Managing Customer Relationships Through Social Media | A Case Of Pakistan’s Millennial’s

In the past few years, the trend of online shopping has drastically increased in Pakistan, it motivates the researcher to investigate social media usage in managing and building strong customer relations. Also, the current study aims to explore the impact of social media on millennial buying behavior in Pakistan with a mediating effect on customer relationships. Overall the study includes three variables with one independent variable which is social media, the dependent variable is millennial purchase behavior and customer relationships as mediating variables. A survey was conducted via an online questionnaire made on Google forms in the google drive and it consists of 520 respondents. Respondents were sampled from university students of Islamabad and Rawalpindi Pakistan. Data collected from the online survey were analyzed and interpreted by a statistical software called SPSS where different tests were carried out such as regression, correlation & Cronbach’s alpha to examine the relationship among social media and generation Y purchase behavior and Hayes process was used to analyze the mediating effect of customer relationships. The results of these tests discovered that there is a significant positive correlation among the dependent variable purchase behavior and the independent variable in the presence of customer relationships which was playing as the role of a mediating variable. All variables were reliable and interrelated with each other when tested in SPSS total item reliability statistics mechanism. The model summary also shows the Cronbach’s Alpha value greater than 0.7 and a significance level of less than 0.01.

In short, the findings collectively indicate that the majority of millennials use social media as a tool for purchasing their routine life commodities as well as for major product decisions they search on social media for specific product reviews, comments and brands’ social media reputation (ratings). This research investigation also confirmed that there is a significant positive relationship between social media and customer relationship. As well as social media and customer purchase behavior on social media are correlated to each other and yes customer relationship work as a mediator between both the independent variable (social media) and the dependent variable (millennial purchase behavior). This study offers valuable feedback and insights for global managers in managing and building strong customer relations globally through the effective use of social media.

Introduction

Study Background

In this digital era, 93% of marketers use social media to advertise, communicate and reach their audiences (Chirag, 2017). 80% customers check prices online. 75% of marketers get positive results through social media advertising (Chirag, 2017). $1.1 Trillian store sales are influenced by internet. 81% of purchasers consult on social media for purchasing products or services (Chirag, 2017). Traditional ways of marketing and advertising becomes less effective with the passage of time. Customers switch to many social media channels to gather information at each stage of buying decision process. Therefore, their purchasing behavior is changing rapidly due to diffusion of social media. That’s why marketer’s basic priority is to understand customers online purchasing behavior in this digital span and the way they build, adopt and use decision making strategies for buying process in an online environment. As compared to traditional media, social media provides fastest and easily accessible platform to both companies and customers for a two-way communication which help brands to better understand customer needs and requirements. There are many reasons companies prefer to market and advertise their products on social media, but the biggest reason is almost all customers spent most of their time on social media.

Social media defined as new ways of information processing, gathering and sharing have been developed, identified, differentiated and implemented by consumer market and organizational stakeholders to interact, connect, engage and share products, services and brands experience even to explore personalities and share problems to discover better solutions (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). There is a number of companies which have shifted their marketing and advertising activities completely on social media to cut down their marketing budget, to reach a vast target market within less time and effectively communicate with them. The reasons behind the increased use of social media for purchasing products online and whether online marketing practices and customer relationship management strategies influence their purchasing decisions or not.  If yes, then how significantly these practices impact and stimulate their purchase intentions. However, nowadays customers are actively participating in co-creating marketing content with brands on social media. This is creating challenges for social media marketers to fully engage and cooperate with customers, for this they need to be active on social platforms all day. But the issue is they don’t have right strategies and performance measuring indicators to truly understand and communicate customers on social sites. Further, the main mistakes some companies and social media marketers do is they treat each of social media platform such as Facebook and twitter as stand-alone sites. While other share the same content all across the social sites and treat all networking sites as part of an integrated social ecosystem not as a sole business platform. Marketer who listen and value their customers complaints and tap into online communities, acknowledge their customers participation and involvements in content o-creation, focus only those networking sites which has high target audience. With all these marketing strategies they tend to better engage with customers, gain their trust and finally grow business profit and sales (Hanna, Rohm, & Crittenden, 2011).

According to Chaffey (2019) the number of internet users are growing day by day, out of 7.676 billion worldwide population 4.38 billion are internet users to this total population. With respect to previous internet users are up by 9.1% in 2019. while in these 4.38 billion users 3.484 billion are the social media users (Chaffey, 2019). Each year social media users are growing by 9% worldwide (Chaffey, 2019). Which is huge and compelling marketers and business persons to shift their business practices online specially on social media. Out of all other social media sites Facebook is the most popular and engaging platform with over 2 billion active users worldwide (Chaffey, 2019). It is the biggest digital platform where companies can target a mass audience in cheap advertising budgets. It’s the most commonly used networking site by both small and world top organizations. Facebook is the most powerful social networking platform amongst all others, it has almost billions of monthly active users. Twitter is the second most strong social media platform where marketers can target professionals, celebrities and most other influential personalities for their brand.

In a thorough investigation it was examined that personality correlates with the use of social media and socializing online. the study also identified that a personality difference was associated with the use of two giant social platforms Facebook and Twitter. people prefer to connect with their own desired persons, with whom their interests, hobbies, needs, likes and dislikes match. Users have their own criteria to choose and connect with other social media users. They create their own specific community according to their comfort zones. Therefore, users now care more about sharing, profile building and connecting with people in their virtual life compared to real life. Now users’ personality is their main preference for connecting on Facebook and other social networking sites. It’s a bigger opportunity for organizations and marketers to cash this shift in customer behavior, interests and life style (Hughes, Rowe, Batey, & Lee, 2012). According to Donna (2012), marketing approaches are changed so quickly due to the adoption social media by common public. Now more than two-third (67%) of global companies are using social media for their communicating their customers and for various other activities such as marketing of their products and services (Donna, 2012).

According to Perrin (2015) investigation report, with the passage of time social media usage has increased drastically which has affected humans both positively and negatively, our personal and professional life is fully surrounded by social media. It is widely used in our communication patterns, politics, work, health, communities, parenting, dating, teenage lifestyle and even people’s stress level. It was estimated by Perrin (2015) that nearly 65% of Americans use social media platforms in their daily life routines (Perrin, 2015). It was also estimated that in upcoming days social networking sites will become the most popular tools to share information and virtual platforms will become the most preferable ways for their social interactions and to connect with society (Perrin, 2015).

Higher use of social media impacts each and every aspect of a human life even on students’ academic performance levels. In 2012, a research was conducted on the impact of social media usage on the well-being and efficiency of people. The study identifies an interesting fact that the personal use of social media affects their performance on tasks, health and happiness. It proves that peoples’ happiness and efficiency for performing tasks are negatively associated with each other. more personal social media usage will lead to lower their task performance capability, their focus level and multitasking efficiency. The results also found out that more social media usage has an inverse relation with user’s happiness levels, if a person is using social media most of the day then it will increase his technostress level. in this regard, marketers must carefully deal with customers on social media to avoid the risk of users boredom with the brand, its image and value (Brooks, 2015).

