To date, millions of people are using social media (SM) across the globe through website-based network applications that help to share knowledge, information, and easy connections with each other [1
]. People are using SM to fulfill a variety of needs especially looking for digital content and products [7
]. It makes people feel good, gives a positive self-outlook, especially with the young age groups, who get a boost in their self-esteem [10
SM has provided a new horizon in the field of marketing as e-commerce, thereby giving prospects to the marketers for generating consciousness of products amongst customers [1
]. It is well-established tool that increases public relations through the collaborating method. It is a collection of communication through networks in which individuals disseminate information, expectations, comments, explanations, and predictions [12
]. It has brought people around the world into a common interactive platform where opinion, reviews, and information are shared [13
Moreover, SM has largely expanded the apparel business in India [15
], which is the major contributor in the marketing arena and holds the second position after food and groceries [16
]. SM is influencing the apparel sector, which helps to grasp the massive viewers in systematic manner. Interestingly, SM plays a vital role in consumer communication, which in turn creates cognizance, engrossment, and engagement for various brands and obtained visibility in augmented purchase behavior [6
]. The “Word of Mouth” (WOM), a marketing tool that driving the apparel industry, which is also spreading rapidly through SM platforms, which has a gradual increase user base [11
]. SM has become an information funnel which millions of eyes pass through every minute, thereby SM can be an effective tool for apparel retailers [15
The twenty-first century has witnessed fashion and apparel designers using social networking sites (SNS), which have become prioritized [15
]. “Costumers” view the products as if they are talking to them, and the reviewing of brands make a lot of fans. The fashion designers and their different brandings can only comprehend the factual value of SM, which is having enormous supporters or fans [15
Digital or SM lays an imprint on the behavior of people. Interestingly, various information and social elements received through SM in the form of reviews or comments work magic in the mind of consumers. Lamberton et al. [20
] and Norton et al. [21
] mentioned the importance of information derived from others in digital atmospheres. They found that in SM, there is an interpersonal exchange of opinions from various “costumers”. A lot of dissimilarity arises, and consequently, instead of enhancing confidence level, it reduces the same if the opinion of others is not similar and while they have made the same choice. Adopting a different perspective, Wilcox and Stephen [22
] opined that when people use Facebook and the suggestion is from a very close friend circle, it lowers self-control in choosing a product with lesser benefits.
As stated by Pham and Gammoh [23
], currently the most extensively accepted SM platforms are “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and “YouTube” for sharing fashion contents. Owners of many luxury brands have made personal Twitter accounts, or they uploaded on Facebook [24
]. Communication in the modern day is not one way, rather “costumers” and brands are interacting with one another irrespective of time, place, or any other medium. This helps to strengthen relations with clientele. It is an established approach for collaborating between brands and customers, ultimately producing novel products, services, innovative business model, and standards [25
The brands of apparel products are reinforcing association with “costumers”, and since the major portion of SM users are youngsters, social media marketing activity (SMMA) is instigating the accustomed emotions linked with current luxury brands to those who belong to a younger age group. Besides, the various happenings of SM of brands offer a chance to diminish misinterpretation and preconception toward brands, and to raise brand worth based on the interchange of information and ideas amongst the online publics [6
SM is spreading its’ petals in the business domain and has become an effective tool for marketing activities. It also encompasses customer relations and gives a boost for purchasing. The social network platform gives a value-added track to the possible customers and targeted merchandise. The SM makes a connecting link between the brand and probable customers [15
]. Hence, the present stud attempted to measure how the SMMA and brands relationship with customers that motivate the purchase intention of the apparel as per retailers’ activity in the context of the eastern India.
4. Material and Methods
4.1. Sampling Methods
For the selection of the target sample, the residents of capital cities and metro city of eastern India were considered. Appropriate samples were collected from the three different cities located in the eastern part of India via the mall intercept method, since customers living there will in general be increasingly aware of buying fashion brands (Apparel brands) and equivalently high buying power for design brands. The respondents “≥18 years of age as minimum age limit were selected for the study. For the survey, respondents were firstly interrogated about the exposure of the fashion industry over SM platforms, mainly “Facebook”, “Twitter”, “YouTube”, and “Instagram”. Secondly, they were evaluated regarding their interest or preference for fashion brands, especially apparel brands in the present case. The participants who answered ‘yes’ were further considered for the full structured questionnaire-based survey. The present survey was conducted using offline mode, and the incentive was not issued to the participants due to the academic research. The questionnaire for this research has been drawn from prior literature and has been moderately altered to suit the objective of this research. The categorized questionnaire items are on a five-point Likert scale, varying from “strong disagreement” to “strong agreement” used in the present study.
4.2. Data Collection Methods
In this study, the samples were selected for about 305 participants. The data indicated that 38.2% of participants were males and 61.8% were females. About 56.1% of the participants ranged between the age group 18–25 years, 34.4% belonged to 26–35 years, 8.3% belonged to 36–45 years, and 1.2% belonged to the age group above 45 years. Most of the participants, i.e., 61.3%, were found to be unmarried, whereas 37.9% were married, and the rest were either separated or divorced. Many of the respondents had a graduation degree, i.e., 40.4%, followed by post-graduation 22.0%, higher secondary 20.5%, and the rest were either below 10th pass or professionals. 31.7% of respondents said they visit malls once in a month for shopping, followed by 23.9% once in a week, 19.7% only on occasions, and 15.0% more than once in a week. About 74.6% of respondents agreed to visiting malls during offers and happy hour sales.
