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  1. 1. IMPACTS OF CORPORATE WEBSITE ON ORGANIZATIONAL CUSTOMERS A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of: Master of Science in Technology Management Submitted to the: SCHOOL OF COMPUTING AND TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON On September 21, 2009 By: Frederick Gbemileke ODUTOLA U0814691 Supervisor: Elias Pimenidis
  2. 2. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers DEDICATION To God who’s made me His Most Favoured, to my grandmother, Late Princess Christiana Ayinke Odutola who raised my foundation, to my dad for the love and unending privileges, to my mum for the care and relentless prayers, to my mothers, godmothers, siblings, family and true friends. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 2
  3. 3. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers TABLE OF CONTENT Dedication - - - - - - - - - 2 Acknowledgement - - - - - - - - 6 Abstract - - - - - - - - - 7 CHAPTER 1 - RESEARCH OVERVIEW - - - - - 8 1.0 Introduction and Background - - - - - 9 1.1 Problem Statement - - - - - - - 9 1.2 Purpose of Study - - - - - - - 10 1.3 Research Objectives - - - - - - - 10 1.4 Research Questions - - - - - - - 11 1.5 Research Approach - - - - - - - 11 1.6 Definition of Terms - - - - - - - 11 1.7 Scope of the Study- - - - - - - - 12 1.8 Significance of Study- - - - - - - 13 1.9 Limitation of Study- - - - - - - - 13 1.10 Organization of Report- - - - - - - 14 CHAPTER 2 - LITERATURE REVIEW - - - - - 15 2.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 16 2.1 Classification of Corporate Website- - - - - 18 2.2 Outstanding and Outsmarting Competitors- - - - 18 2.3 Fostering First Time Purchases and Brand Loyalty - - 20 Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 3
  4. 4. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 2.4 Organization-Consumer Relationship - - - - 27 2.5 Enhancing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - - 31 2.6 Strengthening the Efficacy of Corporate Website - - - 33 CHAPTER 3 - RESEARCH METHODS - - - - - 37 3.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 38 3.1 Research Approach- - - - - - - - 38 3.2 Research Strategy- - - - - - - - 40 3.3 Data Collection- - - - - - - - 40 3.4 Sample Selection- - - - - - - - 41 3.5 Data Analysis- - - - - - - - - 41 3.6 Quality Standards- - - - - - - - 42 CHAPTER 4 - PRESENTATION OF CASE STUDIES - - - 43 4.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 44 4.1 Case Study of kalaa: Taking a Vision From Concept to Cash in an Online Art Market Place- - - - - - - 44 4.2 Case Study of Property Clinic- - - - - - 46 4.2.1 Aiding CRM with Corporate Website- - - - - 46 4.2.2 Building Brand and Aiding Sales with Corporate Website - 48 4.2.3 Generating Traffic for Corporate Website - - - - 51 CHAPTER 5 - ANALYSIS OF CASE STUDIES - - - - 52 5.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 53 5.1 Case Study of Kalaa: Taking a Vision From Concept to Cash in an Online Art Market Place- - - - - - - 53 5.2 Case Study of Property Clinic- - - - - - 54 5.2.1 Aiding CRM with Corporate Website - - - - 54 Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 4
  5. 5. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 5.2.2 Building Brand and Aiding Sales with Corporate Website - 57 5.2.3 Generating Traffic for Corporate Website - - - - 58 CHAPTER 6 - CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION - - 60 6.0 Conclusion - - - - - - - - 61 6.1 Further Research - - - - - - - 62 REFERENCES- - - - - - - - - 64 APPENDICES- - - - - - - - - 69  Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 5
  6. 6. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I thank God for His unending Grace and Favour upon my life especially as they now extend to this phase of academic race and this missive in particular. My gratitude goes to all those that made the completion of this dissertation possible. I would like to thank the School of Computing and Technology of University of East London. My gratitude goes to my supervisors Mr. Elias Pimenidis and Mr. Naveed Hamid for taking me up as a supervisee and coping with the rigors that came with it. I am deeply indebted to Mr. Elias Pimenidis for his guidance, suggestions and habitual exhibition of patience and encouragement. I thank the entire staff of Property Clinic for making my second and major case study a reality. My special appreciation goes to Mr. Joseph Farodoye, the Managing Director of Property Clinic for the time, tolerance, permissions and support during my participant-observation with Property Clinic. My appreciation goes to my course mates especially Femi Shittu, Wole Adefemi, Niyi Sangokoya and Sadaf Vajahat. I say a big thank you for the time, company and support. My special appreciation goes to my amazing friend, Rebekah Jones for the care and support throughout this project. My special gratitude goes to my London parents Mr. and Mrs. Brierley for standing by me all through this one year academic relay. Most importantly, my appreciation goes to my papa Rev. Dr. Fred B. Odutola, who anchored this success. I appreciate his investments, motivations and encouragements throughout my life and career. My gratitude goes to my mama for her care, love and incessant prayers and to my siblings for the evergreen love and support. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 6
  7. 7. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers ABSTRACT As a means to unveil the potency of corporate website, this dissertation critically examines the impacts of corporate website as an internationally sustainable ICT tool on organizational customers. This research scrutinizes corporate website as an instrument that builds brand and reveals its impacts on consumer behaviour especially purchase decision and eventual loyalty to the brand. It also finds out how corporate website distinguishes an organization from its competitors. More so, this work unveils how corporate website aids Customer Relationship Management while securing organization-consumer relationship. It also identifies the impossibility of corporate website to be a one-way tool and highlights complimentary actions that make it truly efficient and sustainable. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 7
  8. 8. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 1 RESEARCH OVERVIEW Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 8
  9. 9. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 1 RESEARCH OVERVIEW 1.0 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND With its ubiquity, the Internet has unveiled great advancement for businesses. Today, virtually all registered businesses have websites as corporate website is fast becoming one of the prerequisites for the credibility of a genuine business. Just as the Internet aids businesses to reach customers amidst competitions, it powers customers with an enormous view and reach of various products and services at alternative prices. Corporate Websites have emerged amidst this strength of Internet Marketing Technology as a significant ICT tool that differentiates the brand of services and products of an organization from those of competitors. The result of an ICT technology used by an organization determines its tangible value; such result refers to the impact of its use by such company (Bouwman et. al, 2005). Embedded in corporate website’s efficacy to persuade organizational customers to react positively is its value as an influential ICT tool of such organizational. Amidst this emergence of corporate website and its constant growth, the researcher’s objective is to scrutinize the effect corporate website has on organizational customers and how it goes all the way to engrave such impact. 1.1 PROBLEM STATEMENT Corporate website is a multipurpose Integrated Marketing Communications tool that aids marketing, brand building and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) amongst others. Despite such numerous potentials, this powerful technology is presently being underused by many businesses. Although some organizations consciously use corporate websites to attain competitive advantage in the market, many of them don’t pay enough Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 9
  10. 10. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers attention to the many ingredients that make this medium truly effective. However, many others especially small and medium businesses only use it lightly as a mere web presence of their business outfits without knowing its many potentials especially as regards penetrating potential customers and maintaining existing ones. To better understand the strength of corporate website especially as it influences organization customers, research is needed on the impact of effective corporate website on customers who are the end users. This research therefore proposes to examine the impact of corporate website on customers and the prerequisites for the efficacy of this Internet Technology. 1.2 PURPOSE OF STUDY This research primarily aims to examine, critically review and discuss the impacts of corporate websites on organizational customers. To this effect, this research will scrutinize some marketing functions of a website and their effects on organizational consumers that are exposed to them. 1.3 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES From the aforementioned purpose of study, this project is levied with the following objectives: 1) To find out how corporate website distinguishes an organization from its competitors. 2) To research, critically review and discuss how corporate website fosters first time purchases and brand loyalty. 3) To research, critically review and discuss how organizations get more closely connected to their customers via corporate website. 4) To unveil, critically review and discuss how corporate website enhances Customer Relationship Management (CRM). 5) To research, critically review and discuss most effective actions that strengthen the efficacy of corporate website. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 10
  11. 11. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS From research objectives, this research aspires to answer the following questions: 1. How does corporate website distinguish an organization from its competitors? 2. How does corporate website foster first time purchases and brand loyalty? 3. How does corporate website bring organizations closely connected to their customers? 4. How does corporate website enhance Customer Relationship Management? 5. What are the most effective actions that strengthen the efficacy of corporate website? 1.5 RESEARCH APPROACH This research made use of primary and secondary research methods. Quality literatures and journals were used for this research according to their relevance. Qualitative research method was adopted and case studies were employed one of which was derived via participant observation of the researcher. The case studies carried out were analysed and the analysis were used to support research questions with deductions of how corporate affects organizational consumers. 1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS For the purpose of simplicity, the key terms used in this project are defined as used in this project. Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is used in analysing website traffic. Basically, it refers to the percentage of visitors to a site who instead of browsing through other pages of the site get rebound to an entirely different site. In context of this dissertation, it refers to rate of visitors bounced from another website to a particular corporate website. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 11