Organizations all over the world now trying to involve customers in all processes from production to delivering of the product via social media interactions by setting a proper social media marketing and customer relationship strategy. Firms are quickly shifting towards digital marketing by moving from passive listening to active participation, communication, involvement and social media engagement strategies. Almost all bigger and smaller companies now have storefronts on major social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. A study investigates that customer complaints and compliments and their relationship with brands on social media highly related to the firm’s growth and if on social media company has a strong bond with engaged customers, it has higher chances to grow rapidly. This study also examines the voicing tendencies in different phases of customer relationships which lead companies to better target their customers by better understanding their value for business growth and profitability (Ma, Sun, & Kekre, 2015).

Social media plays a vital role as information sources for all industries. Now customers first prefer user generated content sites to check information regarding food, travel, clothing and all other industries. they read reviews, ratings, public comments on the specific product, service and travel destinations. now tourism marketers carefully handle customers relations on social media to secure brand image (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010). Social media is also revolutionizing the traditional news media, the way news is produced, shared and discussed now changed completely due to the rapid growth of social media usage. Now most people prefer social media to find and read news. newspaper industry has drastically affected by social media trends. With this reason newspaper industry has shifted towards online media with the shift in peoples’ behavior and interests. But still Television is considered as the most useful and important source of information and news (Nielsen & Schrøder, 2014).

Nowadays, we’re all connected through Facebook, YouTube, twitter, WhatsApp, snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn and all other social media sites. These sites became an important part of human life. The scariest thing is near future people will rely more on internet and social media platforms, for them virtual life will become more important than their actual one. According to Miller and Lin (2009), the importance of social media lies the interaction between consumers and the community, and in the facilitation of immediate, interactive, and low-cost communications (Miller, Fabian, & Lin, 2009). Social media is a great source to reach potential customers in fastest way and to build awareness worldwide. With a specific strategy that best fits to business can help marketers to discover new customers and to motivate local shoppers to visit store and purchase. These days the biggest challenge for organizations is to engage customers on social media. Their sales and value propositions are highly dependent on their social networking platforms.

The basic premise of the study is to examine the degree to which marketers can effectively reach millennial through social media in Pakistani market. With the increased use of social media, it becomes essential for marketers to carefully deal with online customer relationships and to effectively use social media marketing strategies in a way which can create loyal and strong bonds between customer and the brand. Social media platforms help people to communicate with each other and to build trustworthy relationships, so they could share their personal data with organizations. This study also examines whether millennial buying behavior is associated with their use of social media or not and how brands social media marketing and customer relationship management attracts customers to purchase.

Social Media and Generation Y

People born in the same generation generally share the same values, lifestyle and behavior patterns. Therefore, it is critical for organizations to know the generational differences in understanding cultures for better communication with their target customers (Jackson, Stoel, & Brantley, 2011). Each generation has a unique behavioral identity, moral values and race relations. To better understand human nature population is distinguished into different generations. Paul and Scoot (2010) differentiated generations into five parts drawn from mega historical events or rapid social or demographical changes. The greatest generation is known as the oldest generation who were born before 1928. Those who were born after 1928 and are aged between 65-73 considered as the silent generation. Baby boomers are born after the end of world war 2 (1946) and ended in 1964. Then come generation X, the people born after 1965 through 1980. Generation Y also known as millennial are the ones born after 1980 (Taylor & Keeter, 2010). Brosdahl and Carpenter (2011) distinguished generations into four kinds based on their birth years. First ones is Silent generation born between (1925-1945), Second are Baby Boomers (1946-1960), Third is generation X (1961-1980) and last one is generation Y (born after 1981) but there is still some conflicts on the birth and end years of generation Y (Brosdahl & Carpenter., 2011).

In this digital era, managing social media relationships among millennial community is one of the biggest challenges for e-marketers. Many businesses are striving hard to build and manage their social media brand equity to generate positive customer experience which will automatically boost brand value and profits. Study investigates that brands’ presence in online communities plays a vital role on its image and revenues. Online customers perception about the brand strongly influence their loyalty, behavior and trust towards brand (Chin, 2018). It was also determined that video clips on social media regarding food values strongly effects echo boomers’ behavioral involvement with that food brand while on the other hand no such kind of relationship founds out with the non-millennial group on social media (Kim, Choe, & Lee, 2018). These results clearly demonstrate that millennials are very much different from other generations so the social media marketing strategies to communicate and engage with generation Y must be completely different and accordance with their attitudes, lifestyle and behavioral patterns. Children born to baby boomers are totally different irrespective of past generations, they are well educated, career focused and most importantly they are technologically savvy individuals. With the help of an experimental design it was examined that millennial fling back to cause-related marketing (CRM) offers on social media. They are more likely to respond positively on disaster caused than a long-term cause or on frequent support. Its also identified that millennial gender, income level and previous donations significantly influence their response to CRM offers. According to this experiment cause-related marketing on social platforms positively effect millennial buying intentions and attract them towards CRM offers (Cui, Trent, Sullivan, & Matiru, 2003).

Organizations needs to be more dynamic and flexible in nature to adopt environmental, behavioral and generational changes. In contrast to the previous generational groups of employee’s organizations and marketers must be familiar with the lifestyle, behavior and needs of new age recruits. As compared to generation X the members of generation Y are more motivated and focused on their careers and has high potential to move into workforce life (Reisenwitz & Iyer, 2009). The study also identifies that millennial are more reluctant towards the use of internet and social media as compared to previous generations. For the first time in history workforce contain four kinds of generations in organizations due to the entry of millennial in the working environment. Now it becomes crucial for firms to must handle this dynamic change within and outside the organizations. The entry and penetration of millennial in all industries causing a number of troubles for organizations to deal with this young generation and to motivate them for quality work because millennial generation is also known as the laziest people in the history. Another factor which attract businesses to shift their business and marketing activities online is their main target customers are millennial who dominate the internet and social media which stimulates companies to properly understand their needs and purchasing behavior patterns so to better communicate with them ion social media platforms. Eisner (2005) proposed that for the first-time traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and generation Y all are working together under the same roof in organizations. According to Paul and Smith 10% of workforce consist of veterans, 45% are baby boomers, 30% is generation X in and 15% of the workforce are echo boomers (Susan & Eisner, 2005).

This study focuses on internet Generation relationships. Segmenting online millennial shoppers into demographic, psychographic and behavioral categories help e-marketers to better deal with them. The results of the study conducted by Ladhari & Gonthier (2019) identified four kind of online shopping patterns. Millennial tend to shop online either for pleasure or attracted by price and shop for brands or do trendy shopping. Studies also revealed six approaches of shopping with different objectives. The six major kind of  social media shoppers are discovery shoppers, fashion shoppers, poignant shoppers, strategic and ignite shoppers (Ladhari, Gonthier, & Lajante, 2019). social media influence millennial’ self-concept and can transform their life experiences. It facilitates generation Y with a virtual happiness. Based on the self-Determination theory (SDT) social media allow millennial to feel relatedness, competence and to make memory connections with each other (Berezan, Krishen, Agarwal, & Kachroo, 2018). With respect to this study marketers engage customers in a way they feel connected with the brand. At this stage customers becomes brand evangelists; negative word of mouth and rumors has zero impacts on their perceptions and loyalty with the brands. This is the time when a brand is no more just a brand for people, it creates an identity for its customers and a representation of class for them, together they consider themselves part of a brand family (Berezan et al., 2018).

