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Impacts of Social Media Marketing on Consumer Decision Making Process: Descriptive Study of Pakistan.

Byline: Muhammad Shaheen and Dr. Rab Nawaz Lodhi

Abstract

The perception of "social media marketing" has gained a lot of recognition in the arena of marketing. Companies in all over the world like United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE) etc. are altering their styles of marketing for their products and services. This prompt change of marketing has also been embraced by several of the companies in Pakistan. People in all over the world spent a lot of their time on social networking sites(SNS) like Facebook, Whatsapp, Flicker, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Viber etc. The usage of such marketing techniques has been escalating in our society also. This quick change in behavior of people and desirability towards social networking sites is convincing the marketers to adopt innovative ways to grab the customers.

The current research covered this gap between social media marketing and its impacts on consumer's decision making process in Pakistan. The research methodology used for this research is quantitative research method i.e. Questionnaire. Questionnaires were randomly distributed among undergraduate and graduate students of University of the Punjab (PU) and National College of Business Administration and Economics (NCBAandE). Research results were established to keep in mind the concepts of Consumer decision making process (Need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, pre-purchase behavior and post- purchase behavior) in the context of Pakistan.

Keywords: Social networking sites (SNS), consumer decision making, and social media marketing

Introduction

"Traditional marketing is not dying - it's dead!" (Zynman, 1999) Social media marketing is a type of social network sites(SNS) and its roots can be seen in 1980 when people were connected through Bulletin Boards System (BBS).These systems allowed users to connect, share data and private messages with other users. (The social media marketing book, 2009). Social media marketing is one of the most famous marketing efforts where customers and stakeholders are participants rather than viewers and each participating customer becomes part of the marketing department (Ahmad, 2015).

Social media employs mobile (android and IOS phones) and web-based technologies (Tablets, laptops, PCs) to share, co-create, discuss and modify user- generated content. It has transformed the traditional marketing model-which, for the most part, was a one way path from the marketer to consumers with some feedback flowing in the opposite direction and has created a paradigm shift. Not only are consumers more in command of the communication flowing towards them, but they also can initiate communication directed toward marketers. Further interaction between customers has increased dramatically (Kohli, 2015).

In the past few decades as compared to twentieth and twenty-first century, people were not so modern or technology oriented. After the twentieth century, it has proved a technological revolution. People in Pakistan and all over the world are now more concisions towards technological advancements. After the invention of smartphones, window phones and IOS phones, most of the people are always in a try to connect to other people at every time and everywhere they are. Technological developments are a big challenge for marketers also. They have to target their customers according to their taste preferences, needs and choice of media channels.

Social media comes in many forms i.e. blogs, microblogs (Twitter), social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, whatsapp) and media sharing sites (YouTube, Flicker).

A blog is a type of content management system (CMS) that makes it easy for anyone to publish short articles called posts. Posts can be of 500 words to pages of words and the main theme of the post should be same. (The social media marketing book, 2009). Microblogging is a type of social networking sites that limits the size of post. For example, twitter limits the size of post to 140 words. On twitter we can manage company account and an individual account as well. Currently Facebook is a dominant social networking site which allowed users to connect with each other, share data and share photos as well. Companies can create their own pages for marketing and allow users to become fans. Facebook pages have an option of "Like" and "Comment". Whenever a social media user comment or like on company's page then it becomes visible o all of the friends of that user. Ultimately it becomes a chain of likers and commenters.

Most of them like the page and starting to consider the activities of that specific company. With the passage of time this consideration add-up to consumer's consideration set. Whenever a consumer goes for shopping, that consumer firstly searches the different categories into his/her consideration set and then make the purchase decision which is the ultimate goal of a marketer.

LinkedIn is another social networking site which is specifically for professionals. By using this site the professionals can post job and recruit persons for that specific job.