  12. 12. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Corporate Website: Corporate Website is an online collection of web pages with a specified domain name that conveys organizational information especially of brands of services or products of the organization and distinguishes them from rivals’. Organization: This refers to a unit in which more than one person work jointly to attain a common goal. Organization, ‘business’ and ‘company’ are used interchangeably in this project. Personal Selling: This is a face-to-face communication process that happens between a representative of an organization and a prospective customer. Customer: A customer is that person that patronizes an organization. He or she is the primary target of the organization, its brands of products and services. This word is changeably used with 'client’ and ’consumer' in this project. Customer Acquisition Cost is the cost of a particular marketing campaign divided by the number of prospective consumers whose behaviour met the campaign’s goal. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): CRM is the course of action of learning more about needs and behaviours of customers with an end aim of strengthening organization-consumer relationship. 1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY This study focuses on effects of corporate websites on organizational consumers on a global scale. Although all of the organizations studied by the researcher are based in the United Kingdom, some of them like Property Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 12
  13. 13. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Clinic have and serve customers that live beyond the geographical boundaries of UK. 1.8 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY This research in its entirety will have a huge implication on the corporate world by bettering their knowledge of the potencies of corporate website. It will examine the impacts of corporate website on consumers. This should influence the creation of intuitive and visually appealing corporate website that has an overall goal of being commercially-impactful. This will give companies reasons to be bent on websites that will efficiently and dynamically disseminate their image, services and products with an attempt to influence customer behaviour. 1.9 LIMITATION OF STUDY This study is limited by the shortage of time and granted access by chosen organizations. The effects of corporate websites on organizational consumers are not fully looked into from the consumer point of view. However, these did not in any way make the findings of this research redundant as the case studies involve real organizations using corporate websites to achieve results, thereby helping to answer the research questions. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 13
  14. 14. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 1.10 ORGANIZATION OF REPORT Chapter 1 – Research Overview This will contain the research overview including background of study, problem statement, research questions, research objectives and approach. Chapter 2 – Literature Review In this chapter, the numerous literatures on the research title would be reviewed. These literatures will be under different headings and subheadings as they all relate to this research and the research questions listed above. Chapter 3 – Research Methods This chapter contains the chosen research methods for data collection for this project and the reasons why the researcher have adopted them. Chapter 4 – Presentation of Case Studies This chapter contains the presentation of the numerous case studies used for this research. One of these case studies was developed by the researcher through participant observation and the other that was developed by other persons was presented in the researchers own words while the full text was left verbatim under the Appendices. Chapter 5 – Analysis of Case Studies This section contains the analysis of the case studies presented in chapter 4. The case studies are analyzed and used as much as possible to arrive at answers for the research questions raised in Chapter 1. Chapter 6 – Conclusion and Recommendation This section contains the conclusion of the researcher based on consulted literature and deduced answers to research questions by case studies. It further contains necessary recommendations based on research findings and suggestions for further research. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 14
  15. 15. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 15
  16. 16. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 2.0 INTRODUCTION The Internet has become the most salient communications tool since the broadcast media (Bruner et al, 2001. p. 9). Be it profit or non-profit oriented, every organization exists for the primary aim of satisfying a need or more of a particular person or group of persons. Therefore, the nature of perception and the level of patronage and satisfaction of the consumers an organization serves determine the success of the organization. The fact that customers only get involved when they perceive organizational offers as beneficial (Finnegan and Willcocks, 2007. p.1) creates a constant need for organizations to competitively paint their services and products as beneficial in the target consumers’ minds. This competition had always been battled with the use of the broadcast and print media to paint convincing images in the minds of consumers and prospective consumers. With the sophisticated evolution of Information Communication Technology, corporate website has emerged as an effective medium used for disseminating organizational information with a foreseen end of influencing customers. Television and radio make use of audiovisual and audio signals respectively while conforming to the rule of time and the print media is governed by the availability of space. According to McMillan et al (2003. p.1), website overcomes the ongoing limitation of space and time with its technical potency of involving and engaging organizational consumers. It builds the corporate image and brands of products and services on the web by offering organizational information beyond the level of the traditional media. There is virtually no limit to the amount of web space an organization can secure and the amount of information it can leave for consumers on the web. This coined with the creativity of website especially the interactivity of multimedia have an end effect on organizational consumers. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 16
  17. 17. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Progressively, customers and prospective customers acquire information about organizations via their corporate websites more than through reading their printed materials. According to the website effectiveness experts, Bowen Craggs & Co. (2009), many organizations have recognized this fact, but they need to concentrate more on this ‘best-valued’ medium. This has necessitated the investigation of the impacts of this acclaimed ‘best-valued’ medium (Bowen Craggs & Co., 2009) on organizational customers. Several researchers have made attempts to define corporate website. Owyang (2007) sees corporate website as a domain where a customer or prospective customer can access more information about an organization. It is a collection of pages on the Internet with organizational information available to target or existing customers via the Internet. Silk et al (2001) proposed that corporate website is an organization’s major contact point with its customers. Singh and Dalal (1999. p. 92) opined that corporate website, just like advertising, performs the basic functions of informing and persuading. Many other researchers including McMillan et al (2003), Lynn et al (2002) and Bruner and Kumar (2000) have examined corporate website in the context of advertising on the web. According to Warren and Mark (2003), The Internet via website serves as an advertising medium and Public Relation tool. It helps with sales and promotion and aids the effort of personal selling. However, the study and use of corporate website should go beyond associating it with the limited attributes of the traditional media to realising its ability to go the extra mile of engaging consumers and aiding business deals (McMillan et al, 2003. p. 4). This study scrutinizes corporate website as an online advertising, marketing and branding tool. The major essence however lies in investigating the end effects corporate website has on consumers. The approach is aimed at making organizations realize and consider how corporate website influences the consumers that these organizations exist primarily to serve. This research portrays corporate website as a medium that promotes an organization and its brands while bypassing the limitations of the traditional Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 17
  18. 18. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers media. Corporate website is therefore dissected as an online brand builder and business-customer relationship tool that contacts, informs and influences customers while differentiating a company and its brands of services and products from those of its rivals. 2.1 CLASSIFICATION OF CORPORATE WEBSITE Websites have been classified by Warren and Mark (2003. p. 591-592) into: Promotion Site: Promotion site promotes the goods and services of the organization it represents or those of its third party. Content Site: A content site offers news, entertainment and support for the public relations activities of the organization. Transaction Site: A transaction site creates an avenue for customers to purchase organizational goods and services online. Such transactions are aided with secured online payment systems and services. A corporate website could fall into one, more or all of these aforementioned categories of a website. The category to which a corporate website belongs dictates its content and how it goes on to establish an organizational- customer relationship. 2.2 OUTSTANDING AND OUTSMARTING COMPETITORS Unique Corporate Image Considering that every organization exists within a competitive environment (Beynon-Davis, 2004. p 51), there is a huge need for an organization to be differentiated from another in order to avoid losing its customers to a rival organization especially if such organization offers very similar products or services. This differentiation begins with the identification of a company’s corporate image which is physically associated with its corporate name and logo. This corporate image goes further to encapsulate what the company stands for amongst others. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 18
