It has been decided to settle on selling imported food in China as -our choice of business. This entails creating a specialized look for imported foods that include cereals, fruits, meat and vegetables. The business will start as a specialized grocery retail chain that stocks imported food from all agricultural hubs in the world, before developing to accommodate locally produced staple food of the Chinese(Hirst & Thompson, 2002). It will start out with a few stores in all the major towns before spreading out into the smaller towns across the country. The first marketing strategy for the business is to understand the dynamics of today’s specialized food retailing sector and more so in an international scale. This entails understanding the food shopping trends and the import business climate in China.
With the population of approximately 1.4 billion people and an urbanization rate of about 10% a year, China is a great market for food retailing sector. This is also connected with the problem of expanding deserts and numerous dry seasons experienced in the country. This means that the country cannot sustain its own food demands thus necessitating importation (Scholte, 2007). Being an already crowded market, entering into the food retail sector in China is bound to be a hard task that will require a thorough planning of effective market strategies that in this case will include identifying a target market and differentiating the products and services to suit this particular one. Also, another important strategy will be product assortment whereby the stores will have to have a variety of products for convenience. A key factor in this business will be customer satisfaction as discussed in the paper.
Criteria for Successful Entrepreneurial Marketing
Successful entrepreneurial marketing requires a perfectly balanced marketing mix. This may be consumer-oriented or product-oriented depending on the business. A product oriented model is based on 4, 5 or 7 P’s depending on the business.
Product: the quality of the product or services being offered by the business should be able to meet or exceed customer’s expectations.
Price: the product pricing should be affordable and sensible to the target market as well as relevant to the business in terms of profit and sustainability.
Promotion: this implies advertisement, product sampling and other ways of getting the product out there and creating consumer awareness.
Place: a product’s market penetration depends on how easily it can be found. Here, the location and product layout of the outlets is a key factor.
People: this is mainly about the quality of customer service. A good customer service basically serves to increase customer satisfaction and foster loyalty. Thus the interaction between the people in the business and those coming in as consumers should be at its best. Physical evidence; branding and packaging are considered as forms of advertising as well. In this case, they play a role in the products marketing. Branding may include wearing uniforms, and using labeled merchandise like pens, notebooks and others (Lloyd, 2009).
Process: from the time a customer enters a store to the time he or she leaves, the processes that he or she goes through are influencing his or her perception of the store. From the welcoming greeting, to any help offered in locating or selecting a product, the time taken waiting at the cashiers, and even how they buy packaged products. All these need to be as friendly and efficient as possible to foster customer loyalty and increase customer satisfaction (Archibugi & Michie, 1997).
A consumer oriented marketing mix can be based on either Lauterborn’s or Shimizu’s 4C’s model that represents Consumer, Cost, Communication and Convenience. Shimizu on the other hand lists the 4C’s as Commodity, Cost, Communication and Channel (Bauman, 2000).
The Consumer here is the customer. In this marketing mix, the main aim is to satisfy the customers by providing the products and services that are relevant and attractive to them. This model emphasizes on efficient and friendly customer service as a key marketing factor.
Cost: rather than just the price, a consumer oriented model considers the overall cost of the products or services to the consumer and the business. These may include how much the consumer is saving by opting for that brand, or how much more he or she is spending, or even what it costs the consumer to change to that particular brand (Berger & Huntington, 2002).
Communication implies to interaction between consumers and business not only through advertisement and product promotion strategies, but also through customer feedback and product rating (Giddens, 2000). It also includes consumer to consumer marketing which heavily relies on customer satisfaction levels.
Convenience emphasizes on how easy it is for the consumer to find the product. It is not only about the location of the store, but also its presence on the Internet and the availability of a wide product range as per the customer’s needs.
In Shimizu’s model:
Commodity implies that the goods or services offered by the business should be of a satisfactory quality. Channel on the other hand is the marketing flow, how the goods get to the consumers.
Alternative Marketing Strategies
Other marketing strategies that will be used in the business include social networking, product differentiation, customer engagement and use of integration tools that might enable the business to obtain feedback from its customers. Social networking will involve posting ads in the popular social media and creating interactive brand pages where consumers can interact with the staff as well as with other consumers. These pages will serve not only as interactive sites but also informative as consumers’ questions will be answered by knowledgeable staff members. Product differentiation on the other hand will entail branding and packaging products to suit the specific target market’s perceptions and make them stand out from competition. Customer engagement and use of integration tools will serve to provide customer feedback which is vital for corrective measures and complaints handling in order to retain customers and promote loyalty.
