Anime IndustryAnime is a term generally used within pop culture to describe Japanese animation and Manga graphic comics. This definition extends to the secondary product lines, such as dolls and trading cards. The anime industry and secondary lines representing nearly 20 billion dollars in sales with DVD sales reaching 5.

2 billion dollars globally (Rowley 2005). According to Pixar animation studio vice president John Lasseter, Anime “has been hugely influential,” and “The Japanese have been the largest animation producers for years, but 99% of the stuff stays in Japan” (Rowley p 1 2005). The anime industry is based on the hedonic purchase habits of consumers as entertainment and collectibles.Animeinterational.comAnimeinternational.com (2006) slogan is “Your Online Anime Mega Store for all your Anime Needs” and advertises that “Unlike our competitors our focus is not only the North American market, rather we cater to the needs of customers in all countries worldwide.

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”  Claiming “price leadership and unparalleled customer service” (animeinternational.com 2006) the company exhibits a strong focus on total quality management in the domains of business to customer and business to business transactions.Entrepreneur Market OrientationAnimeinternational.com has a strong market orientation towards customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is “identifying prospective buyers, understanding them intimately, and developing favorable long-term perceptions of the organization and its offerings so that buyers will choose them in the marketplace” (Kerin p 21 2002).

Animeinternational utilizes several online techniques with the purpose of concentrating towards CRM. Some of these methods include blogging, online community, and ‘fan fiction.’ This type of ‘free service’ allows animeinternational.com to communicate with, understand and respond to the average consumer base, which has been identified as the young adult male in the Internet and gaming community (animeinterantioal.com 2006). Animeinternational.

com also offers online ‘chat’ customer service, telephone service and specialized anime resources, such as an encyclopedia. By continuously interacting with the customer base through communication, animeinterational.com exhibits strong consumer relationship management.Products and BrandingAnimeinternational.com (2006) is an online retailer of anime related products: DVDs and Music; Manga and Books; Toys and Figures; Art Work; Cards and Games; and other merchandise such as accessories, jewelry, and even kitchenware. The company sells over 10,000 diverse products in the anime genre. Animeinternational.com also caters to the multimedia consumer, offering specialized downloads such as wallpapers and avatars (used in Internet forums, emails and online gaming).

This diversity in product, design and orientation allows animeinternational.com to offer consumers a wide variety of the most popular anime titles through E-commerce and telephone purchases.BrandingAnimeinteranational.com caters towards the anime industry collector, and therefore brand name is highly important to the company.

Shimp (1999) defined a brand as a label for describing any object of concerted marketing effort. In the context of services marketing therefore, this label can be a name, sign, term, symbol or a design (Krishnan and Hartline, 2001). The concept of a brand name has a serious impact on the anime buyer, specifically because the nature of anime as a hedonic and collectable retail product.

Animeinternational.com (2006) retails the popular and demanded brand names in the anime industry, claiming on the web site “We carry merchandise for all of your favourite Japanese Anime series.” Without these popular titles, anime consumers would look elsewhere—regardless of the price.CustomersCustomers are young male adults aged 15-34 and young adult female market has grown over the past few years to include the 15-24 female age group. The ‘typical’ anime consumer tends to come from the IT industry, with a high paying job and considerable amount of discretionary income. Typical behavior from an animeinternational.com customer is the purchase of ‘like’ collectibles.

Brand name fans tend to stick with that brand, read the Manga and buy the anime DVD’s as well as purchase accessories and other accessories of a specific character.CollaboratorsAnimeinternational.com is in collaboration with nearly one-hundred networked web sites, also known as ‘fan sites’ as well as running an affiliate program where web sites can advertise with animeinternational.com for return advertising. Animeinternational.com has a direct relationship with industry manufacturers and distributors depend on the anime brand being sold.

A direct relationship with manufacturers such as Geneon (www.geneonanimation.com 2006) reduces cost and price by removing the distributor.  Shipping collaboration includes UPS (www.

ups.com), FEDEX (www.fedex.com) and DHL (www.

dhl.com) for worldwide shipping within the value chain.CompetitorsCompetitors extend from traditional brick and mortar to e-retailers that utilize the same B2C method.

However, because animeinternational.com offers web-based activities for a multitude of nations as well as offers B2B and wholesale merchandise, they have been able to corner international and B2B markets. Brick and mortar stores are not huge competitors. Most customers that buy from an exclusive anime retailer tend to be large parts of the online community, such as web designers and online gamers.ContextInternational retailing requires an amount of legal and economical understanding of various nations. Furthermore, there is a legal pressure to ensure that Manga graphic/erotic novels are not sold to under-age children. There is also strong technological pressure to maintain the variety of services previously explained.

