This paper discusses how airline companies engage with their consumers. It discusses the modes of consumer engagement and the process of engagement. Most companies use integrated marketing approach to engage consumers because of the diversity of needs in the market. It also outlines the various theories of decision-making as applied in the airline industry. The aim is to establish how different consumers make their decisions about services and products in the market. Cognitive dissonance theory, maximization utility, the reasoned action and the theory of certainty provide realistic concepts for predicting the behavior of consumers. Companies are more likely to use them in designing and implementing consumer engagement strategies.
Customer engagement marketing refers to all the strategies that a company or business use to establish a relationship between the consumers and the operations of the company. Effective consumer engagement strategies are important because they influence consumers towards developing values in relation to companies. Consumers who value the services or products of a particular company tend to be loyal customers (Bowden 2009). Consumer engagement can also be perceived as a marketing strategy that aims at creating and maintaining loyal customer base in the market (Bowden 2009). This paper seeks to discuss how companies in the airline sector engage with consumers of their services in the market. It also seeks to discuss how consumers make decisions using relevant theories.
The Reasons for Consumer Engagement Processes
Understanding why companies need to engage with consumers in the market is useful in determining how they conduct the process of engagement. Consumer engagement is a crucial aspect of brand management. Brand management is one of the marketing strategies that companies use to establish brand loyalty. It aims at increasing the positive perception of a particular product or services (Ashworth & Kavaratzis 2010). For instance, companies in the airways sector engage in awareness campaigns to inform the public of their services and routes of destination. The awareness campaign is one of the aspects of brand management strategy. Consumer engagement strategies may provide platforms for receiving feedbacks regarding the services that companies offer in the airline sector. The companies can use the feedbacks to improve the nature of their services (Ashworth & Kavaratzis 2010). For instance, an airline company may learn that their flight attendants take relatively longer time to serve customers compared to other companies. The airline company may use the information to serve as a basis of investigation and improvement of all services.
Customer engagement strategies also provide information that a company can use to understand the composition of the market. The information regarding the composition of the market is useful in determining why certain age groups do not use the available services. It also makes the company understand how to change and improve their services to accommodate the interests of other people who do not use the services (Bowden 2009). Companies may also understand their competitions using the feedback they receive from consumers.
Consumer Engagement Strategies Modes of Engagement
Companies use various modes to engage consumers. The suitability of the modes depends on the objective of engagement. For instance, a company that seeks to get feedback on their new product will use Facebook because it provides options for receiving comments. The strength of the methods of engagement lies in the ability of consumers to provide feedback regarding the operations of companies in the airline sector. The market composition for airline services has become complicated. It consists of different groups of people who have varying needs. Each group of consumers requires a different advertisement method. The methods of advertisement include the traditional modes such as televisions, radios and printed articles. Most recently information technology has become the predominant mode of engagement. Information technology supports various social platforms such as Facebook and twitter. Information technology also involves advertisement through mobile phone applications. Most airline companies use an integrated marketing strategy to respond to the challenge of diversity in the market.
Integrated marketing strategy involves using various advertisement methods together. The scheme offers a comprehensive approach for engaging consumers of airline services in the operations of the company (Shakeel-Ul-Rehman & Ibrahim 2011). Media planners in such companies acknowledge the diversity in the market in relation to the interests of people. For instance, the traditional advertisement methods may be helpful in reaching people who might find the use of technology a daunting task (Shakeel-Ul-Rehman & Ibrahim 2011, p. 188). It can be argued tha tthe use of information technology offers more appeal to the younger generation and business people who value time. Consumer engagement through social media works on principles that are different from the traditional methods. It offers a platform for receiving feedbacks regarding the operations of the company.
The Process of Engagement
Bijmolt et al. (2010) maintains that the process of consumer engagement begins from acquisition of the same. The process of acquisition involves selecting prospective customers on the basis of their potential responsiveness and their ability to purchase the services. This aspect is important to airline companies in African countries because of the high rate of charges they impose for the services. Only people with adequate financial resources can afford the charges. The selection criteria might help companies to conserve their resources by focusing on customers who fit the qualification criteria. The selection process helps the airline companies to establish their focus in the market. The companies use the Recently, Frequently and Monetary model to select prospectus customers (Bijmolt et al. 2010). RFM is a strategy that companies use to determine the value of customers. The assumption of the valuation model is that a future customer has the same characteristics as the customer of the past.
