MKT501– Strategic Marketing
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Prada Group is one of the most reputed global fashion houses that cater to the high end clientele both men as well as women. The fashion house provides a complete solution to the unique and exclusive needs of simple yet refined fashion styles. The company has been successful in delivering high quality products to its customers encompassing a wide assortment. Though the company has been able to strike an initial chord with the customers and other stakeholders by offering good quality products and high service quality now the company wants to strengthen its brand equity by focusing on the relationship aspect.
The studies in the past have shown that the long-term relationships with the customers translate into significant positive business outcomes and profitability for the firm. The company has already earned a name for its unique selling proposition of being a high quality producer of unique goods but that needs to be instilled into the minds of the customer through constant interaction. It is believed that if the company starts focusing on the relationship marketing efforts rigorously through web-based interface then this will help in elevating the present brand equity of the firm to a much higher level. The present study explores that how such a marketing plan can be implemented using the targeted marketing and promotion via social media networking sites to woo the new customers and maintain an enduring relationship with the existing customers. Over the years the company has earned a reputation for class, elegance, style and simplicity which along with effective marketing strategy will surely harness more business success for the fashion powerhouse.
The marketing plan sets the two major goals as a target to attain at the accomplishment of this plan, namely, (i) to enhance the brand equity among the customers so as to resolve the problems pertaining to customer retention by adding 10% more new customers to the existing customer base of the firm and optimizing (minimizing) the propensity to switch among customers by at least 5% and (ii) to foster the relationship marketing efforts so as to improve the perception of relationship quality among stakeholders by reducing the perception-expectations gap in the relationship quality among the stakeholders to its minimum possible value and enhancing the perceived level of relationship quality on a positive side among stakeholders in a period of six months.
The study seeks to ascertain that strategic importance of relationship quality in enhancing brand equity and also to identify the factors that help in forming the perception regarding relationship quality so as to trace significant relationship marketing efforts for boosting the brand equity of Prada Group brands.
Enhancing Brand Equity for Prada Group through Relationship Marketing Efforts
The organization called Prada Group is a popular and leading fashion house all across the globe. The fashion house is amongst the world’s top notch manufacturers and retailers of the luxury goods as well as the haute fashion items and occupies a leading position by catering to the design, production as well as their distribution. The wide assortment of the products of the company includes fashion apparels, accessories, handbags, footwear, eyewear, luxury leather goods, perfumes etc. The company has the ownership of four major brands whose operations are solely managed by the company, these brands are: Prada, Church’s, Car Shoe and Miu Miu. Once started as an Italian business venture the operations of the firm outstretches in different parts of the world encompassing the markets in three continents (www.prdagroup.com). An integrated network of 345 outlets together takes care of the entire list of operations for retailing the company’s goods in a direct manner, besides there are more than thirty stores that are managed as franchise outlets and then there are several others that are operated through the concessions within the upscale departmental stores (some such noted outlets are the ones within Harrods, London; Saks Fifth Avenue, New York and KaDeWe, Berlin. The company that commenced its business journey in the year 1913 as a small store of leather cases and bags in Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, founded by Mario Prada, introduced its very first IPO in the year 2011 during the month of June and it is also listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The last company’s store has been put up during August, 2014 in the Amsterdam. The company has been so far successful by choosing the effective set of strategies in a deliberate manner evolving itself from a small business store owned by a family to have a strong global presence with a plethora of retail outlets and engaging itself in the manufacturing too. So far the firm has been able to undergo successful strategic interventions like its product line expansion plans and driven by the philosophy of continuous evolution has been looking for avenues that can be useful for the firm to strengthen its business further. The present study brings a critical analysis of the company’s strategic position by (i) presenting its business environment (ii) identifying the strategic priorities of the firm to have a sustainable business with special emphasis on increasing the firm’s brand equity using relationship marketing endeavors and (iii) enlisting recommendations for future growth and success of the firm using a systematic and structured research. The findings of the study will be highly pertinent for the retail managers in the group to help them improve the business relationships thereby improving the overall brand equity of the firm.
The success acquired by the firm is not attained in a single day but is an outcome realized by persistent and dedicated efforts that have effectuated in terms of transitioning the small store for leather goods as a known name among the corporate dealing with luxury leather goods. The company introduced its flagship store in the year 1983 and following that it soon started to explore the markets beyond Italy. The company traversed a successful business journey by using careful strategic choices that includes transcending to footwear business, expanding into new markets like New York, London, Tokyo, unveiling new brands like to cater to niche customer segments (Miu Miu launched to cater to youngsters, launching an exclusive men’s label etc.), acquiring existing successful brands (Car Shoe, Church’s etc.) and so on. The company also attempted to introduce new product line extensions by engaging it in business of perfumery and branded phones too as a joint venture with other companies. The firm has been able to acquire the status of a global fashion house only recently post 2010 and hence it needs to focus on making persistent efforts for reinforcing its brand image among customers as well as retaining the large chunk of the customers it caters all across the globe by enhancing the firm’s brand equity.
