This paper defines the nature and structure of the topic, ‘An Evaluation of Executives’ Perceptions of Customer Relationship Management in a Cross-cultural Context’ in the e-retailing industry. Customer care and the relationship between customers and the company depend on the nature of the strategy of the company and the culture of the local markets and people in the context of e-retailing as it involves the customer’s trust in the organization. In the globalization era, MNCs are operating in different countries and are manufacturing and selling products in different countries as well as different cultures. Hence, the strategies of e-retailing are revolutionary as the retailers can have collaborated with different MNCs to sell their products online. In this context, the culture of the local market decides the marketing strategies of the e-retailing company. The customer-company relationship, the perspectives of executives on various countries (markets) is important to analyze the customer-company relationship and customer care activities of the company while framing e-retailing strategies (Friessen, Michael E, page 15-17).
According to Adam Lindgreen and Michael Antioco (2005), marketing literature argues that marketing strategies should be changed according to the culture of the market where the retailer is operating in. However, e-retailing targets customers of different geographical regions. Hence, it is important to have different strategies for different areas. As the above-mentioned marketing approach is different from the traditional ones, the latest one has to consider the Four Ps (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) as well as the cultures of the markets the e-retailing company targets. Marketing strategies based on the culture of the local market need research as the call center executives of the e-retailing company should have a correct perspective of the culture of the market the company is targeting. Modern strategies depend on customer retention and that retention depends on the customer-company relationship. However, as it is difficult to maintain a relationship with the customer in electronic business it is necessary to engage the customer with attractive schemes and offers as well as innovative products. In this context, though American and European countries may have similarities up to some extent, the culture of the Asian markets is completely different from that of American and European countries. Hence, an e-retailing company that targets Asia from America has to develop the right perceptions for its executives regarding the cultures of countries of Asia and vice versa. Therefore, research on the cultural perspectives of executives of the companies will be useful for CRM and marketing strategies of any e-retailing company (Lindgreen and Antioco, page 136 – 154).
The methodology adopted in this paper is primarily to collect information regarding cross-cultural perceptions of executives and their effect on customers and the market from academic and authentic sources. The rationale behind the above concept is to understand the perspectives of executives in cross-cultural contexts and to apply them to the e-retailing business. To fulfill the above rationale, a literature review regarding cultural aspects and perspectives of the executives in a cross-cultural context, which is apt for an e-retailing company targeting markets of different cultures would be explored to assist the researcher in conducting analysis and discussing the problem before coming to a conclusion and drawing recommendations.
Role of Literature Review
The literature review reflects the necessity of the executives to have a conceptual perception of cultural aspects of different countries in which they attract customers. The above aspect in the literature review will be applied to e-retailing strategies that sell the products to customers through electronic means. In the next part of the analysis, e-marketing strategies based on cultural perceptions are considered and analyzed according to the aspects considered in the literature review. The essence and theory of the above aspect are that the analysis will be according to the points mentioned in the literature review for e-retailing strategies. The rationale behind the above aspect is that both literature review and analysis are about CRM to estimate the efficacy of the e-marketing strategies that depend on cultural aspects in the country as well as the perceptions of executives. First-hand information like responses and interviews of executives and managers will be taken from some news articles and interviews published on the topic of the research papers.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Recommendations drawn are based on the necessities, efficiency, and lapses observed in the e-retailing strategies, which are observed in the literature review and analysis. They are made in such a manner to enhance the customer relationship with online customers of the e-retailing company. The necessity of further research and its extent can also be a part of the recommendation. In addition to that, recommendations would include suggestions of particular strategies for a specific type of cultural atmosphere.
Literature review in this paper will review journal articles and books that analyze CRM and theories that propose culture as an aspect that decides marketing strategies. According to Jennifer Rowley (2005), technology can be used to enhance the understanding of consumer behaviors and to improve customer relationship, in which warm relationships between company and the customers can be evolved further (Rowley, J, Page 194-195). 1
CRM and New Technologies
In the context of customer relationship, Umanath and Udhaya Kumar (2009) quote the involvement of combination of new technologies with elements of traditional stores and direct mail models. The mention of new technologies is in the intention of replacing the elements of store or direct mail retail. Hence, e-mail messages can replace mail messages and telephone. Moreover, it is important for a company to allow the customers to open an account on the company’s website that stands as a bridge for the business and can act as online store, which is important aspect of an e-retailing company. The company can maintain customer databases that enable company to make customers to order quickly. The account of the customer on the website of e-retailing company has to display billing, schemes and products. Moreover, it is important for any e-retailing company to offer customer care through the account of the customer and by telephone. However, there are enough challenges for e-retailing business in the context of customer care (K. Umanath, J. Udhaya Kumar, page 1).2
As a way to mitigate the challenges mentioned above, Rowley (2005) quotes about introduction of loyalty schemes mixed with quality as a successful marketing strategy for all types of cultures. The methods in which the e-retailing companies implement marketing strategies also play an important role in retaining online customers. One of the important method is that the e-retailing company can use loyalty schemes to gather detail information of the customers’ buying behaviors and patterns. This can give executives of the company the opportunity to reach out their customers in order to provide them a warm courtesy call or a follow-up. The above system to maintain customer relationship works well in Asia as Asian customers like the company which they shopped at remember them and they consider that remembrance as a token of service from the company. However, the above aspect is more important in case of online customers as there is more probability for the customers to forget the e-retailing company if there are no enough follow ups and a wide range of products. In addition to that, the companies would be able to use customer information to build a systematic online customer database (Rowley 2005).3
In addition to approaching the customers through mail, loyalty cards can be used to retain customers. Loyalty cards can record customers’ purchase frequency and preferences online. Discount would then be offered according to the customers’ purchase histories on their online account. Jennifer Rowley (2005) cited that loyalty schemes can be widespread and can easily manage a broad customer base with different purchase preferences.