Literature Review

Social media refers to online platforms where users chat, share videos and pictures, companies make their fan pages and many more. With the rapid increase in technology, users on these social networking sites are increasing day by day. In Pakistan, users of Facebook are more than 14 million and twitter users are more than 2.5 million. Users can make their profiles on these sites like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and flicker. People in all over the world are spending most of their time on social networking sites. Worldwide there are now more than two billion people using social media and Facebook alone now has approximately one billion active users per day. (Stephen, 2016). Companies are taking part in promoting their products or services through social networking sites.

Many of the companies have their fan pages on Facebook, twitter and share user generated contents (UGC) on YouTube for marketing purposes.

Every consumer in the world didn't purchase a product shortly, but he/she required some time to take a decision. Consumer decision making process was firstly familiarized by John Dewey in 1910 which consists of five different stages. These five stages are shown below in Figure 2:

Problem/need Recognition

Every consumer in its life faces the following five stages decision making model. His/her decision to buy a product or not to buy the other one is always based on these stages because researcher believes that a purchase cannot be takes place without a need or to solve a problem. And that need maybe triggered due to internal or external stimuli. For example if a person wants to go to job then its problem is to travel. To daily reach on time that person will identify its need of traveling and he/she will find the ways to solve that problem or to fulfill that need.

Information Search

This is the second stage in consumer decision making process in which after identifying the problem or need, consumers starts to searching the information related to products/services attributes, benefits, brands etc. this information search usually conducted by two ways i.e. offline and online searching. Due to its ease and just one button click online searching is increasing now days (Gupta, 2004).

Solomon (2013, p. 310) stated that whenever the information search increases then the knowledge about product also increases.

Evaluation of Alternatives

After identifying the problem and information search about different product or services, this is the stage of evaluation of alternatives. In which different substitutes of a product are examined i.e. different brands etc. (Johnston, 2013).

Product Choice

How do a consumer select from the alternatives?

After the evaluation of alternatives in a category, a consumer starts to choose a single one from that product or service category. Now days there are many alternatives in products or service categories so it takes time to select only one among all of them. Consumers use evaluative criteria to differentiate among competing brands and determinant attributes to differentiate among all of choices (Solomon, Consumer behavior-buying, having and being, 2013).

Outcomes

After being purchase of a specific product or service, this outcome stage is also equally important with the other four stages. This stage is also called the post-purchase stage in the decision making process and very critical in retaining a consumer. If the consumer will be satisfied then that will be loyal to company and it will be dissatisfied then it will be an alarming situation for the company. Because that individual customer may share his/her reviews on social media, traditional media and word of mouth as well (Johnston, 2013).

Methodology

The data was collected with an already established instrument which was firstly used in the context of Finland. The reason behind using the already established instrument was its reliability and validity. Reliability of the multi- scale items was checked with SPSS and Cronbach's Alpha. This value has been shown in the below table which is 0.73.

Questionnaires were randomly distributed among the graduate and undergraduate social media users of National College of Business Administration and Economics (NCBAandE) and University of the Punjab (PU). The sample size used for the collection of data was of 110. The Likert scale questions asked in the questionnaire were covering three main parts: respondent's information i.e. age and gender, items related to social media marketing and consumer decision making process. One open-ended question was also asked from the social media users related to the credibility of the social media advertisements i.e. to what extent advertisements on social media are credible. Many of the respondents reply to this open-ended question and almost the response rate to this question was less than 50%. This was may be due to the reason that it was only the single open- ended question in among the all items.

Results and findings

The total data was collected from 110 social media users and respond rate was 100% because researcher visit the respondents one by one. To check the reliability of the data, it was seen the value of Cronbach's Alpha using SPSS which is .730 of 24 items here. It showed that the data is reliable and can be used for further analysis.

Table 1 Case Processing Summary

###N###%

###Cases###Valid###110###100.0

###Excluded###0###.0

###Total###110###100.0

Table 2 Reliability Statistics

###Cronbach's Alpha###N of Items

###.730###24

Background

Section 1 of the questionnaires cover the two general items i.e. age and gender. These questions were asked to separately known the impact of social media marketing on consumer decision making process on two different genders i.e. male and female. Results in the below tables showed that there were 50.9% of the respondents were males and 49.1% were females and the age distribution was under 18(6.4%), 18-21(40.9%), 22-25(40.9%) and 26-30(11.8%).This data showed that young generation i.e. ages from 18-25 is mostly using the social networking sites in Pakistan. Users of social networking sites were mostly among 18-21 and 22-25 i.e. 88.8% of the total population because data was collected from university students.