  19. 19. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers With the corporate website, an organization has an online representation of its corporate image and brands which clearly distinguish it from rival organizations. Corporate website utilizes the ubiquity and dominance of the Internet to give an organization an edge over its competitors. With many available features and functions of the corporate website, an organization has the affordability of beating its competitors at acquiring, satisfying and sustaining customers. Outsmarting Competitors Irrespective of the industry an organization belongs to, the corporate website via the capability of the Internet affords it 24-hour functionality through 365 days a year (Fellenstein and Wood, 2000. P. 40). This helps an organization stand better in a competitive market as it breaks the limitations of office hours and holidays to serve the consumers the organization exist primarily to serve. Corporate website functions as an influential gizmo of Information Communication Technology that helps ensure online effigy, branding, advertising, credibility, and sales for an organization, all with an end aim of influencing the customers of an organization to act beneficially towards the organization amidst competition. During the early days of the Web, most customers had less experience in Web transactions especially when such involves cash (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 11). In this present age of the web, humans have grown to be web-centric, thereby resulting into customers who are sufficiently computer literate to utilize the websites of organizations to digest as much information as available and required and to finish up transactions. An organization that realizes and embraces this possibility of the Internet has an advantageous stance over its competitors. According to Fellenstein and Wood (2000. p. 40), paying attention to factors like end-to-end system components, system management processes, data redundancy, backup and recovery and high availability, on the long run translate into consumer satisfaction which logically maximizes profit. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 19
  20. 20. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Web technology innovative like the ‘7 Max-E-Marketing Imperatives’ popularized by Rapp and Martin (2001. P. 6-8) empowers an organization to get and manage customers well enough to ensure profitability in the midst of fierce competition. With corporate website, an organization can know more about consumers, update consumers’ bio data, and use such consumer information to drive its businesses, thereby making it much easier to tailor its information and brands to its consumers. This is made much easier with the infusion of individualized marketing into corporate website. According to Cusack (1998. p. 41), corporate website has evolved into a medium that is recognized for organizational procedures and policies with an enormous database. These procedures and policies are coined to satisfy the consumers and are constantly updated to sustain consumer satisfaction. More so, they are remarkable distinguishing factors of organizations especially as they eventually influence the different stances and modus operandi of each organization. In a nutshell, the entirety of the corporate website distinguishes a corporate entity (an organization) from its competitors in all its ramifications: corporate image, name, logo, information, brands of products and services. On the long run, when competitively utilized, the corporate website gives the organization an edge over its competitors. The organization therefore stands out in the competition and outsmarts competitors. 2.3 FOSTERING FIRST TIME PURCHASES AND BRAND LOYALTY Audience Development: Flowing Traffic into Corporate Website Bowen et al, (1999, p. 159) say it is difficult to attract consumers to a website to absorb organizational information. This therefore necessitates the use of different tools of the Internet to flow traffic into the corporate website. With the knowledge of this difficulty, businesses now utilize different tools to draw visitors to their websites. Such efforts include the maximization of the power of metadata descriptions to increase chances of their websites coming up in Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 20
  21. 21. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers search engines, use of referrals via partner site and search engines amongst others. The bounce rate of partner sites can be checked while powerful web tools like the Google analytics make it easy to document and measure traffic level and sources, page views, clicks and duration spent on pages amongst others. The visitation of an existing or potential consumer to a corporate website is preceded by many things. It could be an earlier purchase of the company brand with the web URL printed on the package or documentation associated with the purchase (for an existing consumer), navigation via search engines or referral from another web site. Google for example, aids organizations drive expected traffic and the attracted visitors can on the long run turn to customers depending on the packaging of the website. Another effective way of driving traffic to company website is using on-air and other promotion media (Goetzl, 2007). Often, companies employ short advertorials on the mass media to leave eagerness to know more in the minds of customers. Such advertising messages which appear inadequate but create inquisitiveness in the minds of those exposed to them always end with emphasis on the organizational website. The desire to know more drives traffic to the site. The famous ‘gocompare.com’ media advert for example is a means to drive prospective consumers of the service to the company website where they can consume more information and the available services. Important Customer Contact Point Silk et al (2001) opined that corporate website is the primary contact point an organization has with its customers. Corporate website as a worldwide medium makes it possible for a company to reach consumers across distances and beyond geographical boundaries. Through corporate website as a worldwide medium, an organization can reach its customers across geographical distances and boundaries. This initial contact is the basis of the eventual impact it has on the customers. The creativity of multimedia with the possibility of customer interaction and control makes it possible for customers to consume organizational Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 21
  22. 22. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers information in an interesting way. This interactivity of the corporate website is a means to an end – purchase and patronage. According to Bowen Craggs & Co. (2009), businesses have commenced investing in transforming their corporate websites from online brochures into truly interactive medium. Bowen Craggs & Co. construed that the website is the organization’s most read publication and should not be made boring. While investigating the significance of corporate websites, Llopis, Gonzalez and Gasco (2008. p.334) unveiled that the company information about policies, goals and values merged with the design features of the corporate website influences visitors’ perception. Corporate website packages organizational information as such that it directly influences the way customers or potential customers that visit the website perceive the company. This further initiates anticipated consumer behaviours including making purchases. Corporate website initiates the first contact point with potential consumers and navigates them through pages of information. All these interactivities powered by the website leave the consumers with a desire to patronize the brands (Internet Wire, 2002). The information on the website must have painted these brands as relevant and beneficial to the visitor before the visitor becomes a customer by purchasing. However, before an organization bothers about how consumers perceive its corporate website, it is first answerable to itself. The organization first needs to clearly layout its objectives especially as regards the return it expects from this online investment (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 10). This setting of objectives should be coined with the realization that the creation of this consumer contact point is not an end in itself but a means to an end which is profit maximization. The end result should justify the resources invested into the corporate website. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 22
  23. 23. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Advertising and Brand-Building According to Internet Wire (2002), corporate website helps an organization to centralize branding. Corporate website plays a significant and cost-effective role in helping an organization build consumer awareness of a brand be it an offline or online brand. Some Internet domain names are based on brand names while others are generic domains that focus on product lines. Procter and Gamble’s www.covergirl.com is a good example of a domain that focuses on a brand name while its www.cakemix.com is a relevant example of a product line generic domain (Warren and Mark 2003). Bruner et al (2001) suggested that as marketing is fast becoming more global, it is most likely cyberspace becomes the only medium a potential customer finds out information about a company’s brand. With the increased level of addiction of the new generation to the Internet, it is necessary organizations start maximizing this opportunity to expose brand information to potential consumers. Some have already started doing this by driving traffic to brand pages via ad banners hosted on other websites especially the popular community websites: Facebook and Twitter amongst others. Warren and Mark (2003. p. 593) opined that with the corporate website, an organization can regionalize its brand portfolio. A very good example is how Procter and Gamble regionalized its Japan brand as documented by Warren and Mark (2003. p.593). Such regionalization gives consumers within those geographical boundaries a sense of being in the plan of the organization and gingers a positive response towards such brands including making purchases. Millward Brown opines that an ad banner on a company website can increase brand awareness (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 14). This is further supported by Robinson (2007) when he asserted that customer base and brand awareness are significantly created via showcasing the brands of products and services of organization through the Internet. Companies can use their most visited pages, often the index (or home) page to disseminate brand information in order to get potential customers aware of such brand. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 23