Rationale for Their Use
After the initial phase of getting into the market and struggling to be recognized in the market, the business will focus on maintaining and eventually expanding its market share. In order to achieve this, the company will have to use integration tools that will enable customer tracking, marketing automation, web analytics and inbound marketing software (Feenstra & Gordon, 1996). This is all in order to obtain relevant accurate feedback on its marketing strategies. The business intents to deploy affordable but efficient and seamless technological platforms that would help promote the product. The major advantage of online marketing is that the system has the potential to rich many people at the same time. Furthermore, use of social media will help the business leverage on the geographical and social diversity of its potential clientele
Additionally, creating a social networking site will promote consumer to consumer marketing, and provide a forum through which customer feedback on the company’s products and services can be obtained. This will be a good and cost effective forum for conducting internal market research in order to find out what more can be done to extend the company’s market penetration and eventual domination (Hertz, 2001).
Product differentiation is also a workable strategy that will entice the customers since ‘different is good.’ The company can package the products in a way that makes them stand out from competition or even use better, more accurate and faster delivery methods for online shoppers. This is so as to enable the customers to identify with the company as their choice retailer. Customer engagement is bound to promote customer loyalty and this will prove useful as these customers will in turn serve as brand ambassadors and carry out product advocacy within their market segments thus creating awareness and pushing sales a notch higher (Gray, 2000).
The first step will be identifying strategic locations that are accessible, and secure. Then the sources or suppliers both internationally and locally will need to be contacted and engaged on the terms and conditions of the business so as to guarantee a smooth running of the business. Once the legal and technical details are taken care of, the focus will be on the marketing of the business as discussed above. Applying the mentioned strategies and tactics will ultimately result in the creation of a wide spread customer awareness, a stable or steadily increasing demand for the company’s products and services, and products that are well differentiated thus fostering brand identity and customer loyalty. This will be done through cooperation between the strategic sales and marketing team and the company leadership since it requires a lot of new company policies and financial support (Hirst & Thompson, 1996).
The food retailing business is both service and product oriented, this is to say, it depends on both the quality of products on offer and how the customers are treated. Thus the business will require a marketing mix that is both consumer and producer oriented (Keller, 1998). But being largely dependent on the consumers, the implementation will focus primarily on product delivery and market communication to create and eventually dominate a good number of market segments. The marketing mix model that will be used for the business will base on Lauterborn’s 4C’s.
In considering the consumers’ needs, wants and expectations, the business will focus on providing high quality products that will be sourced from the best agricultural hubs worldwide. The products will be required to meet the highest set standards for food produced not only locally in China, but internationally as well (Narver & Stanley 1990). The business will stock all food items that are required by China’s resident population, meaning that the business will not only source food from outside the country but will also engage local farmers to provide some staple food. This is so as to completely cater for the needs of the customers without them having to necessarily visit a number of other stores.
The products will be priced according to the prevailing market prices so as to avoid customer discouragement due to the harsh economic times. With about 10% of the Chinese population living well below the poverty line, there will be price differentiation depending on the market segment. Stores that serve low income areas will have relatively lower prices than those in uptown areas. This is to ensure that the products are both affordable and accessible to a wide range of customers.
In order to create market awareness, the business will undertake an intensive advertisement and product promotion, coupled by systems that will enable effective complaints handling and customer feedback appreciation. For advertisement, the company will engage the print media, social media and national TV stations. These advertisements will be focused on sending a message of affordability, high quality and availability of the imported food produced in the outlets and efficient delivery mechanisms for online shoppers. All these are meant to ensure that the customers are actively informed and engaged in the business.
For effective complaints handling, the use of popular social media like Facebook and Twitter will be enforced, as well as opening a company website where customers can interact with members of staff and lodge their complaints or any other feedback that they have. This website will also serve as an online store where the customers can check what is available and order online. The pages on social media will also serve as an interaction forum where the consumers can interact and share ideas on what products to try out among other things.
The business will be located at strategic points all over the main cities as well as small towns so as to ensure accessibility by all its potential customers. Also, as mentioned above, I will invest in online stores to make grocery shopping more convenient for the busy consumers who don’t have the time to personally visit the stores. For efficient delivery systems, I will engage the services of a nationwide courier service with a reputation of efficient and accurate deliveries. Also, the business will take both cash and credit cards so as to make the transactions easy and convenient depending on the customer’s preferred way of payment.