Electronic Relationship Management
As the sector is e-retailing, it is important to manage customers through electronic relationship. Research on customer relationship will review literature on the effect of electronic relationship management on customer relations. Shannon Sue Scullin et al (2004) stated that electronic customer relationship management as the latest technology that can be used to increase and enhance the results of the marketing strategies. However, it is a must for e-retailing as the relationship is electronic. The authors quoted Stanton et al (1994) in their essay, saying electronic relationship with customers is a deviant from the traditional definitions of marketing and it is a necessary aspect in e-retailing. Electronic relationship with customers includes a philosophy or direction for a business that defines the primary goal for everybody in the company, which helps identifying its competitive advantage. The important aspect in electronic relationship with customers is that the cultural differences in this aspect of marketing are less and can be incorporated with less difficulty when compared to other methods of marketing that differ with the cultural differences of people in the market. One practical example of applying electronic relationship is the use of customer call centers. Call centers can act as a bridge between the company and the customers. It is important for the company to keep the communication up to date with the help of call centers to take care of customer needs and complaints in a timely fashion. However, the responsibility of the sales and marketing department of the company would be increased or evolved as customers can contact the company with the help of call centers and the sales and marketing department of the company should maintain coordination with other respective departments to address the concerns of the customers (Scullin, S, page 410-415).4
Customer Relationship of e-retailing in Europe
As part of the discussion of cultural differences, customer relationship of e-retailing industry in Europe is compared with the same industry in some other locations. Mosad Zineldin (2005) discussed those marketing strategies that can provide competitive advantage to customers with superior value of compared to competitive offerings. Zineldin quoted Porter (1980) about what generic ways can be used to establish competitive advantage. One of the important generic ways to have competitive advantage is to introduce new market. In terms of e-retailing industry, new market means is to introduce new product online and then build up and protect the competitive position. As no e-retailing firm can offer all the products, they are forced to frame a new basis for competition. In order to maintain one’s competitiveness is to improve the quality of its own services. As e-retailing industry has the threat of losing market by unknown competitors on internet, the important strategy is to increase the quality of the accessibility of products to customers. One more aspect is that e-retailer should offer more quality as well as security for the investment of the customers in their organizations when compared to other retailers. As the services of e-retailer are intangible, quality is a necessity for e-retailer to retain customer base. Zineldin also quotes Asser et al (1990) about improving quality, which needs the measure of it. Hence, periodical measure of the quality from the view of the customers can update the management with necessary inputs required for quality improvements of products and services. However, getting inputs is easy as e-retailer can gather customer responses online. The literature review of this paper will be based on the above topics and their application and impacts in different regions of the world and the attitudes of the call centre executives of e-retailer. The next aspect is cross-cultural marketing in e-retailing as the executives have to contact customers of different cultures sitting before a computer (Zineldin, page 329-344).5
The credibility of marketing lies in establishing the message as an expert opinion and giving prospects as a reason to pay attention. Hence, the website that offers online shopping to customer should express that expertise to assure the customer that his information about credit and debit cards is safe. In addition to that the marketing strategies based on cultural aspects of the customers are necessary to have emotional relationship with customer as long as they are retained. The delivery of informative messages that highlight the cultural aspects as well as the prospects of buying the goods can increase customer retention as well as new customers. Hence, it is important to have reliable information about culture of customers before delivering them informative messages that enable retention of them. According to Larry Chambers (2001), credibility marketing based on cultural aspects of customers can turn prospects into willing volunteers that seek the items offered by the company. Hence, it is important to have offices in all the locations; the e-retailer is operating and should be controlled by a central location. An important aspect inherent in the above strategy is to increase the number of customers that read the marketing message as well as giving different messages for customers of different cultures as it is important for the company to offer them services according to culture. The increase of number of prospects as well as customer turned prospects can be hiked by increasing the number of customers that read the messages sent by the company. The next aspect is to consider the way of delivering the message. As the company is an online one, it is important to deliver it through e-mail. However, there is a chance that the prospects or customers may feel it as scam. Hence, the company should offer incentives for the customer who open the account and then can start messaging them. Conveying valuable information by the message is more important than the way the marketing people deliver the messages. Customers read and interrupt the messages when they reflect their own cultural perspectives and that message should convey important information about the product to which the marketing is being done, whereas the consumer turns a prospect to the product and then he or she inquired about the product. When the product information as well as other details about services and others satisfies the prospect, then he or she will come closer to be a customer. In addition to the information conveyed by the message, technology also plays a crucial role in marketing as it plays an important role in keeping secure the information of credit and debit cards of the customer(Chambers, L, page 13-15).6