47% of internet generation consumers prefer social media to purchase products (Nora, Ganim, & Barnes, 2016). Thirty seven percent of younger adults spend more on shopping due to their frequent use of internet and social media (Nora, Ganim, & Barnes, 2016). In September 2014, millennial internet browsing, and social media usage patterns were observed by a study which concludes that millennial discussions on social media plays a vital role in their buying decisions. It was also identified that Facebook is the main source to attract millennial users because 63% of them are more likely to make a purchase through Facebook while only 19% use Twitter to follow companies and nineteen percent of them prefer to pin brands on Pinterest (Nora, Ganim, & Barnes, 2016). Another interesting factor for marketers and researchers is that across social networking sites Beauty and Apparel product purchases are mostly affected by and made through social media. According Forbs millennial in U.S spend around $200 billion per year which attract e-marketers to target millennial segment through social media and to focus on their online buying habits (Nora, Ganim, & Barnes, 2016).

Aim of the Study

The primary aim of the research is to identify and analyze most commonly used customer relationship management tools on social media and to investigate whether Pakistani millennial prefer online shopping or not. For that reason, the study will focus on the following research questions to explore the factors that affect the consumers’ attribute towards online shopping in Pakistan.

Research Questions

  1. What is the impact of social media on customer relationships?
  2. What is the influence of customer relationships on their purchase behavior?
  3. What is the impact of social media marketing on millennial purchasing behavior?
  4. What is the mediating effect of customer relationship between social media and online purchasing behavior?

Research Objectives

  • To develop a theoretical model that investigates customer relationships on social media.
  • To investigate the consumer responses towards social media marketing.
  • To examine the causal effect of customer relationships between social media and purchase behavior.

Study Gap

After examining a number of research papers and reviewing literature in detail (Rodney & Duffett, 2017;  Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Akar, Yüksel, & Bulut, 2016; (A. Mishra, 2015; Armstrong, 1991; Bhattacharya, Rao, & Glynn, 1995; Cacioppo, Petty, Kao, & Rodriguez, 1986; Gilly & Gelb, 1982; Gupta, Su, & Walter, 2004; Heath, Brandt, & Nairn, 2006; Kuo, Wu, & Deng, 2009; Mahjoub, KordNaeij, & Moayad, 2015; Swarts, Lehman, & Lewis, 2016; Wu & Anridho, 2016). It was identified that there is a limited study has been done on the impact of social media on customers purchasing behaviors with the mediating effect of customer relationships (Zahoor, & Qureshi, 2019). There exist only few studies which demonstrates the association between social media and customer relations or with the impact of social media customer relationship management strategies on millennial buying decisions in underdeveloped and developing countries like in Pakistan and South Africa (Rodney, Duffett, & Wakeham, 2016).  This will help researchers and brand marketers to identify right target audience so to better understand their expectations with the brand which in return will automatically boost sales and stimulate them to purchase their products. With appropriate customers relationship management strategies on social media a business can grow more faster than on traditional media. So, customer relationship management on social media plays a vital role to magnify sales by triggering right audience. To convert new spectators into creators and loyal customers a brand must have strong customer relationships on social media because in this digital era social media presence of a brand is the main source to reflect its image, value and perception in customers mind.

Therefore, a literature gap has been identified and that a study must be conducted on the impact of social media customer relationship strategies on Gen Y purchase intentions in context of Pakistani market. This study also provides a valuable source for all social media marketers and online businesses to better understand the importance of customer relationships management and its impact on each step of millennial online buying decision process.

Review of Literature

Social Media

Television, newspaper, radio and magazines are form of traditional media. These static technologies were used as one-way communication. Now social media has totally revolutionized the way companies advertise and communicate with customers. It’s a new form of communication also known as two-way communication. Through social media customers can directly interact with brands. Companies has transferred their traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems into web 2.0 based CRM to interact directly and to provide added value to its customers. The convergence of technologies that make interaction, share of information easier and make new online communities considered as social media. To achieve measurable benefits, brands’ hire social media marketers to plan and implement their marketing activities so to build better relationships with customers. Social software can be defined as; “Social platforms are web application systems, based on the development of world wide web and online media networks, it reflects users’ behaviors on internet, the way they connect, interact, engage and coordinate through digital media” (Assaad & Gómez, 2011)

Figure 1: THE SOCIAL SOFTWARE (Adapted from Assaad & Gómez, 2011)

Social software is used to build relationships, to connect and share information with online communities. Social media marketing a part of e-marketing. E-marketing includes search engine marketing, online advertising and affiliate marketing on different web channels such as weblogs, instant messages, wikis and social networking sites. Social media marketing plays a vital role in entrepreneurial success. By selecting an effective platform and with the use of appropriate social media marketing strategies an entrepreneur can enhance the chances of business success (Yong, Sabah, Ali & Hassan, 2019).

According to Ahmed & Mustafa (2018), social media is no more just a phenomenon it has reshaped into a process, now it is used as a main component of ‘integrated marketing communication’ program. Moreover, researcher also develops a social media advertising model (SMAM) which conceives a set of consumer beliefs and motivational constructs that have an impact on consumer attitudes and their underlying behavioral intentions (Ahmed & Mustafa, 2018). Bad site architecture and native newsfeed ads mistakes can result in strong negative responses and ads negligence. Hence it’s a good opportunity for other researchers to investigate the impact of native ads embedded on other social media platforms such as Instagram as they just identifies this impact on young participants who were experts in use of social media especially Facebook (Youn & Kim, 2019).

A study in 2013 revealed that social media promotional activities has no impact on consumer purchasing decisions. Organizations wasted around $5.1 billion on social media advertising in year 2013 just because these advertising activities could not properly trigger their customer requirements and did not satisfy human needs (Zhu & Chen, 2015). Studies argue that there must an alignment and consistency of online marketing activities with social media user needs. Social media interactions are deeply aligned with users’ emotions. These emotions, interests and social acceptance on social sites are the factors which make millennial hooked with social media, so its mandatory for brands and e-marketers to produce engaging content for its users to achieve overall advertising and sales goals. Generating emotional content help brands to grab its users’ attention in social media communication. There is a high need of doing further studies on neuropsychological methods to examines the influence of users’ emotions on content engagement. The research recommends conducting further studies on neuropsychological methods to discover human virtual emotional patterns and to dig deep into more advanced implications of causal effects (Schreiner & Riedl, 2019).

Yang & Ross argued that why all social networking sites and other internet elements such as search engine advertising are often treated and managed by brands separately rather than part of an integrated marketing communication system. After studying social media brand engagement components researchers found out that social media affiliation and responsiveness increase conversion and click through rate (CTR). Furthermore, relationship between search engine advertising efficiency and overall advertising rank of brands can be nourished via brand engagement on social media (Yang, Lin, Carlson, & Ross, 2016). Those teenagers who use social media frequently for a long time shows the most favorable and positive response to the social media marketing communications. The conducted investigation was on Generation Z and collectively examines the interactive social media marketing communication strategies. Now the gap can be filled by doing further studies separately on each social networking sites in developing countries where there is lack of research in this field (Rodney & Duffett, 2017).

