefited sportswear brands by attracting customers and potential customers to interact with them. This they do through such social media activities as blogging, tweeting and networking. These activities most often result in good attention (even affection) for their brands, and stimulate consumers’ intentions and decisions to buy such brands. Dolce & Gabbana, for example, organizes fashion shows and invites fashion bloggers who immediately and constantly upload information and feedback on social media. That facilitates the information access by the consumers with regard to their favourite brands without going through merchandisers or fashion editors, and Dolce & Gabbana is able to get direct feedback from their customers thereby building purchase intention among them. This method has been replicated by other brands including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney and many other sportswear brands.

Samsung Design Net (2009), in their analysis of Burberry who launched Artofthetrench.com as their social network site found that the online sales of companies increased thereafter and the online participation of customers brought about broader insights for the company as it created more stories for the brand.

The original buying behaviour process has to a large extent been complicated by social media. As a result, buying attitudes and intentions are not just affected by both the social media platforms and traditional channels. Inputs like peer reviews, blogs among other forms of content that are user generated influence the preferences of consumers. All these are factors that are often beyond the online marketer’s control.

Owing to the democratic and neutral nature of social media content, Ramanathan, Subramanian and Parrott (2017), put it forward that consumers now lean more toward the various types of social media as a tool(s) to carry out their search for information and to also make their decisions to purchase. Because reviews and user-generated contents such as ratings are highly subjective and more about user preferences, they are more likely to be believed and trusted as a true representation of the brand or product. As a result, Bannon (2008) notes that the majority of users of social media users have a higher likelihood of paying attention to adverts shared by their connections on social media.

Google conducted a study in the US, UK, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and Canada in 2012 that explored the online purchase journeys of customers and established that customers were influenced by the different channels for marketing in the process of making decisions to purchase. In these countries, social media was noted to serve as a channel and also as a tool for businesses for building awareness on their brands, intention and consideration among would be customers. Silverman (2009) posits that with the many different brands competing for attention, compelling YouTube videos, interesting blogs and adverts would go a long way in puling prospective brands towards the brands bearing in mind that they pay particular attention to the adverts and posts and as such gain awareness of brands and products. Through the different consumer buying decision making process stages, social media plays the role of an awareness source and also offers support to the taken purchase decisions. As demonstrated earlier in the Dolce & Gabbana example, one aspect of marketing through social media is the building and maintenance of a feedback loop to facilitate a dynamic, two-way flow of conversation. Social media allows new/potential sportswear buyers to access data (reviews) by current users about their purchases, and can use this information to their benefit- to validate their purchase decision. Marketing via Social media has gone a long way in bringing about equity of customers in that the profits in the different transactions are not used to measure customer value, but customer value is measured by the total profits a customer provides during the course of their relations with a given firm (Kumar & George, 2007). Blattberg et al. (2001) terms customers, just like financial assets, as assets that are intangible and which firms should be very wise when acquiring. In a huge way, the intentions to purchase are related to preference and attitude towards specific products and brands (Kim, Kim & Johnson, 2010)

Design of hypotheses

Any marketing activity’s goals are to bring about increased sales and consequently profitability. Therefore as sportswear brands engagements in social media build customer relations and increase the profits of organisations, these activities are expected to bring about positive influences on consumer brand awareness, buying intentions and purchase decisions.

H1. Social media information search has a positive influence on consumers’ sportswear buying decisions.

H2. Marketing of sportswear brands is highly effective when done through social media.

H3. Consumers are influenced to buy by online/ social media campaigns.

H4. There exists a significant relationship between satisfaction in information searches' first stage and search for information during alternative evaluation in the second stage.

H5. There exists some correlation between satisfaction during search for information about sportswear at the first stage and satisfaction in the third stage where decisions for purchase are made.

H6. There exists a correlation between satisfaction in the third stage where purchase decisions are made and satisfaction after the purchase of sportswear has been done.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES

A sportswear brand's social media marketing activities offer varieties of social network activities and also enable searching for information that is customised. As such, results should be indicative that such activities on different brands platforms of social media have the potential of bringing about user interactions and that brings about reviews, conversations and recommendations on brands, products and their attributes. The social media sportswearbrand activities for marketing would focus more on empirical and hedonic values that are reachable by the consumers through indirect brand experiences.

The study will look into the effects of marketing of sportswear using social media on the purchasing intentions of customers and their purchasing behaviours. This study`s findings should as such, be supportive of the hypotheses that the social media marketing activities of a brand that consumers perceive positively bring about values that are distinctive when compared to the traditional marketing mix. These activities are fairly effective in acting affirmatively towards influencing purchase intentions. Social marketing media activities also serve to enhance value by providing customers with values that are novel.

Sportswear social media platforms offer customers with venues for engaging in communications that are friendly and sincere with brand and even with other users. Since marketing communication serves to improve customers’ awareness of a brand and their loyalty, activities for social media marketing activities act as communication methods for marketing that are effective.

METHODOLOGY AND SOURCES OF DATA

This study`s general objective is to do an investigation of whether there exists relations between marketing through social media and the influence it has on the buyer behaviours and decisions of customers. As such, for purposes of responses that are unbiased and speedy, the preffered tools for collection of data are questionnaires that are chosen for adressing both independent and dependent variables. And because it is possible to hand out questionnaires by mail and also through letters (FAO, 1998), web-designed questionnaires will be issued together with printed questionnaire copies. Google drive will be used for the design of the questionnaires and the questionnaires will be based on web links that shall function in all the different internet operating systems like internet explorer among others. The reasons behind choosing the data collection method are that they are efficient in terms of cost and are also time saving (Explorance, 2013). These methods also encourage participants to fill surveys at those times that are most convennient for them (Gingery, 2011). A convenience sampling method was used to identify 100 respondents, all of whom were required to have bought a sportswear within the few last years. Data will be collected from survey questionnaires over a period of two weeks. From among the 200 survey questionnaires distributed, we hoped to analyse at least 100 after excluding unreturned and incomplete questionnaires. Participants directly feed their responses into the system and that is the reason the online survey is deemed as being more accurate and effective. According to SmartSurvey (2015), it is a more selective approach and makes it easy to analyse as the results are always ready. Responses gotten from the survey are also more likely to be honest given the anonymity that the participants enjoy from the comfort of their online spaces, which make them unknown to the researcher.

The type of research is deductive and quantitative analysis is used for measuring variables utilising SPSS and charts and tables for representation of the findings and to also show how frequent the occurrences are (Saunders et al., 2012). Collection of numerical data is conducted in quantitative analysis and the data is used for statistical analysis (Joseph, 2014). Once checked for correctness and accuracy, the responses will then be coded in order to be inserted into the SPSS for analysis purposes.

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Checking for the existing relationships between the variables (independent and dependent) will be the next step and this will be effected through the use of a correlation matrix. Consumer buying behaviour is the dependent variable in this study and social media marketing is the variable that is independent. The closeness of the relation of the variables being investigated will be indicated by the correlation matrix (Sekaran, 2003:307), together with the strength of the relationship between the data that is categorised descriptively and the data that is collected (Bell, Bryman and Harley, 2018).

Feasibility

The information that will be obtained in this study will be valuable to businesses that deal with sportswear as it will help in identification of the roles that social media plays in influencing the buying behaviors of consumers.

Continue your journey with our comprehensive guide to Impact of Social Media in Modern Business Strategies.

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