Apr 12, 2009

Online Relationship Marketing

There are numerous definitions of RM one of the more favoured descriptions states that; Relationship marketing is to identify, establish, maintain, enhance and when necessary also to terminate relationships with customers and other stakeholders, at a profit, so that the objectives of all parties are met, and that this is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises (Grönroos, 1994). Gummesson (1994) expands on this, by stating; RM recognizes that everyone is a part-time marketer and that marketing is not confined to the full-time marketers of the marketing and sales departments. It recognizes that both the customer and the seller can be active. They should see each other as partners in a win-win relationship, this co-operative atmosphere between buyer and seller, which in turn sets a stage for mutual adaptation (Metcalf, Frear, & Krishnan, 1990).

Now it doesn't take a genius to see that the above descriptions of RM are becoming increasingly evident in our connected world. It is clear that the amount of online data available prior to purchase, and during interaction with consumers as well as the ease and speed of online CRM communication tools such as email, tweets, and blogs posts allow businesses to 'manage' customer relationships in a much more effective and ‘personally customised’ way than ever before. But are the advances in communication, information gathering, and customisability of online retail offerings just features of online retailing or do they fundamentally challenge conceptual framework of RM?

As our use of the Internet continues to evolve there are some Internet specific issues which seem to be emerging, obviously interaction is now a two way public affair, and corporates are much more accountable for their actions than ever before. But should this cause managers to re-think their communication strategies? Only if they were operating unethically prior to the social-web. But as for the company who has always strived to deliver greater value, sought feedback from stakeholders, and truly attempted to connect with it's consumers in a meaningful way does the web really change their RM principles...well no not really. They simply have a greater tools through which these relationships can be fostered.

The fact that human beings are the central part of the social-web means that the new advances and in technology do not fundamentally change relationship marketing, problems and issues experienced online are often merely extensions issues or consumer needs dealt with in the real world or companies failing to utilise these tools in an appropriate way.

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