The needs, wants and demands of a customer:
In order to understand the consumer, it is necessary to know his needs, wants and demands. At times these terms are loosely used. However, for a complete understanding of the marketing process, the terms should be clearly understood. Needs, as psychologists tell, are basic human requirements like food, security, clothing, and survival. Wants are the needs directed to specific products / services. For example, while shopping a thirsty and tired consumer may need water. But he sits down in a coffee shop, orders for bottled water and a cup of coffee. The thirst need here becomes a want for coffee and bottled water. When a want is accompanied by the consumer’s ability to pay, it becomes a demand. For example, a young adult who has just started his /her career may want to buy a Toyota Lexus, Home theatre, MP3, or Mont Blanc pen but may have the capability for buying these products. In such case, these remain wants only. Today the challenge for the marketer is that of converting needs to wants to demands.
Markets, Market place, Virtual and Meta markets:
Also important is the distinction between markets, market place, and virtual markets. Market is a set of existing and potential buyers for a defined product or service. It is this context that the limits of a market are often defined by geography and is invariably time specific. For example, a firm marketing fruit based ice cream like ‘Naturals’ in Mumbai may define its market to consist of existing and potential customers in one of the suburbs or the entire Greater Mumbai Metropolitan area. Initially, its market consisted of ice cream buyers in and around Juhu area, a suburb of Mumbai, as its outlets were located only there. However, as its business grew in 1990s, it opened outlets at several other places in Mumbai, expanding its market to cover all Mumbai citizens who loved ice cream. Thus market is always defined for a product at a given time. It is also defined in geographical terms like urban / rural, regional national / global.
Market place is the place where one goes for shopping such as a mall, bazaar, shopping arcade or store. The virtual market is digital in nature. For example, when one shops at Rediff or any other internet shopping site, one is buying in the virtual market. Research including one by McKinsey, shows that over a period of time more consumers will shop on the Internet or from their mobile phones. Today more and more firms are using the virtual route (e-commerce [electronic commerce for Internet transactions] and m-commerce [mobile commerce] to convert consumer needs to wants and demand.
Another major development is the convergence of suppliers of all complementary products and services that are closely related to a product in the consumer’s mind. For example, when a consumer buys a house, he needs finance, furnishings, household goods, interior designing, a construction firm and a dealer. Now, when a construction firm, dealer, housing finance firm, interior designer, furnishers, media and internet site come together a meta market is created. While buying a house, the buyer will get involved with many of these players, called metamediaries. Today, such meta markets are becoming commonplace in several buying situations.
It is not uncommon toady to come across firms with a presence in physical, virtual and meta markets, Banks, housing finance firms, automobile firms are just some such cases.
In today’s competitive world, it is therefore important for organizations to examine ways and means to develop mutually satisfying long term relationships with their buyers. The relationship marketing process incorporates the following three main elements:
*Identifying and building a database of current and prospective buyers/ consumers including complete details on demographics and psycho-graphics of the target group of consumers as also their purchasing behaviour.
*Based on the above to evolve a differentiated marketing communication strategy in terms of message content and channel selection.
*Monitoring each relationship to ensure continued growth in customer’s purchases.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible today to customize the marketing mix to suit target customer groups. Interactive technologies have made it possible to continuously track consumption behaviour, brand preferences and even purchasing behaviour of consumers.
Market leaders have successfully used this knowledge of their target customers to design their marketing mix. Several companies, like Hindustan Unilever, have used this knowledge to adapt their products to customer needs and also to redesign their distribution strategies. They use technologies like satellite mapping of various markets, the web and extranet to cover intermediaries in order to optimize their supply chain right up to the end. As mentioned earlier, Hindustan Lever, which has a vast distribution system encompassing both urban and rural markets, has set up an extranet. The objective of this is to make its supply chain more efficient and responsive to customer needs. Further, through its own and group Company’s website, it intends to connect its customers all over the country. It has already made progress through Pond’s interactive website, hello Hindustan and Mera Hindustan initiatives in the detergents business as well as in television programmes like Close up Antakshari. On the net, interactive kiosks are being used to test Lakme and Ponds range of products. These kiosks provide information on beauty products and also enable the consumer to know how he /she will look by using these products. These kiosks guide him /her in decision making. Internationally, Unilever, has announced the joint venture with Village, a woman’s portal and participation in several other such interactive initiatives that will help it to connect to its customers. Thus, the crux of the marketing process is the identification of consumer needs and serving them by providing an effective service.