According to Marconi (2000), planning and budget purposes as well as research and development virtually could be combined together thus increasing the importance of technology in marketing. Marconi assumes that upon completion of research phase, the new or improved product message would be developed and presented that enables and compels the use of technology. Hence, technology certainly helps research and development of a product as well as marketing it. For instance, Internet, considered as today’s most commonly used modern technology in marketing, eclipsed the excitement, typically lavished on the actual development phase of the research and development process. The proliferation of thousands of new websites made the electronic stage for the delivery of the product message to the prospects as well as consumers. The use of internet technology for e-retailing makes the marketing strategies more sophisticated in nature thus reaching to consumers that depend more on technology. An e-retailer should allow its consumers to acquire information and analyze product by using Internet, which increases the prospect of enhancing the customers’ capability of knowing more information about the product (Marconi. J, 49-51).7
Loyalty in Cross-cultural Marketing
Another commonly used and seen tool is loyalty scheme. Eechambadi Naras (2005) quotes about executives’ difficult task of responding to customers’ needs. However, loyalty is important in cross-cultural marketing in case of e-retailing as the customers have many options on internet and there is every chance of losing them. Hence, the loyalty schemes are the important aspects in e-retailing to retain the customer in the absence of personal presence of shopkeeper and should be more innovative than the ones offered by ordinary retailers. However, the marketing strategists have to help the company in announcing the loyalty schemes according to cultural aspects of the customers. Naras also mentions the changing market circumstances that result in making organizations incapable of responding in a rapid and agile fashion. Consequently, the execution of new strategies will be weak if the company is not using new internet technologies for online shopping. Therefore, an organization should be agile and should take rapid action when implementing loyalty schemes mixed with technologies that are in line with the culture of the customers. Naras also talks about the situation that demands not only advertisements on internet, but a creative approach to attract customers. The creative approach should attract customers to their e-mail Ids frequently. Consequently the interaction leads to the functional unit that influences the customer and loyalty schemes play a significant role in this context. Naras stretches that creating powerful and engaging connections with customers, which are nothing but loyalty schemes can align the enterprise with the markets. He also mentions the loyalty schemes indirectly by talking about encouraging people to improve organizational alignment. The important aspect in e-retailing is to align the organization with the customers by understanding their culture and offering loyalty schemes accordingly. While marketing in Asia, loyalty schemes are important as the customers in this area expect a special treatment from the company in which they shop regularly (Eechambadi, N, page 21-25). 8
Therefore, number of e-retailing companies introduced loyalty cards in 1990s and gained advantage in the market. However, in this context, the issue of loyalty cards in case of e-retailing is important. Chiara quotes the tangible evidence of what some authors have termed as “The marketing Information Revolution” and provided a clear signal of the great thirst for customer knowledge. Offering knowledge to the customer according to his or her culture and the product or service marketed is important in cross-cultural marketing in Asian countries. Hence, the loyalty card delivered to the customer’s address should give them information about products and services as well as loyalty schemes. Chiara talks about retail managers in the article who use knowledge acquired through loyalty cards to strengthen store loyalty, which is a part of marketing strategies with cultural perspective. However, it is important for managers of e-retailing to strengthen the website loyalty on which the customer shops online. In the above context, Chiara believes that the intimate relationships with the customers using marketing strategies of cultural perspective can help in identifying as well as retaining the customers for the company thus a guarantee market for the products or services. Another aspect in Chiara’s article is about continuous updating of knowledge through tracking customers as well as interacting with them. In case of internet shopping the interaction should be through website and emails. The emails given to the customer should attract them to visit the website of the e-retailer frequently to know about the products and services. As the responses differ between customers, loyalty cards can help the company to frame as an ideal tool for activating one-to-one marketing approach that is critical link between international strategies in Asian region. Marketing strategies that involve cultural aspects develop local marketing actions and micro levels of the organization can be developed in the area. As a result, Chiara mentions the change of cold data of consumer to the warm relationship with the customer by the help of cross-cultural marketing strategies. As the warm relationship is a learning relationship, Chiara also sites Pine, Peppers and Rogers (1995), about learning of consumer behavior with loyalty cards and cross-cultural marketing strategies. As culture changes from country to country and even from an area to area in some circumstances, marketing for a region, in that region from that region is important in framing the marketing strategies that involve cross cultural perspectives. Hence, the e-retailer should have number of managers equal to the number of areas that are culturally different in which the company is operating. The managers should receive inputs from the call centers in those areas and have to frame marketing strategies accordingly (Chiara, M page 2-5). 9
According to Crosier Keith (2006) who talks about rapid growth, technology and market intelligence that enable product promotions that are nearer to the hearts of the customers, should frame the strategies that consider the cultural perspectives of the people. Keith quotes that framing of the marketing strategies with cross-cultural perspectives need the gathering of market intelligence and this is possible through online survey in case of e-retailer. Jun Yu (2006) mentions that technology when combined with marketing strategies could enable the companies to reach the vast number of customers in less amount of time. Hence, in the above context, e-retailing is an excellent way that offers an opportunity for manufacturers to market their products and for customers the chance of getting them to their doorstep. Moreover, long history of catalogue marketing also helps in fast acceptance of virtual transaction, when the strategy involves the culture of the people in which the company is marketing its products. Cross-cultural strategies regarding marketing can be more powerful if they use Internet route as mentioned in the book – Marketing to China in China and from China. According to above aspect, it is important for an e-retailer to establish call center as well as distribution and supply chain network in the country and area it is operating. It is important to note down in this context that using Internet for marketing depends on the number of Internet users in the area where the company is using Internet marketing. As business-to-consumer Internet marketing flourished in USA, it may not help in the countries like India and China in which Internet users are less when compared to the population of the customers. Therefore, the use of Internet as a strategy in cross-cultural marketing, the pre-existing conditions should be taken into consideration (Yun. J, page 73-76).10