  24. 24. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Beyond the passive attention expected of the consumer by the traditional media, corporate website invites potential consumers to get involved with organizational brands, delve into details about them and sign up for special services. More so, it creates an avenue for them to regularly return as a source for a particular issue while actively participating in the marketing that is bounded closely with the brand (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 16). Another efficient way of effectively branding on the corporate website is by employing co-branding. According to Warren and Mark (2003. p. 590), organizations pay for banner adverts on web browsers; these banner adverts link to the corporate website of the organization. It could be a link to the homepage or a particular brand or product page on the corporate website. Bruner et al (2001. p. 15) also unveiled that in a situation where a visitor does not know the name of an organization or brand, the logo or banner of such organization is put on the web site of a more known partner. This can lend the organization some credibility. Such logo or banner could be linked to the corporate website of this company to feed such prospective customer information about the organization and its brands of products or services. The effect of this could be measured by the bounce rate. As Internet forums and communities like Facebook and Linked In amongst others are becoming much more popular and addictive, many organizations now create groups and pages that direct visitors to their websites. While some of such visitations are often borne out of curiosity rather than interest, many others are gingered by interest. Forums and communities are therefore fast becoming tools of developing audience and raising awareness of a corporate website. They also aid in carrying out co-branding efforts as explained above. Corporate website aids global marketing via affiliations with other sites (Warren and Mark, 2003. p. 592). This is merged with sponsorship of particular events, brand or software to generate recognition and referral. Unilever Plc for example sponsored MSN; such sponsorship creates an avenue where these are active links to the website or a particular brand page Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 24
  25. 25. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers of the sponsor. This on the long run powers organizations to reach more target consumers across media platforms. Corporate website builds organizational brands by sophisticatedly disseminating brand information with interactive features. With multimedia, organizations can show consumers product demos via videos, graphics and in case of software, free downloads. This becomes even much more interesting for some brands in that consumers can chose different parts that make up the brand they want including colours and see how it is going to look like. In a competitive market, organizations employ online advertising to give their products a space in the mind of the consumers. Unilever Plc for example, digitalized its television commercials as such that visitors can download them (Warren and Mark, 2003. p. 591). This act of moving advertising from the traditional media to the corporate website results into a situation where a consumer or prospective consumer consciously digests these commercials, thereby having access to such advertorial information about organizational brand. Such an exposure paints messages that influence the perception of this consumer and eventually his or her action towards the organization and its brand. Interactive advertising agencies help to globalize the Internet standings and offerings of organizations. Planet Leap Global for example helped companies like Nike and Apple computers amongst others to tackle the differences of language and cultures of customers. Some of these agencies who are Interactive media specialists make organizations aware about the laws that operate in each geographical region the organization covers (Warren and Mark, 2003. p. 591-592). Different types of web marketing including advertising and brand building add to a positive brand image (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 15). Inductively activities of online brand building and advertising amongst other Integrated Marketing Communications effort is a means to an end painting a positive brand image which gingers first time purchase and brand loyalty. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 25
  26. 26. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Sales A corporate website that is well designed with marketing considerations gives a company a strong personality that formulates positive perceptions, ensures trouble-free navigation, persuades a visitor to reach a conclusion of buying the company’s service or product and encourages an existing customer to remain loyal purchasers. This was confirmed by Baker (2009), who examined the IMRG Capgemini’s survey and deduced that better targeting via advanced marketing strategies boosts sales. More so, a customer experience management firm, CRM Metrix, carried out an 18 month survey on major consumer oriented websites and established that the more time customers spend on a website and the deeper they get involved in it, the more the boost of affinity of brand, purchase intent and value of a lifetime (Internet Wire, 2002). Corporate website has evolved from aiding in-office transactions into an online transaction venue. Burner et al (2001. p. 20) stress that consumers can get whatever they want to buy online. The Internet via business websites now makes it possible for products and services to be fully paid for online. In some cases, such product or service is even consumed online. However, in many more cases, the product is transported to the final consumer and the service is brought across the consumer or he or she journeys to consume the service. This potency of the Web according to Bruner et al (2000. p. 20) is fast becoming affordable even by small enterprises as they combine promotion strategies with unique offerings to maximize the profitability of web marketing. Such aids them in bypassing the limitation of geographical boundaries of television signals and zip codes amongst others that affect traditional marketing means. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 26
  27. 27. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 2.4 ORGANIZATION-CONSUMER RELATIONSHIP According to Bouwman et al (2005. p.41), Information Communication Technology significantly contributes to achievement of company goals especially the social and commercial ones. The function of Information Communication Technology in a company however is much more than the publication of company goals; it includes the efficient and effective implementation of these goals. This has created an emergence that sees corporate website actively function as an effective ICT tool that helps a business realize the main goal of maximizing profit while keeping its valued consumers. According to Beynor-Davis (2004. p. 52), in the quest of reaching its local or global customers, an organization requires a mediator to act as a go-between between the organization and its customers. Corporate website serves as an intermediary that mediates between an organization and its potential and existing consumers. Some traits of digital media were identified by John Deighton (Chaffey et al, 2000. p. 17). This inductively depicts that as a digital media, corporate website facilitates a situation where customers deliberately instigate contact with an organization and consume information about that organization or its brand of products or services. This affords an organization hundred percent attention from a consumer or potential consumer who visits the website. It also enables the organization to collate, keep, monitor and act upon actions of a website visitor, who may be an existing consumer or a potential one. With the corporate website, a company can effectively deal with customers individually. It serves as an organizational information sieving tool as feedback forms can pull off suggestions and feedbacks from site visitors. Some organizations have their contact page primarily contain a form that attracts consumers or potential consumers to type and send texts of information. More so, Google Analytics make it possible for an organization to study the interaction process of web visitors with its corporate website, Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 27
  28. 28. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers thereby helping the organization to discover the cost effective marketing initiatives online (Google, 2009). Software firms like Macromedia and NetPerceptions amongst others empower organizations to study patterns in the behaviour of anonymous users on their site. Such study generates information that is used to improve the corporate website, deduce demographics of visitors and personalize web content for individual users (Bruner et al, 2001. p. 24). Corporate website functions as a feedback mechanism that helps a company to effect a rapid and pertinent transformation of its position in the market (Internet Wire, 2002). It makes the consumers direct interviewees as complaints and condemnations of an organization and its brands provide such accurate information, thereby empowering the company to beat the setbacks posed by long paper researches. Such information are very unbiased, objective and genuine as they originate from the real existing or target consumers and solutions could be quickly provided as appropriate and needed. Customer Acquisition Organizations acquire website visitors who are potential customers via search engines, on-air adverts and links from referral sites amongst others. The customer acquisition campaign is done with goal at hand. Such goal could be making purchases; filling out surveys and signing up for promotional newsletter amongst others. The efficacy of this is measured by the ‘Customer Acquisition Cost’ (Bruner et al, 2001 p. 11). With the availability of online tracking software like the Google Analytics, it has become possible to ascertain the number of visitors that visit particular pages on the corporate website, and the final online actions performed by each of them especially filling of forms and making of online transactions. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 28
  29. 29. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Customer Retention According to Fellenstein and Wood (2000. p. 40), to retain customer, the organization must ensure its electronic representation is available, secure, reliable and scalable on demand. It is easy to put up a website but the transformation of the web presence into a valuable online business for an organization as such that visitors revisit is challenging. To ensure this, an organization needs to make the corporate website as useable as possible while it remains highly functional. A website that is fully tried, tested and useable stands a greater chance of encouraging a visitor to call back (Fellenstein and Wood, 2000. p. 40). Customer Care According to Bruner et al (2001. p. 23), irrespective of the nature of a business, the use of web site to improve customer communications should be regarded. However, this phase of online representation of organizations has received little or no attention. This could probably be because the end result of this function of the web is not quickly and directly measurable. However, customer satisfaction through surveys and result helps measure the essence of online customer care. Cusack (1998. p.41) once deduced that with the emerging sophistication of the World Wide Web, organizations will likely focus more on online customer care. He however identified the demerit of unavailability of human contact, capitalizing that automated software applications may be unable to appease an angry customer. Today, corporate website has bypassed this disadvantage with the availability of online customer care via web chats with human agents. Bruner et al (2001. p. 22) revealed that organizations now aid customers through live support chat that are supplied by ‘real people’. Many corporate website already offer this online chat facility to aid customers find the right information and make the right transactions. The UCVHOST (http://ucvhost.com) website for example provides live help whereby online agents assist existing and prospective customers to set up and pay for the Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 29