Social media marketing (SMM) can enhance customers purchase intentions and also investigated that the effectiveness, trust and intimacy of luxury brands can be strengthened through social media marketing strategies. And a well-established SMM strategy can magnify the brands’ awareness and recognition which will automatically leads to the improved performance and sales of luxury brands. This study also identifies that each element of luxury brands’ social media marketing such as its customized services, entertaining content and activities influence positively on customers relationships and their purchasing behaviors. To retain old customers and attract new shopper’s luxury fashion brands manage customers as their valuable assets and provide them with a higher value of each feature of products in all possible ways through social media marketing tools. As such, to engage and provide a value-added products to customers all small business should also care about their online customer relations (Kim & Ko, 2010).

Customer Relationships

Identifying, understanding, maintaining and enhancing connections with customers and other organizational stakeholders collectively known as relationship marketing. Building, engaging, attracting and retaining customers are also part of relationship marketing (Rese, 2006). The way companies interact and manage current and potential customers is known as customer relationship management system. Companies analyze customers’ data and previous communication history and categorize them into savvy and non-savvy groups to respond accordingly which automatically leads to improve business relations (Bain, 2018). Customer participation in Facebook and other social media brand communities enhance brand engagement and performance. However, users’ customization efforts towards brand experience create value for brands through these social platforms (Carlson, Wyllie, Rahman, & Voola, 2018).  It was argued that customer involvement in co-creation and interaction on social sites leads to tangible and intangible innovations in business products, services, environment and even modernization of business and marketing strategies. Only few studies have been done which investigates the customer involvement patterns on social media, how customer process social media information for purchasing of products is necessarily to be identified for better relations and firms’ overall financial growth. To determine the moderating impact of social customer relationship management tools on customer information processing capabilities it was revealed that customer social media involvement and interactions with other customers is utmost important in enhancing the efficiency of SME customers (Cheng & Shiu, 2019). In a study it was claimed that organization with minimum grip on social media content influence on readers’ engagement are investing heavily on social media advertising activities. All sort of content such as informational, emotional, relational and entertaining influence passively or actively on behaviors of social media users. Results of the study demonstrate that rational appeals in content strongly affects consumer behaviors and engage more users instead emotional content impact passively on user’s engagement behavior at social media platforms. Interesting factor is emotional appeals were facilitating low engagement behavior of social customers despite the interactive nature of social media. Findings provide an opportunity to marketing managers to focus more on rational appeals while making content engagement strategies. This gap also encourages researchers to investigate more on the reasons behind the high impact of rational content against passive influence of emotional content (Dolan, Conduit, Bentham, Fahy, & Goodman, 2019).

In recent years traditional customer relationship management system (CRM) completely shifted to social customer relationship management (SCRM) system. It undergone through a major change, previously it was based on transactional basis while new social 2.0 CRM model addresses both establishing the financial bonds with social media users as well as addressing customer engagement and relationships needs (Dewnarain, Ramkissoon, & Mavondo, 2019). To facilitate customer satisfaction organizations are modifying their social customer relationship management approaches according to their target users. Companies are developing new social media marketing tools to improve customer engagement and to meet their strategic goals. Social media customer relationships have become ubiquitous for better business performance. The study analyzes the Facebook marketing activities and customer engagement practices of 232 companies in united states founds out that social media usage acts a moderator between firm performance and social CRM  (Wang & Kim, 2017). It can impact positively or negatively on overall business image and performance (Wang & Kim, 2017).

 Customer reviews on social media are crucial for business performance. These reviews reflect the perception of brand in customers’ mind which decide brands’ overall value in the market. If user reviews are positive, then it’s a sign of good business performance and a great opportunity for brand to grow. But its customers are not satisfied and post negative reviews, it means organization is in big threat of losing customers. So it’s essential for businesses to well take care of their social media presence and use appropriate customer relationship strategies on social platforms to resolve negative eWOM (electronic word of mouth) (Ramanathan, Subramanian, & Parrott, 2017). In B2B sales customer satisfaction is highly valued because there is a niche community in B2B sales on social media. Customers’ involvement in value creation plays an important role in yielding positive results for gaining users’ loyalty, trust and to boost brand performance. It was already identified the importance of salesperson for the image of organizations. Salespersons are the front-end communicators and presenters of the brand. Their information interaction behaviors on social media presence highly effects the customers perception and about company. Customer satisfaction is highly dependent on the attitude of salesperson with social site users during interaction. Salesperson responsiveness can grow or shrink business performance. This encourages companies to carefully behave with their targeted social media customers by training their CSR’s (customer sales representatives) for appropriate and formal use of words and content while communicating through social media (Agnihotri, Dingus, Hu, & Krush, 2016).

Social CRM activities improve customer-linking capabilities which leads to enhance business awareness and recognition. A study was conducted among Irish Hotels demonstrate that the hotels which has appropriate and well managed customer relationships on social media tend to perform better and developed innovative service approaches according to customer suggestions and requirements identified by social media usage. this active use of social media lead hotels to amplify their financial performance (Diffley, McCole, & Trujillo, 2018). During an investigation 150,000 microblog postings were analyzed just to identify the impact of electronic word of mouth on consumer opinions regarding brand perception and performance (Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, & Chowdury, 2009). All these 150,000 tweets, comments and shares about brands reflects the consumer opinions, sentiments and affiliation with the brands. The study results were surprisingly impressive. Findings demonstrate that 50% users show positive association with brands while 33% of tweets negatively express their feelings about company or products which demonstrates company reputation is in big threat (Jansen et al., 2009). These findings alarm companies to carefully deal with electronic word of mouth and use this tool as part of online marketing and social CRM strategy (Jansen et al., 2009).

Purchasing Behavior

In recent years, customer received more control over company and its products. Just because the use of social media now customer is well informed about company products, prices, warranties, return policies, costs, delivery procedures and about his rights. To buy products a customer compares different alternate options on the basis of cost, quality, return policies, brand reputation and risks involved. So, it becomes difficult for companies to fool digital customers. That’s why companies are shifting their business and promotional activities by converting their goals from product-oriented companies to customer-oriented businesses. Customer centric organizations understand the significant role of conviction on brand image due to the usage of social media. After examining six constraints include company reputation, conviction, social media usage, customer loyalty, purchase intention and electronic word of mouth, results indicated that there is a strong impact of all these variables on customer purchase intentions on social media. Also analyzed that conviction plays a positive role in users buying decision process and act as mediator between social media usage and customer purchasing behavior. The more viral and stronger eWOM a brand has possibly will get more positive brand reputation means electronic word of mouth has a direct relationship with firm’s reputation (Prasad, Garg, & Prasad, 2019).