Keith (2006) mentions the high rate of Internet penetration to use the technology for marketing strategies. As a result, the e-retailing companies in collaboration with manufacturing companies should promote the usage of internet in countries they want to operate. Keith talks about the credit payment system and the presence of efficient delivery services. The above systems work efficiently in the presence of Internet penetration as well as good transportation infrastructure. However, transportation infrastructure may not be good in all the countries the companies are operating and the strategies and network should be maintained in the way that can overcome transportation deficiencies (Crosier, K, page 9-11).11
Therefore, to develop online business on the lines of cross-cultural perspectives, the companies should take care of transportation network as well as facilities. While talking about cross-cultural strategies, according to Mujtaba Bahaudin (1999), marketing ethics has received much attention in the corporate world in the media as well as in academic research. Bahaudin quotes Nill and Shultz (1997) who argued that marketing ethics must address moral beliefs and value systems of different nations and cultures and can be termed as part of the cross-cultural marketing strategies. As a matter of fact, globalization demands a search for global ethics, which is a result of cross-cultural marketing strategies. Nill and Shultz (1997) contended about the cultural clash and conflicting situations. They stretch that to make cross-cultural marketing strategies a success, an ethical approach that enables decision-making in cross-cultural marketing strategies is necessary. Bahaudin repeatedly quotes Nil and Shultz (1997) about the collective reasoning by stakeholders regarding marketing strategies in different cultural environments. In the above context, cultural training and suggestions comes to the fore and gathering information before framing the marketing strategies will be crucial for the companies operating in different cultural environments. Bahaudin quotes on Nestle about cross-cultural marketing strategies which acts as a cultural change agent and the company introduced new idea into every new culture. Bahaudin also quotes Murray, Gazda and Molenaar (1993) about the focus on the international marketing strategies that compel the cross-cultural marketing strategies (Bahaudin, page 1-5).12
Framing Cross-cultural Marketing Strategies and Response
While considering cross-cultural marketing strategies for international organizations, Sekhar Misra (1999) talks about the loneliness and the people’s response to it. Misra links the marketing literature regarding cross-cultural marketing to loneliness and talks about consumer behavior. It is important to e-retailing business as it involves cross-cultural marketing and consumer behavior. As a result, the e-retailing should use cross-cultural marketing activities and strategies to convey the message of ending loneliness of the people by being in line with the people of other countries. Hence, the messages mentioned in earlier chapters to motivate online customers should be in line with the culture of consumers as well as making them familiar with other cultures. In the above context, Misra explains loneliness as the one that arises due to deficiency of individual social interactions. As there is more chance of occurrence of deficiency of social interactions in e-marketing of e-retailing, according to Misra, the messages of cross-cultural marketing strategies should increase social interaction with the consumers and have to attract them towards the company. He also quotes another definition as being feeling lonely in a crowd. However, the loneliness in the crowd may not be suitable in the online marketing as the company engages the busy customer with messages as well as loyalty schemes. However, the message of cross-cultural marketing should make the consumers to feel that they are being accompanied by the company. He also explains the methods and standards to measure loneliness that helps in framing the strategies of cross-cultural marketing techniques. By taking into the consideration of the fact that mentioned in the article about loneliness is a multifaceted phenomenon that demands multi-dimensional approach for cross-cultural marketing strategies. According to Misra’s argument, marketing strategists have to estimate the dissatisfaction and satisfaction ranges of the people in an area the company selected for marketing its products. The satisfactory and dissatisfactory scales vary between different cultures. Misra also quotes that culture is important in dealing with people by enabling the marketing strategists to understand the techniques regarding problem solving in the social context. The above mentioned problem solving technique is more important in e-retailing as the customer may suspect the quality of the product and a prospect may doubt the delivery of the product after the payment. Hence, the company should assure the customers according to culture as the social contexts depend on the cultures. The strategies also depend on them. Misra quotes Pretorius (1993) who talks about the loneliness of college students of South Africa, which is higher than the North American College Students. In this context, one can propose that the e-marketing strategies can remove that loneliness by making customer to frequently visit his e-mail Id and website of the e-retailer. Hence, marketing strategies should be different in the above mentioned cases of college students as their loneliness standards vary from each other. In addition to loneliness level, life satisfaction also plays a major role in framing marketing strategies according to Misra. However, Misra differentiates individualism from loneliness and talks about individualism in western culture as well as competitiveness. As the individuality decides the feeling of loneliness, the loneliness, life satisfaction and individualism of people having certain cultural identity, they decide the nature of cross cultural marketing strategies in Asian and African countries. 13