Because of the unique traits of animeinternational.com customers, maintaining a high level of technological know-how, security and validity is important to establish consumer trust.Customer ExpectationsThe studies of Hellier et al (2003) established that perceived value was the principal factor that influences customer re-purchases intention in the insurance sector.

The effects of specific sector differences cannot be discounted in the disparities recorded (Bloemer, Ruyter and Wetzels, 1999). Andreessen and Lindestad (1998) have also studied the effect of corporate image and customer satisfaction on customer loyalty. Animeinternational.com utilizes its web-site to perform customer research analysis.Competitor ThreatsSun Tsu’s fifth lesson is “the law of successful operations is to avoid the enemy’s strengths and strike weakness” (Michaelson and Michealson p 270 2004). This is applied by some to marketing theory (Michaelson and Michealson 2004). Animeinterantional.com reviews and researches competitors offerings and prices through research methods and is continuously improving to offer what others do not.

This implies that much more effort will have to go into marketing towards customer service, with different levels of service available to different customer focus groups.   Nor will the sales effort be merely volume driven, but instead try to optimize customer service by making it more focused, more efficient, less bureaucratic and with customer satisfaction becoming prime measures of success (Craig and Ramaseshan 1994). This means in particular better motivated and trained staff, management spending more time and effort to ensure that animeinternational.com is seen to produce and also greater effort to focus on satisfying customer (Craig and Ramaseshan 1994).Animeinternational is able to compete against the massive brick and mortar stores such as Wal-Mart in the respect that these larger stores do not offer the same specialized products.

Furthermore, Animeinternational competes well against on-line retailers in the respect that it offers all anime and manga products in a wide range of media and formats. Manga.com and justmanga.com offer either book, comic, figurine or DVD formats, rather than the full range of products found at Animeinternational.Context of Business ChangesGlobal marketing management means that animeinterantional.com must be constantly viewing changes in ‘pop’ culture and navigating through various national legal contexts (Keegan and Green 2006, Katobe and Helsen 2002). This requires constant market research conducted by professionals who understand the international implications of the anime business as well as continuously upgrading technology to meat those various implications as they change.

CollaborationsAnimeinternational.com uses the Roberts and Berry model (Afuah and Tucci 2000) to offer value and assume product-market price positioning through technological and marketing collaborations to minimize the risk of failure. The mechanism functions by evaluating capabilities: internal development; value chain; acquisitions; licensing; internal ventures; joint ventures; venture capital (Afuah and Tucci 2000).Market OrientationCustomer-validated performance measures reflect customer requirements and help employees manage the value chain’s processes and activities by concentrating their attention on improving what matters to the customer (Frazer-Robinson 1997). For the animeinternational.

com, quality customer market analysis is a multi-stage measurement. This is defined by the customer’s expected service level on dimensions of reliability, timeliness, responsiveness and competence from the company’s perspective at the time of encounter, before the sales staff performed the required service for the customer (Frazer-Robinson 1997). In short, this is expedite service for the customer. Furthermore, the employee understanding of customer expectations about the sales person’s experience, media skills and creative skills as well as how the sales person acknowledges the reputation of animeinterantional.com (Frazer-Robinson 1997). The relationship quality is the perceived service level on the above dimensions of the customer and sales person relationship, based on some experiences with the Internet and magazine marketing mediums (Frazer-Robinson 1997). Therefore, customer satisfaction must become focal point in market research and analysis as a cumulative, abstract affective construct that describes the total client’s experience with the sales staff and is measured by the satisfaction with animeinteranational.com expertise, media and marketing skills performance and overall satisfaction with agency performance (Frazer-Robinson 1997).

This will further assist in developing the ultimate goal to directly influence sales performance of animeinternational.com and consequently increase bonuses, but most importantly because sales are the main focus of the company direction (McCormick 2005).Entrepreneurial Market FocusTrigun is one of the hottest anime properties on the market today.