Empirically trust and risk have been approved as the most influential factors which significantly triggers user behavior towards social media platforms but trust had stronger effects on customer interactions and decisions than risk and social media user cultural differences (Wang, Min, & Han, 2016).  Either it’s a user generated content or marketer generated content both has power effects on consumer purchasing decisions on social media platforms. Findings demonstrates that UGC has a positive impact on economic target variables of social platform users which indirectly improve online store sales (Scholz, 2018). Social commerce and e-commerce both are totally different platforms to deal with. Both are different in terms of USP’s (unique selling points), KPI’s (key performance indicators), communication, interactions, objectives and usage. that’s why it is mandatory for organizations, marketers and practitioners to differently deal and interact with these sites accordingly. Social media needs different marketing, management and communication strategies digital marketing or e-commerce communication approaches can’t be implement in social media customer relationship management systems. As social platforms have totally different business models compared to all other digital platforms marketers needs to pay more attention on social networking strategies to boost sales. Because social sharing, communication, likes, comments, reviews, statuses, tweets, messages and user interactions strongly influence on sales of online businesses. Studies also identified that not all social media referrals are valuable and effective for success of business. Hence managers carefully deal with users generated referrals because not all customer generated content influence sales and company’s reputation (Kim & Kim, 2018).

User generated content plays a vital role in developing bonds with social users. Especially the sources of generated content have a strong influence on customer satisfaction and trust levels. Both strong-tie and weak-tie sources have indirect impacts on users purchasing decisions. But strong-tie content influence more on consumer behavior rather than weak-tie content (Kaosiri, Fiol, Tena, Artola, & García, 2019). Overwhelmed content with so much publicity and boastful advertisings leads to high expectations of customers, which create difficulties for brands to satisfy customer expectation. So, it is important for brands to spread original and relevant content across all the social platforms. Understanding user-brand engagement behavior within the most popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are rudimentary for business firms and marketing managers. Consumers are influenced highly by brand’s Facebook page and they are engaged more towards by peer communication. There is a strong relationship between consumers attitude towards brand engagement through social media platforms especially Facebook (Bianchi & Andrews, 2018).

In ancient times, traditional ways of marketing such as newspaper, magazines, posters, radio, roadside banners and television commercials were considered the most successful approaches of marketing and advertising. But in recent era customers are attracted more towards social media and internet advertising because of the dramatically increased use of social sites in past decades. Surprising factor is social media usage expanded so quickly that by 2017 almost half of the population all around the world has at least one social media account. Customers purchase rate has increased towards online stores than physical stores (Lopez & Castaño, 2019). Features of a shopping website and peer group attributes has a positive relation with user’s purchase intentions. website’s support systems such as chat bots, peer members decency and competence strongly effect on customers experiential shopping values and their response rate towards brand’s consumption intentions (Hu, Huang, Zhong, Davison, & Zhao, 2016). Brand related activities such as brand content, users’ WOM, information flow, consumer’s engagement strength and brand representative ways of dealing with users on Facebook fan page, together all impacts customers perceived value about brand and their purchase decision making processes (Hutter, Hautz, Dennhardt, & Füller, 2013). Luxury brands needs to focus more on their social media presence and customer relations because their social media presence and interaction patterns strongly impact on customer believes, attitudes towards brands and their purchasing behavior. Social media brands’ engagement reflects customer impression, state of knowledge and perceptions about brand. Customer complaints and interactions on social sites reveal their requirements and expectations with the brands which help organizations to bring new trends and create new social media advertising techniques (Chu, Kamal, & Kim, 2019).  Facebook advertising effectively trigger millennial buying decisions. Reliability, validity and reward-based Facebook advertising approaches influence millennial purchase intentions. Facebook adverts must trigger personalized customers to engage with brands, to do so social media marketers should carefully design social media advertising content (Ghosh, 2019).

Theoretical Framework

The study has one independent, one mediating and one dependent variable determined below in the framework. All these variables will be tested in SPSS to see their impact on each other and their correlation with the independent variable. The contextual relationship of this study will Pakistan’s millennials especially social media users.

Hypothesis Development

Formulated on the given studies, the research offers the hypothesis as stated below:

  • H1: There exists a significant relationship between social media and customer relationships.
  • H2: There exists a positive relationship among social media and purchasing behavior.
  • H3: Customer relationship is positively related to purchase behavior.
  • H4: Customer relationships mediate the relationship between social media and purchase behavior.
Managing Customer Relationships Through Social Media | A Case Of Pakistan’s Millennial’s
The Framework

Research Methodology

Nature of Research

The primary motive of this study was to inspect the influence of social media marketing on online purchasing behavior of generation Y by managing customer relationships on social media platforms. Researcher take Pakistani millennial as a case study. There are several factors which impact customer purchase intentions. After reviewing multiple theories and literatures on the impact of social media on customer buying behavior with the mediating and moderating effect of many variables researcher finally decided to carry out this research with the mediating effect of customer relationship handling via social media on their buying decisions.  It’s difficult to measure customer relationship management performance on different social mediums especially it’s very important to measure the ratio at which it impacts on customer purchase intentions. This research will be very useful for companies in Pakistan to understand the importance of online customer relationships so to focus more on millennial relationships at social media platforms.

Quantitative Research

The main requirement for proposed research constraints was to understand the presented hypothesis in more depth as the area of focus is so advanced. Therefore, to properly explore the research constraints and to deeply interpret the theoretical framework researcher chose to begin with the exploratory research design. Primarily descriptive research method is used to describe the nature of a demographic segmentation. It’s a part of quantitative research method which will help the researcher to focus only to find out the nature of Pakistan’s millennial market in terms of social media usage patterns. For the most part quantitative data emphasize the individuals to place themselves on the given scenario which leads to generate accurate results (Newman & Benz, 1998).

A well investigated pool of measurement items has been used to carry out with these research constraints. And to identify the mediating effect of customer relationships Hayes process is preferably used which best meet the proposed model and research constraints requirements. While SPSS statistical software was suggested by supervisor to analyze the data and findings gathered by the structured questionnaire.

Data Collation

Structured Questionnaire

The data was collected through an online questionnaire made via google forms. It consists of two main parts; the first section is about demographics which include age, gender, marital status, qualification and social media experience period of participants. While another section has questions about the proposed model and hypothesis. The conceptual model consists of three main variables are social media, customer relationship management, and purchasing behaviors. The questionnaire was based on five-point Likert scaling method made up of strongly agree, agree, neutral, strongly disagree, disagree as options. It includes a total of 27 questions. These questions were about customer social media experiences, they had to imagine the scenario as their daily life events and to click the one which is most relevant to their situation and personal experience while answering the questions. (The questionnaire is attached in the appendix).

 Sampling

Convenience sampling method has been used to conduct the survey. It is the most widely used non-probability sampling technique in quantitative researches. Because it is easy, quick and researcher select sample elements according to his convenience (Elfil & Negida, 2017). Questionnaire was distributed to 520 Pakistani millennials but after checking partially completed and defective answered questionnaires, all 520 questionnaires were utilized for the final statistical tests because there were no missing or incomplete survey responses. Respondents are sampled from university students of Islamabad and Rawalpindi Pakistan. In SPSS 17.0 regression analysis, Cronbach’s alpha, correlations, Hayes process and frequency tests have been analyzed. Targeted participants of survey were segmented demographically based on gender, age qualification level and marital status differences of questionnaire respondents.

