1. a status symbol will influence other consumers to

1.      Sometimes, when the consumer does not know how to behave, they copy other people who act as a source of information for them. When consumers are not sure of their own ability to know what to do, they will look to others to tell them. This is the Informational influence.  However, when people aspire to be like some groups or individuals to help them enhance their self-identity/concept, it’s called Utilitarian influence. It is the compliance of the consumer with perceived expectations of others. Whereas ways in which a consumer incorporates a group’s values and joins groups in order to express his or her own closely held values and beliefs is called value expressive influence. 

The practical application of informational influence can be seen in the use of “expert power” or their use in advertising. The views of Social media influencers and bloggers in the Auto world can largely impact consumers attitude towards car sharing memberships. Also, recommendations from reference groups will help consumers to accept car sharing with a degree of confidence. “A McKinsey study found that word-of-mouth influence doubles the sales with paid advertising and boosts the customer retention rate by 37%” (Sassine, R. 2017). So, informational influence can shift consumers attitude towards car sharing acceptance.  

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Some people strive to make themselves associated with certain groups in order to remain acceptable or to gain a position in society. By showcasing that consumer can gain a position of virtue by using this product/service in marketing communications, car-sharing memberships can be targeted for consumers who have some Utilitarian influence. For this, car sharing has to be accepted in the society as a brand and not just a Utility or service. Utilitarian influence will help shift a consumer’s thinking about car ownership from status symbol to a means of access.

By knowing target consumers attitudes, car sharing marketers can better anticipate their values, lifestyles or outlook and can reflect these characteristics in their advertising and direct marketing efforts. Consumers trying to follow a certain lifestyle that focuses cars as a means of utility rather than just a status symbol will influence other consumers to follow the same. This is how value expressive influence can impact on consumers attitude towards car sharing membership since value-expressive attitudes demonstrate an individual’s self-image to others.


2.     The four main domains of the online marketing that could boost sales for Flexcar are:

·       Business-to-Consumer

Selling goods and/or services online to the final consumers is one of the important facets of e-commerce. Sales for Flexcar can be boosted by increasing their number of customers by offering them quantity discounts (e.g. Buy more, save more), offer an upgrade (e.g. for just some little more dollars, they can get a fancier car), offer more discounts on longer commitments, and offer them car delivery at door-step.

·       Business-to-Business

B2B trading networks, auction sites, product catalogues, barter sites, and other online mediums such as Alibaba.com, QualityTrade.com can help explore more business opportunities for Flexcar. With small investments and greater returns, B2B trading portals can provide Flexcar an access to millions of buyers and sellers, help automate their sales force, boost search engine rankings, provide a marketing research management platform and an effective tool for building a great brand online (Khan, J. 2014). It is an ideal place for Flexcar to expand their Business Network as well as get a brand identity.

·       Consumer-to-Consumer

The internet provides a platform to the consumers for buying goods/services or exchanging information directly with each other. Flexcar can partner with these online portals such as ebay.com and other auction sites to sell their services online. For example, consumers with Flexcar memberships can sell their service when not in use on these portals at less price to influence new customers.

·       Consumer-to-Business

In the present digital age of marketing, consumers can find sellers easily on the Web, learn about their offers and products, initiate demands and give feedback. Today, the consumers are finding it easier to communicate with companies through the internet and companies as well are inviting the prospects to submit their suggestions and feedback through their website. Using the internet, consumers can make deals and drive transactions with the companies. For example, with Priceline.com, would-be buyers can bid for hotel rooms, airline tickets, rental cars, and even home mortgages, leaving the sellers to decide whether to take up their offer or not. Flexcar can partner with such sites to share their car rental platform on C-to-B online portals.

If you can’t measure the sales, you can’t improve them. So, for these business objectives  identified by Flexcar, it’s important to have the right tools in place to track their performance. Flexcar should use Google Analytics to help them make smart business decisions and keep them from getting side-tracked by vanity metrics (Gullans, G. 2016). By following an analytics-focused approach, Flexcar can track social strategies and tactics and can measure their progress towards achieving their business objectives. 