  30. 30. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers right domain registration or hosting facility. T-Mobile website also does the same to assist customers to complete online transactions or locate particular product or company information. Cusack (1998) anticipated that organizations will host as much information as possible on their website in order to enable customers to browse knowledge bases, update personal account information, review bills and place orders. The past few years have shown an increase in the realization of this anticipation; corporate websites have numerous Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) hosted with answers and many websites now allow individual customers to customize their account information online. Customer support has emerged one of the sophisticated applications of the Internet (Bruner et al, 2000. p. 22) that sees to it that an organization sufficiently cares for its consumer. The more organizations grow the more the necessity to have some kind of online customer support even at a stage when such customer is a potential one who browses the organizational information as a web visitor. Such support includes creating a venue for customers to manage their personal accounts on the company website; this is often aided by ‘My Account’ web software program. For example, a registered T-mobile user can login online, check past bills, current bills, available network package for chosen price plan and even send SMS online. Customer care processes and systems support are critical to the running of any organization. Corporate website offers support frameworks that streamline support and care for consumers (Fellenstein and Wood, 2000. p. 41). At this phase, it is salient to note that this care for consumers go beyond the technology to involve the embedded business functions which influence the overall business success – customer satisfaction and profit maximization. Corporate website gives customers access to large amount of information any time 24 hours a day. It disseminates this information graphically, thereby making customers easily explore organizational facts that may boost their perception and enjoyment of the brands of products or services (Cusack, Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 30
  31. 31. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 1998 p. 41). All these create an avenue where customers can get immediate support they need and when they need it. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility is the responsibility of an organization to its publics who consist of its host community and consumers. As powerful as it is, Corporate Social Responsibility is only useful when it is publicized. To this effect, corporate website has emerged as a salient and influential medium of carrying out and publicizing CSR. It associates a company with the many positive activities it does to improve the social life of its publics especially the host community; the organization deliberately publishes such information on its corporate website to disseminate them to existing and potential customers with an end aim of influencing their decisions especially to patronize. According to Llopis et al, (2008. p. 335), the Corporate Social Responsibility information on web pages generally depict the social activities of a company as regards the society, environment and the customers; organizations make use of corresponding information to incorporate CSR on their web pages. This is done to make visitors develop likeness for an organization that cares enough to input such beneficial social activities. Such sentiments transfer to the brands of products or services of the organization and persuade visitors to become consumers. 2.5 ENHANCING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM) According to Minocha et al (2005), to conform corporate website to design and usability standards, Customer Relationship Management needs to be integrated to get efficient and sustainable customer-organization relationship online. This highlights the importance of fusing Customer Relationship Management into corporate website design. This long term relationship goes beyond recruiting new customers to sustaining them. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 31
  32. 32. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Customer Relationship Management gives a company a lens through which it looks at its consumers. It gives the organization a comprehensive view of individual consumer, thereby affording the organization the opportunity to relate personally with this consumer. This further gives it an edge over rivals in the minds of the consumers (Pisapia and Bonfield, 2008). According to Bygstad (2003), it has been asserted by relationship marketing that it is cheaper to hold on to existing consumers than to get new ones. Chaffey (2004 p. 367) asserts that to sustain its business, it is pertinent for an organization to build and sustain long term relationship with its consumers. This has necessitated keeping current information about consumers. Pisapia and Bonfield (2008) opined that contrary to the popular conception that Customer Relationship Management is a definite database organization or product, it is a strategy that gives an organization trouble-free access to significant information of each person that concerns the organization especially its customers. With the aid of web software tools, corporate website helps an organization to gather information about online customer patterns, segmentation, and profitability (Bruner et al, 2001. p. 11). Corporate website helps organizations to get leads for its CRM database. Such information which includes the contact information and the interest of such prospective customer is gathered via forms on the website and manually or automatically input into the CRM software. In some cases, it gets updated information about an existing customer, thereby making it easy for such information to be updated on the CRM software. A significant advantage of Customer Relationship Management is that the information it gets from the interaction of consumers with the corporate website of the organization belongs solely to the organization (Pisapia and Bonfield, 2008). Such information can aid the decisions and formulation of new programmes to better serve the consumers, thereby bettering the functionality and profit maximization of the organization. The significance of this consumer relationship was better explained by Finnegan and Willcocks (2007. p.4) when they opined that it helps an organization realize trust and loyalty from its consumers while spending less on marketing. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 32
  33. 33. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 2.6 STRENGTHENING THE EFFICACY OF CORPORATE WEBSITE From the aforesaid, one may hastily conclude that the impact corporate websites has on consumers is unavoidable. However, these impacts ought not to be considered as usual without the presence of some prerequisites. Before conceiving the website and afterwards, the organization has to play lots of responsibilities to compliment the impact of corporate website, the absence of which makes the website and all the design efforts futile. Proctor et al (2003) opined that ensuring that a corporate website gives customers efficient interactivity requires that the stage of preparing the content decides and has the information, arrangement and method of presentation that is necessary. In a nutshell, a company needs to decide the entirety of the information including what to convey, how to acquire, develop and disseminate it on the corporate website. Beyond web design skills, researches are meant to aid gathering and laying out the right information with the right style of words that will make it tailored to the target visitors. According to Robinson (2007), whether it is being used as a tool of conveying information or trade, a corporate website should plainly assist a customer do what is expected by the organization in order to successfully realise a transaction or interaction. This means the website should guide the consumer in making the right clicks and in the right succession. Doctor’s Channel’s president, David Best, deduced that the efficient means of catching and maintaining a customer’s attention is to make use of shot contents with lots of embedded information (Forte et. al, 2008). Robinson (2007) gave a parallel view when advising that to avoid straining the customers’ eyes the corporate website should not be too wordy. Brevity should be inculcated into the corporate website without necessarily missing out important information. Such conciseness helps prevent the hazard of boring off visitors. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 33
  34. 34. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Sustainability and Complimentary Activities Many corporate websites as foresaid support instant transactions online. In a world where debit and credit cards cannot be carelessly use because of security threats, trust and security has been a great issue. This affects the readiness of concerned customers to perform online transactions. Considering such credibility issues when it comes to online transactions, businesses need to integrate their corporate websites with secured payment systems. According to Robinson (2007), SSL certificate amongst other credibility certificates will help organizations earn some online payment credibility. Furthermore, as asserted by Warren and Mark (2003. p. 591), it is essential to merge corporate website with the commitment of human and monetary resources. While increasing traffic and meeting up the expectation of users, the website should be informative and interesting. By interesting, it is meant that the website should be interactive and attractive enough to glue the visitor to the information embedded. More so, tailored information that positively influences the perception of consumers and leads to an eventual purchase of what the organization has to offer justifies the return on investment. Robinson (2007) portrayed the importance of examining the details of website traffic in order to know the exact product or service whose page is most patronized. He further suggested that an organization ought to weigh the number of clicks against the end response of consumers. Feedback from consumers can help an organization get reasons for their decisions. To this effect, the company can tackle customer enquiries even if it means changing its modus operandi as that will give consumers a sense of belonging and can increase loyalty. Beyond all the sugar-coatings done on the corporate website, the organization should ensure that customers are eventually satisfied with their brands. Xui, M. et al (2000) supports this notion while deducing that the design of the company website ought to meet a prominent goal of satisfying customers. This is often determined by the packaging and content of the Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 34
