TABLE OF CONTENTS
3. Literature Review.
5. Research methodology.
9. Conclusions and Recommendations.
The global proliferation of the internet over the last decade has substantively changed the traditional buyer-seller exchange dynamics through its high volume-high speed information flow capabilities. Businesses can now directly communicate in real time with one another throughout their value chains to create value for their consumers. Likewise, the consumers can communicate with businesses, third party independent information providers, actual users and/or potential users of a product across the globe for obtaining better value for their money spent on purchasing products and services. On the consumer side, the internet has provided tremendous access of consumption-related information to consumers worldwide and the global flow of information has therefore given a fresh impetus to allow consumers to participate in obtaining value through several new types of marketing exchanges such as auctions (e.g. Ebay) or reverse auctions (e.g. Priceline). The academic literature is increasingly recognizing the new role of the consumer as the co-creator of value in the buyer-seller relationship (Payne et al., 2008). Vargo and Lusch (2004) argue that the customer is always a co-creator of value: There is no value until an offering is used—experience and perception are essential to value determination.
The focus of consumer flocking in the internet buying context is the tendency for individual consumers to take charge of the online shopping channel and integrate it with their other online communications, especially social communications at sites like Facebook. While still in its rudimentary stage, consumer flocking has promise in creating a win-win economic scenario for consumers and marketers. For instance, by quickly bringing together large groups (“flocks”) of consumers through their communications within existing social networks, marketers can achieve a quick turnover of unsold inventories and thereby lower their production and transaction costs. Likewise, by using consumer “flocks”, the service providers can fill up their unsold services during lean periods, thereby smoothening the peaks and valleys of service utilization. Apart from these strong economic benefits, consumer flocking, in principle, can enable the marketers to accelerate the arrival of late-adopters into market. On the consumer side, they perceive victory because they obtain more value for their money than what they could have obtained if acting individually. In effect, consumers would create greater value for themselves—globally.
The focus of this paper is the individual consumers’ propensity to flock for creating value for themselves and the process and formation of consumer flocks. Next, we define and characterize consumer flocking and propose factors that influence the consumer’s propensity to flock on the internet. We then discuss the role of social media in supporting this behavior and examine the role of certain consumers we call catalyzers in the flocking process.
Organizations are increasingly using online communities to interact with customers, but marketers identify a number of key obstacles standing in the way of community effectiveness. A survey of more than 500 companies that are using online communities and other research to identify characteristics of successful communities. Marketers should understand key human characteristics as thoroughly as the Web 2.0 and social media tools they employ when interacting with customers through online communities and that by keeping these human attributes in mind, marketers may foster more...