Cross-cultural marketing activity also involves developing relationship with customers and marketing strategists should develop a relationship with the customers for retention. This is more important in case of e-retailing as it involves the marketing of products made by different companies. Hence, in the above context, cultural perspectives play an important role in developing relationship with the customer. Regarding above aspect, Richard Oliver (1998) quotes that logistics and communication technologies of the company should help the marketing strategists to retain customers by developing relationships with them. Consequently, Oliver stretches that customers’ demands may not change but the way of approaching them to attract them towards the company may result in framing marketing strategies that involve cultural perspectives and this is significant in e-retailing company as it has to face different cultures with products of different companies. Hence, e-retailing needs innovative e-mail and telephone ways to streamline the entire customer value process using cross-cultural marketing strategies. However, the executives of call centers of e-retailing company should take care that they should not disturb the customer or may rub them in wrong way. Therefore, while offering services, the marketing strategists may use cultural aspects in marketing strategies and even bypassing of wholesalers and distributors may help in developing relationship with the customers. The bypassing of wholesalers in e-retailing enables the manufacturers to deliver the goods for a competitive price and that aspect should be a core thing in marketing strategies of e-retailing company. Strengthening the above concept, Oliver quotes Wal-Mart that bypasses the wholesalers for the retail sale. Hence, customer-company relationship can be made possible with cross-cultural marketing strategies that differ for different countries (Oliver R, Page 21-25).14
According to Simon Knox (2001) customer relationship management (CRM) has its roots in relationship marketing that is based on cross-cultural marketing. Knox quotes that companies observed five percent increase in customer retention due to their relationship with the company that is a result of marketing strategies that reflect cultural perspectives of the consumers. The same thing can be easy for the e-retailing companies as they can tie-up with different companies that reflect different cultures in their products. Consequently it is necessary to present the products differentiating according to their cultures on the website of e-retailer as customers find it easy to find the product that appeal to them most. The above aspect is in accordance to Knox’s cultural perspective marketing that develops customer-company relationship that results in long run profitability by shifting transaction based marketing. Knox describes that development theory in relationship marketing is a combination of business process and technology that seeks to understand a company’s customer from the perspective of what they are and the nature of their culture. In the above context, company treats its customers as important assets and divides the customers according to the profitability variation as well as cultural differences. As a result, CRM gives the company an opportunity to implement relationship marketing through cross-cultural marketing strategies on company-wide basis (Knox.S, page 534-42).15
Marketing of Western Companies in Asia
Another important aspect that can be discussed in cross-cultural marketing of an e-retailer is the strategies adopted by Western Multi-National Companies to market their products and services in Asian countries. Cross-cultural marketing took shape in the context of cross-border movement of funds and transfer of human talent and technology. In this context, e-retailer should be in a position to assure the manufacturer that the e-retailing is having distribution network and can deliver the goods for the customer promptly. For this purpose, it is important for an e-retailer to have distribution network in the area it is operating. Hence, the cultural context plays significant role in developing and maintaining them. Chong 2002 quotes Hofstede (1984), Schein (1992), Trompenaars (1994), and Bolman and Deal (1991, 1995) regarding the need of cultural context in studies regarding managerial practices of marketing. Chong talks about culture, nationality and managerial practices that manage distribution network and quotes Hofstede (1991) who defined cultural marketing as collective programming. Hofstede identifies cultural aspect of marketing as to distinguish members of one group from another, which is considered as the first step in cross-cultural marketing while the second step is to identify the values formed the core of the culture. Therefore, it is suggested while framing cross-cultural marketing in Asian countries, the company should consider not only different strategies for different countries but also different strategies for different areas of a country in Asia. The diversity of culture in Asian countries compels the companies to frame different strategies within a country (Chong/ E, abstract).16
Research Method & Analysis
Theory: The research method involved in the context of this paper is regarding involvement of CRM in getting and retaining customers as well s the time and money involved in it. However, customer service quality is the target that is to be achieved using CRM. Consequently, the customer database is collected according to the culture of the market to frame e-marketing strategies. The rationale behind the above method is to positioning the e-retailing company to reveal the reactions of the customers of different cultures for different types of products from different companies (Kristin, A, 109-112).17
Rationale and Analysis
In the above context, the e-retailer needs customer data base as well as products data base. The details of psychographics and demographics of the specific geographical areas in database can help the marketing managers to frame e-marketing strategies accordingly. To include the cultural aspects of the customers in the database, the sophisticated data collection software is necessary to address the perspectives of the executives with the customers of different cultures by conducting surveys. For example, customers of different countries and various cultures will use flowers in different ways. Hence, the data base with e-retailer helps to present the flowers and their decoration in their website, according to the cultures of the customers in different countries.18
Primary Research and Analysis
According to sayed-Elkhouly, Sayed M (2009), the performance management as well as job satisfaction can be evaluated by perception. Consequently, the perception of customer service and relationship affects the quality of work of the executives. Both perceptions of executives and expectations of management and customers are necessary to evaluate the performance. Hence, in case of an e-retailer the website should reflect the perceptions of executives about the culture of the customer and that needs responses from customers for the marketing strategies of an e-retailer. The responses of the customers should match with the responses of the customers. Research methods furnish information about the culture and thoughts of the people and in turn they develop or reform the perceptions of the executives in cross-cultural environment of an e-retailing company. The first method that can be adopted in the context of e-marketing for primary research is by using internet and website of the company to know the cultural perceptions of the people in the area the company wants to sell products of different companies. The advertisements in internet and mail servers that prompt the users to respond can help a lot and the company can use the surveys conducted in that way to know what the people in an area want from a particular service or from a particular product. The surveys conducted should not reveal that they are made from the company and it is better to conduct them in the guise of some competitions and puzzles or by offering email Ids from the mail servers.