3.     Self-image congruence is an important phenomenon that brand marketers try hard to exploit in various consumer markets. Self-Image congruence is basically how an individual perceives things and how it alters their behaviour in the marketplace. People nowadays are moving from an age of ownership to an age of access/utility. Self-image congruence depicts how an individual perceives a car. For some, it is a status symbol but for others, it’s a means of access or utility. Americans love cars but it certainly drains their time and money and this is where car sharing attracts them. Car sharing provides people with a short-term relationship with cars. People for whom saving money is more important prefer car sharing because the costs are way too less than owning a car. The initial membership fee is less, discount packages on weekdays as well as weekends and less time to commute all of these factors attracts the customers. The larger the fleet, the greater is the ability to spread the costs over technology and personnel. There are people who are fond of reading books, watching movies, so car sharing provides this. There are apps in which when you log in you get cash backs like Uber, Ola. For people who don’t know driving car sharing is a good option. In case of drink and drive also car sharing is beneficial. Traffic jams in densely populated cities have led people to shift to car sharing. Young professionals are more inclined towards car sharing as they have a mindset to access things not own them. Public transport is expensive in some places so this can make car sharing more attractive. Congested cities, with lots of overcrowding and pollution, penalise car ownership and customers are encouraged to use car sharing. With most car sharing programs one can build a history of insurance without paying extra money. People who are physically disabled can be targeted as car sharing is a good option for them. Car sharing companies can design various programs for different sets of people like office going, students, and physically disabled, older people offering some benefits that are suitable for them. One can decide which program best suits them.  


4.   Car ownership is more about the status symbol while car sharing is about getting access and value for money. Car ownership symbolizes freedom and independence. Car sharing is getting popular as more people are migrating to densely populated cities and also getting comfortable with the shared economy (Zimmerman, E. 2012). Owning a car costs higher since it incurs insurance rates, parking fees, depreciation, wear and tear costs etc. Whereas, car sharing comes with a small membership fee and numerous discount packages suiting to the demand and use of the customer. For people who consider money as an important criterion would definitely go for car sharing as it saves money. People who are rich and can afford to buy cars might not like this idea of car sharing since authority, independence and status carry more importance to them than money to them. For instance, Zipcar which runs in Los Angeles charges frequent drivers $8.10 per hour from Monday to Thursday and $9 on Friday and weekends. Zip car does bill customer for tolls but one does not have to pay for gas and parking which saves a lot of money and adds another financial incentive. They just have to pay an initial membership fee of $25 to become a member (Jones, S. 2017). Owning a more expensive car comes with a higher loan, insurance and fuel costs- ride sharing makes more financial sense. The balance between convenience and cost is a key consideration for car sharing people and makes them feel satisfied by saving a lot of pennies. Car owners for whom money saving is not essential, go with owning expensive cars because that is what makes them feel proud and satisfied. Shared mobility services can also help in reducing environmental pollution due to the decreased number of vehicles on the road. A study on Car2go- the largest car-sharing operator in the world, estimated a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. For physically disabled people, car sharing can be a good alternative rather than owning a car. Many cars sharing companies reward customers with benefits. One gets reward points on each ride. The reward points can further be redeemed for airline or amusement tickets which makes the user willing to take more rides. Referral system also rewards the user with points which can be redeemed. So also for senior citizens who do not want to depend on others, car sharing can be a good option to commute rather than dependency on younger ones.


5.     Ingrained consumer behaviour depends on the social status of the individual and what is seen as socially acceptable. For example, In the case study model if the possession of a car ensures this social status in the society it is likely that the person rather buys a car to own it instead of using the car rental system. Further, habits are an important factor in the decision, if Flexcar should be used or not. If the consumer owns a car that can be use spontaneously, it is likely that he sticks to those habits. Further psychographic aspects can influence the decision taken to rent or possess a car. If the person is highly interested in cars it is likely that he decides to buy a certain type of car and uses it rather as an extension of his personality. The preferences will lead to the decision to buy and own a car instead of renting it. Even demographic factors can influence such a decision. In case the customer is an elderly person it might be more likely that this person is used to possess a car due to the social environment he grew up with. At this time, it was not usual to rent a car so this person will not be open to this concept of car renting. Concluding it can be said that it is not easy to change ingrained behaviour overnight. A new launch of a product is depending on the customer and therefore needs time.

To find a solution for this occurring problem it is important “to carve out a profitable niche by finding a very specific market that might be more conducive to change” (Entrepreneur.com, 2003). It could be solved by focusing on smaller businesses that cannot afford their own fleet or. For this specific target group, their consumer behaviour is not reliant on individuals and the behaviour is not seated. There are different aspects to see if it is truly possible to change the behaviour to push a new product to the marketplace. First of all the criteria for acceptance of innovation has to be fulfilled. How likely is it that the target group accepts and adopts the new product? Further compatibility is important. Which degree is the product consistent with consumers values, cognition and behaviour. Additionally, what advantage this product gives the customer compared to the previously used product or concepts. There are lots of other factors, such as trialability and simplicity. If this car rental concept should be launched more profitable it should define its target market more specific. Targeting small companies and going to B2B trait is more efficient than focusing on private customers. Further, it has to be targeted in which countries it can be launched, where people can afford to drive or even rent a car or further in which countries it is more likely to possess cars.