The hit show has satisfied its fan base with a popular product line that includes videos, DVDs, action figures, T-shirts, and statues. The Trigun action figure line has been one of the most popular product lines in recent memory, and the hot new manga title from Dark Horse Comics-Trigun Maximum-features the return of popular character Vash the Stampede. The other popular figurine is the “Black Beast” variant edition of the Gazelle the Peacemaker figure is a new version of Nightow’s sold-out original creation and has all of the smoking-gun flavor as the previous Trigun action figures. Measuring approximately 9″ tall, Gazelle features over 30 points of articulation and includes a giant Transforming Pistol. Also included are metal chains to strap the weapons on Gazelle’s back, as well as a sculpted display base that features the head and shoulders of a fallen foe, allowing Gazelle to be displayed in a myriad of action poses.

The customer benefits from this hedonic purchase by filling a need for excellent quality and collector value. This product line is not homogenous to any one e-retailer, it is widely available from E-bay, Amazon, and other specialized anime E-retailers. By offering the diversity of product formats, Animeinternational allows a ‘one-stop shop’ experience for consumers.The question of consumer value then comes first from the consumer’s hedonic purchase habits, that is, the desire to seek out specialized product lines that have little utilitarian value but fill that special place in the heart of anime consumers. The hedonic view is indicative of the emotional constructs of shopping, the feelings of arousal and titillation, even the fulfillment of an ego and desire. Knowing the customer’s desire and, as can be noted from our customer forums designed for customer to customer communication, ego plays a large part in the purchase decision. Offering an out of stock or in high demand product line allows for contentment from the consumers observation of the proposed purchase, as  ‘perceived enjoyment’ that is just as involved as the actual construction of a purchase, because the consumer maintains an air of emotional-if not monetary-involvement from recreational shoppers who still gain a hedonic value.Animeinternational.

com identifies segments of customers in the anime marketplace through identifying and promoting to those groups of people most likely to buy the product. In other words, selling to the heavy users before trying to develop new users. We also use a global concept for geographical segmentation, being one of the few world wide shippers of anime products. The aim of segmentation is to bring the focus on to manageable groups of like-minded individuals who have a high disposition for a product.  The customer is segmented by purchase history and search history. For example, a customer that purchases Yu-Gi-Oh products would be likely to purchase Gundham, as both have male oriented heroes and are segmented towards the younger buyer (or parents). A customer that purchases Cowboy Bebop would be more likely to purchase Ghost in the Shell, because these have more adult themes and concepts, therefore appealing to the young adult crowd.

Segmentation is often the mix of the benefit or need  which is driving the collector or gift-buyer’s purchase.  The web site is also segmented by type of product (DVD, figurine, plush) and the product line (Yu-Gi-Oh, Ghost in the Shell).  The grouping together of customers with common needs now makes it possible to set marketing objectives for each of those segments by sending “If you like this—you will like this” style of marketing.  The database used for this style of segmentation is comprehensive. It correlates customer email address (for newsletter) with location and purchase history as a marketing tool.

Again, because of the world-wide experience of anime and manga consumers, geographical marketing is of little consequence. There is some correlation to origin of customer and purchase history, but it is our experience that this is not enough to base an entire marketing concept on. Customers from all locations tend to purchase based on there intrinsic behavior, and this does not always seem to be in relationship with their geographical location.

Furthermore, many of our customers are young males, in fact it is estimated by the company that 80 to 90 percent are young adult males, therefore we do not utilise a gender segmentation. However, it is also important to note that females are an increasing section of our marketing strategy, and special anime product lines tend to appeal more to females than males, such as Inyuasha. Again, however, this is found to be more of a ‘collector preference’ than a substantial ‘gender difference.

’Conclusion and RecommendationsAnimeinternational.com is an e-retailer that focuses the main market segmentation based on previous research of customers (being young, male and educated with moderate to high income) and according to customer ‘pop culture’ demands (such as previous product purchases). One thing we do not currently do is seek out new customer markets, such as the female and family markets. Secondly, as a retailer we have not established a brand name as animeinternational.com.

I think it would be a good move for the company to establish itself as a brand, in the same manner Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us have. This would enable the company to be recognized as a brand name and draw from a new market base.Hart (1998) has outlined key principles for creating and building brand names. Some of the strategic considerations she counsels brand name creators to consider borders on (i) whether the new product or service is innovative or not (ii) line extensions are planned for the future and (iii) the nature of protection the brand can afford. It has been stressed that any name chosen should ideally be easy to pronounce, understandable to users and also consistent with the cultural values and norms of where it is to be applied. Offering specialized services to children enables us to market to the parents, and so this would be an innovative procedure not found often in ‘collector’ anime retailers, but often found in toy lines marketed directly at children.

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