Results Analysis

Respondent Profiling

The survey was circulated amongst 520 millennials of university students in twin cities (Islamabad & Rawalpindi) of Pakistan. Further SPSS Software was used to analyze questionnaire responses. 5-point Likert scale has been used to measure respondent responses. The scale starts with strongly disagree as option 1 to strongly agree as option 5. Questionnaire was made up of basic three sections, first one is demographic profiling, second general questions about social media usage experience of respondents while the last one was consisting of a core of the research means the five-point Likert scale section.

Out of 520 participants in survey 302 were male and 218 were female millennials. Which shows 58.1 percent survey was filled by males and only 41.9 percent female respondents.

Below table indicates that 7.7% (40 respondents) were less than 20 years old student, means they are from generation Z category. While 88.5% (460 participants) were from Generation Y which is the basic target of our study. Only 2.3% of entire sample size were from 30 to 40 age group of people and 1.5% (8 respondents) participated from baby boomers’ group.

with the help of crosstabulation in SPSS, it was finally determined that there is highest number of male social site users with age group of 20-30. It means out of each 100 users around 37 are females and 51 are male millennials on social platforms. Generation Z are users who born after 2000 are only 8% active on social sites, in these 8 percent 11/100 are males and 7/100 are females. The users with age group between 30 to 40 and 40 to 50 are just 3.8%, in these 3.8 % older males are 2 out of each 100 social sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram users.

The below frequencies table indicates that from the sample size of 520 people almost 80 percent of social media millennial users are single and only 21.3 percent are married. Which clearly demonstrates that in every 100 social platform users 80 millennials are single and only 0 peoples are married. It triggers social media marketers to focus more on single millennial internet users instead of married couples.

According to Roblyer and Herman (2010) social media user education level plays a significant role in their purchase behavior. So, it’s crucial for digital marketers to identify their current course of study level to better understand their engagement patterns on social networking sites. They also identified that students tend to spend more time on Facebook as compared to faculty and other older-aged peoples, they prefer to use traditional media and professional social sites such as email (Roblyer, Daniel, Webb, Herman, & Witty, 2010).

Even in the below table, it can be clearly seen that almost 53 percent (275 social media users) are bachelors, out of 520 survey participants 188 are master level students. 8.5 percent are generation Z users, while only 2.5 percent of 100% are Ph.D.’s.

Reliability Statistics

The process of measuring the consistency of determined variables. If the measuring items generates similar outputs under reliability statistics, then the items are considered as highly reliable. Reliability analysis discusses the repetition and stability of test scores of measuring items (Eisinga, Grotenhuis, & Pelzer, 2013). In reliability estimates Cronbach’s alpha is a coefficient of listed items in reliability test and also an indicator of consistency. It scales variables into consistency from .00 to 1.00 variances. If result of coefficient items is .00 means, there is no consistency in measurement items. If the Cronbach’s Alpha value is 1.00 that indicates that there is perfect stability is measured items. Normally 0.70 value of Cronbach’s Alpha is considered is the standard value in order to confirm that items are reliable in reliability statistics.

In this table the Cronbach’s Alpha of this study scores 0.897 equivalent to 0.90 for the 17 items of questionnaire. This is an indication of highly stable items and it demonstrates that 90 percent of variance scores is reliable variance, that also means our data has good reliability and good internal consistency.

The above table articulate the scaling, correlation, variation and Cronbach’s Alpha sores for all interrelated items within independent, dependent and mediator variables. The table shows social media (independent variable) reliability values as from SM01 to SM05. While CR01 to CR06 are the indicator of mediator scoring which are between 0.891 to 0.894, these Cronbach’s Alpha scores are the sign of good stability between inter-items of mediator customer relationships. On the other hand, the dependent variable (purchase behavior) items also represent high relevancy in its items which are defined as PB01-PB06 in the upper presented table.

 In this item-total statistics table, all mentioned Cronbach’s Alpha values has scored above 0.7 which indicates that all items in questionnaire have reliable correlation with each other and high consistency in resulting variables. Below Cronbach items consistency is represent in figurative form to help well understanding their reliability positions via graph shown in this figure.

Another table is mentioned below which elaborates in detail the correlation between all sub-items of the main three variables which are independent, dependent and the mediating effect of customer relationship variable. This table clearly shows that all items are significantly correlated with each other and they have a strong positive relationship with one another.

1.1.   Regression Analysis

It is a statistical tool which is used to analyze interrelations among two or more variables. It consists of a number of techniques to analyze predictors with several modeling methods for measuring both dependent and independent variable relationships in the conceptual framework. More importantly, it also depicts the overall value of each variable against other while making it as constant variable (Fisher, 1970). In regression analysis some of the commonly used models are Linear regression, Polynomial, Discrete choice Logistic, multinomial and ordered logit, probates and General linear regression models (Waegeman & Boullart, 2008). Researchers use regression analysis at the wide range to forecast and predict future results. Trend analysis is also an important tool to measure and forecast future values.

Basically, the regression analysis uses three main parameters to analyze data. These variables are X, Y, and β;

  • β = Represents the unknown parameters
  • X = denoted as independent variable
  • Y = known as the dependent variable

1.1.1.      Model Summary

Below table consists of the R and adjusted R square values for one dependent with two other predictors which are customer relations and social media. In this table the variance in outcome is explained by the predictor variable or independent variables. The adjusted R Square value of dependent variables describes that 53.4 percent variance of dependent variable (purchase behavior) is explained by customer relationships as independent variable.

ANOVA Table (Dep variable)

ANOVA table help analyzer to understand the if the model for presented data is significant or not. It predicts the outcome variable significance level and defines that is the model summary is significant. In this case the P-value for both items (customer relationship and purchase behavior) is 0.000 which is less than alpha value 0.05, therefore it represents that the model is significant. We will report the model is significant.

The bottom tables talk about the regression coefficients for the data analyzed. In below table we look at the unstandardized coefficients means beta values and standard errors occurred in the resulting items. Below table shows that 0.665 is the slope or beta value for social media. The constant line describes the Y intercept, here the constant beta line is 1.017 which means that the equation of the line for using social media sensitivity to predict purchase behavior would be Y = .665x + 1.107. To determine whether the slope is significant or not we go to check the significance value. Comparing to the T test value which is 16.360 with the slope, it is clearly shown that the significance value is 0.000 explains that the model is completely significant and has a strong relation with the dependent variable and that purchase behavior is positively related with social media.

In below table is clearly demonstrated that the standardized value between independent variable (social media) and the mediator (customer relationships) is 0.584. Below table shows that 0.779 is the slope or beta value for social media. The constant line describes the Y intercept, here the constant beta line is 0.629 which means that the equation of the line for using social media sensitivity to predict purchase behavior would be Y = .779x + 0.629. To determine whether the slope is significant or not we go to check the significance value. Comparing to the T test value which is 18.239 with the slope, it is clearly shown that the significance value is 0.000 explains that the model is completely significant and has a strong relation with the dependent variable and that purchase behavior is positively related with social media.

The slope value for social media is 0.799 shown in this table. The constant line describes the Y intercept, here the constant beta line is 0.701 which means that the equation of the line for using social media sensitivity to predict purchase behavior has no impact on the significance level. To determine whether the slope is significant or not we go to check the significance value. Comparing to the T test value which is 24.419 with the slope, it is clearly shown that the significance value is 0.000 explains that the model is completely significant and has a strong relation with the dependent variable and that purchase behavior is positively related with customer relationships.