The examination of the firm’s internal resources on the basis of the VRIO (value, rarity, inimitability and organization) framework proposed by Barney and Hesterly (2006) depicts that the firm is well equipped with the tangible as well as the intangible resources to handle the challenges of the future. The strong organizational capabilities comprising of its internal capacity to raise equity owing to its high brand image, the large borrowing capacity as well as the large reserves of cash held suggest that the firm’s financial performance is good. In addition to this the state of the art production and manufacturing facilities of the firm along with their strategic locations with latest technological equipment together suggest that the physical infrastructure of the firm is also sound. The firm is not involved in legal entanglements and uses highly innovative processes to design and manufacture its high quality products. The human resource practices and procedures in the company are employee friendly and the level of employee satisfaction with the firm is on the positive side. This together with the organizational traits fosters an environment of trust and non zero-sum relationships with employees, suppliers and other stakeholders in the process. However it is revealed that the company needs to maintain its competitive advantage as customers are highly sensitive to unique value proposition. The continuous improvement has been an integral as well as inherent part of the philosophy of Prada Group but the firm needs to tap the advantages of the internet technology to connect to its customers in a better manner. It will enhance the efficiency of the operations along with yielding access to far off markets (Klososky, 2011).
External Environment Analysis
The environment of the firm is done on the basis of the PESTEL analysis that analyzes the politico-socio-technological and economic variables in the environment along with examining the ethnicities and demographics of the consumers as well. Such an analysis will yield an insight to identify the appropriate strategic options for the firm (Chernatony et al., 2011).
As the firm is based in different parts of the world, the attitude of the ruling government will have an important and direct impact in dictating the outcomes of the retailing business. The political will in the country decides the nature of the governmental policies and legislative decisions at state and national level. A favorable political scenario can result in the opening of the economies through policies of liberalization and reduction in the trade barriers, ease and convenience in trading across the country facilitated by the smooth and efficient distribution channel while an unfavorable political environment or political instability will pose a hindrance to the operations of the retailing companies in terms of unnecessary delays and can adversely impact the business profitability too by causing a disruption in the distribution channels too. Also from the political perspective, the decisions pertaining to prices, taxes, regulations etc. will directly affect the business operations through impacting the firm’s profitability (Hitt et al., 2012).
The economic conditions including the periods of prosperity and recession both tend to impact the profits of the company. If the prices of the transportation, fuel alternatives get affected it also influences the operations of the firm as it starts vying for cheaper ways to ship its goods more economically. The economic performance of Prada group has been sturdy during the precarious recessionary situation of 2008 global financial crisis. Though during recession the performance of the firm dwindled and spending power curtailments among the consumers led to reduction in demand, the trends in the business also exhibited a disappointing picture but still the overall performance of the firm has been strong and enduring; despite the tough economic times the firm managed to cater to its customers as a high end fashion brand successfully. There was a certain dip in the firm’s revenues but there was a substantive increase in the bottom line of the firm.
The detailed examination from this perspective reveals that as a global marketer the firm needs to cater to the diverse needs of its clientele according to their different social and cultural traits. In addition to serving to the diverse set of customers the company has also exhibited a keen sense of appreciation for promoting the workforce diversity as well. The firm employs a large pool of human resources chosen from the different parts of the world representing the mix of different social cultural and ethnic mix of individuals.
Further the analysis of the Prada group from technological aspect it is indicated that the firm is indulging in the use of the new age technological advancements offered by digital media for promoting its products. The company is making substantive efforts for exploiting the enhancements in the technology to produce the items of high finesse. Besides, the present day consumers are demanding purchase convenience and all time accessibility that can be attributed as the reason behind the popularity of online stores. The firm is trying to connect to such customers through internet who either due to paucity of time or some challenges like physically unfit to travel to stores directly. The company has its online channel as a website that displays the product attributes, the location of the nearest store and other relevant information requisites that can be availed anytime and at any place convenient to consumers.
The environmental examination of the Prada Group suggests that the modern day businesses are running all across the globe and the societies are becoming more conscious towards adoption of sustainable business practices. It is important for the contemporary marketers to abide by the various environmental regulations in the regions where the company operates. The group has been vigilant in constantly improvising its operations for keeping abreast with the latest laws and regulatory practices that intend to reduce the carbon footprints of the firm by checking the CO2 emissions and other forms of environmental pollution by making economic use of energy and water. At present the company has envisaged the strategic alternatives that can help the firm in reducing the harmful impact to environment by adopting green business practices.