Table 3 Age of Respondents

###Frequency###Percent###Valid Percent###Cumulative Percent

Valid###under 18###7###6.4###6.4###6.4

###18-21###45###40.9###40.9###47.3

###22-25###45###40.9###40.9###88.2

###26-30###13###11.8###11.8###100.0

###Total###110###100.0###100.0

Table 4 Gender of Respondents

###Frequency###Percent###Valid Percent###Cumulative Percent

Valid###Male###56###50.9###50.9###50.9

###Female###54###49.1###49.1###100.0

###Total###110###100.0###100.0

Exposure

The purpose of the items in this section was to sort out that how the different social media users exposed to information available on social networking sites and mass media i.e. TV, Radio, and Newspaper etc. Information search is the second and the most important stage in the consumer decision making model because the consumer will use this searched information into later stages.

Item number three of the instrument was being used to measure the responses on social networking sites, micro blogging and photo and video sharing sites. This item showed that among these three social networking sites (SNS) which site is mostly used. Results shown in the pie chart showed that among the respondents, 87.27% were social networking sites users while 6.36% were micro blogging users and 6.36% were photo and video sharing sites users in Pakistan. Respondents in Pakistan spent most of their time on Facebook, Whatsapp and viber on a daily basis and less of their time on Twitter and YouTube. This information is useful for marketers as well that is they should change their media channel and segment as well. This information also showed that consumer's trend was changing day by day because most of the consumers were moving towards online shopping and information searching.

After the introduction of 3G and 4G internet services by telecommunication companies in Pakistan, most of the customers are searching online. People try to connect with their special brands on a daily basis and also share their experiences with their peers, family or social circle as well.

Item four and five are related to time spent in hours in a week on social media sites and mass media sites. The below mentioned analysis in tables showed that from 110 respondents, there was 39.1% were among those who spent 1-3 hours in a week on mass media while in comparison to this there was 43.6% were those respondents who spent 1-3 hours in a week on social networking sites. Number of respondents with zero hours spent on mass media sites is 10% while on social networking sites is only 2.7% and 10 hours or more time spent on social networking sites is also greater than time spent on mass media sites. So, it showed that people were more engaged to social networking sites than mass media sites and respondents were more exposed to the information on social networking sites than mass media sites.

Table 5 Time spent on Mass Media Sites

###Count###Percent

Time spent of mass media sites per week###0 Hours###11###10.0%

###1-3 Hours###43###39.1%

###4-6 Hours###29###26.4%

###7-9 Hours###18###16.4%

###10 Hours or more###9###8.2%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Table 6 Time spent on Social Media Sites

###Count###Percent

Time spent on social media sites per week###0 Hours###3###2.7%

###1-3 Hours###48###43.6%

###4-6 Hours###36###32.7%

###7-9 Hours###12###10.9%

###10 Hours or more###11###10.0%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Attitude

To measure the attitude of respondents, there were three items which were asked to them. In figure(a) Among the respondents, there were 26% respondents who respond that the information they seek out on social networking sites was always consistent with their opinion for a purchase, whereas31% said that sometimes it happens that there would be consistency in the information seek out on social networking sites and their initial opinions. In figure (b) it was shown that there were six prejudgment factors. Social media users were make prejudgments on the basis of those six factors.it is shown here that 27% of social media users always made judgments on the basis of previous experiences i.e. if their experience with a specific brand would be good than their future judgment about brand on social networking sites will be good or vice versa. Knowledge is also another important factor related to prejudgments of social media users.

It was worth mentioning here that only 7% among the respondents set prejudgments on the information from internet i.e. user reviews and 12% make prejudgments on the basis of information from mass media and 13% on information from peers, friends and family etc. After the previous experience and knowledge, mass media is still important factor than social media.

