In a context of digital transformation, brands are encouraged to reconsider/adjust their business models to survive. Every day they compete to follow the digital evolution. They use digital tools to cope with competitors’ efforts and to maintain their position. They have to go fast and to deal with the latest technology and practice to be in the spirit of the times and to improve their customer relationships. Brands are, at the same time, managing their relational programs within the framework of their digital strategies and using digital tools to implement their relational programs.
Customer relationship management (CRM), that takes its roots from marketing and information system, is changing. The traditional relational tools (e.g. Mailings, phone calls, sms, loyalty cards) are completed today by other digitalized tools (e.g. company’s’ websites, social networks, mobile applications). Company’s websites are powerful platforms to foster customer relationships. Nonetheless, the word “relational” has gradually become a common and generic term. Companies claim that they are practicing CRM on their websites, even if sometimes it amounts to very little.
No study precisely defines what a relational website is. Tools to measure relational proneness are missing. Measuring company’s relational efforts on websites is an important first step to define the relationship proneness of websites (RPW). We consider RPW to be a trait and the relational website to be an archetype that can cover other categories of websites (e-commerce website, community website, etc.). This research conceptualize and identify the constitutive dimensions and sub dimensions that define the relationship proneness of websites.
The development of responsive websites provides another reason for this growing interest. The broadening of companies’ relational efforts encompasses other platforms, such as mobile sites or mobile applications. Are the relational dimensions revealed by this study still valid when considering other digital platforms? This research is a first step to measure brand’s relational efforts in the digital universe.
A qualitative study, with nineteen experts asked to visit sixteen websites and to classify them, was carried out. This approach offered the opportunity to collect verbal protocols. The experts described their reactions, feelings, and thoughts while visiting the sixteen website. Beyond reporting their thoughts when visiting the site, the experts had to explain their rationale for classifying the websites as relational or non-relational ones.
Two approaches can be used to determine whether a website is relational: a thematic approach that relies on the site’s different dimensions and an enumerative approach, which involves counting the number of the website’s eCRM features (for example RSS feeds, information about the website’s members, electronic bulletin board, etc).
The results of this research will help website managers and consultants to understand where a company website falls along the relational continuum. Every website can be positioned in terms of three dimensions: content, exchange and look and feel. The research provides insight on how and with what tools managers can implement relational programs (electronic customer relationship management [eCRM] programs) through their websites.
Meriem Agrebi & Anne Laure Boncori (2016) “What makes a website relational? The experts’ viewpoint” European Management Journal, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emj.2016.11.001