The emphasis will be on designing and packaging the products and services to conveniently suit the desires of the target market, and providing a great customer experience through friendly client service programs to retain a large part of their customers. The business will also employ promotional tools such as database marketing, consumer promotions and customer relations management as a way of attracting customers and fostering brand loyalty (Treacy & Wiersema, 1993). The promotional tools will include personal selling, sponsorship programs and customer relations management while the communication tools will involve mobile marketing, product sampling, and advertisement in social networking sites, national TV channels and print media.
The business will engage a team of dynamic youth to reach out to their peers and conduct one on one sale of the products. This will be effective because popularity is usually passed on from one person to another. Using young and flexible people to sell the products to them ensures that a wider market segment is totally taken as they can handle both their peers and older persons well (Kapferer 2008). These young sales representatives will portray the company as being ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ as opposed to the stereotype salesperson in a suit and carrying a briefcase. The latter is usually perceived as boring and will find it hard to make a sale even to an adult.
Since this sales team will be working in an informal setting, it will be easier for them to push sales using their trending language as opposed to in a formal setting where use of slang is considered improper. A relaxed environment ensures efficiency and this team will be able to achieve that. Sponsoring or co-sponsoring popular TV shows especially at prime time is a good move that not only acts as an advertisement but also as a brand popularization tactic since people will associate the brand with their favorite show thus fostering brand loyalty. It will also ensure that more people are reached resulting in much more customer awareness and brand popularity.
In a consumer oriented business strategy, customer relations play a very big role. The company will cultivate a good customer care team that will deal with all customer interactions. This will be done ‘in-house’ or by outsourcing to a PR firm that is specializing in customer relations management. For starters, outsourcing will be a good option as the business grows and eventually invests in knowledge management and organizational learning for purposes of improving its internal and external functions. This is the only sure way of retaining the customers to position the company as a market leader with a large market share. Retaining customers is a way of ensuring that the business is both sustainable and profitable.
Through customer relations, the company will be able to learn about any new product requirements, new trends that need to be explored, and the opinions on it. This is far cheaper than conducting a market research without a basic idea of what to expect (Cravens & Piercy 2003).
Use of bulk sms, as a means of advertising, is both practical and efficient as texting is a trend amongst the young generation which constitutes a large part of the company’s target market. The business will design a message that has a link to the homepage of our website so that the products can be easily accessed on the go. With the current trend of forwarding cool texts among friends, the message can reach a large number of people thus creating a network of information. The company will also use MMS to send short presentations to the consumers in form of a slide, a video or an audio message.
By allowing customers to sample the products before purchasing, the company will attract more attention as consumers like associating with products that are of good quality. Once the quality is assured, switching from their usual brand is much easier and in doing this; the customer will have joined the company’s already growing customer base (Henry 2008). The stores can offer slices of fruits for sampling before one can buy them as a way of attracting the customer’s attention and assuring them of the products’ good quality. The social media is a good forum for interaction. Almost all young people are a part of these networking sites and posting advertisements here ensures that at least most of them get the information.
The company can also start relevant discussions in these sites in order to stir up the participants and get their opinion regarding the company’s products and services. Through this, the company can always be on “the know “when it comes to new demands and changes in the external business environment. The print media advertisements will mostly focus on magazines and newspapers that are popular among the target population. For example, school journals and teen magazines, and youth oriented newspapers will be ideal to pass the message to the target market.
Successful entrepreneurial marketing requires the perfect balance in a marketing mix. Food retailing is not only a produce based sector, but also heavily dependent on customer perceptions and opinions. To create a successful food retail business, one will not only have to focus on providing quality products, but also an impeccable customer service and efficient complaints handling mechanism. Other than that, it will need to be ensured that the product pricing is not only relevant to the quality of the products on offer, but also affordable and realistic to the market segment in question. This implies price differentiation based on store location and target market. Based on China’s large population and the percentage of young people in the country, this business will target the young generation who are either too busy or too interested in convenience by investing in an online store and efficient delivery mechanisms to capture that market segment. In addition, one will initiate communication systems that will not only enable the customer to be informed on new products or any available offers, but also enable the business staff and marketing team to know what the customers are expecting, their complaints and their recommendations as well. This is in order to actively engage the consumers and enable them to own the brand thus fostering brand loyalty.
Basically, a consumer oriented business will be created to provide high quality food products sourced both internationally and locally for purposes of improved product assortment and convenience of customers, furthered by a need to diversify and command a larger market share.
Capitalizing on online retailing will cut down operation costs associated with owning strategically located stores in all major streets, and particularly so for a country like China where space is a valuable asset. Online stores will also boost in sales since convenience has become a deal breaker in today’s world due to busy schedules and time-saving mindsets.