Problem Recognition

This table showed the role of social media marketing in triggering the social media users for purchase.it was clearly shown in the table that 58.2% respondents said that yes it triggered them for purchase and only 27.3% responds that no social media didn't trigger them while 14.5% were not sure. It showed that marketing on social networking sites had greater influence on social media users and triggers those users towards purchase.

Table 7 Social media triggers you to purchase

###Count###Percent

Does Social Media marketing triggers you to###Yes###64###58.2%

purchase a product/service?

###No###30###27.3%

###Not sure###16###14.5%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

To check the attractiveness of advertisements on both social media and mass media, it was asked to social media users that do you still find advertisements on mass media attractive. Then 73.6% of the users said that yes while only 26.4% said that no they didn't. It showed that advertisements on social media were not too much attractive. This was due to difference in creative advertisements on mass media in comparison to social media.

Table 8 Advertisements on mass media are still attractive

###Count###Percent

Do you find advertisements on mass media are###Yes###81###73.6%

still attractive?

###No###29###26.4%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Search for Alternatives

Searching and evaluation for alternatives was the third important stage in the consumer decision making process. To evaluate this step in this research there were four items which were asked from the respondents. Respondent's results are shown below in tables. As researcher's aim is to find the impact of social media marketing on consumer decision making process so items in this section are related to social networking sites as can be seen in the tables below. First table showed that information searching on SNS in easier or difficult and it showed that 40.9% of the respondents states that it was easier to search information about products or services and 28.2% were strongly agree. This showed that most of the respondents in Pakistan were aware of the usage of social networking sites and if the marketers would market on social networking sites than users will be effectively use that information and it would l=generate positive results.

Table 9 Information searching via social media

###Count###Percent

Do you agree that information searching is easier###SA###31###28.2%

via social media than other?

###A###45###40.9%

###N###30###27.3%

###D###3###2.7%

###SD###1###.9%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Most of the respondents were those who sometimes search the information before a final purchase i.e. those were 34.5% which was higher than all other options. And only 16.4% were those respondents who always search the information before a final purchase. This also showed that social media users were using the social networking for other users as well and might be they search the offline information instead of online i.e. SNS.

Table 10 Information searching on SNS before purchase

###Count###Percent

Do you search for related info on social media###Always###18###16.4%

before a purchase?

###Often###23###20.9%

###Sometimes###38###34.5%

###Seldom###14###12.7%

###Rarely###6###5.5%

###Never###11###10.0%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Among the respondents, 49.1% were those who said that SNS influence them to try new brands and 14.5% were strongly agreed with this statement. This showed that by making the advertisements more attractive on social networking sites, marketers could make customers loyal and could change their decision related to a specific brand. The effective usage of SNS would also be beneficial for new brands. Among the respondents, 49.1% were those who said that SNS influence them to try new brands and 14.5% were strongly agreed with this statement. This showed that by making the advertisements more attractive on social networking sites, marketers could make customers loyal and could change their decision related to a specific brand. The effective usage of SNS would also be beneficial for new brands.

Table 11 SNS influence you to try new brands

###Count###Percent

Do you agree that social media influence you to###SA###16###14.5%

try new brands/products/services?

###A###54###49.1%

###N###30###27.3%

###D###9###8.2%

###SD###1###.9%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Table 12 Feedbacks on social media affect your purchase

###Count###Percent

Do you agree that feedbacks on social media###SA###21###19.1%

affect your purchase?

###A###38###34.5%

###N###32###29.1%

###D###17###15.5%

###SD###2###1.8%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Post-Purchase Behavior

Post-purchase behavior includes the behavior of a customer after purchasing a specific product or service. This purchase can be online and offline as well. This stage can lead to brand loyalty and brand switching. To test this stage of consumer decision making model, following were the items which were analyzed. 37.3% were the respondents who said that they were mostly likely to share comments on SNS after a purchase and 9.1% disagree with this statement. This showed that most of the consumers shared their positive or negative comments about a brand on social networking sites. Marketers should try to create a positive image on social networking sites.