For measuring SMMA, a total of 15 items were taken from earlier reports with some modification [26
]. The scales of SMMA have already been validated in the previous studies, which represented “5-dimensions of perceived SMMA” of fashion brands (“Interactivity”, “Informativeness”, “Word-of-Mouth (WOM)”, “Personalization”, and “Trendiness”, with 3-types in individual aspect). Similarly, 10 items for measuring consumer–brand relationships were taken from this study, as per Grunig and Huang [40
], which represented three relationship dimensions, namely trust, satisfaction, and commitment. Lastly, four items were for measuring purchase intention, as per Hung et al. [74
] and Park et al. [75
]. In the present investigation, all the studied items were adopted from the above-mentioned published articles. “Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA)” was performed to find representative factors. Table 1
shows the selected item summary of EFA, which were analyzed with 29 variables by dividing nine latent variables or factors.
SM has now become an essential component as a communication channel in daily life, in which customers represent their consumer behavior, preferences, views, likes, and affairs, and communicate with others [5
]. In this wide-ranging area of communications, customers can communicate easily with each other and other users, products, and communication activities such as price, time, and easy reach, and large consumer groups are given important opportunities [17
]. Many companies are creating their own SM communication channel to show brand profiles and are developing operations that engage customers to share content such as online products, discounts, advertising, and promotions. The present study attempted to study the impact of SMMA of fashion branding on “consumer–brand relationship” and “purchase intention”. Further, the study also measures the impact of relationship quality on “consumers’ purchase intentions”. The result of the study is supported by the proposed hypothesis.
The present study is related to the SMMA of fashion brands on Facebook pages comprised of five components, out of which WOM activities were found to have a high impact in terms of involving users in SM platforms like Facebook [83
]. It has been observed that SM users mostly involved themselves with activities like sharing and recommending fashion-related brands or products with their friends and colleagues, that seems to be are important, useful, and fashionable for them. Similarly, trendiness has also a significant impact on the SMMA of fashion brands. SM users enjoy learning about new trends in the present scenario. Tastes and preferences in the fashion industry keep on changing, therefore the SM users involve themselves more in SMMA to gain knowledge on the recent trends in the market [6
]. Herein, personalization and interactivity activities also play an essential role in contributing to SMMA, as the users receive only customized information that directly corresponds to the taste and preferences of the “costumers”. Moreover, “costumers” also experience Facebook in a user-friendly manner with various features, which enables them to interact and share their opinions about fashion brands with other communities. The informativeness activities were found to have a low impact on the SMMA of fashion brands. This implies that informative posts on the fashion brand pages do not attract the attention of “costumers”. Many studies acknowledge that once the brand or product becomes known to everyone, they do not take much interest in the brand or product. However, when this information relates to some entertaining elements, the informative posts become amazingly effective and attract more views [17
]. The results obtained from this study conform with the previous study of Kim and Ko [44
], and Yadav and Rahman [28
]. The present study validates the measurement items of five dimensions of SMMA such as “Interactivity”, “Informativeness”, “Personalization”, “Trendiness”, and “WOM”, which were considered to measure the level of involvement with different SM related activities with the fashion brands [17
For the first time, the present study has measured the impact of SMMA on a consumer–brand relationship. To measure the quality of relationships, three dimensions were considered from the literature, namely trust, satisfaction, and commitment. From the results, it is evident that the SMMA of fashion brands on Facebook have a significant impact on the costumer–brand relationship, which is supported by another investigator [83
]. This implies that when “costumers” involve themselves with the activities of WOM, trendiness, personalization, interactions, and informativeness in SM platforms like Facebook, the consumers gradually develop trust towards the fashion brands, experience more satisfaction with the fashion brands, and feel more committed towards that particular fashion brand. Further, when examining the dimensions of the relationship, the trust element was found to have a high impact on the relationship-building, followed by satisfaction and commitment. The present study has validated the measurement items of three dimensions based on “trust, satisfaction, and commitment”, which were considered to measure the level of customers’ relationship concerning the brand [17
]. For the practical implications, the marketing managers should focus on engaging “costumers” with various brand-related activities on various social media platforms so that they can create a strong and permanent relationship with “costumers”.
Further, the present study examined the association of SMMA on customers’ intention to purchase. The findings showed a positive relationship between both the constructs. This implies that when “costumers” involve themselves with the activities of fashion brands in SM platforms like Facebook, their intention of purchasing that specific brand or product grows stronger, and they feel the readiness to pay for that fashion brand. The current study is also supported by the earlier findings of Yadav and Rahman [28
], who also found a positive impact of SMMA on “costumers’” purchasing intention. For the practical implications, the companies should include SM in a manner that provides maximum interaction, precise details on goods, personalized product suggestions, and trendy items to encourage consumers to share favorable WOM [17
], because these activities will further affect consumers’ purchase intentions, and then will generate leads by converting them into actual purchases.
8. Limitations and Future Research Directions
No research is completely flawless, and all come with certain limitations. This study also possesses some limitations, as the study has been carried out considering only one aspect of SMM, i.e., Facebook. However, as we are living in the 21st century, the digital era, the organizations of the present day are innovative, and the work process has changed. Quick output is expected everywhere. On the other hand, several organizations are using “Twitter”, “Instagram”, “Blogs”, “Wikis”, etc. It is emphasized that further studies should cover some more dimensions of SMMA to understand how organizations are using SM under varied circumstances. Secondly, the sample size considered was only 305, which brings some limitations. If the work was with a larger sample size, like 800 or 1000, then it may have found a wider conception regarding SMMA. The study was comprised of respondents from capital cities and metro city of eastern India. However, it can be extended to some smaller states that would help to get some more inputs about how people perceive SMMA. In future, a comparative study between India and other developed countries might be an informative research. It is also under a new research goal that socioeconomic and demographic variables of participants may enhance the SMMA.