Primary Research Methodology
The survey questions in the primary research can be as follows in case of a product: 1. Questions regarding utility values of different products 2. Questions regarding their age 3.Questions regarding their culture. 4. Questions regarding their dress code and taste 5.Questions regarding their children and their perception of their needs 6.Questions regarding their spouses and their needs 7.Questions regarding their life style 8. Questions regarding their nature of buying luxurious articles 9.Questions regarding their spending on cosmetics. 10. Questions regarding their vehicles
Analysis of Responses from Primary Research
The information gathered from the surveys can be used to reinforce cultural values as to enhance the cultural perceptions of the executives regarding customers’ demands. In the wake of increased competition both nationally and internationally, the cultural perceptions play an important role in development of relationship with customers to retain them as well as to consolidate the customer base for the companies. In this paper the e-retailing company is considered to be selling multiple products from multiple companies. Hence, the questionnaire should reflect the services of the products offered by the company and then the responses of the customers will be according to their culture. The analysis of primary research responses revealed that the cultural difference affects the relationship between performance management and job satisfaction of service operations (Elsayed-Elkhouly, Sayed M, Abstract).19
Promotional Strategies According to Primary Research Analysis
As the e-retailing comes under services sector it is important to consider the challenges in that sector. Service sector has both international and national challenges as e-retailer operates beyond the borders of a country in which the head office is located. Hence the demands of customers as well as executives’ perceptions need to be cross cultural and that aspect is a necessary instrument in e-marketing of an e-retailer. Hence a research is necessary to know the perceptions of marketing executives and culture of the people in the area the company wants to operate.
Analysis of Responses from Door-to-Door Surveys
According to Sabrina Helm (2003), the quantification of WOM can help in estimating the efficacy of the marketing strategies and the effect of products and services on the customers. One can observe that if the cultural perceptions of executives are similar to those of the customers. The strategies of the company will be attractive marketing tools if they are according to the cultural aspects of the people as they affect their thinking (Sabrina Helm, page 124-125).20
As the cultural perceptions of the executives affect the customer responses to their strategies they even affect the monetary referral value of the customers. If the uncertainty is due to the defects in marketing strategies due to wrong perceptions of executives, it can be termed that there is need for executives to change their perceptions of cultural aspects of the customers and it is possible with door to door survey in the area in which the e-retailing company is operating. The above aspect finds ground in the fact that the decision of the customers to choose a service provider is strongly influenced by personal communication and the exchange of experiences with other customers. Hence, their responses about the services can give a clear picture of their cultural aspects and thoughts and as a result can thus assess the cultural perspectives of executives. However, to gain new customers from the returning customers, the service presentation and strategies of e-marketing should change the prospects into customers. It is important to note that the communication to the customer from the side of the company is important to gain new customers as well as retaining them. It is possible when the executives prepare the marketing strategies according to the cultural aspects of the people and that is possible when their cross-cultural perspectives are resonating with those of the customers’ culture.
Research Methods for Cross-cultural Perspectives of Executives after Surveys
The assessment of perceptions of executives regarding cross-cultural perceptions is as important as getting information and responses from customers using different research methods mentioned in the above chapters. Hence a method that can assess the effectiveness of perceptions of the executives is important before entering into the new market that is having different culture from that of the executives. Hence, it is important for even an e-retailing company to encourage recruitment of executives from the area the company want to operate. The presence of the call centre executives who have enough knowledge about the culture of the people and their consumer behavior will enable the management to frame suitable e-marketing strategies.
Research Method and Analysis for Promotional Strategies
As the performance depends on perspective, the different cultures affect the performance of executives in different cultural environments. Hence, it is important to have one executive for each area of different culture, so that the perceptions of that executive can play a useful role in marketing strategies. However, it is important for the executives monitoring the above-mentioned executives to have right cross-cultural perceptions as he/she needs to monitor the executives having different cultural perceptions. In the era of global economics, the difference between power and authority is important and that difference is understood differently in various cultures. As authority depends on company hierarchy, the power is earned by within the company with the popularity in the people. As the present age depends on information and its organization, the knowledge and relationships matter in customer service and relationships. The above context is best suitable for e-retailing company as it is easy to pass information to the customer and develop knowledge about the products and services of the company electronically. As the perspectives of culture depend on the knowledge about that particular cultural heritage and the way the people think in that culture, the success is capable of creating an environment of lessening interest in new ideas. The enjoying of status quo may affect the performance in the new market area and thus the arrangement that coordinates the decision makers and executives is necessary.
Developing Cultural Perceptions
In order to know about the culture of the people, the company can launch a website on its name and can offer services like email Ids and online purchasing. It can also offer the services like giving a storage space online in order to store files and getting responses from them by posing questions in a timely manner. The names of the e-mail Ids of the people can tell about the existing culture of the people of the area and that is the first step to gather information about their culture. As the shopping and responses for the offers on online shopping can enable the executives to know about the buying methods of the people, the second method that tells about the culture of the people is online shopping trend on the website. However, as online shopping can reach only limited number of customers, it is important to offer as many products as possible to attract a develop a large customer base. If the e-retailing company offers books on its site, the purchase of books can give a large understanding about their culture as the reading reflects the culture.
Analysis of Response to Methods regarding Cultural Aspects
The above mentioned methods can develop relationships between customers and the e-retailer. These can bring out the positive results and as a result, the company should have continuous contact with the customers and should respond when they contact the executives. The executives can respond clearly when they have right perceptions about cultural aspects of them.