The compliance to the country’s laws is mandatory for the company in all regions of its operations failing which the company can suffer heavily in terms of failed business licensing, negative word of mouth among employees and customers as well as getting stuck in the legal entanglements all of which can pose a threat to success and growth of the firm. The company needs to ensure that the various rules, regulations, laws pertaining to the local and international governments of the operating countries are strictly followed. These include the laws on furnishing the equal opportunity to employment, no compromises on ensuring the standards of safety and operations for the employees, no discriminatory practices among the workforce, respecting the social and cultural diversity among customers as well as employees etc. The examination of the company shows that it is practicing the stated rules, laws and regulations that confirm to the people’s safety including its internal customers like suppliers and customers, products and service quality standards and other operating standards pertaining to marketing practices too. In terms of the legal scenario, the changing demand can be used for explaining the environmental and ecological concerns affecting the company’s business.
The use of the Porter’s Five Forces Model can also be useful for ascertaining the impact of the five important forces on the company’s business. In words of Porter (2008), “competition for profits goes beyond established industry rivals to include four other competitive forces as well: customers, suppliers, potential entrants, and substitute products” thus the use of five force’s model will reflect the true index of company’s strategic positioning in market. This analysis will help the firm strategically weigh the relative impact of the power of the various stakeholders in the process.
· High power of the buyers in the fashion retail sector
· Rich customers who can afford a number of good quality alternatives, sensitive to product quality and uniqueness
· Also presence of number of retail options in the market provides them huge large number of switching alternatives
· Retailers need to emphasize on the quality else the business margins and volumes will be drastically affected thereby harming the business.
· Owning the production is an advantage that curbs the power of the suppliers
· A large number of suppliers of raw material yield them less bargaining power
· Suppliers are given good remunerations and the connection with a globally recognized brand makes them continue with the Prada group. Hence suppliers’ power does not bother company much.
· The little volatility in the economic condition inducing price increase in labor markets does not exert much pressure on the gross margins of the company.
· The presence of major competing brands like PPR, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is a strong threat to the company
· So far company has been using acquisition strategies to combat the competition but now in order to ensure that the customer continue using Prada group products it needs to deliver something beyond just good quality.
· The number of similar companies of same size in the retail sector is limited hence most of the competitors aim to exceed the level of customer service quality along with furnishing good products.
|New entrant’s threats
· The threat posed by new entrants is low as the company has a robust foothold in the market
· The high entry barriers in the industry further reduces this risk
|Threat of Substitute Products
· The threat of substitutes for the group is controlled by maintaining exclusivity in products
· It is equally important that the products are different in all respects including the conception, designing, crafting, manufacturing, distribution as well as at the final delivery point where it reaches the ultimate customer
The primary customer segment that the company targets comprises of rich, brand and fashion conscious people who are constantly yearning for an exquisite style statement and a unique fashion that no one else portrays. The company needs to create differentiation among its customers offering them exclusive designs coupled with great styling that give a boost to the pride and status to its customers. Since the firm is catering to the needs of the global market it is imperative for the marketers to involve people in the workforce who are accustomed to the local dialect, business customs and etiquettes so as to ensure that the cultural, ethnic and social customs of the targeted community are respected and maintained in business dealings.
The close examination of the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses along with ascertaining the external situations that either serves as the prospective opportunity or as the potential threat is imperative to decide for any future strategic action. The firms can exploit their strengths to their advantage optimizing upon the opportunities present by taking a remedial action to prevent the failings due to its internal weaknesses and safeguard it against the likelihood of the suspected threats.
The credibility that the company enjoys being enlisted within the fashion houses acclaimed world over as well as a popular retailing company of luxury goods among the customers is high. The assortment that the company offers by yielding variety of leather merchandises like bags, accessories, footwear etc. along with new product lines with perfumes and branded phones that too of fine quality is liked by the customers. The number of stores located in different continents and regions exposes the products to a diverse set of customer segments. The company provides the products of excellent quality and a good brand image works as an additional feather in the cap. Being confined to the luxury segment in retail sector the various macroeconomic factors does not impact the company as much as the discount stores.
The markets in the region of South East Asia Pacific is a lucrative market for the firm to focus upon, it has a great potential for the company with the emergence of the neo-rich class. This neo-rich class is usually comprised of people that have recently gained access to the financial prosperity and hence they spend lavishly for the leisure pursuits. This class is characterized by the couples/singles in the older age brackets whose children are settled in foreign lands for professional and work pursuits and are earning good salary packages. The monetary remuneration they send back to their aging parents translates into high spending power among this group that offers great business prospects to the company. Another advantage of these South East Asian markets is that they offer cheap labor due to high concentration of population in the area coupled with high unemployment rates; according to the study conducted by Conrad & Poole (2011) it has been shown that the high rate of unemployment will yield more bargaining power to the employers thereby increasing the profits of the company if they use such manpower. The firm can leverage the advancements in technology like the use of social media marketing to register its presence into various parts of the world saving down huge expenditures involved in setting up the physical infrastructure.