By analyzing the coefficients and significance level of the independent variable on the dependent in the presence of mediating variable (customer relationships), findings demonstrate that p-value for social media is .000 and for customer relations, the significance value also lies below 0.05 alpha value. That confirms there exist a positive and significant connection among all three variable items. The beta value of 0.375 tells us that 37.5% dependent variable variance is explained by social media while a large percentage of dependent item is an be explained by the mediator which is customer relationships. These coefficient findings for variables altogether can be seen in the below table.

F this study Pearson’s r correlation method has been used. It is the most commonly used tool for examining the linear correlation among two or more different variables. Pearson’s correlation coefficient method ranges between -1 and +1. Zero value in correlation means there is no relationship at all. The closer the values are either towards the +1 or towards the -1, the stronger the relationship gets between the variables (Devlin, Gnadeskin, 1975; Garren, 1998;  Immink & Weber, 2014; Singer, 2012; Olkin & Pratt, 1958; Rodgers, 1988; Stigler, 1989).

The above correlation table collectively shows that all variables together are correlated with each other and their combined correlation is significant at the 0.01 level with the use of two tailed method. Social media has a Pearson correlation of 0.584 with customer relationship mediating variable. While social media (the independent variable) has a strong positive correlation at 0.625 with the depending variable means customer purchasing behavior. On the other side customer relationships (mediator) also shows the significant correlation with the purchasing behavior (dependent variable) at significance level of 0.732.

 Mediation Test (Hayes Process)

Hayes process is mostly used as a plugin in SPSS statistical software to identify the underlies relationship mechanism between variable X and variable Y with the help of a third mediating or moderating variable. It is the most commonly used and traditional way of calculating single as well as multiple mediations among independent variable (denoted as variable X) and dependent variable which is also known as variable Y. while mediator is represented with the symbol of M and W, Z, V Q etc. are used for moderators. This tool provide support to understand and analyze the mediating or moderating effect of different variables between the two main variables (the dependent and the independent one) (Hayes, 2009; Yamamoto, 2010;  Kaufman, 2004; Sheets, 2002; Robins & Greenland, 1992; Shrout & Bolger, 2002).

For this study researcher use the latest SPSS Version 3.3 to run the mediation procedure so to increase the probability for accurate results. A sample size of 520 respondents is used to get the more reliable findings. As discussed above sign of Y is used for Purchase behavior (depending variable), sign of X is used for independent or Social media variable. In the end M is used as mediating one (customer relationships). Previously we also have discussed the R, R square, correlations and significance levels by the use of linear regression method. But to get these outcomes with the integrating effect of the mediating item, it was mandatory to use Hayes process for getting more accurate outcomes. In below given table it is clearly mentioned that in outcome variable the value of P is 0.0000 which shows significant results for the depending variable Y. also the F static value is greater than the threshold point. The R and R square values in the table discovered that social media and customer relationships (independent values) perfectly predicts and explains millennial purchasing behavior (the depending variable). As mentioned in the table R value is 0.8157 which says that 81.57 percent of these independent variables affect the depending variable by correctly forecasting the impact ratio on users’ purchasing behavior. The .8042 coefficient value in the analyzed data reflects the significance level with the variance in the predicted dependent variable. In other words the data is consistent and stable with path b and c altogether.

  In above table there is total, direct and indirect effects has been measured for all variables. These variable effects create values for each path by defining their significance level. The indirect effect of mediator is 0.7836 which is positive value that indicates that social media also has a positive impact on purchasing behavior indirectly. The direct effect is also significant which is 0.0399 means less then 0.05.the total effect shown in the below table sored 0.8355 which elaborates the highest significance level among all three variables.

Findings

All conducted results stated in previous chapter conclude that managing customer relations through social media is an effective way to improve customer engagement, to gain customers’ loyalty. As well as it is a very helpful practice for business to manage their customer relations though social media promotional activities to grow firms’ profitability. The results mentioned above in tabulated as well as figurative forms demonstrate that while the direct effect of social media is quite impressive but the indirect impact through mediator (customer relationships) is more significant than the direct relation because the value of indirect effect is closer to the P< 0.05 than the direct relation as its value decreases from 0.7836 (indirect effect) to 0.0399 (direct effect among variable X and Y).

In table no# 15 (correlation table) the relationship between independent, mediator and dependent variable reflects that there is significant relation among all variables. According to H1 there is a significant relation between IV (social media) and M (mediating variable customer relationships). In previous chapter correlations table represent the significance level of 0.000 between social media and customer relations which is less than 0.05 p value. Hence, it is proved that both variables have a significant positive relationship. H2 says there exist a strong relation among IV and DV (purchasing behavior). The significance level among these two variables is also 0.0000 which reflects a positive direct relationship between social media and consumer buying intentions. H3 represents the relation between Mediator and dependent variable. This relationship also showed a positive connection with a significance score of 0.0000. H4 ascertain a relation between IV and DV with the Mediating effect of customer relations. Even with this mediating effect the correlation table as well as the Hayes process presents a sig. 0.000 level that is the indication of significant mediating role among IV and DV. Therefore, it’s proved that the relationship with mediator SM – CS-PB gets more stronger than the direct relation of social media with purchasing behavior of millennial customers through social networking platforms.

 Conclusion

This study was conducted to identify the mediating role of customer relationships on social media and millennials’ buying behavior. This has put emphasis on the fact that building strong customer connections through social platforms is a sustainable and healthy way of growing organization’s profitability in the contemporary advertising and promotional environment. In the past few decades, organizations and marketers has been witnessed a variety of considerable revolutionary shifts in the overall marketing landscape. But none of the techniques and tools results in more positive and progressive than advent of social networking sites. Results indicate that to meet customers current and predictive demands organizations must keep an eye on their social media activities, their involvement during the brand customization process and their product views after using the products. Businesses can also use opinion leaders for promotional activities as they have high influence on the purchasing decision of social media generation. The findings of this research are critical for both the industry and academic personnel, industries can use this knowledge for the growth of their businesses and technology by updating their systems on internet and shifting their departmental activities on social platforms. While on the academic side, instructors and university management can practically use this knowledge to update the teaching system as well as to further investigate the mediating role of customer relationships into social media and millennial purchase behavior. This investigation also identifies that customers responds significantly towards social media marketing campaigns and favorably interact on social media environment by providing their real reviews and opinions with respect to brand and its products. This behavior creates a favorable and easily accessible situation for social media brand representatives to better understand their customer behavior and psychological attraction with the brand, this in return help them to interact and respond customers accordingly.

