Discovering inclusive consumption or affiliation

Consumption does not only refer to the acquisition and use of goods and services. This is perhaps the immediate consequence derived from the purchase decision process, which deals with socio-cultural, psychological and economic issues, in many cases unconscious or just rationalized by the actors. The digital environment has further diversified this process, enhancing the relationship between online communication and consumption. The mediation of sophisticated digital communication strategies in purchasing decision processes is altering the consumer’s valuation parameters. 

We can see it in the assimilation of five fully integrated drivers in digital media aimed at consumption or online purchase:

  • Discovery : consumers discover new products and services based on their social networks, websites and digital platforms.
  • Classification : Consumers with increasing frequency and intensity receive specific qualifications, opinions and recommendations from their social networks and other digital platforms.
  • Feedback : Consumers can benefit from their friends and followers (to their immediate online environment) to improve and validate their purchasing decisions.
  • Socialization: online shopping is becoming a social concept, even when consumers and their relatives are not physically together.
  • The user as a service : With all this, the online communication carried out by the user becomes a useful and valued tool for other users-consumers.

There is no shortage of examples that account for this new binding reality between communication and consumption, where opinion and recommendation, in any of its forms, generate opportunities that go beyond informative feedback. Platforms such as Love This, ShopSocially, Hunch or Svpply go deeper into these variables, taking into account the consumer’s need to find guidelines that legitimize their future purchases. The feedback between equals is a determining factor when tilting a positive or negative perception of the product.

Given this new landscape, that is, in the intersection drawn by the actions directly constituted through feedback between users and socialization based on the purchasing activity itself, a variant emerges that affects both consumer behavior and the strategic focus of marketing online: inclusive consumption. It is, therefore, those forms of consumption that, starting from the relational universe of opinion and recommendation, create attractions among consumers in order to establish the acquisition of a specific product or service. A first example can situate us before some key features of inclusive consumption. Social Living , online platform offers specialized in varied consumer experiences, uses the social potential to motivate the consumer in their purchases, so that if three people use the purchase link used by a user he gets his purchase for free.

Inclusive consumption is an active stimulant in the purchase decision process insofar as, as we have seen, a specific user can act as a mediator in the purchases of other potential consumers obtaining a complementary benefit. Peer-to-peer recommendation is a mechanism that generates reliability and trust, which is why some companies with online business models are starting to use it as an essential part of their product communication, depositing the effective basis of a message in their clients. In inclusive consumption, the consumer (client) is an agent that intervenes directly or indirectly in a portion of future sales.

From the perspective of strategic marketing, the objective can focus on causing the main client an active role in promotional issues, but you can also find examples where the procedure towards inclusive consumption is guided by an application or online tool that activates the purchase decision shared among several users or a related group. Such is the case with eBay Group Gift. Launched in November 2010, it allows users to invite friends to share the cost of a gift. The application is merged with Facebook to allow the profile information of the recipient to be used even to suggest appropriate gifts. It thus promotes a social path of purchase that goes beyond the recommendation or exchange, extending the integrative capacity of consumption in a given group.

In inclusive consumption, two basic premises are given: indirect persuasion or influence in purchasing decisions, and the construction of more or less durable links originated in the acquisition itself, that is, a certain sense of adhesion, affiliation or belonging. to a group. Both premises can occur in different degrees and magnitudes, but the idea of ​​inclusion (in an act of purchase) is always present. An antecedent of that phenomenology has been registered in the Blippy platform, a faithful reflection that the changes in the way of perceiving online privacy has caused a much more flexible tolerance towards traditionally sensitive information transactions for the user. This circumstance is essential to understand not only the growth of eCommerce, but also the translation of these information flows into everyday consumer actions.

Blippy has favored the shift towards new cultural patterns online: we are talking about a social network service based on Twitter that allows us to share data on the movements of the credit card (place where the purchase was made, the quantity and the items purchased), opening to marketing new territories that boost the stimuli in the choice of a brand or product with the participation of the consumer.