The increased use of the technological advancements has been responsible for the increase in the bargaining power of consumers. The modern people make use of digital interface via their laptops and smartphone devices to make decision regarding purchases. With the help of such means a large chunk of people indulge on comparative purchasing on internet by procuring information on prices, styles, looks and different variants of products as well as being demanding in asking for services like payment alternative modes, after sales issues so as to get the best deal for their money and comparing across the alternative product options yielding a solution offering the best value for money. Being a high end product price is not as much a source of competitive advantage for the company as much as quality and exclusivity. The frailties in the financial and political sector impacts the retailing industry adversely, for example changes in the supply of labor, increment in wages, weakening of employment opportunities, mounting inflation in the operating countries impact the Prada Group business outcomes adversely. Also the imposition of import/export quotas and trade tariffs, disparities in foreign exchange rates inflate the operating costs and hence the global trade outcomes.
Table: SWOT Matrix
• The presence of strong direct marketing channels in countries like UK and US are likely to lead to the ignorance of emerging markets
· Rich customers who can afford a number of good quality alternatives, sensitive to product quality and uniqueness
According to the study by Richardson (1996) the characteristics of fashion retail market can be outlines as a consumer goods market with easy to enter and exit system, erratic consumer preferences, presence of multiple competitors as well as number of options to manufacture, market and retail and most importantly unusual short product life. It is because of this reason, the leading fashion houses particularly in the apparel sector need to have an intrinsic proactive ability for capturing the mood of the market and acquire the necessary information in prior on the emerging tastes and trends in color, styles and themes for preparing their own collections using the qualitative and quantitative evidence from the market research (Aktuglu, 2001). The organization has been continuously undertaking several quality initiatives which intend to make organizational improvements for enhancing the efficiency of different organizational processes. The previous such initiatives were focusing more on the operational aspects of business, in direct manner by aiming to improve the processes and indirectly by aiming to improve upon the products realized as the process outcomes. In the recent years besides the aspects of service quality and functional quality of the products the retention of the customers has caused the marketers to divert their attention on the emerging concept called ‘relationship quality’ which is perhaps acquired more critical status in contemporary times owing to presence of large number of switching alternatives before the customers and their mounting aspirations from the product and its suppliers.
Relationships are critical to the success of business as being customers the relationships tend to influence the perception regarding the product’s suppliers and the overall service quality of the business interactions based on the personal experiences, it is immaterial if the service encounter is discrete in nature or a continuous one. The management of relationships in a strategic manner can be of immense importance to the marketer as it can help in enhancing the customer’s perception of service quality as well as reflecting in terms of improved sales, improved customer loyalty and better customer retention. It can be used by the company as a source of competitive advantage and in enhancing the brand equity of the company. Prada group is catering to different countries which are varied in number of respects; besides the political, legal and socio-economic disparities the regions are widely different in respect of culture, traditions and lifestyles manifested in the dispersed consumer behavior all across the globe. The marketers find the task of yielding the satisfaction to this wide group of global customers a daunting one but in order to survive in the market full of competing retail organizations and create a unique or distinct mark in the minds of the customers differentiating the firm from their competitors Prada group needs to reaffirm themselves as a brand. The creation of an identity for the brand can be used to imply that the company enjoys a unique position in customer’s mind which can be associated with their culture, tradition and lifestyle. The management of brands successfully is critical for the companies as it is a strong determinant of the preferences of the consumers for the class of similar products and services. But at the same time it is important to realize that development of a product in the form of a brand and that too as a successful brand is not a task for one day or a two but a persistent endeavor that must furnish the good quality products to the customers and also there is a rigorous activity to enhance the visibility of its products with a proper marketing communication that can be differentiated from the other similar offerings in the market. According to the literature, brand equity is “a set of assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol that add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm’s customers” (Aaker, 1991, p.15). Some authors say it is “a set of associations and behaviors on the part of a brand’s consumers, channel members and parent corporation that enables a brand to earn greater volume or greater margins that it could without the brand name and, in addition, provides a strong, sustainable and differential advantage” (Pappu et al., 2005). The challenge to address the needs of the different customer segments is not the only concern as the life cycle phases of the products may have an impact on the appeal the product carries to the customers else its growth would stagnate. Each product life cycle requires distinct type of strategies to be used by business marketers. In addition to this, simply ensuring that the customers are satisfied will not be sufficient enough for the marketers as the changing aspirations of the customers add more complexity to the already dynamic business environment thus calling for more innovative strategies from the customers (Kotler & Keller, 2006). It is known that the acquisition of customers is the first step in the customer relationship cycle and the company usually does so by using different strategies to lure the customer but the maintenance of this relationship in the long term, building relationships that translate into the positive word of mouth and repeated sales is the real challenge (Kotler & Armstrong, 2013). Further, the customer loyalty of the customers needs to be converted into repurchase intention and recommendation of the service provider to the other colleagues and friends. The past research suggests that retention of existing customers is a bigger and more expensive problem in customer relationship management rather than attracting a new customer. Reichheld (1993) has found in his study that building closer relationship with customers resulted in better returns to companies.