  35. 35. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers product or the delivery and quality of the service as the case may be. In a nutshell, impact of the corporate website on organizational customer relies heavily on the complimentary satisfaction derived from the associated organization and brand of services or products. Within a competitive market that gives customers unlimited choices of organizations and prices for a particular service or product, the most important factor is the way the service is offered. Therefore, the determinant of success would be the delivering of a service that is satisfactory to the consumer as such that the customer can return to patronize (Xui M et al, 2000). Inductively, the corporate website is much more efficient when the company offers its customers a service or product that is distinctively satisfactory. This sustains the use of corporate website as an ICT tool. More so, a finding by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates revealed that forty-eight percent of Americans explore the Internet for advice or information about a service or product before making purchase (Ellington, 2008). This result shows customers trust real persons’ reviews because they are from the past experiences of such consumers; this is known as User Generated Content (UGC). Owyang (2007)’s suggestion of giving customers permission to publish information on the corporate website could be bought as a good idea. It is however essential to moderate sophisticatedly as such that information is quickly reviewed before it is allowed to show on the website. This could function as a close and credible User Generated Content of the organizational consumers. This would add to the credibility and trust of the information on the website. Considering that the Internet itself as a medium is ‘rapidly evolving’, changes are unavoidable (Warren and Mark, 2003. p. 594). Simply put, the fact that this technology is not static does not allow a constantly predictable approach. It is therefore highly necessary for organizations to carry out updated Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 35
  36. 36. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers research and update their corporate website and all it entails as appropriate especially to positively influence consumer behaviour. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 36
  37. 37. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 37
  38. 38. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS 3.0 INTRODUCTION According to Holme and Solvang (1997), a method is an instrument or a way of solving a problem and reaching new knowledge. Dawson (2006. p.14) sees methodology as the universal principle or philosophy that guides a research. Research methodology according to Wisker (2008. p. 65) is determined by the subject area and the specific research question that is being worked on. This was further backed by the view of Dolowitz et al (2008. p. 35) that a research method is selected to suit a researcher’s perception of the world and to provide legitimate answers to research question. The Methodology chosen for this dissertation is therefore chosen as deemed sufficient for gathering necessary information for the research work within the time limit. 3.1 RESEARCH APPROACH Bell (2005. p. 7) opined that different approaches make use of different data collection methods but stressed that no approach rejects any specific method. Quantitative and qualitative methods are not necessarily two different means of achieving the same answers in a research. They rather only have different logics and strengths but are both used to tackle different research questions and purposes (Maxwell, 1996). Quantitative methods Quantitative methods as seen by Dawson (2006) are suitable for tackling questions that necessitate collecting measurable and quantifiable data. Therefore, it entails large large-scale studies that require a researcher to be as objective as possible. Bell (2005) added that quantitative methods employ techniques that result into quantified and generalized conclusions. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 38
  39. 39. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Qualitative Methods Qualitative methods on the other hand as explained by Dolowitz et al (2008) are much more appropriate for researches that focus on the significance of personal interpretation. According to Dolowitz et al (2008), Qualitative methods promote the use of personal analysis that are not biased and help to study a research topic from the perspective of that which is studied. Morse (1994) emphasized that Qualitative research methods are a mysterious amalgamation of strategies for acquiring images of reality. Creswell (1994) asserted that qualitative approach helps understand a social or human issue that is supported by a holistic and complex picture which is formed with words that unveil views of informants. Coombes (2001. p.30) deemed qualitative research methods most suitable for a small-scale research in which a researcher may employ observations and unstructured interviews amongst others and Dawson (2006) opined that Qualitative research explores behaviours, experiences and attitudes through its methodologies including interviews and focus groups amongst others. In the process of conducting a qualitative research, the researcher may need to interact with those that are being studies, that is, a personal interaction occurs while a relationship is being cultivated. The language of the study is therefore most likely to be personal (Coombes 2001. p. 30). To avoid bias therefore, the researcher needs to view collected data from other angles and embrace an approach that is very objective. According to Dawson (2006), qualitative research encapsulates different methodologies including Action Research, Ethnography, and Grounded theory amongst others. According to Bell (2005. p.8), an adopted approach and data collection methods selected are dependent on the required type of information. Inductively from the aforementioned and for the purpose of finishing this research within the time constraint, the research method chosen is qualitative. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 39
  40. 40. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 3.2 RESEARCH STRATEGY There are many research strategies including history investigation, surveys, experiments, archival analysis, and case studies. According to Yin (1994), each of these strategies has its merits and demerits as dictated by context in which they are used. Saunders et al (2000) opined that what matters is the appropriateness of a strategy for a particular research. Since history investigation is more suitable for reviewing the past when there is no person alive as denoted by Yin (1989), it is not suitable for this research while experiment is also discarded because it is much more concerned with natural science. Case study according to Yin (1994) is most suitable for collecting data when the question is of a 'how' and 'why' tone and the situation is a contemporary one which the researcher has little or no control over. Case study as a qualitative strategy allows multiple sources of evidence to be used. This results into much more balanced findings. The aforementioned reasons make case study the most suitable for this research. Case study is therefore adopted to tackle the research questions asked in Chapter 1. 3.3 DATA COLLECTION Yin (1994) necessitates the decision to support a chosen strategy with data collection. This data collection however as recognized by Eriksson and Wiedersheim-Paul (1997) are of two types of data which are secondary and primary. Data that have already been acquired by other researchers bearing their varying aims is known as secondary data while data that is gathered solely by a researcher for his or her specific purpose is known as primary data. To collect data for case study which is the chosen strategy for this research, any of the six sources of evidence suggested by Yin (1989) could be used. They include physical artifacts, interviews, archival records, documentation, direct observations and participant observation. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 40
  41. 41. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers For the purpose of this research, documentation was adopted as one of the data resources of this dissertation to triangulate evidence and to corroborate evidence from other sources. Most importantly, the researcher gathered data through participant observation asking lots of informal questions about what used to be to back up his observed information. 3.4 SAMPLE SELECTION Relevant samples of data collection needs to embraced to suit selected sources of evidence. Yin (1994) asserted that a single case study can be used as long as it is an event that is unique and tackles a revelatory purpose. As a result of this justification of Yin (1994), this dissertation has chosen two case studies both of which are highly unique and relevant to the research questions and overall research topic. 3.5 DATA ANALYSIS Data analysis according to Yin (1994) has to do with putting data through scrutiny or categorization. Yin further opined that such analysis helps complete the analysis of a research. The two forms of analysis proposed by Miles and Huberman (1994) are cross-case and within-case analysis. The within-case analysis which has to do with using data collected within a case to reach conclusions while cross-case analysis actually compares data of a case study to another. For the purpose of analysing data in this research, the within-case analysis was used especially as each case study provides unique answers to the research questions from a positive point of view. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 41
  42. 42. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 3.6 QUALITY STANDARDS As noted by Saunders et al (2000), in order to reduce the probability of arriving at wrong deductions, reliability and validity needs to be checked. Validity Validity according to Yin (1994) is better ensured through employing multiple sources of evidence for collecting data, establishing a chain of evidence during the process of collecting data or drafting case study that is reviewed by key informants. Two different case studies of two different companies were selected as multiple sources of answers to the research questions. More so, the interdependency of each activity of each case study creates a chain of all evidences that support the research questions. Reliability Reliability as defined by Gummesson (2000) is a situation whereby two or more researchers arrive at the same answers under a similar topic with similar purposes. Having considered the reliability controls suggested by Saunders et al (2000) and Gummesson (2000) in this research, the findings of this research correspond with the assertions of the authors whose works were reviewed. More so, the findings from the analysis were in accordance with existing surveys and researches. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 42