Secondary Research and Analysis
The perception obtained from the above methods can help executives in communicating the e-retailing company’s core message to its target audiences. As a result, they can design the way they reach the customers and the manner the product reaches the customer. This amounts to secondary research in e-retailing and for e-retailing company, dealing with people of different cultures is important and marketing communications component of enrollment management is equally important. The sophisticated marketing communications techniques like advertising, promotional literature will be successful when the executives have the right perception about customers’ cultural aspects. The message conveyed should be according to the customers’ cultural thoughts and as a result should be heart touching. To claim a quality service position, the service provider’s service has to live up to the promises as well as the expectations of the customers. In addition to create brand image for the company, the cross cultural perceptions of the executives should have enough understanding to take that image to the customers. However, creating brand image for an e-retailing company is a different aspect as it depends on the products it sells as well as the quality of the services it offer. The quality of services offered by e-retailing company can be distinguished into two types. The first aspect is taking order and preserving the financial information of the customers and the second one being quick delivery of the product using the distribution network. After creating a brand image, the company’s marketing strategies should resonate with that of the perceptions of the customers and they depend on the culture of the area the company is operating. The positive brand image will be possible and have powerful influence when the cross-cultural perceptions of the executives resonate with that of the customers. Gutman and Miaoulis (2003), quotes Biel (1992) about the aspects the executives have to focus while the company is operating in areas of different cultures. The first one is the benefits for the customers from the image of the provider and product consequences (Gutman, J. and Miaoulis, G, page 105-107). 21
Analysis of Cross-cultural Perceptions of Executives
The important aspect that executives keep in mind is that the quality and price perceptions of customers differ from area to area and they are different in different countries. Herbig (1997) stated that the definition of service quality differs in various countries and customers in different areas perceive it differently. The consideration of above aspect is more important for e-retailing company as it operates in different companies selling the products of the manufacturers of various countries. The presence of executives in the company from the area in which the company is operating helps in assessing the perception and definition of the customer about quality that counts. Herbig stated that the quality of service delivered is satisfactory if the expectations of customer are met and that is possible with the executives having right perceptions about the culture and responses of the consumers of a particular area or the country.
The responses of the customers to personal needs and external communications depend on their culture and way of thinking and that can be assessed up to the mark with the presence of executives that belong to the local area. Herbig also quoted about the opinions of several international students that revealed the differences in perceptions of customers in different countries about the service quality. The next aspect is that the wrong perceptions of management or executives result in quality specifications that are not necessary to the customers or the ones, which do not satisfy them. As a result, when the quality specifications are not according to the customers’ expectations, naturally the actual service delivered is not according to the satisfaction of the customer.22
Reputation and Cultural Perceptions
The perceptions of culture even affect the reputation of e-retailing company. As the reputation is consistent of all actions, it is important to have it to retain customers and to get new customers from them. Herbig (1997) quoted Porter (1990) to suggest the market signal is an action of a competitor that provides indications of intentions, motives, goals or internal situation. In the above context, the competitors of an e-retailing company are in a different manner. They face another e-retailing company that sells the same products and that competition can only be thwarted by quick delivery of the products. The indications like price reduction, new marketing campaign, introduction of new products according to the needs of the customers can be termed as signals. Sending signals should be according to the context; if the customers are cost sensitive. Even sending signals and getting reputation depends on the cultural perceptions. Particularly the customer of an e-retailing company seeks quick delivery of the product as well as the service in case of problem. The e-retailing company should have distribution network for quick delivery and need to sell the products of the company that offers services in the area in which it is marketing. The signals sent need to differ according to the culture of the customers and it is possible with right perceptions of the executives regarding the culture of the customers. As the potential reactions of the customers to the signal depend on the magnitude of the message and that depend on the commonality between the message and the thoughts of the customers. If the message given to the customers by advertisings match with their thoughts, the reputation of the company rises thus linking it to the cultural perceptions of the executives. However, the company should consider the costs involved in the signaling behavior as some signals need more budgets for advertising them to let them go to the customers.
Doing of Business by Expatriate Managers
While talking about the signals given to the customers, the work of expatriate managers comes to the fore as their perceptions of the culture of foreign people matters while making the messages in the advertisements. As the business of an e-retailing company is of international nature, the cross national assignments are compulsory for the managers and executives and it is a necessity for them to develop right cross cultural perceptions while working in different environments. The technical criteria for the manager will be same in different environments but that application of technical skills depend on the human criteria that makes him/her to understand the way people think and understand about the company’s products and services. If the manager is not good in human criteria, he/she cannot understand the behavioral and relational thoughts of customers and thus cannot communicate with them through messages and posts on the website of e-retailing company. According to a survey quoted by Herbig (1997), the firms that have executives with more technical qualifications but least behavioral and relationship understanding have less expatriate success and the companies that have executives with technical skills as well as behavioral and relationship skills have more success in assignments regarding foreign customers and clients. Language is a part of the perceptions of the cross cultural differences as in some countries people like the messages conveyed in their own language rather than in international language. Hence, it is important for an e-retailing company to give the customer an option to get communications in their own language. The above aspect is observed even in the countries that have much population who can speak English. The increasing internalization of the business made it compulsory to firms to operate in foreign countries and the cross cultural perceptions come to the fore in this context as the business environments of each country will be different from each other. Hence, the companies are vying for the candidates who have knowledge about the field of marketing but the motivation to adapt to different culture as well.23
Effect of Cross-cultural Perceptions on Training Strategies
After discussing about strategies, it is necessary to have a pool of executives with technical as well as behavioral and relationship skills to implement the strategies. Even training strategies may fail if they do not have cross-cultural aspects and if they do have the persons from different cultures and countries. Training strategies need to be modified to adapt cross-cultural perceptions. As part of the training the executives should work in a group that contains people from different countries and cultures. The experience in working with the people of different cultures is capable of developing cross cultural perceptions in executives. To adapt such aspects in training of executives regarding developing of behavioral and relationship skills is important to make executives to work successfully in different environments. If the company finds it is difficult to train more number of executives who are capable to work in different cultural environments, it is better to give training to the people of the country in which the company wants to operate. Microsoft is one such company that gives training overseas in which it wants to operate and operating.
