7Cs Theory


Internet technology has caused a shift in the way consumers interact with firms. Today, the face-to-face encounters common in the traditional retail environment have been widely replaced by screen-to-face interactions. These interfaces can be accessed through a desktop PC, subnotebook, handheld device, cellphone, wireless application protocol device, or other Internet-enabled appliance. As this shift from people-mediated to technology-mediated interfaces unfolds, it is Important to examine the interface design considerations that confront the sen-for management team, and how the resulting interface can affect the customer experience. This chapter explores the design principles for creating successful techonology-mediated customer interfaces, with a particular focus on Web interfaces because they are such a critical part of a company's marketing program. As such the chapter offers both a strategic framework for senior managers and tactical advice and recommendations for putting strategy into practice.
Before an interface is designed, a number of questions must be addressed. What is the look-and-feel, or context, of the site? Should the site include commerce activities? How important is community to the business model? To answer these and other important questions, the 7Cs Framework is introduced. The 7Cs are a rigorous way to identify the major interface design challenges that senior managers will encounter as they implement their business models.


Please consider the following questions as you read this chapter:
1. What are the seven design elements of the customer interface?
2. What determines the look-and-feel of the site?
3. What are the dimensions of content?
4. Why be concerned with community?
5. What are the levers used to customize a site?
6. What types of communication can a firm maintain with its customer base?
7. How does a firm connect with other businesses?
8. What are the main features of commerce that support the various aspects of trading


The previous chapters have explored and discussed the marketing program and the need to address customer experience when translating the marketing program to the customers themselves. This chapter takes customer experience a step further by introducing the concept of interface design. As this chapter will show, a primary means for creating an effective marketing program and customer experience is through the effective use of several inter-face levers and design principles.

The chapter explores how strategy decisions significantly affect the type of customer interface choices that confront a senior management team. For example, consider the different approaches of two companies that target teenage girls: Alloy.com and Delias.com. Both offer catalog shopping, but their online presence is significantly different. Alloy's homepage stresses editorial content trivia, gossip, quizzes, celebrity profiles, message boards, and contests. The site focuses on the experience of being a teenage girl, and at first glance it is not particularly obvious that you can shop there. Delias.com on the other hand, presents shopping options boldly, on the homepage and throughout the site. There is lifestyle content on Delias.com as well, but it is given much less priority.

The challenge for managers is to match the strategic goals of the business with an interface that encourages customers to engage with the company in a way that achieves those goals. So for Alloy, whose business model includes several offline magazines girls can subscribe to, the site reflects its business strategy by doing more than simply selling clothes it also drives subscriptions. Hence, the site's focus on editorial content. The goal of Delias.com, a catalog business with an online channel, is primarily to encourage buying a fact clearly reflected in its interface choices. For both sites, of course, the success or failure of the online offering depends on delivering a positive customer experience, while aligning the customer interface with the company business goals.

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce, describe, and provide a critical framework the 7Cs that act as a bridge between higher-order strategs considerations and the challenge of designing and implementing an effective customer interface. The first section offers a brief definition of each of the 7Cs. The sections that follow discuss the features or dimensions of each "C," how each C affects customer experience and the broader marketing program, and the implications of each "C" for interface design. Throughout the chapter, screen shots and exhibits illustrate the 7Cs at work. In additions the chapter also examines two higher-order design principles to be considered when constructing a customer interface-fit and reinforcement-along with an exploration of best practices in Web design. The chapter concludes with a detailed analysis of how the 7Cs Framework can be applied to eBay.


The 7Cs Framework
The interface is the virtual (and, to date, largely visual) representation of a firm chosen value proposition. Similar to a retail storefront, a website provides significant information to current and prospective target market customers. If designed effectively, the site quickly answers a number of basic questions that confront users: Is this site worth visiting? What products or services does it sell? What messages does the site communicate? Consistent with a tightly constructed business model, well designed sites should simultaneously attract target segment customers and deter nontargeted customers. Compelling sites communicate the core value proposition of the firm and provide a rationale for visiting and/or becoming a customer of a site.

Definitions of the 7Cs
Context. The context of the site captures its aesthetics and functional look-and-feel. Some sites have chosen to focus heavily on interesting graphics, colors and design features, while others have emphasized utilitarian goals such as ease of navigation.

Content. Content is defined as all digital subject matter on a website. This includes the medium of the digital subject matter text, video, audio, and graphics as well as the message of the digital subject matter, including product, service, and information offerings. While context largely focuses on the “how” of site design, content centers on what is presented.
Community. Community is defined as a set of interwoven relationships built upon shared interests. Community is useful from a number of standpoints. For example, community can create content or services that attract consumers to a website; it can also serve as a means to build closer relationships between consumer and firm, and between consumer and consumer. Standard community offerings include message boards and live chats.
Customization. Customization is defined as a site's ability to modify itself to or be modified by each user. When the customization is initiated and managed by the firm, it is known as tailoring. When the customization is initiated managed by the user, it is called personalization.
Communication. Communication refers to the dialogue that unfolds between the website and its users. This communication can take three forms: Firm–to-user (e.g., e-mail notification), or user-to-user (e.g., customer service request), or user-to-user (e.g., instant messaging).
Connection. Connection is defined as the network of links between the site and other sites--in other words, clickable links that either take the visito : off a company's site or that exist on other sites to bring visitors to the company site.

Commerce. Commerce is defined as transactional capacity of a site the sale of goods, products, or services on the site along with shopping. carts, shipping and payment options, checkout, and order-confirmation functionality.

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