  43. 43. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 4 PRESENTATION OF CASE STUDIES Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 43
  44. 44. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 4 PRESENTATION OF CASE STUDIES 4.0 INTRODUCTION The following case studies have been chosen to generate data to answer the questions raised in this research towards achieving the research purpose. 4.1 CASE STUDY OF KALAA: TAKING A VISION FROM CONCEPT TO CASH IN AN ONLINE ART MARKET PLACE (See Appendix 1 for original case study verbatim) Kalaa is an organization that functions primarily online. With its corporate website, it functions as an online market where artists, and those interested in arts meet to exhibit art and make transactions. See Kalaa website at: http://www.kalaa.in/ Challenge Kalaa was a mere vision when introduced to Invendes for branding. Although the modus operandi and market strategy were sketched, there was a need for the development of the online product. This product needed to be distinctive from existing ones. Solution With knowledge of the opportunities and constraints, Invendes employed a five-stage approach to solve the aforementioned challenge. In the first stage, in the quest of simulating ‘real world’ experience of searching, choosing and buying on the web, Invendes acquired and used input from potential users including the artists and buyers amongst others. These were used for the business design. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 44
  45. 45. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers In the second stage, Invendes sketched ideas with focus on good user experience. This further aided them in sketching the product with features and functions that were economically feasible and that commanded a flawless buying experience. In the third stage, the business design and sketched product design were processed into a GUI design that can be looked and felt while conforming to usability principles. Product screens were designed with attention to details. Invendes prototyped the product and conformed it to usability factors. In the fourth stage, the technological driven product was created within budget, time and rich user experience. Invendes complimented all the aforementioned efforts by implementing an integrated marketing plan which encapsulated online advertising, search engine marketing and social media marketing amongst others. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 45
  46. 46. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers 4.2 CASE STUDY OF PROPERTY CLINIC This case study of Property Clinic shows how Property Clinic has used its corporate website to aid different activities towards having an end effect on its clients. These activities are dissected under different sub-headings below with each having its challenge, solution and result. About Property Clinic Property Clinic is a property Investment company that searches the globe for first class property investments to give its clients world class investments in the palm of their hands. As quoted by their official website, Property Clinic knows ‘when to buy, what to buy and when to sell’. The company helps its worldwide customers with different property needs ranging from UK property Investments to International property Investment that spans through the globe including the Caribbean. Property Clinic primarily built, hosts and manages its corporate website with Moonfruit (http://www.moonfruit.com/) via the URL: http://propertyclinic.kk5.org. However, its major domain names are www.propertycliniconline.com and www.propertyclinic.net which both point to http://propertyclinic.kk5.org. 4.2.1 AIDING CRM WITH CORPORATE WEBSITE Challenge In a credit-crunched economy, some of the clients and leads on Property Clinic’s CRM software were low on cash while some could no longer afford to invest in properties. As a result of this, the promotional electronic mails and SMS sent to the consumers and prospective consumers that were in the database of Property Clinic were yielding very low responses. Out of every 250 customers, about 20 recipients responded to property investment offers and less than 10 of the responses resulted into sale. This when compared to 2008 average lowest response of 137 prospective investors out of every 250 was very low and confirmed by Property Clinic as ‘bad’ for business. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 46
  47. 47. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Solution From the foregoing, it was proposed that a membership form, buyer form and seller form be made available on its corporate website. These forms which were already in word document format for printouts were converted to PDF format and uploaded to the corporate website to be willingly downloaded by site visitors. The membership form was meant to get contact information, financial value and choice of properties from visitors who were interested in property offers. The registration page on the corporate website was also used to get details of new registered site users. Some highly informative pages like UK Property Invest page (http://propertyclinic.net/#/uk-property- invest/4534835347) amongst others were reserved for only registered members of the Corporate Website, thereby prompting interested and unregistered visitors to register. The buyer form was designed to help get information of what kind of properties prospective customers are interested in especially as backed by their financial status. More so, it was meant to update existing customers’ information to know what kind of properties they can afford based on their current financial capacity. The seller form was made available to enable property owners that were willing to sell to give details of such properties especially their availability and financial value. This was to increase the number of properties Property Clinic has to offer its investors. Result The ‘membership form’ aided Property Clinic in gathering relevant information including contact information of each prospective customer who willingly chose to be a member. The availability of this form in PDF and the possibility of it to be instantly sent back by clicking the ‘Submit by Email’ button increased the number of new documented members from an average of 3 weekly to 11. The informative pages that were reserved for only registered members increased the number of registered members on the site. Before this was Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 47
  48. 48. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers embraced, the number of site registered members had remained 20 for about 4 months but within. This new strategy was implemented on July 25 and within 5 days, the number of registered members increased to 22. In 15 more days, this increased to 46 members, that is, 24 new prospective property investors whose details have increased the Property Clinic’s database. The ‘Buyer Enquiry Form’ helped property clinic to get details of the financial abilities and the price range of properties each customer was ready to invest in. Moreover, existing customers were able to indicate the kind of properties they like based on their adjusted financial stance in the economy. Also, the ‘Seller Enquiry Form’ acquired more sellers and properties for Property Clinic’s database. These forms were initially created as Adobe PDF forms with options of either submitting by e-mail or printing to paper (see Buyers Enquiry Form for example in appendix 4). The ‘Submit by Email’ button sends the filled information to the Property Clinic sales email in xml format. This format was used to key information into the CRM software automatically with human supervision. The CRM software decoded the information and added new contacts. It asked the human operator whether to update or override whenever names matched existing input. The available contact information enabled Property Clinic to keep in touch with these clients. Those in the CRM database are mailed via Property Clinic email account that is configured to Microsoft Outlook while site members are mailed directly from the Control Panel of the website powered by Moonfruit. 4.2.2 BUILDING BRAND AND AIDING SALES WITH CORPORATE WEBSITE Property Clinic website had the information about is properties on its corporate website for the digestion of its clients and prospective clients. These properties were grouped into two: The Overseas Investment properties and the United Kingdom Properties which is tagged ‘UK Property Invest’. For UK Property Invest, Property Clinic had a page (http://propertyclinic.net/loginjoin/4534583397#/uk-property-list/4526119784) Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 48
  49. 49. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers which succinctly described what UK Property Invest was all about. For Overseas Investment, Property Clinic has a page that gives each of the overseas investment opportunity a brief description with one to four pictures complementing each. On that same page, each description had a link button that takes visitors to a page that gives a long text description about the Investment territory, property details and facts of the geographical sovereignty that hosts the property. Challenge In the midst of a competitive market and with the threats of the economic meltdown, Property Clinic needed to better position its property investment offers for the Overseas Investment section on its website. In addition, the UK Property Invest phase of the business needed more representation, details and business appeal on the corporate website. Solution It was proposed that Proper Clinic should update the layout of Overseas Investment properties pages. By the order of consistency, all the pages on the website were changed to adopt a unified theme, colour (Property Clinic corporate colours) and header and footer. This new design gave a usability and legibility enhancement especially with dark text on a light background, precisely dark grey text on a white background colour (see http://propertyclinic.net/loginjoin/4534583397#/investment- offering/4534815803). Moreover, the page for description of the property and investment area were complimented by pictures (see the page for Barbados properties: http://propertyclinic.net/loginjoin/4534583397#/barbados- property/4532972656 for example) while some of them were further complimented with narrative videos at the top right of the page to show the scenery of the properties and its surrounding beauties (see the Samos Halcyon Hills, Greece property Investment page http://propertyclinic.net/loginjoin/4534583397#/greece-property/4534323334 for example). More so some links were created to give clients further options. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 49