It is clear that the right cross-cultural perception is necessary for call centre executives of an e-retailing company as they need to interact with customers of different areas. Though an e-retailer may recruit people from a particular country, there is a chance to have a different culture in another area of the same country. As the cross-cultural perceptions of the executives depend on human relationship skills and negotiation skills of the executives, behavioral skills are as important as technical and managerial skills. Behavioral skills helps the executives not only in conveying the message to the prospects and customers but also helps in making training programs that cater the needs of people belonging to different cultural environments. Consequently, the staff trained in the programs that induce different cultural perceptions in them, they in turn can convey the message of the customers to the executives who frame the policy of the company regarding marketing of a product or a service in a particular country. As the top executives of the company have to deal with the executives from different countries and areas, they can understand the difference between the messages they convey according to the response of the customers. As the responses of customers in developed and developing countries will be different the understanding of cultural aspects and thoughts of the customers can help the managerial level executives in framing marketing policies according to the needs of the different environments the company is operating.
This paper has supported the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally”, especially it supports “Think Globally, Act Locally” should be seriously considered when an e-retailing company develops its CRM strategies. The interrelationship and interdependence between global and local CRM within an e-retailing company implies local is where the CRM is created while an effective CRM is driving it to success in different areas and countries. It is an unchanged factor that each executive comes from different background and culture, with different personalities and working styles, resulting in different perceptions. It is a challenge but it is important to close the gap of different perceptions of executives in order to come up with an effective CRM within an e-retailing company. The very first step to overcome this challenge is to get the executives to realize how executives’ perceptions in a cross-cultural context influence the building of effective CRM. The e-retailer should provide platforms for the executives to realize and to close this gap of indifferences. International trainings and meetings, bringing cross-divisions, cross-functions and cross-countries executives together, would be some kind of platforms for the executives to learn from each others’ indifferences. It would ultimately help call centre executives as well as staff in distribution network of an e-retailer to efficiently and effectively work out some complex marketing strategies, such as CRM, for the company. The international job rotation, which is considered as good in an MNC may not be suitable for an e-retailer and can be used only in top management. Last but not least, since most of the strategies are finalized and approved by the headquarters, a nationality mix of headquarter managers could be considered as it could possibly smooth out the process of designing an effective CRM in an e-retailing company.
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- K. Umanath, J. Udhaya Kumar, E-Retailing: A New Strategic Foundation and Business Tool for Textile and Garment Industry, www.fibre2fasihion.com, published in 2009, Sponsored by Sanblue Enterprises Pvt Ltd. Web.
- Rowley, J., Building Brand Webs Customer Relationship Management Through The Tesco Club Card Loyalty Scheme (Emerald Insight, 2005)
- Scullin, S., E-relationship Marketing: Changes in Traditional Marketing As An Outcome of Electronic Relationship Management (Emerald Insight, 2004) page 410 – 415
- Zineldin, M., Quality and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as Competitive Strategy in the Swedish Banking Industry (Emerald Insight, 2005) page 329 – 344
- Chambers, L., Credibility Marketing: Build Your Business By Becoming a Recognized Expert (Without Investing a Lot of Time or Money) (USA:Dearborn Trade, 2001)
- Marconi, J., Future Marketing: Targeting Seniors, Boomers and Generations X and Y (USA: McGraw-Hill Trade, 2000)
- Eechambadi, N., High Performance Marketing: Bringing Method to the Madness of Marketing (USA: Dearborn Trade, 2005)
- Chiara, M., Card Loyalty. A New Emerging Issue in Grocery Retailing (SDA Bocconi, 2001)
- Yu, J., Marketing to Chinese Consumers on Internet (UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2006)
- Crosier, K., Marketing to China in China and from China (UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2006)
- Bahaudin, M., Cross Cultural Marketing Ethics: Literature Review and Training Suggestions. Web.
- Misra, S., Cross Cultural Variations in Loneliness: Implications for Marketing. Web.
- Oliver, R., Shape of Things to Come: 7 Imperatives for Winning in the New World of Business (USA: McGraw-Hill Professional Book Group, 1998)
- Knox, S., Cross-Functional Issues in the Implementation of Relationship Marketing Through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) (European Management Journal, 2001)
- Chong, E., Managerial Competency Appraisal: A Cross-Cultural Study of American and East Asian Managers (University of Wellington, 2001)
- Kristin, A., Customer Relationship Management (Blacklikc, OH, USA: McGraw-Hill Education Group, 2001)
- Service Quality: A Cross Cultural Examination, 1997. Web.
- Elsayed-Elkhouly, Sayed M., Cross Cultural Study of Performance Management for Service Operations Manager. Web.
- Helm, S., Calculating the Value of Customer Referrals in Service Quality: Crossing Boundaires (Managing Service Quality Volume 13, 2003)
- Gutman, J. and Miaoulis, G., Communicating a Quality Position in Service Delivery: An Application in Higher Education (Managing Service Quality Volume 13, 2003)
- Herbig, P.,Cross Cultural Differences in Training Strategies, 1997. Web.
- Cross Cultural Views of Reputations, 1997. Web.