The second step in the process involves the management of the acquired customers (Bijmolt et al. 2010). This step also involves a sub-process of allocating resources in relation to the establishment of effective marketing approaches. Media planners select suitable advertisement modes based on the analysis of the characteristics of the prospective customers. Airline companies might, therefore, use an integrated marketing approach to counter the challenge of diversity in the market. A higher proportion of people aged above 65 years and above find technology intimidating and involving. Majority of people aged below 45 years find technology appealing to their interests (Shakeel-Ul-Rehman & Ibrahim 2011). Business people and executives of various corporations prefer direct inquiry because other processes consumes a lot of time. Correspondingly, the consumer management process follows a successful analysis of the characteristics of prospects consumers (Posavac 2012). Other steps involve customer development and retention (Bijmolt et al. 2010). The processes aim at attracting loyalty to the services of airline companies by engaging in vigorous campaigns of the same. In general, airline companies engage consumers through a process that begins from a careful selection of the same and ends at retention. They also engage consumers through carefully planned advertisement techniques (Bijmolt et al. 2010).
Consumer Decision-Making Process
Making a decision involves engaging in a process that would help decide the right course of action in a situation with more than one alternative. Young (2010) people develop risk-benefit frameworks in most situations to analyze the options that are present. An individual would want to make decisions that impact positively on his or her life. The outcomes of situations depend on the nature of decisions that individuals make. Decision-making processes also apply in situations where consumers need to choose between products and services. The airline industry has several companies that offer same or similar services. The theories that explain decision-making processes include cognitive dissonance, consistency theory, commitment, certainty effect, choice-supportive bias, confirmation bias, the scarcity principle, and reasoned action theory (Young 2010).
Cognitive dissonance theory maintains that individuals always seek to minimize the extent of discomfort in contradicting situations (Young 2010). According to the theory, individuals experience discomfort due to the conflicting ideas in their minds (Cooper 2007). It explains that an individual in such a situation is likely to take the easy option of eliminating the source of discomfort (Young 2010). Cognitive dissonance affects how consumers process information in relation to various products and services. Individuals will always have ideas that conflict with their pre-conceived perceptions about certain companies. The diversity in ideas results from the emerging trends, the shifting needs and social circles (Young 2010). In social circles, everyone tends to defend what they believe to avoid the uncomfortable situations. For instance, an individual may experience cognitive dissonance when he receives a message that contradicts the value that he attaches to an airline company (Cooper 2007). A friend may try to convince him that there is another company that offers better services than the company he has been using. Marketers may use the concepts of this theory to present consistent information when engaging consumers.
Consistency theory asserts that lack of constancy in the relationship between beliefs and actions evoke uncomfortable feelings in individuals (Little-John & Foss 2008). It affirms that people wish to engage in acts that are consistent with their belief and cultural system. The discordance in the relationship between the belief system and actions evoke uncomfortable feelings. An individual in such a circumstance is likely to change the belief and value system to accommodate the emerging trends. Human beings have predetermined belief and value systems that they use to evaluate decisions before making them. In other words, the choice that people make should always be consistent with what they perceive as right or wrong (Little-John & Foss 2008). Any slight variation between the belief system and the course of action evokes the feelings of discomfort in individuals. The consistency theory explains why some people are particular about the flight attendants who serve them in an airplane. The theory may not find much application in customer engagement compared to cognitive dissonance theory. Most processes engaged in the provision of airline services do not contradict the belief systems of individuals.
The theory of certainty result discusses how probabilities of outcomes influence the behavior of individuals (Secchi 2011). The theory maintains that people tend to develop less interest in situations which present low probability outcome of the desired results (Loughran et al. 2012). Similarly, an individual will develop more interest in a situation if the probability of achieving the desired results is high (Secchi 2011). Individuals make choices on the basis of the probability of the outcome of the situation. They perceive outcomes based on their past experiences or the experiences of other people. For instance, engaging consumers through social media provides a platform that consumers may use to present their feedbacks. Some of the feedbacks can be critical of a company’s operations. If so many people acknowledge the efficiency in operation of an airline company, then people are more to likely seek the same services. In other words, people want to get a hint of what would happen if they were to make a particular decision. The behaviour pattern is driven by the need to eliminate the negative feelings that come from disappointments. People have various expectations regarding how they want the outcomes of various situations to become (Loughran et al. 2012). Most airline companies use influential personalities in advertisements to create an impression of better past experiences. The personalities convince potential consumers that the services of the company were better. The aim of the advertisements is to influence consumers to develop positive opinions regarding the services of the company.