  50. 50. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers The contact us button has an embedded mailto command that sends a mail to: info@propertycliniconline.com while the details button links to the page that describes the overseas property and investment area. The make an offer buttons links to the make an over page for Overseas Investment (http://propertyclinic.net/#/make-an-offer-overseas-proper/4534948568). This page asks for details including how much the client is willing to pay, method of payment amongst others. When the send button is clicked, all the information entered into the form is sent to sales@propertycliniconline.com for easy follow up. For the UK Property Investment, a new page was created to have list of UK properties (see for the current updated list of UK properties). These lists were constantly updated according to availability. A property that is already sold for example would have ‘Sold’ placed over the image for about two days before it was taken off the page. In the same way, any property that has negotiation in progress had it indicated with ‘Under Offer’. Property Clinic marketing gurus resorted to create a PDF document for each property. This document had all the details including price, geographical description, pictures of property and investment turnover analysis and is downloadable once the ‘Details’ button is clicked under the description. The make an offer buttons links to the make an over page for UK Property Investment (http://propertyclinic.net/loginjoin/4534583397#/make-an-offer-uk- properties/4534947807 ). The page gets details of the amount of cash the client wants to offer and the convenient method of payment amongst others. Clicking the ‘send’ button sends all the information entered into the form to sales@propertycliniconline.com and the Marketing team follows it up from there. Result The effected change on these pages increased the duration of time spent on them as shown by the weekly statistics of Property Clinic. Phone calls and business meetings also increased with all related to the information on these pages. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 50
  51. 51. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers The PDF document attached resulted into calls where prospective customers had little or nothing to ask about the properties. Seven out of ten callers went straight into discussions of how to view and pay for the properties while the remaining three only asked few questions for clarification. 4.2.3 GENERATING TRAFFIC FOR CORPORATE WEBSITE Challenge Having updated the information on and the design of its corporate website, Property Clinic is faced with the challenge of driving the right traffic to consume the information. Solution It was proposed that Property Clinic updates its metadata description to increase chances of being found on search engines. It was also proposed that Property Clinic should borrow the popularity and credibility of other websites. Property Clinic created a group called Property Clinic on Facebook. More so, they capitalized on the pages of individual staff member especially the Managing Director’s on Linked In. The Rubminds Forum was also used while marketers also used Gumtree to display different properties with links to the pages on Property Clinic’s corporate website for full details. Result Traffic increased with statistics from the analytics showing that there were more traffic from the referral sites used (See Appendix 6). Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 51
  52. 52. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 5 ANALYSIS OF CASE STUDIES Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 52
  53. 53. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers CHAPTER 5 ANALYSIS OF CASE STUDIES 5.0 INTRODUCTION Below is the analysis to the case studies presented in chapter four. See chapter four for details of case studies including challenge, solution and result. 5.1 CASE STUDY OF KALAA: TAKING A VISION FROM CONCEPT TO CASH IN AN ONLINE ART MARKET PLACE Invendes gave Kalaa a product that is distinctive from those of their rivals. This they did going through a five stage approach that created a brand from the scratch. This shows how an organization can create unique brand from the scratch with the corporate websites. It shows how corporate website can help an organization create a unique image and outsmart competitors. With embedded multimedia, this brings a high possibility of satisfactory buyer experience as foreseen by Invendes. This case study shows an instance of how corporate website helps distinguish an organization from its competitors, thereby tackling Research Question 1. Invendes recognized the need for Kalaa to be differentiated as an organization amongst competitors as necessitated by Beynon-Davis (2004. p 51). To this effect, Invendes studied existing rivals to create that distinction. This makes Kalaa stand out amongst other firms that are in the business of art. More so, the attention paid to buying experience in the process of designing the online brand partly answers the Research Question 2 on how corporate website fosters first time purchases. The ease of page layouts with advertising efforts not only persuades prospective buyers but guides them to complete transaction. The integrated marketing plan that was implemented also aids purchases by making prospective customers aware to start with. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 53
  54. 54. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers This conforms to Bowen et al, (1999, p. 159) deduction that necessitated the use of different tools of the Internet to flow traffic into the corporate website. More so, the effort of making it interactive supports Bowen Craggs & Co. (2009) observation that businesses are transforming their corporate websites into truly interactive medium. Also, the design features merged with the carefully structured information will on the long run as unveiled by Llopis, Gonzalez and Gasco (2008. p.334) influence visitors’ perception. This will further prompt purchases. This case study also shows how Invendes acknowledged and embraced design and usability factors which partly show some of the most effective actions that strengthen the efficacy of corporate website as asked by Research Question 5 and identified under the ‘Strengthening the Efficacy of Corporate Website’ section of the literature review (see section 2.6 of Literature Review). The five stages employed by Invendes as identified above confirmed Proctor et al (2003)’s opinion that available information, content preparation and method of presentation aids a corporate website in giving customers efficient interactivity. In conclusion this case study of Kalaa (see Appendix 1 for full case study) shows how a business could be created from the scratch and given a faster growth with the corporate website while being differentiated from competitors and given an edge over them. 5.2 CASE STUDY OF PROPERTY CLINIC 5.2.1 AIDING CRM WITH CORPORATE WEBSITE With responses from prospective and maintained consumers reaching its ‘all time lowest’ as affirmed by the management of Property Clinic and conclusion of sales being affected, Property Clinic faced the huge risk of crashing especially in a globally bad economy. The CRM software used by Property Clinic was still holding consumer details in its database while few more leads were being added. The solution to this problem of low responses from consumers however required more than the automation of the CRM software. Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 54
  55. 55. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers The way out seemed as simple as getting new prospective customers with interest and financial power, persuading them to invest in properties and tailoring property offers to the financial strength of existing customers. However such solution necessitated updated information of these consumers to make it possible for the organization to tailor its offers. Considering the low level of staff at that time, the corporate website to this effect was embraced to cover up for the human marketing efforts of cold canvassing. Site membership that had been stale for about four months increased by over hundred percent within 20 days. This huge increase in the number of site members happened because Property Clinic gave a reason to visitors to become members: access to exclusive pages. Before embracing such strategy, there was no special benefit for registered site members when compared to unregistered site visitors. This therefore gave many no reasons to sign up. However, with the new restriction to exclusive pages, consumers who were really interested were guided by the corporate website to register, view the information. Before the Crunch (2008)  During the Crunch  After using Corporate  Website  137  20  100    Table 4.1 – The average responses per information sent to 250 customers during before the crunch, during the crunch and after complimenting the CRM software with the corporate website. As shown by table 4.1, despite the fact that the credit crunch has reduced the financial status of customers thereby reducing response per every 250 clients contacted to 20, the corporate website changed increased this to 100. The reason lies behind its potency to help update the CRM database with up to date information via the various forms. Also, with the membership form which the corporate website helped the organization to popularize, the number of members on the CRM rose from an average of three to eleven weekly (see table 4.2). Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 55
  56. 56. Impacts of Corporate Website on Organizational Customers Before using Corporate Website  After using Corporate Website  3  11  Table 4.2 – Weekly number of new documented members acquired via the membership form. This shows an influence of the power of the corporate website on making prospective customers participate willingly in the transaction process of an organization. In this instance, they needed to become members in order to consume brand information. This results into more sales related inquiries from these customers. This supports the CRM Metrix’s survey that found that the more time customers spend on a website and the deeper they get involved in it, the more the boost of affinity of brand, purchase intent and value of a lifetime (Internet Wire, 2002). This is even much better when such dig into organizational information is a willing and conscious effort of prospective consumers. This shows how corporate website fosters first time purchases and brand loyalty as asked by Research Question 2. In this process of registration, the contact details of these members were entered into Property Clinic’s database and such were transferred to the CRM software. This highlights the potency of corporate website as an information extractor when properly used by an organization. Such extracted information helps get the organization informed and helps it to tailor its efforts to its consumers. Such further influenced their decisions to patronize Property Clinic as phone calls of and meetings with prospective clients who were interested in making further enquiry increased. This further supports Baker (2009), who examined the IMRG Capgemini’s survey and deduced that better targeting via advanced marketing strategies boosts sales. More so, it shows how corporate website enhances Customer Relationship Management as asked by Research Question 4 and relates how this further influences purchases as asked by Research Question 2. More so, by making the membership, buyer enquiry and seller enquiry forms available on the corporate website, Property Clinic was not only able to get Frederick ODUTOLA Jr. (0814691) September, 2009 56