Thus the present marketing strategy plan will focus particularly on the management of relationships. The usual marketing strategies tend to emphasize on either the strategies on packaging, branding, advertising, product planning and pricing while some others deal with the distribution issues, promotion as well as financial performance optimization, however Prada group requires to focus on strengthening its brand equity which can be effectively done by the management of relationship quality with its different stakeholders (Kotler & Armstrong, 2013). A positively perceived relationship quality is likely to manifest itself into reduced costs, improvements in quality, and capacity enhancements therefore it is important to ascertain the impact of perceived relationship quality on brand equity. The importance of the social media networking and internet interface can be useful to tackle the challenges of growth and accelerating it through a seamless integrated network along with nurturing relationships with stakeholders (Klososky, 2011).
“Research Design is a framework or blue print for conducting research” (Malhotra & Dash, 2011, pg.70). This study was an exploratory study that used qualitative evidence procured from the individual interviews of eight espondents. The present research was based on the qualitative survey of opinions of the various supply chain partners of the organization on the perceived brand equity of the firm and how do they perceive the quality of their relationship with the firm. The study also sought their insights on whether they think that the firm needs to foster its relationship marketing endeavors. The members interviewed in the survey were involved in the various activities of the internal supply chain of the organization. These people were involved in profiles like distribution, marketing, purchasing, new product development, customer services, financing, operations etc. As customer is an important supply chain partner being the consumer of the final end product hence some interviews were also taken from the existing customers of the company. These surveys were conducted in the field settings during the non-peak work hours so as to ensure that the response rate is good. Also wherever possible (implying the availability of the contact number) a prior appointment was sought from the respondent so as to ensure that the participation is whole hearted.
With an objective of gaining an understanding regarding the linkages between the trust, satisfaction and confidence in buyer-seller relationships and brand equity and exploiting this favorably for Prada group an empirical study has been done based on qualitative evidence. Besides trying to deduce the presence of these linkages the study also attempted to learn the failings of the firm in context of the different factors that form the perception of relationship quality so as to locate the areas for improvement. The data on the demographic profile of the respondents was also collected on variables like age, gender, education level; income level, occupation as these may have impact on the perception of relationship quality by them.
The findings procured from the experience surveys of the industry experts as well as the face to face personal interviews from the various stakeholders using a survey employing open-ended questions mostly reveals that the perception of relationship quality among the supply chain partners is influenced by factors like quality of communicational exchanges, the frequency of communication, conflict resolution endeavors, the extent of cooperation among partners, ability to comprehend the client’s needs, length of relationship, customer’s experiences with the products and services, the perception regarding the employee’s competency and the expertise of handling clients and business information. The respondents confessed that all these indicators of relationship quality have a direct and positive bearing on the perceived brand equity among these respondents and positive brand equity is very much likely to be translated into word of mouth recommendation as well as a favorable intention to use the products of the company again. The probe regarding the factors where in the relationship with the company was found to be lacking suggests that the company needs to make fresh efforts for reinforcing its product offering using well-designed campaigns of targeted marketing along with giving these efforts an impetus by incorporating aggressive and rigorous brand positioning endeavors. The company needs to strengthen its relationship with its loyal clientele and use the marketing strategies carefully for developing customer’s strong sense of affinity with its products. The company can leverage strategic advantage in this regard using social media network. The integrated marketing efforts intended to foster relationship quality between client and company along with effective positioning exercises will make sure that the company achieves more business success in future.
It can be concluded from the primary research that the market is characterized by consumer switching as the customers tend to purchase the fashion accessories which they find appealing and unique. However there are a few loyal customers who want to remain associated with the brand provided the brand is successful and looks after their distinct needs through its customized product offerings. The tendency of continually moving from one apparel provider to the other is less visible among the purchasers of the luxury segment. In addition to this, one must understand that the behavior to switch is influenced by a variety of factors including the confidence in the company, the interactions that happen between the client and the company, their mutual experiences, customer satisfaction and trust that all together tell them how they perceive the relationship with the firm apart from the excellent service and product quality. All such factors keep a customer loyal to their current retail products provider.
