Purpose: The paper explores the online dialog of firms and consumers through corporate websites and social networks. The objective is to investigate the state of this dialog, its mechanisms, and outcomes in four export-oriented manufacturing companies that represent a wide spectrum of industries, including FMCG and durable goods, low-priced and expensive products, purchased with high and low involvement.
Methodology: A multiple-case study was used as the research method, with data sourced from in-depth interviews, observations, and published documents.
Findings: The findings show all managers agree that dialog with consumers is useful, they allocate resources to support it, but its intensity is underwhelming. Dialog effects were reported as positive but only as anecdotal evidence without validation in reliable data, which underscores measuring difficulties. It seems that dialog is the easiest to implement in and brings the most substantial benefits for high-involvement products but, even there, the feedback from consumers is not effectively used for developing product innovations. The major obstacle that restricts rich dialog is not technology but the intensity, speed, and quality of personal contact between employees and consumers.
Originality: The empirical material presented here offers original insights that foster a better understanding of online dialog between consumers and manufacturing companies.