Winner vs Owner

Who won? …..Who owns? …..Who wins?

Not necessarily who wins our heart owns it or vice versa. I am sure most of you would back me on this…:).blog post 1.

The other day I received a call from my best friend asking about a couple of people who have SBI internet banking activated. Upon asking he revealed that he needs to get bulk of tickets booked on IRCTC. For a moment I was at a loss for words either to react or respond. Then the revelation was that booking tickets through the IRCTC Quick-pay link on SBI personal banking site is much faster and hassle-free. If this is really the case then, to my mind, either every SBI user would like to book tickets through this quick link rather than browsing IRCTC and/or every IRCTC user would like to have one SBI account. Then the question arises who drives who? Who wins the customers and who actually owns them? In this particular case the answer may look very simple as IRCTC has the monopoly in the market but what if otherwise.

I believe marketers and strategists are yet to come up with a framework or model to precisely answer the above queries With the advent of social media, advancement of technology and the emergence of newer ways of promotion, it has become increasingly difficult to gauge who really owns the customer, who won them initially and who wins them ultimately. Is it the Facebook or Flipkart? Is it ICICI or Airtel? Is it the brand or the app? In my opinion with rising trend of deep discounts by the online retailers, offers and various referral promotion strategies, the phenomenon of split or divided and temporal loyalty have reached a new level empowered by the high-speed internet connections, user friendly tools to minimise the search time and social platforms showering ratings and reviews to ease the filtering process for the customers.

blog post 2However despite all these, we customers are not relieved but feel a different kind of stress, for lack of a better word I would call it “time pressure which is independent of time but not of place or space” because suddenly the place for transaction has turned into a place for experience with the pervasiveness of e-commerce apps on smartphones, unpredictable timing for offers and unbelievable range of discounts.

Soon the pressure will be mounting on companies, brand managers, marketers, the sponsors and the targeted ad producers to identify where the customers really belong. On the other hand the customers would soon start categorising the brands or the retailers as 80%, 50%, 30% instead of traditional classic, premium and mass brands. The current symbiotic relationships amongst different players belonging to either same (retailing-retailing) or different sectors (telecom-banking, telecom-retailing; M-PESA, Paypal, Alipay etc.) just to cash-in on the impulsive and demanding buyers might be beneficial in the short-run but whether it will continue to benefit both the partners in the long-run is something to be assessed.blog post 3

The flipside of this symbiotic relationship is that if one fails, the other fails too. Ofcourse you call it good or bad if this symbiotic relationships continue, the market will be in tandem with all its players; either all will be rocking i.e. the market is up or all doomed together i.e. there will be slump. Likewise, in case of any conflict both the symbiotic brands will have to suffer. The scope for free riding, on the part of any partner, in complaint resolution, technical support, technology updation is also undeniable.

Then the question arises “Is the customer always at an advantage?” Not really, apart from the above discussed time independent time pressure, the customer falls prey to the combined pressure from both the symbiotic brands and players than just one. Even though we have double the earlier speed to search, now we have twice the information to be acquired and double the magnitude to be evaluated. The decision making becomes too complex which calls for an exhaustive evaluation of both the partners. Yet the real losers are the sponsors who have to decide where to show up for that marginally better attention by the viewers, where to place the targeted ads to get that extra click by the users; Is it the IRCTC or SBI?

blog post 4I am still trying to figure out which is more important; winning or owning? If we think about life, though many manage to win our heart, as time progresses ultimately only one owns it…:).

Biswajita Parida is a FPM Participant in IIM Ahmedabad

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