Then there are a number of market factors too that push the customers to switch, more importantly the satisfied customers to switch. Eventually every customer yearns for exquisite product quality and performance. The interactions among the respondents (customers, suppliers) exhibit that their propensity to switch is accentuated by occurrence of product failures or the service failure. Sometime during the service encounters the overall experience of the client is spoiled due to delivery delays or some conflicts that are not aptly resolved up to the satisfaction of the client or some miscommunication by the service executive hence it is evident that the relationship quality in the various activities is essential determinant to have a favorable perception of brand among the customers. The other factors beside relationship quality that also determine the decision to continue or discontinue the products of the company include price most importantly. The other important thing that needs to be acknowledged here is that the role of freebies and bonuses to guarantee customer loyalty is poor and as such their impact on inducing switching behavior is low. It has been further observed that the propensity to switch among the products/services providers is higher among females than males and in the sample also the higher percentage of females have shown the intention to switch. The sensitivity of the females towards the relationship quality factors is greater and many of them have switched in the past owing to poor perception of relationship quality despite the product quality being good. In addition to this, when asked on the preference to try a new provider, the females are drawn more towards the new entrants.
Thus summarizing it altogether it can be concluded that perception of relationship quality is a crucial factor for indicating the brand equity as a poor perception of the company’s relationship quality is likely to enhance the propensity to switch. Thus it is important for the marketers to locate the strategic ways for strengthening the relationship quality thereby improving the brand equity, however the systematic assessment of the market factors prior to adaptation is also imperative for the marketers. It is also clear from the study that the ultimate goal of customer is ultimate satisfaction and a happy experience.
Thus the study will focus on the management of the various business relationships strategically to (i) enhance brand equity of the company and (ii) yield customers an experience of exquisite kind that helps in fostering a positive association with the company and reduces propensity to switch, providing the company a source of competitive advantage which is robust against any duplication by competitors.
Further, the construction of relationship quality can be in terms of the factors like communication approaches as well as the behavioral aspects that include warmth, helpfulness, empathy, courtesy and respect and therefore the business interactions like the customer-employee interactions during service encounters induce different emotional feelings that transit swiftly across different states defining the overall experience and the perception of relationship quality.
The study proposes that the relationship marketing endeavors like communication, conflict resolution, the experience of the employees and their expertise, the relationship orientation exhibited by the service executives, service executive’s attributes and understanding the consumer needs with a customer oriented approach can be useful in enhancing the brand equity for the company and social media network can be a strategic interface for such an endeavor.
Objective 1: To enhance the brand equity among the customers so as to resolve the problems pertaining to customer retention.
Goal 1: To add 10% more new customers to the existing customer base of the firm
Objective 2: To reduce the propensity to switch among customers by at least 5%.
Goal 2: To foster the relationship marketing efforts so as to improve the perception of relationship quality among stakeholders.
Objective 3: To exceed the customer expectations for building a long term association with the customers.
Goal 3: To reduce the perception-expectations gap in the product and service quality among the stakeholders to its minimum possible value within this quarter.
Objective 4: To enhance the perceived level of relationship quality among customers.
Goal 4: To improve the customer’s perceived level of relationship quality by at least two points on positive side within six months time.
The following statements comprise the choice of the strategic components for the proposed marketing plan.
The present market plan would be addressing the needs of the different stakeholders and hence these stakeholders are categorized into three main segments: customers, employees of the company and the other business partners like the suppliers of the raw material to the firm, distributors and the various individuals linked at different parts of the product’s supply chain. The customers will be segregated on the basis of existing and prospective customers and so is the category of employees and the business partners.
The company focuses on the high end consumers, business partners and employees as the target audience. With reviewing the products done by press and posting these reviews on their media (via their electronic links) will help the company reach the critical audience. The positioning techniques will vary for the different targeted segments as customers need to understand the product in terms of its quality attributes and its worthiness as sales driver; the retailers need information about the real profitability as well as the mark up and profit margin associated with the products. Initially the marketing plan would start responding to the needs of the customers then the online portal would also try to connect the business partners and the employees as well. The existing customers of the company pertain to high end income group who are less sensitive to prices but are motivated by product novelty. The psychographic traits of these customers reveal that they are looking for products and services that can give them a boost in their status and add to their pride. The age bracket that most shop from the company is in the 30 plus age group owing to high prices of the products the youngsters find them unaffordable. The behavioral characteristics of these customers reveal that they are regular users of the web-based services and have good exposure to digital media. They would be very much willing to have the information delivered conveniently at their doorstep.
