The Connection Of Customers Values And Marketing
What is marketing and why is it so important?
The concept of marketing can be defined by Brown (1990, p.5) as “a philosophy holding that any business organization exists to satisfy targeted consumers’ wants and needs”. Others describe it to be everything that must be done to close the sale (Spaulding & D’elia 1989). Marketing can also be defined as the illusion of generating a sense of inclusion so individuals can feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
Individuals can buy almost any product that serves the same function as ‘high-end’ products from cheaper suppliers or knock-off brands, however, it is not always the actual product people are interested in. When you realize it is the sense of community and inclusion people want to feel you can focus less on selling the product, and instead focus on the experience. Customers can buy leggings from target, but they want to feel included, they want to feel a part of the yoga culture that is so closely associated with Lululemon and as a result, choose to shop there. This culture is created by running morning yoga classes in-store as well as employing fit and strong-looking individuals. By simply being instore, a customer feels they are a part of this healthy lifestyle and are thus inspired to purchase products to become part of this culture.
As illustrated before, what is so important to customers is their overall experience. Hence, when focusing on why marketing is so important, we can see that it is the key is to create this sense of belonging. The customer’s overall experience is not only their attitude towards the brand but also their satisfaction with the purchase of a product along with their relationship with the business (Kotler, 1983). Whilst the main purpose of marketing is to attract potential customers, its aim is also to increase the loyalty and retention of already existing customers (Bhardwaj, 2007). The transformation from uninterested customers into faithful ones is essential for establishing strong relations and in turn revenues (Bhardwaj, 2007). By using marketing techniques, such as loyalty programs to strengthen the customer relationships and improve the overall experience, customers may be more inclined to purchase more products/ services or recommend them to friends, again leading to this increased revenue.
What is customer value?
While Some describe customer value as what customers “get” in exchange for what they had to “give up” (Zeithaml, 1988), others see it as a variety of more specific factors. Smith and Colgate (2007) categorize customer value into four headings; functional/ instrumental value, experiential/ hedonic value, symbolic/ expressive value and cost/sacrifice value.
When deciphering the customer value received by Lululemon customers, one can refer back to these categories. When reviewing the Lululemon Align Pant II, the high-rise fitting, and comfortable, light, and stretchy material are used to allow the leggings to adequately function in the way they are supposed to as yoga pants.
In terms of the experiential value, the product is made from high-quality flexible material, described as “buttery soft, lightweight and sweat-wicking”. The use of this superior fabric enhances the sensory experience when wearing them as they feel great and in turn, increase the customer’s value.
Continuing to the symbolic/ expressive value, these leggings could be bought in a variety of colors allowing the customer to choose exactly which style they would like to express. By allowing the customer to choose their unique color and style, Lululemon creates a sense of individuality and self-expression whilst still allowing the individual to feel a part of the lululemon community.
There is also the very distinctive lululemon symbol, located on the rear of the leggings, which provides brand recognition by social peers as well as creating a status for the customer. The lululemon products are higher-end athletic wear and thus more expensive, so the symbol not only represents their association with the brand but also their own status and wealth.
Lastly, there is the cost/sacrifice value. Whilst Lululemon products are a more expensive alternative to products that could be obtained at a cheaper supplier, their overall quality and brand recognition make the cost worthwhile to the customer. When reading reviews on the Lululemon website, it is apparent that customers are satisfied. EMILY153 (2019), a pleased customer describes the pants as her “favorite leggings ever” and claims “nothing else will ever compare”. After several more positive affirmations about the product she finishes her review by stating that she would “recommend these leggings to everyone and anyone that will listen”. This final testimonial highlights her satisfaction with the purchase, the emphasis on the benefits of the product with no mention of the cost, makes it obvious that she sees the gains out way the cost sacrifice.
What is the relationship between customer value and marketing
There is a strong link between marketing and customer value. As stated by (Kotler, 1983, p. 4), “selling is only the tip of the marketing iceberg”. This statement so clearly outlines this relationship, with research into customer needs, methods of distribution, and the development of appropriate products, the actual selling of a product will be easy (Kotler, 1983). By correctly finding your target audience and identifying what they view to be of sufficient value for cost, the products created by a business won’t need the “hard selling” (Kotler, 1983, p. 5).
After examining the customer value received when buying the Lululemon Align pant II leggings, as seen above, one can now analyze the potential areas that appeal to the market and form marketing strategies around them. In regards to the leggings, the main appeal is their “naked sensation”, which is “Engineered to feel like your go-to, lightweight, second-skin layer—you’ll forget you’re wearing this next-to-nothing sensation as you move”. This appeals to the customer base as the sole purpose of the product is to wear them when doing yoga. Another feature mentioned is their comfortable waistband, which again aids in comfort when doing yoga. The last feature mentioned is the “hidden pocket”. This is an essential feature some customers search for when purchasing yoga pants. While they don’t want to carry a large bag or wallet around with them, the ease of the pocket allows them to carry just what they need.
In the comments listed below, there are several glowing reviews. Many specifically address the marketing points illustrated next to the product. BPYOGII (2019) describes the leggings as “best for yoga” while Freezing (2019) comments that they are “like wearing no pants at all”. As pointed out earlier, Kotler (1983) states that the research that goes into the production of the product is the most important step. As the reviews reflect the main marketing points it shows that Lululemon has done this research and as a result the product sells itself.
For Lululemon the relationship between customer value and marketing has been established and correctly mastered. By establishing what customers value and what they want to see in a product they have been able to create high customer value. Many reviews also state they have returned to the store and purchased more pairs of leggings, emphasizing their love and satisfaction with the product.
How can businesses use customer value information for marketing purposes?
Businesses can use customer satisfaction surveys to gain more information about what customers view as valuable. This type of relationship marketing can also strengthen the connection between a customer and the business, strengthening loyalty. This can ultimately increase profits and lead to a more successful business. As seen on the Lululemon website, there is a platform where customers can leave reviews regarding a certain product. These are often responded to by the Lululemon team, which further encourages more communication with customers to work through complaints and to gain more detailed feedback.
By examining the true nature of marketing along with understanding what is customer value and how one can create it, a business can transform into a successful household brand, just like Lululemon. Lululemon has worked towards creating a ‘society’ of sorts that allows the customers to feel part of something greater. Their determination to create a high customer value is seen as a priority and is rewarded with high sales and an abundance of positive feedback. Their successful business approach should be admired and imitated if one wants to create their own profitable brand.