Under the influence of this new dynamic, inclusive consumption can be understood as a real substitute for offline shopping experiences lived in a group. By adding socializing ingredients there is also a tendency towards prescription (value of influence) that validates the logic of purchasing decisions: the attempt to frame them in a frame that appears more rational can be understood as a direct consequence of the need to explore concrete affinities between users or group affiliations, a way to letigitimate our choices in a particular context of online consumption. Shop with your Friends it is an example of inclusive consumption that applies the practice of communicative purchase in real time and maximizes the participation among equals in order to produce a space in which any member of the invited group can intervene, recommend, influence or be persuaded by the purchases from others.

Some experts in brand management warn about the illusion of rationality focused on the relevance of information and the weighting of functional advantages. David A. Aaker expresses it in the following terms: “Clients are far from rational. Even if he had the necessary motivation and time … they usually lack credible information, memory capacity, skills to calculate, and even enough knowledge about the products to obtain relevant information and use it to optimize their decisions “(D. Aeeker, Relevance brand, 2012). In the background of these issues is another fundamental aspect: why we buy what we buy. From the point of view of the consumer, rationalizing purchasing decisions is a reassuring departure that provides control. The disproportionate increase of available alternatives supposes a partial argument in the incessant search to fix certain criteria of rationality on the preferences. Inclusive consumption facilitates, in this sense, an alibi: rational support is given by the integration of the consumer in a buying group.

Wet Seal (aimed at a teenage female target between 13 and 19 years old) and Arden B (aimed at a female target between 25 and 35 years old) are online sales portals in the fashion sector that enhance the use of Facebook to connect to friendships in an act of purchase. Its application for mobile devices means that the included consumption acquires a greater instantaneous effect. Instantaneity that leads to ubiquity, a phenomenon that will become a pattern of online shopping increasingly widespread.

The composition of a group based on a purchase located at a specific time does not have to mean that each of its members has to do it at the same time. Inclusion has a direct impact on future decisions . What certain buyers do may have an impact on the purchases of other potential users. This also encompasses the visibility of the buyer’s tastes, to the point that some platforms and online stores (especially dedicated to fashion and derivatives) allow to build a compatibility framework on styles and trends. The example of Kaboodleis paradigmatic: users can become followers of the styles conceived by other users, thus forming an affinity community around tastes and trends. Tastes act as a trigger for inclusive consumption by integrating them into a distinctive context and providing new arguments for present and future purchasing decisions.

The authority given to influence can affect different levels of adherence. The gravitational power of the group depends in part on that premise, but the central issue lies in linking it to specific purchasing actions. Hunch focuses its competences on the isolated recommendation, that is, disconnected from the purchase itself. However, it establishes a useful hierarchy relative to tastes. It divides its members into four main categories: Influencers, Tastemates, Friends and New users. The first two guide the contents of the platform. While Influencers introduce relevant content by recommending a greater volume of items than the rest of the community requires, Tastemates are users who share similar tastes to those of other users. The challenge is to validate that kind of hierarchy (more or less sophisticated) as a function of inclusive consumption.

The volume of business of electronic commerce in Spain has grown dramatically in recent years , from 3,740 million euros in 2007 to 7,317 million euros in 2010. Its evolution continues to rise in the first two trismestres of 2011, with 2,055 and 2,322 million euros, respectively. The causes of this increase are multiple, but undoubtedly the active environment of eCommerce (digital and online) has generated new consumption habits and different buying patterns.

Any online sales business model is appropriate to apply marketing strategies that promote inclusive consumption . The fashion sector is particularly sensitive to it. For example, private sale clubs and online outlets have proliferated in number and quality to the point of becoming an attractive and safe option for many consumers. However, with a proposal of general value (with exceptions) based on prices, promotions and relevance of the brands included, such market has obviated other alternatives when it comes to attract and retain their customers. As we have seen, the value also lies in the affiliation, and it is the users themselves who have the possibility of making a community credible.

Inclusive consumption is a novel concept by paying special attention to factors and tools that make purchasing and consumption a model of integration between users with specific affinities. Both in its spontaneous and induced (marketing), it also expresses future expectations regarding tastes, styles and trends that have to be translated into a specific consumption space.

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