This primary market is extremely important for the marketers as nurturing good relationships with the existing customers will ensure that they continue to purchase the products from the company and also recommend the company to others as well by propagating a positive word of mouth. The market segmentation would be based on then income level and tendency to purchase expensive high end fashion products. The focus will be more tilted towards the ones whose length of association with the company is less than three years’ time. Also the trends indicate that off late the addition of the new customers to the company has been at the rate of 8% on an average on per annum basis hence it is expected that the number of customers that this marketing plan currently needs to cater is around 0.2 million. The targeted customers will be imparted the benefit of being able to connect directly with the company to register their concerns and address their queries in an upfront manner.
The strategic initiative will yield the customers the opportunity to remain connected with the company 24 hours a day at their convenience (via their laptops or smartphone devices) at any desired place and time to learn about the product offerings, order their products online, electronically register their concerns, to have an advisor that can design a complete attire with dress and accessories uniquely tailored to suit their individual requirements. And the most interesting feature with round the clock accessibility would be the nominal price that the customer will foot in availing these services. As the customers perceive the brand as a value proposition itself hence being a member of the brand fan page or in the follower’s list would be another benefit to the customers. The use of the differentiation strategy offering products unique in style, color as well as appearance provides a sustainable competitive advantage to the company and company can display its new products, like new limited edition colored accessories on the web-based portal.
The main proposition that the present marketing plan focuses is the ‘place’ as connecting with the customers through web interface would help the company to transgress the geographical barriers and become available to their customers for all their fashion woes.
It is important for the company to learn that how many of the existing customers are connected with internet via smartphone devices or any other means to realize the maximum benefits of the proposed marketing initiative.
The marketing plan would employ web-based interface for establishing communication with the stakeholders (customers) using social media networking sites and mobile based applications for the same.
The measurement of brand equity would be obtained as “the difference between an individual consumer’s overall brand preference and his/her multi-attributed preference based in objectively measured attribute levels” (Park & Srinivasan, 1994, p.273). This measure comprises of ten items pertaining to the dimensions brand awareness, brand association, brand loyalty as well as perceived quality.
The targeted initiatives for branding, establishing brand identity along with improving brand equity would help the company have a strong image among the customers and would also enhance the brand recall. Semenik (2002) states that, “effective marketing communication can be lethal for other competitors giving a competitive edge to the implementing brand. It is more about utilizing a constructive and predilection for the products and services of any particular”. In order to implement the proposed initiative in Prada group, a two-phase process will be adopted: one intended to improve the perception of relationship quality and hence brand equity in personal service interactions and the other intended to attain the same objective indirectly through web (social media networking sites) or web-based interfaces (web-based mobile applications). Besides thinking for the strategies that attract new customers to the business the company should vie for the efforts that can build and foster long term associations with the customers. The use of referral programs has proved to be a good strategy in the past similarly the company can introduce new loyalty programs for having a more enduring relationship with its existing customers. The company can utilize social media marketing to connect directly with its customers. In order to improve the relationship quality perception in direct interactions the strategic use of integrated marketing communications like different slogans, help signage, providing support to physically challenged customers like furnishing wheel-chairs, assistance in locating and picking the products, personally attending to their needs even if it is not a compulsory part of the SOP and so on would be employed within the stores of the company to ensure that all the customers have a happy experience from the store and they feel the desire to visit the store again. Also a visitor’s book will be maintained in all the stores of the company to record the experiences of the visitors and a monthly follow up of the grievances and complaints would be attended on individual basis. A systematic evaluation of the expected relationship quality and perceived relationship quality would be made and efforts would aim to minimize if not possible to eliminate the gaps wherever they exist. The prominent and persistent gaps will call for necessary managerial intervention with an aim to improve the quotient of relationship quality and enhance the brand equity for the firm.
In the case of the indirect channels like internet based social media networking solution, in addition to the above steps an effort would be made to ensure that the frequency of interactions across this interface with the customers, suppliers and other business partners is high and the exchange of information is almost on real time basis. It is expected that the customers for the luxury segment of retail products offered by the company have an inclination to use digital mediums via laptops and smartphone devices and value time as money. Therefore the company will ensure that it remains visible as a brand to such customers through web-based applications on recurrent basis that can also foster its brand equity by ensuring in-sight and in-mind as well. This interface will make use of the feedback exercise by procuring comments from the customers. The feedback can be regarding the overall experience during the service interactions with the service executives and once these feedbacks reveal the existence of gaps in expectations and perceptions of relationship quality factors then the appropriate managerial intervention would be yielded in terms of training for the service executives on giving impetus to the relationship marketing efforts for the customers. The online portal can be used by the company to give some tips on latest fashion to the customers as well as it can also help them in offering customized product solutions according to some special event in their lives. For example, if someone is dressing for the wedding then the portal can help the client in deciding the best wedding attire along with the most appropriate accessories for the event. The company can form strategic retailing partnerships with renowned companies for the website support to market and distribute its products. This type of frequent connections through internet interface will help in building enduring relationships with the clients and hence elevating the brand equity for the company. The company may use celebrity endorsements capitalizing on the professionals from different areas including sports, education and politics as a part of its branding efforts.