Table 13 Feel encouraged to voice out your opinion after purchase

###Count###Percent

Do you feel encouraged to voice out your opinion###SA###19###17.3%

after a purchase via social media platforms?

###A###41###37.3%

###N###39###35.5%

###D###10###9.1%

###SD###1###.9%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

32.7% were the respondents who were neutral about this question that social media has make the decision more complex and 25.5% among them were agree to this statement. This was due to the fact that a lot of clutter of information is available on these networking sites.

Table 14 Social media makes decision more complex

###Count###Percent

Do you think that social media makes your###SA###20###18.2%

decision making more complex

###A###28###25.5%

###N###36###32.7%

###D###21###19.1%

###SD###5###4.5%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

This item was also related to post-purchase behavior i.e. 74.5% social media users that they would change their attitude after reading the positive comments about a brand. This showed that social media users in Pakistan are not much more loyal to their brands and also it shows the effectiveness of comments/blogs on social networking sites. A marketer can easily understand that if a single consumer will share negative word of mouth on social networking sites then it will alter the buying decision of more than 70 people.

Table 15 Likely to change attitude towards a brand after comments

###Count###Percent

Are you likely to change your attitude towards a###Yes###82###74.5%

brand/product/service after reading positive comments?

###No###11###10.0%

###Not Sure###17###15.5%

Overall###110###100.0%

Excluded###0

Total###110

Final Decision

After conducting the analysis, it could be analyzed that all of the stages of consumer decision making process were equally important. We cannot ignore a single one stage. Usually it wass considered that company and consumer's relation is till purchase but it had proved in the last section of this research that 74.5% consumers would change their decisions after reading positive comments on social networking sites. It had also shown that social media had make the decision making process more complex so there was a need to work on it.

Conclusion

After conducting the analysis, it could be concluded that all of the stages of consumer decision making process, provided by Solomon in his book Consumer Behavior (buying, having and being) are equally important. We can not ignore a single one stage. Usually it is considered that company and consumer's relation is till purchase but it had proved in the last section of this research that 74.5% consumers would change their decisions after reading positive comments on social networking sites. It had also shown that social media had make the decision making process more complex so there was a need to work on it. It had proved from the research that social networking sites had a positive impact on consumer decision making process. Most of the internet users in Pakistan prefer to use social networking sites than micro blogging and photo and video sharing sites. Companies in Pakistan can use social networking sites for their marketing purposes because it is an effective way than traditional media.

Limitations and Future Research

This research study had following research limitations which can be directions for future researches.

* Due to shortage of time, data was collected from a number of respondents so its generalizability may be less.

* Future researchers can continue this research by taking the respondents who are purchasing online and facing social media marketing ads on social networking sites.

* This study can be applied in other contexts to see the results among different cultures.

References

Ahmad, N.B. (2015). Effects of social network marketing on consumer behavior through customer engagement. Journal of advanced management science

Johnston, E. (2013, June 24). Customer insight-telemarketing. Retrieved from B2Bmarketing.net:https://www.b2bmarketing.net/resources/blogs/5-steps-understanding-your-customers-buying-process (2009). In D. Zarrella, The social media marketing book (pp. 3-3). O'Reilly

Alok Gupta, B.-c. S. (2004). An empirical study of consumer switching from traditional to electronic channels: A purchase decision process perspective. International journal of electronic commerce

Solomon, M.R. (2013). Consumer behavior-buying, having and being. Delhi: PHI learning private limited

CACHIA, R. (2008). Social computing: Study on the use and impact of online social networking. Spain: European Commission

Chiranjeev Kohli, R.S. (2014). Will social media kill branding? Elsevier

Stephen, A.T. (2016). The role of digital and social media marketing in consumer behavior. Elsevier, 17.

Hampton, K.N. (2011). Social networking sites and our lives. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center

Lee, E. (2013). Impacts of social media marketing on consumer behavior-decision making process: Turku University of applied sciences
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Publication:Journal of Business Strategies (Karachi)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 30, 2016
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