Specifically, this research highlights social media significance among millennial generation for their sudden turns towards social media purchasing. Interestingly, around 77% of young generation preferably use social sites for purchasing products in this evolving market conditions has amazed the whole business world. Moreover, findings also identified that more than 95% millennials use social media via smart phones which highlights the importance of smart phones target market in this evolving era. Marketers and business organizations must focus on creating the mobile friendly and smart phones compatible apps and ads. Which will help them in their target audience engagement and will also has a positive impact on their profitability and overall business growth. In sustaining customer relations marketers must also consider user reviews and their per day time duration of using social platforms as according to the findings about 57% social media users look for their friends’ opinions before making a purchase decision. The facts that each day more than 56 percent of young generation hooked with the social sites for more than 5 hours can’t be neglected, social media companies and managers can convert this much time spending of millennials into valuable advertising and for their brand promotions leading to the purchase decisions. About 19.5% millennials purchase from social media within days, 17.1% purchase in weeks, 28.5% make a purchase decision in months, while only 35% of customers prefer social sites for buying something in a year. All these stats are very useful for online brands and an alarming sign for marketers that they should be more focused on their social media customers engagement strategies and focused more on building strong connections with online users because of the low purchasing rate through social media.

This research taught us that as marketers we should not treat social platforms just for the sake of promotions and marketing push, more important is firms must use social media as a tool for building healthy customer relations which automatically will stimulate customers to purchase. Turning these engaged loyal customers into profitable assets for business is an appropriate and useful way to utilize social media effectively. The study was conducted to identify the mediating effect of customer relationships among millennials buying behavior and social media usage. Now findings confirm that customer relationship utterly mediates the interrelation among social media and purchasing behavior of young generation. Therefore, it’s essential to build strong customer relations to escalate company’s growth and sales. With the help of this research, social media marketing managers now can strong customer relations. It will also provide a valuable support to firms in form of information and strategies to easily engage Facebook, twitter or any other social site users by keep focusing on the importance of online customers and their influence on company reputation and profitability. More importantly, social media managers should know how to handle bad rumors about their brand on social sites because it impacts strongly especially on perceptions of new customers on social media. With the use of this investigation online brands can gain customer loyalty by encouraging them to actively participate in online campaigns, it can only be possible if social media firms took care of their consumer desires at personal level by showing preference to their needs against company’s profitability and sales. By closely analyzing the results of this study, it was identified that most of the times customers on social media establish perception about a brand based on the behavior of the brand front line managere, brand representors behavior with then, how respectfully they communicate with them values more for them. These facts influence their perception, loyalty, engagement and long-run relations with the brand more than the original value, features, qualities and price of any product a company sell through social media. Not only on social media these factors also impact the reputation of brand in physical world and these are the main elements which generate positive or negative word of mouth, this WOM is the basic source for building a brand image. So, it’s crucial for social media retailers to maintain a strong customer relation on social media with the use of appropriate and relevant social media customer engagement strategies.

Recommendations

There are a number of implications can be sketched to make new social media communication models and engagement techniques in line with the findings of the research. For better performance business organizations must have to come up with new effective social media marketing strategies with regard to the best fit for their brand and in relevance with the customers’ expectations with that brand or product. Firms must include social media platforms as the main element of their integrated marketing mix, this can only be helpful when firms use all 8 P’s of digital marketing mix in a well aligned and coherent form with reference to the social media promotional and relationship management strategies. In a number of social media marketing strategies, one is “paid social media marketing platforms” such as post or page boosting on Facebook which will help firms in order to get customer feedback and information regarding consumers’ perception of the brand. With the adequate use of big data firms can attract a large number of their target market as new generations are rapidly shifting towards social media usage on a larger scale. As tackling with power of data mining and proficiently use of market and artificial intelligence on social media, firms can right trigger customer desires and an also exceeds their expectations by forecasting their randomly changing behavior and interests. Even with the right forecasts they can predict their consumers’ future behavior and then setting new trends accordance with users’ interests, all can be done just with the efficient use of customer digital footprints such as users’ footprint on major social networking platforms include Facebook, YouTube and well as considering the emerging platforms (Twitter and Instagram) with it.

All business organizations, marketers and relationship managers are well aware of the importance customer relationships for the better performance and growth of any business. They can’t deny the role of social media in developing strong customer relations. Social media is the only way for the fastest, reliable, accurate, controllable, cheap, time effective, convenient, easily accessible and simply manageable tool for marketing, promotional and customer relationship management activities. Now it’s the right time for companies to shift their complete marketing and relationship building activities online specially on social media platforms because now all generations accepted social media as a channel for performing business activities, for connecting, communicating as well as for dealing with customers online. Specifically, young generations include millennial and Gen Z are habituated to buy their commodities and everything else through social media platforms.

This study will be proved as valuable source for better understanding of social media influence on consumer buying decisions with the mediating role of customer relationship. It will provide a base of knowledge and information for social media customer relations building and engaging them for making a purchase decision both at national and global level because it will support marketers and customer relationship managers to remove geographical barriers for dealing and communicating with target customers. Moreover, this study also founds out that to maintain hooked and engaged customers, marketing managers should focus more on quality content generation because of rapidly increasing rate of content clutter. It’s become essential for firms to have quality content on social media channels accordance with customer desires and expectations. More importantly, the results of this study will be more effective and useful for global organizations because social media made it easy to access and interact globally, so it becomes essential for global marketing managers to use social media as to build a global network because it plays a vital role and is the only appropriate tool (in most of the terms) for marketing and promotional activities. Global marketers need to build strong customer relations through social media to trigger customer purchasing behavior and to enhance business profitability.

Study Limitations

This study does have several research gaps and limitations, which produce possibilities for further research. First of all, in this inquiry all the social platforms were analyzed altogether. There are many other social media types such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Snap Chat and Facebook, which can be examined and investigated separately in further studies. Another important gap is in this study all the product purchasing behavior on social media is analyzed collectively, researchers can do additional surveys related to specific products. No doubt generation Y is dominant in using social media but the impact of customer relationship management on other generations’ purchasing intentions can also be researched further. Another important factor is the focus of this study was just Pakistani Millennials who has their own specific cultural and societal values and shows a unique buying behavior patterns as compared to other country millennials. That’s why a research should be conducted on the purchasing behavior of young generations in other countries and states to see if they show the similar buying behavioral attitudes or not. Specifically, another research should also be conducted to examine the rapidly changing behavior of social customers with the passage of time, so social media retailers and digital marketers could adopt with the quickly changing mindset of millennials. With the fact of how social media customers follow new trends, companies can create their own new trends to attract customers via social platforms.   Furthermore, there is also a gap of investigating the impact of social media with different other variables with new mediators and moderators. However, an additional study could also be conducted to investigate the moderating effect of social media in boosting customer purchase decisions and to trigger them for making a purchase.

In all, this investigation demonstrated a high reliability among social media and users’ buying intentions with the mediating effect of customer relations, this fact triggers researchers to investigate more to better understand the different stages of consumer buying behavior. Also, to examine how strongly these relations impacted their behaviors to purchase with the help and use of the matrices. These matrices will provide a proper framework for social media marketers to dig deep into the different stages of millennials’ purchasing behavior stages and their reactions towards different kind of social media promotional as well as customer engagement strategies.

Author

  • An MBA graduate specialized in Marketing, with proven abilities in digital Marketing, New product development, and advertisement. A professional Digital Marketer, blogger, web marketing services provider, Advertiser, Promotions, and Relationship Marketer. Highly motivated with a great degree of flexibility to adapt to changes, resourcefulness, and commitment to work; ambitious and capable of resolving multiple and complex issues.

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