The implementation of the relationship marketing efforts would be significant in presenting the missing quality link by integrating good service quality and product quality with the relationship quality. This integrated network would yield a sustained competitive advantage for the company and in promoting brand equity too as this source of competitive advantage would not be impacted by shifts in technology or capital changes.
According to the review of past studies, social networking tools are most easy and cost effective marketing channels than the conventional marketing options particularly from the budgetary perspective. However, the optimum mix of email marketing, advertisements (both print and audiovisual), press release, web page, podcast etc. can also be employed based on the overall effectiveness of these channels measured in terms of coverage, ROI, and the ease of lead conversion.
|Communication Channel||Proportion Of The Budget (in percentage)|
|Social media sites||50%|
|E mail marketing||5%|
The metrics like average lead close rate, average leads per business day month over month growth and month to date (MTD) growth per channel will be used for tracking the efficacy of the marketing plan under the supervision of digital marketing manager.
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Hi, My name is Student Name, I am conducting a study for a retail fashion house to ascertain that strategic importance of relationship quality in enhancing brand equity and also to identify the factors that help in forming the perception regarding relationship quality so as to trace significant relationship marketing efforts for boosting the brand equity. Please furnish the maximum possible opinions on the following questions so as to help me in my research endeavour. The information shared here will be used only for the stated purpose and remain confidential with the researcher.
SECTION A: BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
INSTRUCTIONS : Please tick(write in the response whatever is applicable
|1. Check your Category:
Distributor/ Retailer/ Customer/ Employee/ Any Other (Specify) —–
|2. Age||: ______________years|
|5. Highest formal education||:|
|6. Length of association with the brand||: ______________years|
- What are the factors that you look in when you are dealing with fashion accessories?
- What brands do you opt for when you are dealing with fashion accessories?
- Are you familiar with the brands of “Prada Group”? Name some.
- What is your perception of the product quality from this brand?
- What benefits do you perceive in this brand as you compare it with some other brands that you use in the same product category?
- Are you able to procure the value for money from this brand?
- What is your perception of the relationship that you have been able to form with this brand, if you think there is some relationship? If you think otherwise, give at least one reason why do you feel so?
- Please state some factors that you interpret in the context of ‘relationship with the brand’?
- How important is the relationship in your business dealings whether purchase, sale or any other activity?
- Would you like to switch to some new brand for the dealings of fashion accessories?
- Would your answer to the previous question remain the same if you have a strong relationship with the brand? If your answer changes, give at least two reasons to support your answer?
- Would your answer to the previous question remain the same if you have a positive experience with the brand? If your answer changes, give at least two reasons to support your answer?
- Would you like to recommend this brand to others?
- Would you like to continue to purchase the products of this brand?
- Do you think that this company keeps your best in mind?
|Distributor||55 yrs||male||owner distribution agency||HS Diploma||20 years||knew all brands||Considers the brand a reputable and trusted customer brand.||Would recommend|
|Employee||32 yrs||Female||works in group||Masters in Business||5 years||knows all brand||considers brand a trustworthy brand and a good employer||would recommend|
|Customer||29 yrs||Male||businessman||Bachelors||3 years||could hardly recall other brands except the one that he uses||likes it||may be|
|Customer||30 yrs||female||housewife||Associate||6 years almost||knew just one, could recall the other with aid||prefers the brand owing to exclusive product offerings, the store experience has been nice on the whole except for a one purchase when she quarreled with the store executive on some ambiguity in communication||have tried other brands, might recommend, will purchase from the brand that gives ultimate satisfaction|
|Customer||25 year||Male||Student||Bachelors||2 years||had a tough time in recalling the brands||likes the products but uses other brands as well||would recommend the watches for sure|
|Employee||28 yrs||male||company job||Masters||6 yrs||knew all brands one remembered on aided recall||uses multiple products from the firm||would like the executives to be more courteous|
|Customer||48 years||male||professional||Masters||10 years||difficulty in remembering the brand names||keen to use new products, would make purchases from the stores that are convenient and have supporting store staff, have left using a previous brand due to some discord with the employees||the overall experience is good but would like to have it better in terms of complaint handing issues|
|Retailer||42 years||female||owns a retail outlet||Associate||11 years||new all names perfectly||relationship has been cordial and trusting, never had issues that could not be resolved||would surely recommend|