Factors influencing effective relationship marketing by smartphone brands through social media amongst Generation Y students
Van Schalkwyk, Johannes Hugo
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The competitiveness of the smartphone market has escalated in recent years and has seen varying brands vie for the top. This has been aided by the diffusion of technology, as well as the streamlining of the supply chain for smartphones. As such, quality or unique features were no longer the most important aspects as the number of substitutes has afforded users to test new brands and at lower prices than had ever been possible before. Thus, it is suggested that brands need a differentiating factor that will set them apart from other brands. This study hypothesised that relationship marketing through social media could prove to be enough of a differentiating feature for brands to be able to showcase a uniqueness, or at the very least, differentiation to the extent of standing out from other brands. When a relationship is sought with consumers, above merely selling a semi-homogenous product, their loyalty and preference to the brand might be a clinching factor in selling. Thus, when brands build relationships, the relationship itself is seen as a differentiating factor, which augments the product, and therefore shows itself as a more attractive option than merely buying a smartphone. This study set out to test factors influencing effective relationship marketing by smartphone brands through social media amongst Generation Y students. Therefore, the focus was on Generation Y students aged 18 to 24, from the Gauteng Province. This data came from using 519 initial respondents, which was trimmed down to 512 after the removal of outliers. The data was collected in 2017, using a self-administered questionnaire, which was given to respondents through non-probability convenience sampling. The factors that were used to test the hypotheses for this study were brand loyalty, brand experience, perceived usefulness, anticipated benefits, brand activities, brand community, intention to be involved, brand trust, commitment, and advocacy intention. The conceptual model for the study showed sufficient model fit in all but two instances, and a new model was proposed to find a balance between theory and the data found in this study. It was found that brand experience and anticipated benefits had a positive effect on brand loyalty. Anticipated benefits, perceived usefulness, and brand community had a positive effect on intention to be involved, and anticipated benefits had a positive effect on brand activities. Next, brand loyalty, intention to be involved, and brand activities had a positive effect on brand trust. Brand loyalty and brand trust had a positive effect on commitment. Brand loyalty, brand activities, and commitment had a positive effect on advocacy intention. This study shows that Generation Y students tend to be brand loyal and value brand experience highly. Moreover, they perceive social media as useful to connect with smartphone brands but anticipate certain benefits and brand activities when following brands on social media. Next, Generation Y students are in favour of brand communities and want to feel valued in those communities. They had the intention to be involved with the social media pages of smartphone brands. Next, they show that they want to trust smartphone brands, are in favour of being committed, and ultimately, can be persuaded to become advocates for the brand. This is the ultimate goal for brands who make use of social media for their relationship marketing. This study contributes to the scarce literature regarding Generation Y students in South Africa, regarding the social media pages of smartphone brands, which is seen as a practical contribution. Furthermore, smartphones are becoming ever more popular but compete in a crowded market. This study highlights the attitude of the Generation cohort regarding smartphones and several specific brands. Moreover, this study showcases a model that shows flexibility and can be used by smartphone manufacturers to attain brand advocacy among their customers. This is achieved by showing several different models, paths, and constructs that are relevant to social media and smartphones, and how they correlate in the different constructs. Next, this study showed brand loyalty as an independent variable, to study whether the individual using a brand and being loyal to a brand, motivates them to make use of the social media pages of smartphone brands. Lastly, the model used could possibly be altered for use in other electronics categories, to assess the way in which the user can be motivated to become a brand advocate.