Maximization utility theory predicts that human beings behave as if they were economists and were business-minded. It asserts that an individual is likely to make a choice of a product that offers the greatest value for the least amount of money possible (Kahneman & Thaler 2006). In extreme circumstances, the costs of products and services are more likely to influence the purchasing behaviour of individuals even if the quality is compromised. Inadequate resources influence this type of a decision-making process (Kahneman & Thaler 2006). In normal circumstances, people will want high-quality result for fewer inputs. It explains why people like to bargain when purchasing products and services. In the airline industry, people tend to go for companies that offer quality services at affordable rates. It can be argued that the understanding of this theory also affects the pricing strategies of various airline companies (Kahneman & Thaler 2006). For instance, most airline companies have different classes of passengers; first class, second class and third class. The first-class passengers can afford high charges for the highest quality of service. The low-class passengers are the people who wish to use airline services, but are discouraged by the high charges.
Choice-supportive bias theory explains that most people twist their memories to convince the present result that the decisions they made were the best (Ross 2009). The theory asserts that most people manipulate their memories to prevent the feelings of disappointment that the result presents. The case happens in situations where an individual has to take an early stand in the matter that involves multiple options. Individuals will always want to remember less negative things about situations that happened (Ross, 2009). In a business environment, the choice –supportive bias theory occurs for consumers who have used a particular product or service for a long time. Such consumers will always talk negatively about other products or services. It is an advanced level of brand loyalty that results from effective consumer engagement strategies. Various companies understand that subjecting prospective customers through effective and consistent consumer engagement sessions influences the way they perceive the services. Consumers would continue to stick even if their services were relatively poor compared other companies (Ross, 2009).
The principle of scarcity affirms that individuals are more likely to go for services and products that are scarce in the market, especially if the demand is high. Individuals tend to associate scarcity of products and services with quality. The notion is that the services or products could be scarce because several people went for them (Siebert 2008). If many people went for them then, they must have been impressive. The abundant supply of a particular service or product may create the impression that it is less desired by people (Siebert 2008). Most people analyze situations to ascertain the behaviours of others towards various products or services (Siebert 2008). The aim is to avoid first-hand experience of disappointing results. Airline companies understand this principle and use it to increase the consumption of their services. They create a demand crisis then offer limited opportunities for utilization of their services. The strategy encourages people to book flights in advance to avoid a last minute rush.
The reasoned action theory explains that individuals engage in certain actions because they planned to do so (Tanachart & Islam 2010). It also explains that the intention originates from his or her attitude towards that behavior (Tanachart & Islam 2010). In this context, the intention serves as the basis for prediction of a behavior pattern. Beliefs and values influence the formation of attitudes regarding certain patterns of behavior (Smith & Biddle 2008). Understanding people’s beliefs system is important in understanding their attitudes. Understanding attitudes helps in predicting what an individual plans to do in a circumstance. An individual is more likely to engage in a particular action if he or she believes that it is the right thing to do in the circumstance. What other people think of the choice plays a central role in influencing the actions of the individual. The theory recognizes that there are factors that limit the influence of people’s intentions towards engaging in a particular behavior (Smith & Biddle 2008). For instance, the airline companies are aware that many people wish to use their services but are incapacitated by the lack of financial resources. The understanding has compelled the airline companies to develop different classes of service; high class, middle class and the low class. Cognitive dissonance theory, maximization utility, the reasoned action and the theory of certainty provide realistic concepts for predicting the behavior of consumers. Companies are more likely to use them in designing and implementing consumer engagement strategies.
Companies in the airline industry engage consumers through an integrated marketing approach. The approach is influenced by the diversified nature of the market. The engagement process begins from the selection stage and ends at retention of customers. There are various theories that explain how consumers make decisions regarding products or services. Such theories include cognitive dissonance, consistency theory, commitment, certainty effect, choice-supportive bias, confirmation bias, the scarcity principle, and reasoned action theory.
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